Charles Hamilton

Charles Hamilton was an autograph dealer, handwriting expert and author of works like Great Forgers and Famous Fakes.


Born In 1914, in Ludington, Michigan, Charles Hamilton studied English literature and served in the military before creating a dealership out of his passion — collecting famous autographs. He also became a sought-after handwriting expert, able to verify the works of Shakespeare and that the Hitler diaries were a fake. The author of books like American Autographs, he died on December 11, 1996.

Early Life

Famed graphologist Charles Hamilton Jr. was born in 1914 in Ludington, Michigan, and grew up in the nearby city of Flint and, later, in Los Angeles, California. What would later become a successful career as a collector officially began at the age of 12, when Hamilton made his first acquisition: Rudyard Kipling's autograph.

After graduating from Beverly Hills High School, Hamilton enrolled at the University of California, Los Angeles, where received a bachelor's degree in English literature and later earned his master's. In the late 1930s, he moved to New York City, where he worked in various positions in the publishing and advertising industries.

In 1942, Charles Hamilton enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps. He served in World War II, winning a bronze star and six battle stars before completing his tour of duty in 1945.

Collector, Dealer and Graphologist

Returning home to New York City, Hamilton pursued a personal hobby that would greatly influence his later career: He began collecting autographs, selling pieces to other collectors from time to time. As his hobby progressed, however, Hamilton realized that becoming a full-time dealer could prove to be a lucrative career, and, in the early 1950s, started a business selling collectibles — various items, but mostly rare autographs and letters penned by both famous and infamous individuals, from historical figures to serial killers to celebrities. Soon, he was selling his wares at local auctions.

A side effect of his longtime hobby turned trade, Hamilton developed an impressive knack for identifying handwriting and autographs and spotting forgeries. Soon, he became credited as an expert authority in graphology (the study and analysis of handwriting, which includes analyses of written works for the purpose of gaining insight into a writer's psyche).

Thusly, Hamilton was engaged in several notable controversial cases throughout his career, including the investigation of the infamous Zodiac Killer, who committed a string of murders in the San Francisco Bay Area in the late 1960s and early '70s. Working with the New York Police Department, Hamilton served as a consultant on the Zodiac case.

In 1963, Hamilton established Charles Hamilton Galleries in New York City, the first American gallery devoted exclusively to autographs.

Published Works and Later Life

Charles Hamilton authored more than a dozen books during his lifetime, including Collecting Autographs and Manuscripts (1962), The Signature of America: A Fresh Look at Famous Handwriting (1979), Great Forgers and Famous Fakes (1980), American Autographs (1983) and The Hitler Diaries: Fakes That Fooled the World (1991).

Hamilton died on December 11, 1996, at the age of 82, in New York City.

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