In 1905, an encrypted postcard was sent from San Francisco to Paris. Can a reader break it?

Comedy hacker and crypto book expert Tobias Schrödel has once again has provided me an encrypted postcard from his marvellous collection. This one was send from San Francisco to a certain Georges Lannier living in Paris, France, in 1905:

Postcard-San-Francisco-add

Readers of this blog might know that most encrypted postcards were sent by young men to their spouses – so this one is an exception. The recipient, who apparently worked in the Health Service (Service de Santé), lived or worked in the Boulevard de la Tour-Maubourg in central Paris. This street has today its own subway station.

Here’s  the encrypted message:

Postcard-San-Francisco-pic

The top line, which is the only one written in the clear, says: “San Francisco 31 Janvier 05”. The word “Janvier” means January in French. This means that the card was written on January 5, 1905. It was stamped in San Francisco on January 31 and stamped again in Paris on February 14.

The language of the cleartext is probably French. My guess is that the sender used a MASC (i.e., a substitution cipher). Probably, every number stands for a letter. Periods separate numbers, while hyphens separate words. The most obvious substitution table would be A=1, B=2, C=3, …, but I think, it’s not that simple. Still, I am optimistic that this cryptogram is not one of the difficult kind.

Can a reader break this encryption?


Further reading: Who can solve this encrypted postcard from Chippenham?

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Kommentare (7)

  1. #1 Armin
    5. April 2018

    CHER AMI JA VOULAIS VOUS ECRIRE UNE LETTRE LA SEMAINE DERNIERE MAIS JAI EU DE NOUVEAU UNE CRISE DE NERVS CE QUI ME REND INCAPABLE DE FAIRE QUOI QUE CE SOIT JE SUIS MIEUX ET JE VAIS VOUS ECRIRE CES JOURS CI AMITIES ERNESTINE

  2. #2 Klaus Schmeh
    5. April 2018

    @Armin:
    Thank you very much! This means that the postcard was written by a woman named Ernestine. The recipient, Georges Lannier, probably was her lover.

  3. #3 Thomas
    5. April 2018

    Good job, Armin!
    But I think it reads “nerfs”, for 18=v and 8=f.

  4. #4 Thomas
    5. April 2018

    Can anyone read what is written in Chinese on both sides of the postcard?

  5. #5 Jerry McCarthy
    England, Europa
    6. April 2018

    #5. Actually, I think it might be Japanese.I can approximately make out the kana for “post card” on the front: https://translate.google.com/#fr/ja/Carte%20Postale

    However, I would openly admit to being close to hopeless with cursive East Asian scripts.

  6. #6 Narga
    6. April 2018

    A colleague confirmed that it is Japanese.
    1) The one next to “Carte Postale” says (who would have guessed it): postcard.
    2) Under the stamp: please put your stamp here
    3) On the picture side: “神武帝” is a posthumous title for eastern asian emperors. The last two words translate to “eastward expeditions”. So this represents the story of the first emperor of Japan (Emperor Jimmu). You can find more in https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emperor_Jimmu (under Migration).

  7. #7 Thomas
    6. April 2018

    @Narga
    Thank you, this is very interesting.