It is an old saying that every man has his double, and there are plenty of cases where three men look so much alike that it is
almost impossible to distinguish one from another. But there is one physical characteristic that every one possesses of which
no double so far as human experience goes exists. That is the finger print. The fingerprint method of identification is one of the many modern inventions that we owe to the Chinese. For hundreds, perhaps thousands of years the merchants of China have
used the impressions of their fingers instead of their signatures.
From China the use of the fingerprint spread into the north of India, where it was adopted by the British military authorities.
The fingerprint system was first developed by Sir E.A. Henry, a British officer in India, where the fingerprint was used by the
Indians in affixing their signatures to legal papers. From this use it spread to the British troops in India, who were registered by fingerprints as a means of identifying deserters. English officers, returning from India and taking positions in the police
departments of Great Britain, soon realised that there was an infallible method of identifying criminals.
Now the system was in use throughout Great Britain. The system was introduced to Scotland Yard by Sir Melville MacNaughton.
At first it was laught at. Then Paris, Berlin and St. Petersburg fell in line and the work of co-operation, of perfecting the system
was undertaken until it was almost perfect. A uniform system was in vogue in England, Scotland, Ireland, Canada, India and Australia.
The fingerprint system has been used almost exclusively by the police to trace criminals...were used in indexing
criminals arrested by the police....obtaining clues of criminals. The system has proved
very successful in the police departments in running down criminals.
The fingerprint system of identification applied not alone to criminals and criminology, but proved valuable in many
lines of business.
By 1911 Merchants and businessmen, particular bankers were deeply interested in the system. They saw in it a means of
rendering forgery impossible. While the adoption of the fingerprint system in the United States for the commercial, financial
and legal transaction was a comparatively new thing, it was by no means a novelty in other parts of the world. It has been in
use in the civil government for over 12 years. In India, the system was used in the registration, pension, post office, survey, immigration and other public departments.
1913. The rapid adoption of the fingerprint system by banks and bonding companies in the US was evidence that it was the
only infallible and absolutely sure method of fixing human identity.
Commissioner Waldo suggested that all immigrants landing in the US should be fingerprinted.
1919. It was recommended that every important signature be accompanied by a fingerprint impression as a corroborating
1920. The fingerprint system now used the world over.
1922. The US government planned to take fingerprints of everybody.
Fingerprint impressions required of every person desiring to open a postal savings account. Etc.
Bertillon system versus the fingerprint system
The fingerprint system had more advantages than the former Bertillon sytem for the identification of criminals. Every police
department in the US used both systems. One supported the other.
Principles of the Bertillon system
The Bertillon system is generally understood to mean a measurement of all parts of the body
There were but eleven measurements and there was likelihood of error in these. The Bertillon
system worked with the photograph system.
Alphonse Bertillon (1853-1914) was a French law enforcement officer and biometrics researcher, who
created anthropometry, an identification system based on physical measurements.
"The two fundamental principles of the Bertillon system are that the human frame undergoes practically no change after the age
of twenty years, and that nature has no duplicates. The height, which is most susceptible of variation is first taken. Next is the
'stretch,' commonly called the 'reach.' This is the distance from the finger tips of one hand to the finger tips of the other with
the arms extended horizontally from the body. The length of the trunk is taken - in other words, the height of the person sitting.
The head length measurement is one which experts say never varies. This is determined by means of a compasslike instrument,
and is the distance from a point at the root of the nose to the back of the head. The head width is also taken, being the distance
between the two points just above the ears. The breadth of the face, from the outside of the cheek bones is found. And then the
right ear is measured, which concludes the record of measurements for the head. The length of the left foot is taken, and the
middle finger and the little finger on the left hand and left "cubit (forearm)." This last is the distance from the bend of the elbow
to the tip of the outstretched fingers.
All unusual marks on the body are noted, and the distance from certain points set down. These include moles, warts, scars,
marks and all deformities." And finally there is what is called the descriptive signalment, the mental and moral traits apparent
being noted and the characteristic features, the forehead, the nose, color of hair and beard, the complexion, the teeth, chin,
and the ear, all being described on the Bertillon Card. The subject is weighed and his general physical make-up observed.
By the way, the ear is the most important feature for detection and identification. Two photos are part of the Bertillon description. One is the direct front view, the other profile.
One important feature of the Bertillon system, making it practically discouraging to the professional criminal is the keeping of
the record of each convict on the same card which bears his photograph and description.
Bertillon Measurments: 1)Height of the person standing 2) Reach, length of the outstretched arms from finger tip to finger
tip 3) Trunk, or height of a man sitting 4) Length of the head 5) Width of the head 6) Length of right ear and width of right ear
7) Length of left foot 8) Length of left middle finger and length of left little finger 9) Lenght of left forearm