The new year begins with six encrypted postcards from the 19th century. They were provided to me by the National Cryptologic Museum. Can a reader decipher them?
The National Cryptologic Museum operated by the NSA once in a while receives enquiries from people asking for help in deciphering encrypted documents. There’s no doubt that the NSA has excellent codebreakers on its payroll, who could do such a job, but of course these experts have other things to do. This is why the National Cryptologic Museum sometimes forwards help enquiries to me. Of course, I’m very happy about this, as I write about unsolved cryptograms quite often.
The latest decryption inquiry I received from the NSA museum is about a series of six encrypted postcards from around 1880. Frequent readers of this blog certainly know that encrypted postcards are nothing unusual. I have intoduced dozens of them on Klausis Krypto Kolumne. My readers solved almost all of them.
Most encrypted postcards I am aware of were written in the early 20th century. The ones I’m presenting today are older than most others I know. Usually, an encrypted postcard was sent by a young man to his spouse. The receiver address of the six cards I’m presenting today suggests that this is the case here, too. All cards are adressed to a woman named Alice G. Barnard living in Springfield, Vermont. Before you ask: No, this woman has got nothing to do with the Alice used to explain crypto protocols. And no, there’s no direct connection to the famous Springfield effect. And no, I don’t know whether Ms. Barnard was related to the famous cardiac surgeon Christiaan Barnard.
Here’s the first card:
Here’s card number 2:
Here’s card number 4:
Postcard number 5:
And finally card number 6:
The encryption does not look very difficult at first view. The periods probably are word separators. However, the alphabet used looks pretty small (the digits from 0 to 9 and the plus sign), which suggests a cipher that is more complex than a simple letter substitution.
Can somebody break these six encrypted postcards? The owner, the NSA museum and I would be very pleased to learn the solution.