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Widget lets you see how Treasury nominee Lew would sign your name

January 11, 2013|By Jim Puzzanghera
  • A 2011 Office of Management and Budget memo features the signature of Treasury secretary nominee Jacob J. Lew.
A 2011 Office of Management and Budget memo features the signature of Treasury… (Office of Management and…)

WASHINGTON -- The unusual signature of penmanship-challenged Treasury Secretary nominee Jacob J. Lew is drawing as much attention as any of his views on fiscal policy.

And now anyone can see how the man whose John Hancock soon could grace our greenbacks would sign their name.

Yahoo News has created the Jack Lew Signature Generator. Just type in your name, hit the "sign my name, Jack" button and the widget will scrawl out a series of Lew's now-infamous curlicues.

Lew wouldn't be the first Treasury Secretary who has struggled with a pen. Outgoing Timothy F. Geithner has admitted to his own problems, describing his signature as “a completely illegible scrawl that did not seem suitable for the dollar bill."

Images of that signature show it looked like a pair of eyeglasses for a cartoon character. Geithner offered an explanation.

"I took handwriting in the third grade in New Delhi, India, so I probably did not get the best instruction on handwriting," Geithner told NPR last year. 

Geithner said he improved his handwriting for the official signature that appears on paper currency printed during his tenure so that people could identify his name.

As President Obama announced the nomination at the White House Thursday, Lew told Geithner that "it was only yesterday that I discovered that we both share a common challenge with penmanship."

The Internet buzzed this week with images of Lew's signature, which appears on numerous Office of Management and Budget memos from his time as its director from 2010-2012.

The signature's been described as "an unraveled Slinky," "googly," "loopy" and just plain "goofy."

Obama said that he had never noticed Lew's signature and joked Thursday that he considered rescinding his offer to make the appointment once he saw it.

"Jack assures me that he is going to work to make at least one letter legible in order not to debase our currency should he be confirmed as secretary of the Treasury," Obama said.

The Treasury Secretary and the Treasurer of the United States (a lesser, largely ceremonial position) both provide signatures to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing that are stamped on paper money.

But, as you can tell from glancing at a dollar bill, only the signature appears above the person's title. There is no printed version of the official's name, so the signature needs to be somewhat legible to determine whose it is.

Of the 45 people whose signature has appeared on U.S. currency since 1928, when the current small-size paper money first appeared, most demonstrated exquisite penmanship, according to images at

Ogden Livingston Mills, Treasury Secretary from 1932-1933, did not. His signature, which is the worst of the lot, looked like an electrocardiogram image and is nearly impossible to decipher.


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