When one researches the artifacts of Michigan, it is very common that the report will state that the first artifact of this strange type found was by James Scotford. Everything follows this first finding in the fall of 1890. If the claims from Henrietta Mertz in the book The Mystic Symbol are correct, then the position of 1890 as the beginning is absolutely false. Naysayers begin their reasoning as to why the entire collection of Michigan Artifacts is a hoax by beginning the story of James Scotford and then proclaiming everything that follows to be a plant by him. They do however, properly point out the evidences of fraud regarding the actions of bad actor James Scotford and possibly Daniel Soper. They will properly point out studies by James Talmage and Richard Stamps. Yet their claims of everything being a fraud are completely out of bounds. You don’t throw out everything just because one or two bad actors tainted the collection.
Henrietta Mertz is the author of the well known book entitled The Mystic Symbol. She gives a much more researched and detailed description of when the artifacts first came on the scene.
Henrietta Mertz was a courtroom expert in handwriting analysis and a military crypto analyst in World War II.
I am including here a select few paragraphs from the book The Mystic Symbol to establish the truth about the 1890 claim. The Bibliography in the book is rather extensive. My assumption is that her resources and the people she knew and included in her study do check out. I highly recommend you purchase the book and read it for yourself.
Found in 1874
Page 7 of The Mystic Symbol – One crisp Spring morning in 1874, a farmer newly arrived from the East, clearing timber nearby the village of Crystal, in central Michigan northwest of Detroit, unearthed a beautifully worked piece of black slate in the form of a shuttle covered with curious markings adjacent to a drawing of a man’s head wearing queerly fashioned head gear (Fig. 1). Within the course of the next few months, additional unexplainable pieces came to light in an area between the villages of Crystal, St. Louis and Edmore – a copper stiletto, a small clay box and a large slate tablet-each bearing undecipherable markings-together with some strange looking cryptic characters.
As early as the 1850s
Pages 8-9 of The Mystic Symbol – Between 1870 and 1920, farmers from seventeen counties in Michigan stumbled across footprints of this strange people and from these finds seven major collections developed. Some 125 miles southeast of Crystal, in the Detroit area, another large group of identically marked material turned up in the 1860’s to the 1880’s. Much of this fell into the hands of Prof. Edwin Worth. Unbeknownst to farmers in Montcalm County, the Wayne County specimens were exhibited in Detroit by Prof. Worth in his privately owned museum. Later moving his exhibit to New York, his collection was on display there for about forty years. Desiring to retire to be near his only living relative, a sister, when nearing 70 years of age, in 1906, he purchased land near Springport, Indiana, where he built a large frame museum as a permanent home. Records indicate that Prof. Worth started collecting as a small boy in 1848. In addition to inscribed stones, he also had an extensive coin collection, an outstanding collection of fine oriental pearls – and the head of the assassin of President Garfield! During the years in Springport, his museum became famous-so much so that on Sundays in summer as many as 600 persons streamed through the museum to look at this fantastic collection. In 1916, Prof Worth’s museum burned. From the ashes of that fire some twenty pieces of this inscribed material from Michigan were recovered by Thad Wilson-five of those pieces were sold to Philip Schupp of Chicago in 1924. Photograph of those scarred remains appears here as Plate I.
Information on the Franklin Collection
Pages 16 – 17 of The Mystic Symbol – Prof. J. O. Kinnerman, who had examined Mr. Franklin’s 1874 collection of this material, as noted above, was present on the platform during that first meeting but “desiring to remain neutral” inconceivably sat mute-making no comment of any nature from the platform. In his article published in the first issue for 1911, of the American Antiquarian and Oriental Journal, Prof. Kinnerman wrote: “Long before the first date mentioned by Prof. Kelsey (1890), we knew the existence of and examined personally many of the same kind of ‘finds’ mentioned in above article.
“In a small hamlet of Crystal, Montcalm County, Michigan, resided a gentleman by name of Franklin, a very aged man even at that time, but a devotee of American archaeology. This man has for years been a collector and his collection was so large that a special building had been erected to house it. Quite a fortune had been expended by him in his efforts to solve the riddle of America’s pre-historic peoples.
“Among his collection were clay tablets that especially attracted our attention, one of which was designated by Mr. Franklin as the ‘Deluge Tablet.’ This tablet was of baked clay 22 x 7, divided into two sections. Many copper relics were in the collection including axes, spears, knives and objects for which no known use could be assigned. Also, incense burners, caskets, pipes and figurines.
“In 1891, we repeated our visit, taking notes and even squeezes which we have been so unfortunate as to have destroyed. Again in 1901, we visited Mr. Franklin. On this occasion he presented us with three coins which we still have. We showed them to Prof. Dorsey of the Field Museum in Chicago. He, without due consideration, at once in an impulsive way, pronounced them a ‘fraud’.”
We are not going to take sides and express our opinion at this stage of the discussions, but we will say that if Mr. Franklin was duped, he was so unknowingly for he spent thousands of dollars making his collection.
“An archaeologist may be critical and conservative but yet he may be too impulsive in the expression of his preconceived hypothesis and thus be blinded to the truth even when it is thrust at him.”
So wrote Prof. J. O. Kinnerman in 1911.
Mertz Conclusion on Forgery
Pages 122 of The Mystic Symbol – Where any written document is put in question, and one man stands accused of forgery, professional analysts instantly spot one outstanding characteristic appearing on the questioned specimen – as for example the foreign letter “X” on the Lindbergh ransom notes. A like analysis of inscriptions on the Michigan artifacts indicated that these writings stemmed from many hands-no single outstanding characteristic of one individual hand stood out. If each tablet had been written by a different hand as appears on these specimens, forgery by one person is obviously untenable. It must be borne in mind that self-appointed “experts” had passed on this question of forgery and sale of fraudulent material-a criminal act-without themselves having been trained in the law of detection or analysis. Little credence can normally be given to this type of opinion-for it is recognizable only as opinion and carries little or no weight unless supported by factual evidence.
Question raised by this chapter was-Did one man alone forge each and every artifact comprising this vast collection of some 3,000 pieces? During the long heated controversy, the academic world would have us so believe and isolated one man charging him with the perpetration of forgery and manufacture and sale of fraudulent material. No proofs were ever offered nor was the man brought to trial. Most of this inscribed matter has now been destroyed as a result.
Many artifacts were discovered before the 1890’s many years before James Scotford made his first finding in the fall of 1890.
The artifacts contain numerous handwriting signatures. They could not have been made by one person or one small team of fraudsters.