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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.


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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.

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