About 110 years ago, a Mariechen Schäfer living in Frankfurt, Germany received an encrypted postcard. Can a reader solve it?

Let me first mention that I will give an online talk titled Cipher Machines before 1920 tomorrow (Saturday, May 30, 2020) at 6pm German time (1600 GMT). For my German readers, the overlapping with the Sportschau might be a problem, but as this is an international webinar, we couldn’t take account of this. My presentation will last about 45 minutes, afterwards there will be time for discussions.

Source: Schmeh

The talk is organized by Bob Saltzman as an activity of the Crypto Collectors Group mailing list, but it is open for everybody. If you want to watch it, send me a mail, then I will forward you the login data. It’s free of charge.


An encrypted postcard

Last week, I received an e-mail from Erika Müller, who works as a volunteer for the town museum of Homberg (Ohm), a municipality located about 100 kilometers north of Frankfurt, Germany.

Frau Müller sent me a scan of an encrypted postcard the museum received from a collector. Here it is:

Source: Stadtmuseum Homberg

To my regret, I can’t read the last number of the date on the stamp. If it’s a 1, the card was stamped on August 4th, 1911.

The recipient was an unmarried woman (Fräulein) named Mariechen Schäfer, living in the Reuterweg 2 in Frankfurt. As it seems, this encrypted card was sent, like most others I know, by a young man to his lover. “Mariechen” is a variant of of the German name “Marie” or “Maria”.


Deciphering approaches

The encryption system used is apparently a simple substitution cipher (MASC).

The first two words of the message are probably MEIN LIEBES (“my dear), followed by MURIELE (probably derived from the recipient’s first name). The last word in the first line might be BITTE (“please”).

Can a reader find out more?

Further reading: A postcard with an abbreviated message

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/13501820
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/763282653806483/

Subscribe to Blog via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Kommentare (6)

  1. #1 Thomas
    29. Mai 2020

    Mein liebes Mariele entschuldige bitte dass ich dich so lange warten liess. Der Grund ist aber dem Herbert lernt … lich nämlich die Kunst der Stenographi. Da lerne ich nun recht fleissig und benütze jede freie Minute dazu dazu . Morgen geht nun Herbert … nach Berlin da kann er ja wieder zärtlich sein und seine Küsslust befriedigen. Er sagte mir nämlich, dass er sehr gerne küsste ob er aber das Irmchen schon geküsst hat, weis ich nicht. Möglich ist es schon. Heute haben wir die Schneiderin da helfe ich fleissig nähen. Also liebes Mariechen

  2. #2 Thomas
    29. Mai 2020

    Mariele sei mir nicht böse, dass es diesmal kein Brief ist und sei herzlich gegrüsst von deiner Elsbeth. Her(z)lichen Dank für deinen Brief. Gruss an … nebst iher Eltern

  3. #3 Thomas
    29. Mai 2020


    ….aber der Herbert lernt mich die Kunst der Stenographie. (Dann müsste der Name in der letzen Zeile ” .iph” lauten.)

    …ihren Eltern

  4. #4 Klaus Schmeh
    29. Mai 2020

    @Thomas: Thank you very much! Another mystery solved.

  5. #5 Gerry
    30. Mai 2020

    Small correction: Elsbeth writes STENOGRAPHI. The sigma letter stands for “P”,the o letter stands for “H” and the dot is “I”. So the name in the last line ends with IP. I think the first letter of this name is also a sigma, so the name would be PIP (for Pippa or Pippie).
    The missing 6 letters before “nach Berlin” most likely are WIEDER (with an erroneous space in between WIE DER and an unreadable “D”).

  6. #6 Thomas
    30. Mai 2020


    Pip – that´s it! Couldn`t think of a name with -iph 🙂