The George C. Marshall Library in Lexington, VA, has a collection of documents left behind by codebreaking genius William Friedman. Today, I’m going to introduce a crypto puzzle I found there.
William Friedman (1891-1969) is considered the most successful codebreaker in history. In his long career he broke over 1000 codes and ciphers, including the Kryha cryptograph, Edward Hebern’s rotor machine, and the Japanese Purple. William Friedman’s wife Elizebeth (1892-1980) was a notable codebreaker, too. Among other things, she solved numerous smuggler codes in the prohibition time.
The Friedman’s had a strong interest in crypto puzzles and crypto mysteries. They examined the Voynich manuscript and published a critical book about the Shakespeare Bacon code debate. Their Christmas cards often contained funny crypto challenges, as can be seen in a blog post I published a few years ago. In another post I introduced a few steganographic codes William Friedman created, including a message hidden in a picture showing a castle. US crypto expert Elonka Dunin found a hidden message on the tombstone of the Friedman’s.
The George C. Marshall Library in Lexington, VA, has a large collection of documents William Friedman left behind. When I visited this library last year, I found, among other things encrypted messages by imposter Victor Lustig and a prison inmate.
Earlier this week, I had the chance to visit the Marshall Library again. This time I was accompanied by Elonka, who had never been there before. Librarian Paul Barron did a great job in assisting us searching for interesting material.
One of the things I came across was a cryptologic puzzle made by the Friedman’s. It’s undated, but it mentions the two children of the couple, Barbara and John Ramsay, who were born in 1923 and 1926. I have never seen this puzzle in any of the Friedman’s publications. It is addressed to a “dear friend” and signed by the whole family, so perhaps it was meant to be used on a greeting card. Here it is:
As can be read on the sheet, solving the puzzle requires folding the paper.