In 1909, a woman living in Toledo, Ohio, received an encrypted postcard. Can a reader decipher it?

For some reason I don’t know, the US state of Ohio seems to be a good source for interesting cryptograms. In addition to the train station robbery cryptogram from Lima, OH, several other encrypted messages created in the “Buckeye state” have been covered on this blog: a postcard from Clinton, OH, a postcard from Gageville, OH, a postcard from Toledo, OH, an encrypted gravestone located in Ohio, a hidden message in an Ohio needlework, and a message from an Ohio prison.

My friend Tobias Schrödel

… (readers of this blog know him as comedy hacker, encrypted postcard collector, and crypto book expert) has now provided me two more encrypted postcards from Ohio. This post is about the first one, the second one will be covered on Wednesday.

 

A postcard sent to Toledo

The first postcard Tobias provided me was sent to Toledo, a city in the northwest of Ohio.

A (hand-written?) note on the picture side explains that the motive of this card is Maumee (a suburb of Toledo) seen from Fort Meigs (a fort near Maumee). Both sides of the card bear a stamp, but I can’t read much, except the year 1909.

The receiver is a woman named Nellie Huntsman (?) living in Adams Street, which is one of the major streets in the city center of Toledo. This woman is not identical with the recipient of another Toledo postcard I blogged about in 2016. The sender of the card probably was Nellie’s lover (most encrypted postcards were written by young men to their lover).

 

The cryptogram

The cipher used is apparently a variant of the Pigpen cipher. The colons probably stand for the whitespace character. If this assumption is correct, the first word has only one letter, which means that it stands for “a” or “I” (provided that the message is written in English).

Can a reader break this message?


Further reading: An encrypted postcard from the Isle of Wight

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Kommentare (6)

  1. #1 Tony
    11. März 2019

    Klaus I think its time you solved one –
    look for the pattern word LeTTeR

  2. #2 Thomas
    11. März 2019

    2nd word in line 5?

  3. #3 Thomas
    11. März 2019

    Unfortunately, familysearch yields no “C.C.” husband of Nellie Huntsman.

  4. #4 HF(de)
    12. März 2019

    last word in line two?

  5. #5 Peter Lichtenberger
    zwischen den Tasten G und H
    12. März 2019

    Lösung/Solution:
    I RECEIVED YOUR MOST WELCOME LETTER YESTERDAY. HAVE NOT HAD TIME TO WRITE A LOVE LETTER BUT WILL SEE YOU THIS P.M. SURE. MY ONLY LOVE C.C.

  6. #6 Michael O'Donoghue
    Toronto
    13. März 2019

    Slight correction on the solution. I believe “love” should be “long” as shown in lower case below:

    I RECEIVED YOUR
    MOST WELCOME LETTER
    YESTERDAY. HAVE NOT
    HAD TIME TO WRITE
    A long LETTER BUT
    WILL SEE YOU THIS
    P.M. SURE. MY ONLY LOVE C.C.

    Recovering the key with “?” representing unused letters

    A C E +++ B D ? +++++ S +++++++ T
    G I ? ++++ H ? L +++ U ++ W +++ V ++ ?
    M O ? +++ N P R +++++ Y +++++++ ?

    There is a distinct pattern here. If you follow A-B-C-D … etc you can see how the key was created alternating left and right, first on the grids and then on the pens. Following this pattern we recover the original key where lowercase = derived:

    A C E +++ B D f ++++ S +++++++ T
    G I k ++++ H j L +++ U ++ W ++ V ++ x
    M O q +++ N P R +++ Y +++++++ z

    Apologies for the formatting. I used “+” to space things.