Forgery in the Music Library: A Cautionary Tale

By Anderson, Gillian; Haines, Kathryn Miller et al. | Notes, June 2004 | Go to article overview

Forgery in the Music Library: A Cautionary Tale

Anderson, Gillian, Haines, Kathryn Miller, Root, Deane, Van Winkle Keller, Kate, et al., Notes

In the 1920s and 1930s the celebration of four anniversaries-the centennial of the birth of Stephen Foster (1826-1864), the bicentennials of the births of George Washington (1732-1799) and Francis Hopkinson (1737-1791), and the sesquicentennial of the founding of the United States-increased interest in related antiquarian artifacts, and brought the musical contributions of two Pennsylvania composers to the attention of a general audience.1 While increased knowledge and pride in the American musical tradition resulted, the anniversaries also inspired unscrupulous dealers to take advantage of a new market for old manuscripts. Their fraud is still having repercussions today.

As one of the centers of American musical activity in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Pennsylvania was renowned for illustrious composers-Francis Hopkinson, Stephen Foster, William Henry Fry, and Francis Johnson to name just a few-and celebrated organizations like the Mendelssohn Club, the Musical Fund Society, and the Philadelphia Orchestra. By the 1930s, their accomplishments had become part of the state's history, and their documents began to be collected by libraries, museums, and antiquarian dealers. Among the dealers in Philadelphia were Harry Dichter, the brothers Henry and Paul Woehlcke, Charles Nagy, and Charles Weisberg, who was the owner of a rare-book store on Walnut Street called Folios.

Weisberg was considered one of Philadelphia's most colorful characters and was nicknamed "the Baron" due to his meticulous appearance.2 While a student at the University of Pennsylvania, he had been proclaimed a "master mind," with a "remarkable faculty for concentration, an excellent memory, unusual command of the English language, keen perception, and extreme facility in the development of new habits."3 By the time he left Penn (he never graduated), he had achieved the best scholastic record in the university's history.

In the mid-1930s, he was using that intelligence to con art connoisseurs and collectors, selling some $2,258 worth of nonexistent rare books and prints to people and institutions all over the United States. His activities did not extend just to fanciful texts; Weisberg also passed dozens of forged checks, and he doctored otherwise insignificant editions of hooks with faked signatures of such American luminaries as Abraham Lincoln, Walt Whitman, and Katherine Mansfield.4 Most fortuitously, he purchased a significant amount of old paper and documents from the Philadelphia Custom House sale in 1938. His involvement in tampering with materials acquired from that sale led to the entire contents (some forty tons of genuine documents, including many significant records of United States history) being viewed as of questionable authenticity.5 Yet as audacious as these frauds may seem, Weisberg's greatest confidence scheme involved music manuscripts.


Founded in 1820, the Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia is the oldest music society in continuous existence in the United States. To support its activities, the society acquired a significant collection of printed and manuscript scores dating from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century.6 Among the items the society collected was a group of manuscripts by Francis Hopkinson, signer of the Declaration of Independence, designer of the American flag, poet, satirist, inventor, and one of America's first composers.7

On 16 February 1983, the MFS board authorized the purchase of thirteen Hopkinson manuscripts for $5,000 (later reduced to $3,500) from Hungarian emigre Charles J. Nagy.8 Two years later, on 8 February 1935, Dr. Edward Brooks Keffer9 reported to the MFS board that he had submitted the Hopkinson materials purchased from Nagy to manuscript specialist Dr. A. S. W. Rosenbach,10 who believed they were not genuine. In a letter written immediately after the board meeting, the secretary of the MFS, Spencer P. Hazard, wrote to Dr. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)


1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited article

Forgery in the Music Library: A Cautionary Tale


Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25,

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.