Is Lew’s Signature Fit For U.S. Money?

President Obama’s second-term nominee for Secretary of the Treasury, Jack Lew, has a famously loopy signature. The question is: is it too illegible for the signature printed on U.S. paper currency?

The looping signature of Jack Lew

Jack Lew’s signature as of his nomination.

Outgoing secretary, Timothy Geithner, had a similar problem with his own loopy scratch. His solution was to change his signature. It made me wonder — is it then really his signature or just some canard manufactured to slap a desperate facade on the whole enterprise?


Timothy Geithner’s pre-treasury signature


Timothy Geithner’s official Treasury signature

Honestly, I don’t think either original signature is all that bad. In fact, I’d call them better because these are their true, evolved signatures. Changing them for the sake of — what, exactly — is exactly the same sort of superficial silliness that occupies too much time and causes too much concern inside the beltway.

To be fair, the penmanship skills of previous Secretaries of the Treasury is all over the map, though, in general, it seems the female treasurers have cleaner signatures than the males.. Some, especially those in the 19th and early 20th centuries, have the grace of the calligraphic scripts then taught in schools. E.g. those of John Allison (1869-1878), J. N. Huston (1889-1891), Houston Benge Teehee (1915-1919), and James Fount Tillman (1893-1897):

Some are legibly crafted, e.g. Romana Acosta Bañuelos (1971-1974), Werner Michael Blumenthal (1977-1979), Katherine Davalos Ortega (1983-1989), and Catalina Vasquez Villalpando (1989-1983):

Some are serviceable but starting to approach typical chicken-scratch, e.g. Nicholas Frederick Brady (1988-1993), William S. Elliott (1919-1922), George Magoffin Humphrey (1953-1957), and Walter Orr Woods (1929-1933):

Some are, uh, distinctive, e.g. William Gibbs McAdoo (1913-1918), Ogden Livingston Mills (1932-1933), Francis Elias Spinner (1861-1875), Albert U. Wyman (1876-1877, 1883-1885):

Admittedly, most of the sigs come from the serviceable chicken-scratch category, but if Lew ultimately decides to keep his loops, he won’t be a total outlier. More importantly…why in the world is this an issue?

(Currency signatures via USPaperMOney.Info)

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