How Were The Ransom Note Holes Formed?
Sun Apr 28, 2019 09:33

This is a demonstration with photographs from an evaluation I did in 2003, when I was trying understand more fully and possibly identify, the process involved within the formation of the Lindbergh ransom note holes.

I used a simple cardboard template with pre-punched holes, positioned as illustrated in the lower right hand corner of a stack of 3 or four sheets of linen writing paper. This process allows for a reproducibly-accurate “target” for each of the three holes. The hole locations are then marked with a pencil and then punched with a hammer striking a simple punch-type tool. A piece of softwood underneath absorbs the impact and receives the resultant paper "cut outs" from the punch process.

I experimented with a number of punch tools, including a carpenter’s nail set, the point of a 1930’s-era square cut nail, a hollow steel rod and various other household items. As a result, I concluded that the finishing nail with its concave or recessed head, performed the best. I discovered that the actual shape of the punch tool, sharpness of its outer edge, and depth of concavity, were all factors in the ultimate shape of the hole produced and "crispness" of its perimeter edge.

I was able to achieve a number of different hole designs, including roundish to oval, squarish, slightly diamond and clover leaf, quite often achieving combinations of the above shapes from the same striking punch, and within the same stack of writing paper! I consider the randomness of the linen fibres within each individual sheet, paper thickness, order of placement of each sheet in the stack, all to be factors contributing to the degree of variation I observed.

Richard Hauptmann would have been familiar with a standard carpenter’s technique, ie. blunting the point of a nail so that it is less likely to split the wood it's being driven into. So it seems very possible to me that he would have been comfortable with the illustrated hammer and inverted nail positioning.

What I also found of interest is that an El Producto cigar box was found in Hauptmann's possession, and it contained a number of small household items. In a followup conversation with a fellow researcher in 2006, I was informed that among these items were a number of finishing nails. Whether or not the points of these nails were blunted, was apparently not reported at the time of their discovery.

Joe Czulinski

    • Re: How Were The Ransom Note Holes Formed?Anonymous, Sun Apr 28 13:47
      I enlarged the photos on this website of the "Nursery Note" and the "Reverse side of the Nursury Note" and compared them with an enlargement of your "Holes In/Holes Out" photo. I woukd say that you... more
      • Whoever punched the original ransom note holes used a similar process to this. The edges of the holes indicate that the punch head, given the impact force behind it, overall was sharp enough to cut... more
        • Re: How Were The Ransom Note Holes Formed?Anonymous, Wed May 1 10:07
          Just a short story on carpenters' use of blunted pointed finish nails. When I was a kid in the 1950's our next door neighbor earned a living as a carpenter. He would allow me to help him on carpentry ... more
          • Re: How Were The Ransom Note Holes Formed?Anonymous, Wed May 1 12:24
            Thanks for the memories! When I was a kid back in the 60's, I spent many hours at my Dad's work bench in the basement building things from wood. One very clear personal memory from that time is that... more
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