The Canary and Other Dangerous Birds

A short story about forgers and coloured bank notes in Sweden.

By Economy Museum – Royal Coin Cabinet

Eight Shilling Bank Note (19th Century) by Riksens Ständers Wäxel BancoEconomy Museum – Royal Coin Cabinet

"He who copies or forges this bank note will be hanged,
but he who exposes the copyist, forger or utterer will be rewarded according to
the Royal Decree of 8 June 1818."

Forging bank notes was highly dangerous in Sweden, as in most countries, two hundred years ago. Hanging was the usual end if caught, tried and sentenced. It would act as a deterrent, the authorities thought. As newspaper articles show, it was not deterrent enough if you were in want of money and had a special skill for miniature art.

Two Daler Bank Note (19th Century) by Rikets Ständers BankEconomy Museum – Royal Coin Cabinet

"The painter Darell, previously arrested in the Town Hall for counterfeiting, has, on the night to the 22nd this instant disappeared. An iron bar from the window in his prison, facing towards the railway, is supposed to be dislodged, but the prisoner could hardly have jumped down on the inner yard without assistance either from inside or outside. It is said that he, on his departure, left a letter to the High Steward thanking him for the mild treatment he received in gaol, and one to the guard. The latter is supposed to have been incarcerated, at least in the beginning. Darell, adept in printing, should have no difficulty in making a passport for himself."  (Vestmanland Läns Tidningar, 27 July 1839)

Ten Daler Bank Note (19th Century) by Rikets Ständers BankEconomy Museum – Royal Coin Cabinet

Carl Fredrik Darell (b. 1813) had tried to forge the Central
bank’s new 10 Riksdaler note. It was the first type of bank note in Sweden designed
with security measures to avoid forgery. Jonas Bagge (1800-1869), Director of
Tumba paper mill between 1838 and 1848, had ordered a unique three-layer paper
to be made. The middle layer was tinted in various colours depending on the
denomination. People therefore started calling them names. The
yellow 32-shilling note was called a Canary, for instance.

Darells accomplice Anders Ferdinand Södergren
(1811-1892) was arrested and tried, but not hanged. He did time in gaol
and was pardoned some years later. After his release he mainly worked as a
painter of portraits and landscapes. In the 1850’s he became the first person
in the city of Norrköping to work as a photographic artist. The escape artist
Darell, on the other hand, was never to be heard from again.

One Hundred Daler Bank Note (19th Century) by Rikets Ständers BankEconomy Museum – Royal Coin Cabinet

"The utterer as well as the manufacturer of the forged
bank note are now found and arrested. The first is tradesman Jacobsson from
Västergötland and the latter is the cantor at Sabbatsberg, Alfred Adler. [---]
The real reason for the forgery, according to their statements, was an argument
between Adler and Jacobsson about the colour of the bank’s 100 R:dr notes."  (Malmö Allehanda, 29 November 1837) 

The 100 Riksdaler note was bright yellow and was
called Yellow finch (Sicalis). Adler, only 26 years old at the time, was a
draughtsman as well as a cantor and probably well aware of which tint the bank
note had. Some years previously Adler had forged a 16-shilling note, a prank
that had been noticed by his father. Mr Adler Sr. chastised the delinquent and
destroyed the forgery.

Jacobsson was the one who took the forged 100
Riksdaler note to a local merchant and asked the shop clerk to change it into
smaller denominations. After one successful attempt Adler made a 500 Riksdaler
note, a Bluebird (Sialia), and gave it to Jacobsson. To Adler’s disappointment
Jacobsson declared that he could not change the note. Oddly enough, Adler saw
Jacobsson counting a pile of money later that night. One would think that this
made Adler suspicious and that he turned in his accomplice, but no. Their
successful forgery was discovered because Jacobsson asked the shop clerk if the
forged note was discovered yet. 

Five Hundred Daler Bank Note (19th Century) by Rikets Ständers BankEconomy Museum – Royal Coin Cabinet

"The Bluebird", a 500 Daler bank note.

All bank notes had serial numbers to identify them. From the 1850's all numbers were printed.

All bank notes had to be signed and counter-signed. In this case it is a proof note, hence the "signature" that says proof print.

The scrolls and decoration were intended to refrain prospective forgers.

And the text about being hanged would have been a slight deterrence. Unless the thought of possible gain was greater than fear.

Sixteen Daler 32 Shilling Bank Note (19th Century) by Rikets Ständers BankEconomy Museum – Royal Coin Cabinet

Bank note forgery was not very common, however. The annual report from the city of Mariestad paints a good picture of reality: "During the course of the past year 1836 there have been 1 029 arrests in this county’s gaol, whereof 9 for debt, 90 accused of theft, 12 for murder, 1 for bestiality, 8 for braking oath, 11 thieves, 8 for crimes against parents and masters, 5 for fraud, 1 for forgery of bank notes, 1 for possession of arsenic, 175 vagrants and unemployed, 457 sentenced to gaol, water and bread, 21 to correction, 17 children following their mothers and 243 transport prisoners heading for fortresses and other places."  (Aftonbladet, 31 January 1837)

Credits: Story

Text and editing: G. Sandell, SHM
For further reading see:
Golabiewski-Lannby, Monica. 2009. Kring Riksbankens första sedlar i färg.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
Stories from Economy Museum – Royal Coin Cabinet
Google apps