About Mary Butterworth (Peck)
Mary (Peck) Butterworth, daughter of one of the most influential first families of Rehoboth, Massachusetts and related, both by blood and through her marriage to nearly every other first family in the American colonies, was one of the first female counterfeiters in America.
Little is known about Mary Peck Butterworth until 1716 when she presumably began counterfeiting the £5 bills of credit issued by Rhode Island the previous year. (There are no existing court records which show that she was ever convicted for this crime. All the records in this case are of unproven charges.)
Why this young, married, Puritan woman began a life of crime in what would be considered a man's field is unknown. But Mary was so successful that she became probably the biggest counterfeiter in New England. Mary ingeniously invented a method of making counterfeit bills of credit without using a copper plate which could've been used as evidence against her. Nicholas Campe, the only accomplice who ever confessed, said that she placed a piece of "fine watter starched musoline" on a genuine bill "& So Pucked out the Letters upon said musoline," which was then pressed on a piece of blank paper. A hot iron was probably used to pick transfer the image from the muslin to clean paper. Using crow quill pens of various widths, Mary was able to further heighten the image of the bill into an almost perfect duplicate of a genuine bill. The only incriminating evidence, a small piece of starched muslin and small piece of paper, could easily be burned in the fireplace.