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July2009
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The Art of the Steal

Over the course of five years, Frank Abagnale Jr. scammed his way through $2.5 million in 26 countries. With at least eight aliases, he posed as a Pan American Airlines pilot, a pediatrician and a lawyer—even passing the bar on his third try. And, to think, he did all of this by the age of 21.

The War of Wealth. 1896 New-York tribune

Following his incarceration in French, Swedish and American prisons—ultimately, he served only about five years—Abagnale went legit, so to speak, using what he learned in his past indiscretions to advise the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He later founded Abagnale & Associates, which advises the business world on fraud. He eventually raised enough money to pay back all those he scammed in his criminal career and is now a millionaire.

Leonardo DiCaprio portrayed Abagnale in the 2002 Steven Spielberg film “Catch Me if You Can,” which was based on Abagnale’s book of the same name.

In March 2009, Abagnale gave a presentation at the Library in which he discussed how to detect altered and forged documents.

The program was given as part of the Topics in Preservation Science Series sponsored by the Library’s Preservation Directorate. Its mission is to assure long-term, uninterrupted access to the Library's collections, either in original or reformatted form. This mission is accomplished directly through conservation, binding and repair, reformatting, materials testing, and staff and user education; and indirectly through coordinating and overseeing all Library-wide activities relating to the preservation and physical protection of Library material.

The Library’s Conservation Division ensures that these collections will exist for future generations by providing appropriate treatment and preventive care of rare and valuable research materials. Staff members conduct and publish research; create new solutions for storage and care of collections; train Library staff, students, the public and professionals; respond to disasters; prepare materials for moves, digitization, exhibitions and loans; assess and evaluate new acquisitions and old accessions; monitor collections storage; and treat threatened rare materials.

The directorate has many cooperative programs, including the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP) with the National Endowment for the Humanities. The partnership aims to provide enhanced access to United States newspapers published between 1836 and 1922. Chronicling America is a resource produced through the NDNP that allows users to freely search through digitized pages of newspapers from California, the District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New York, Texas, Utah and Virginia.

Recently the site posted its millionth page and garnered new state partners in Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon, and South Carolina. This online resource will eventually contain 20 million pages of historic American newspapers from 1836 to 1922, and in addition to the digitized pages, Chronicling America offers educational essays on every title represented and a directory of all newspapers published in the United States from 1690 to the present.

In celebration of the milestone, the Library launched a new photostream on its popular Flickr site of images from weekly 1909 editions of the New York Tribune's illustrated Sunday supplement. The richly illustrated supplements were printed at a time when the use of the halftone technique was still relatively novel in newspapers.


A. The War of Wealth. 1896. Prints and Photographs Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction No.: LC-USZC4-1790 (color film copy transparency), LC-USZ6-386 (b&w film copy neg.); Call No.: POS - TH - 1896 .W37, no. 1 (C size) <P&P>[P&P]

B. New-York tribune. (New York [N.Y.]) 1866-1924. November 7, 1909. Serial and Government Publications Division. Reproduction Information: Reproduction information not available.