Albert S. Osborn

ASQDE President - 1942-1946

Albert S. Osborn

Albert Sherman Osborn was the first President of the American Society of Questioned Document Examiners.

Born in 1858 on a farm near Grass Lake, Michigan, Mr. Osborn was the second of six children.  In Grass Lake, he did the usual farm labor and attended the nearby country school.  Farm life didn't appeal to him so he attended the State College at Lansing where he became interested in the art of penmanship.  With sufficient training and practice, he felt he could become a teacher of penmanship.

In the summer of 1882, he received a letter from the Rochester Business Institute, offering him a position as a teacher of penmanship.  It was from this early beginning as a teacher of handwriting that Mr. Osborn extended his interests to the identification of handwriting, typewriting, paper, ink, and to the many questions that arise concerning contested documents.

In those early days, attorneys often consulted a local penmanship teacher to obtain opinions as to the genuineness or spuriousness of a signature.  As soon as Mr. Osborn became established as a highly qualified teacher, lawyers began submitting questioned document problems to him. By 1920, his business had grown to such proportions that he moved from Rochester to New York City where he opened an office and began devoting his entire time to questioned document work.

Great institutions as well as significant advances in science are almost invariably the lengthened shadow of one individual. A profound thinker, a man of penetrating vision and indomitable courage, of rigid integrity and unremitting zeal - such a person was Albert Sherman Osborn.

He, more than any other document examiner who preceded him, was responsible for placing questioned document work on a scientific basis. So extensive was this influence that the name "Osborn" has become legendary throughout the world among handwriting experts, lawyers, judges, investigators and all who deal with questioned document cases.

For many years, Mr. Osborn annually invited many of North America's leading document examiners to meet for educational discussions at his residence.  Each person invited to these meetings possessed a sincere desire to acquire new knowledge and was required to present a paper at the meeting on a subject previously assigned. This process proved to be of tremendous value to these document examiners.

Subsequently, Mr. Osborn and others felt their group should become a formal association. In 1942, the American Society of Questioned Document Examiners was founded with Mr. Osborn as its first president, a position he held for four years.

Mr. Osborn remained active and influential up to the time of his death in 1946. He was a wide and constant reader of both literary and scientific books. With his keen analysis and penetrative understanding of author's ideas, combined with his retentive memory, he pushed to the very heights of learning. He could discourse intelligently on a wide variety of subjects and was an educated man in the fullest meaning of the word.

His books Questioned Documents, The Problem of Proof, The Mind of the Juror and Questioned Document Problems master and codify the information necessary for identifying styles of handwriting and typescript, and for dating papers, inks, and writing instruments. Mr. Osborn's son, Albert D. Osborn, followed him into the practice of questioned document examination, as did his grandsons, Paul A. Osborn and Russell Osborn. Today, his great grandson, John P. Osborn, is Vice President of the ASQDE and continues the practice begun by his great grandfather.