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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Electric Code Machine: 1923

Electric Code Machine: 1923

March 1923. Washington, D.C. "Western Union telegram -- electric code machine." Jazz Age cryptography? Harris & Ewing Collection glass negative. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Why Encryption

at the Western Union office? The recipitant would have to have the same system or Western Union would have to decrypt it and pass on a plain text message. This would imply that the transmission was subject to intercept and the contents should remain secret. If that's the case then the sender should deliver just an encrypted message to be transmitted and decrypted by the receiver. Strange.

Quite light on the bling

That's an interesting ring she's wearing. I don't know that I've seen another like it. I hope someone from the Shorpian Gemology Bureau will offer some suggestions about its substance and color.


A zoom-in on the typewritten page gives us some insight - "Words should be spaced in five letter groups."

Also, confirmation on the machine's identity.

Image of the Hebern machine

It is indeed the Hebern machine. The images here leave no doubt:

Re: Jazz Age cryptography?

Maybe she's adding syncopation to some of those boring standards on piano rolls.

Amazing for 90 Years!

Yes, Velvet always photographs so beautifully. Up-swept hair is all the rage now and this young lady actually looks current. Amazing for a 90 year old photo!

Velvet or Velour?

I have often thought that all clothing should be velour, which I believe was developed as a cheaper alternative to real velvet. In any case, a beautiful garment which appears to have been either dark blue or dark green.

The Edison of Secret Codes

I see rotors on the machine the woman is using, and the text on the paper appears to be code, so she may be using a coding system invented by Edward Hugh Hebern, documented here.


the real meaning of "23 Skidoo."

Bad News Bearer

The Western Union Telegram.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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