Negro Watchman Wrote Note Found Beside Dead Girl, Experts Declare, After Seeing Frank’s Handwriting

by Archivist on April 30, 2016

Negro Watchman Wrote Note Beside Dead Girl

Another in our series of new transcriptions of contemporary articles on the Leo Frank case.

Atlanta Journal

Wednesday, April 30th, 1913

The Journal’s Three Handwriting Experts Still Firm in Their Conviction That Newt Lee Wrote Mysterious Notes When Shown Copies Written by Both Frank and Lee in Comparison With Original Note Found

Having compared exact reproductions of the notes found near the body of Mary Phagan with specimens of the handwriting of Newt Lee, the night watchman, and of Leo M. Frank, the superintendent of the National Pencil company, three handwriting experts Tuesday morning stuck to their first opinion that the negro’s handwriting and that of the notes found near the girl are the same.

They did this after a minute examination of the copy of the note written by Frank under direction of the detectives. Each then declared in effect that although it was within the bounds of possibility for Frank to have written the notes found near the girl, that it was extremely improbable.

They reiterated their assertions that the negro’s handwriting was the same as that in the notes.

Frank M. Berry, assistant cashier of the Fourth National bank; Andrew M. Bergstrom, assistant cashier of the Third National bank, and Pope C. Driver, chief bookkeeper of the mall department of the American National bank, are the men who gave their opinion on all three notes.

A portion of one of the notes found near the dead girl reads:

“But that long tall black negro did boy his slef.”

At the dictation of Chief of Detectives N. A. Lanford, Lee wrote this sentence shortly following his arrest. The same method was employed with Frank.

All three of these specimens were shown to the three handwriting experts.

Mr. Bergstrom declared that although the original note and that written by Frank had many similar points, that he still believed that the hand-writing of the negro was the same as that of the note. He pointed out that a man of Frank’s intelligence could have disguised his hand more readily than the negro.

Mr. Berry refused to consider Frank’s handwriting in connection with the note found near the girl.

“I have already said,” he declared, “that the man who wrote this,” pointing to the handwriting of Lee, “wrote this,” pointing to the handwriting of the note.

He then examined Frank’s handwriting closely, but refused to change his opinion.

Pope Driver also stood pat on his first opinion that the negro’s handwriting was the same as that in the note.

All three experts spoke of the significant fact that in writing the note from dictation Lee had written boy for by and slef for self, thus duplicating the spelling in the note, whereas Frank has spelled five words differently from the way they were spelled in the note.

They pointed out that the t’s in the note and those made by Lee were both crossed near the top, and that the last word in the note and the last word written by Lee are almost exactly alike.

They agreed, however, that the word negro written by Frank and the word negro in the note were very similar.

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Atlanta Journal, April 30th 1913, “Negro Watchman Wrote Note Found Beside Dead Girl, Experts Declare, After Seeing Frank’s Handwriting,” Leo Frank case newspaper article series (Original PDF)

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