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History of Fingerprints Time Line
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A complete, confidential and inexpensive means to create a comprehensive personal record of a child. Great for recording a child's vital identification information and promoting your organization in the process.
 

~1000-2000 B.C. - Fingerprints were used on clay tablets for business transactions in ancient Babylon.

3rd Century B.C. - Thumbprints begin to be used on clay seals in China to “sign” documents.

610-907 A.D. - During the T’ang Dynasty, a time when imperial China was one of the most powerful and wealthy regions of the world, fingerprints are reportedly used on official documents.

1st Century A.D. - A petroglyph located on a cliff face in Nova Scotia depicts a hand with exaggerated ridges and finger whorls, presumably left by the Mi'kmaq people.

14th Century A.D. - Many official government documents in Persia have fingerprint impressions. One government physician makes the observation that no two fingerprints were an exact match.

1686 - At the University of Bologna in Italy, a professor of anatomy named Marcello Malpighi notes the common characteristics of spirals, loops and ridges in fingerprints, using the newly invented microscope for his studies. In time, a 1.88mm thick layer of skin, the “Malpighi layer,” was named after him. Although Malpighi was likely the first to document types of fingerprints, the value of fingerprints as identification tools was never mentioned in his writings.

1823 - A thesis is published by Johannes Evengelista Purkinje, professor of anatomy with the University of Breslau, Prussia. The thesis details a full nine different fingerprint patterns. Still, like Malpighi, no mention is made of fingerprints as an individual identification method.

1858 - The Chief Magistrate of the Hooghly district in Jungipoor, India, Sir William Herschel, first used fingerprints to “sign” contracts with native Indians. In July of 1858, a local businessman named Rajyadhar Konai put his hand print on the back of a contract at Herschel’s request. Herschel was not motivated by the need to prove personal identity; rather, his motivation was to simply “frighten (Konai) out of all thought of repudiating his signature.” As the locals felt more bound to a contract through this personal contact than if it was just signed, as did the ancient Babylonians and Chinese, Herschel adopted the practice permanently. Later, only the prints of the right index and middle fingers were required on contracts. In time, after viewing a number of fingerprints, Herschel noticed that no two prints were exactly alike, and he observed that even in widespread use, the fingerprints could be used for personal identification purposes.

1880 - Dr. Henry Faulds, a British surgeon and Superintendent of Tsukiji Hospital in Tokyo, published an article in the Scientific Journal, "Nautre" (nature). He discussed fingerprints as a means of personal identification, and the use of printers ink as a method for obtaining such fingerprints. Faulds had begun his study of what he called “skin-furrows” during the 1870s after looking at fingerprints on pieces of old clay pottery. He is also credited with the first fingerprint identification: a greasy print left by a laboratory worker on a bottle of alcohol. Soon, Faulds began to recognize that the distinctive patterns on fingers held great promise as a means of individual identification, and developed a classification system for recording these inked impressions. Also in 1880, Faulds sent a description of his fingerprint classification system to Sir Charles Darwin. Darwin, aging and in poor health, declined to assist Dr. Faulds in the further study of fingerprints, but forwarded the information on to his cousin, British scientist Sir Francis Galton.

1882 - Gilbert Thompson, employed by the U.S. Geological Survey in New Mexico, uses his own fingerprints on a document to guard against forgery. This event is the first known use of fingerprints for identification in America.

1883 - “Life on the Mississippi,” a novel by Mark Twain, tells the story of a murderer who is identified by the use of fingerprints. His later book "Pudd'n Head Wilson” includes a courtroom drama involving fingerprint identification.

1888 - Sir Francis Galton’s began his study of fingerprints during the 1880s, primarily to develop a tool for determining genetic history and hereditary traits. Through careful study of the work of Faulds, which he learned of through his cousin Sir Charles Darwin, as well as his examination of fingerprints collected by Sir William Herschel, Galton became the first to provide scientific evidence that no two fingerprints are exactly the same, and that prints remain the same throughout a person’s lifetime. He calculated that the odds of finding two identical fingerprints were 1 in 64 billion.

1892 - Galton’s book “Fingerprints” is published, the first of its kind. In the book, Galton detailed the first classification system for fingerprints; he identified three types (loop, whorl, and arch) of characteristics for fingerprints (also known as minutia). These characteristics are to an extent still in use today, often referred to as Galton’s Details.

1892 - Juan Vucetich, an Argentine police official, had recently begun keeping the first fingerprint files based on Galton’s Details. History was made that year when Vucetich made the first criminal fingerprint identification. A woman named Rojas had murdered her two sons, then cut her own throat to deflect blame from herself. Rojas left a bloody print on a doorpost. After investigators matched the crime scene print to that of the accused, Rojas confessed. Vucetich eventually developed his own system of classification, and published a book entitled Dactiloscopía Comparada ("Comparative Fingerprinting") in 1904, detailing the Vucetich system, still the most used system in Latin America.

1896 - British official Sir Edward Richard Henry had been living in Bengal, and was looking to use a system similar to that of Herschel’s to eliminate problems within his jurisdiction. After visiting Sir Francis Galton in England, Henry returned to Bengal and instituted a fingerprinting program for all prisoners. By July of 1896, Henry wrote in a report that the classification limitations had not yet been addressed. A short time later, Henry developed a system of his own, which included 1,024 primary classifications. Within a year, the Governor General signed a resolution directing that fingerprinting was to be the official method of identifying criminals in British India.

1901 - Back in England and Wales, the success of the “Henry Fingerprint Classification System” in India was creating a stir, and a committee was formed to review Scotland Yard's identification methods. Henry was then transferred to England, where he began training investigators to use the Henry Classification System after founding Scotland Yard's Central Fingerprint Bureau. Within a few years, the Henry Classification System was in use around the world, and fingerprints had been established as the uniform system of identification for the future. The Henry Classification System is still in use today in English speaking countries around the globe.

1902 - Alphonse Bertillon, director of the Bureau of Identification of the Paris Police, is responsible for the first criminal identification of a fingerprint without a known suspect. A print taken from the scene of a homicide was compared against the criminal fingerprints already on file, and a match was made, marking another milestone in law enforcement technology. Meanwhile, the New York Civil Service Commission, spearheaded by Dr. Henry P. DeForrest, institutes testing of the first systematic use of fingerprints in the United States.

1903 - Fingerprinting technology comes into widespread use in the United States, as the New York Police Department, the New York State Prison system and the Federal Bureau of Prisons begin working with the new science.

1904 - The St. Louis Police Department and the Leavenworth State Penitentiary in Kansas start utilizing fingerprinting, assisted by a Sergeant from Scotland Yard who had been guarding the British Display at the St. Louis Exposition.

1905 - The U.S. Army gets on the fingerprinting bandwagon, and within three years was joined by the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. In the ensuing 25 years, as more law enforcement agencies joined in using fingerprints as personal identification methods, these agencies began sending copies of the fingerprint cards to the recently established National Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

1911 - The first central storage location for fingerprints in North America is established in Ottawa by Edward Foster of the Dominion Police Force. The repository is maintained by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and while it originally held only 2000 sets of fingerprints, today the number is over 2 million.

1924 - The U.S. Congress acts to establish the Identification Division of the F.B.I. The National Bureau and Leavenworth are consolidated to form the basis of the F.B.I. fingerprint repository. By 1946, the F.B.I. had processed 100 million fingerprint cards; that number doubles by 1971.

1990s - AFIS, or Automated Fingerprint Identification Systems, begin widespread use around the country. This computerized system of storing and cross-referencing criminal fingerprint records would eventually become capable of searching millions of fingerprint files in minutes, revolutionizing law enforcement efforts.

1996 - As Americans become more concerned with the growing missing and abducted children problem, and law enforcement groups urge the fingerprinting of children for investigative purposes in the event of a child becoming missing, Chris Migliaro founds Fingerprint America in Albany, NY. The company provides a simple, at-home fingerprinting and identification kit for parents, maintaining the family’s privacy while protecting and educating children about the dangers of abduction. By 2001, the company distributes over 5 million Child ID Fingerprinting Kits around the world.

1999 - The FBI phases out the use of paper fingerprint cards with their new Integrated AFIS (IAFIS) site at Clarksburg, West Virginia. IAFIS will starts with individual computerized fingerprint records for approximately 33 million criminals, while the outdated paper cards for the civil files are kept at a facility in Fairmont, West Virginia.

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