George Washington's handwriting & autograph: under the magnifying glass

Not sure if the George Washington letter or autograph you have is genuine? 

Discover how the first US president's handwriting changed (or didn't) over the years, and learn some simple tips you can use to easily identify a genuine Washington-handwritten document.

Washington is a particularly interesting case, as you'll soon discover... 

Washington’s handwriting was so distinctive 

Papers in George Washington’s hand are not rare.

Far from it.

He was a prodigious letter writer, sending out thousands of communications every year. Most he wrote himself, although secretaries sometimes took on the role during the busy years of the American Revolution.

While other historical figures from his era are relatively difficult to decipher today, Washington’s writing remains highly legible. His friend Thomas Jefferson once said of him: “He wrote readily, rather diffusely, in an easy & correct style...

“his time was employed in action chiefly, reading little, and that only in Agriculture and English history. his correspondence became necessarily extensive, and, with journalising his agricultural proceedings, occupied most of his leisure hours within doors.”

George Washington Handwriting Autograph

Washington was born into a wealthy family, a factor that affected his writing style (Image: Wikimedia Commons) 

This “easy & correct style” was the fashion for the gentry at the time.

Merchants and others who made their money in business wrote in tightly controlled text. Remember that letters were the sole means of long distance communication available at the time. Your handwriting was testament to your intelligence and ability.

By contrast, well off young men like Washington had the scope to make their writing look louche and unaffected. Contemporary correspondents would have been able to gauge his social standing immediately from the way he wrote.

The vast number of letters out there makes it easy for us to compare Washington's writing from across his life.

He wrote this text on geometry, for example, in 1745 - when he was 12 years old. 

Washington Handwriting 1745

Washington's "d"s are particularly unusual and remain consistent into adulthood  

Compare it with this one from a 1775 letter.

A letter from 1775

Note the way the writing slants to the right in both examples

There's really very little difference.

Both are big and bold, with plenty of loops and curves - although his earlier writing is a little tighter. The text also generally skews to the right. Individual letters are wobbly and “loose”.

Forgers really struggle to replicate Washington’s style as it's so distinctive. 

In his letters, Washington always signed “GO: Washington”. In the example below, the “O” is that small circle over the colon between the "G" and the "W".

George Washington Signature

That "G" at the beginning is very difficult to fake 

In all cases the “G” is highly distinctive with an eccentric looping form. It’s joined directly to the “W”.

The small “g” of his surname is always underlined and there’s a flamboyantly looping bar above the “t”.  

Paul Fraser. 

PS. I have an exceptional George Washington signature for sale.


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