In the early 20th century, a young man sent encrypted postcards to his spouse. Can a reader decipher these?

As has been mentioned on this blog many times before, most encrypted postcards known today were sent by young men to their lovers. The three examples I’m going to introduce today are no exceptions. We know this because the sender of these postcards was the grand-father of their current owner, who recently published them on Reddit.

All three cards were sent from Washington, D.C., to a Miss A. L. Jones living in the town of Louisa, Virginia. Louisa is located about 150 kilometers to the south-west of the U.S. capital.

The first card …

… is dated November 28, 1911. The year on the stamp looks like 1941, but if I’m not completely wrong, the digit that ressembles a “4” is actually a “1”. 1911 makes more sense anyway.

The second card …

… was stamped in 1912. It contains a cleartext addition: “Learn boy how to write.” It is signed, but I can’t read the signature (something like “Heighu”).

The third card …

… was sent in April 1912. The message is not dated, and it contains no cleartext.

The encryption system used by the sender is probably a simple subtstiution cipher. The penmanship isn’t the best, which makes deciphering these messages more tricky than with other postcards of this kind.

Can a reader break these cryptograms anyway?

Further reading: Two encrypted postcards from 1918


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Kommentare (4)

  1. #1 Jozef Krajcovic
    23. September 2020
  2. #2 Richard SantaColoma
    23. September 2020

    I played around with this, but as you wrote, the penmanship is really poor. I find it hard to distinguish which characters constitute unique ones, and when they look alike only because of the poor hand used.

    Hopefully someone will have more luck than I.

  3. #3 Richard SantaColoma
    23. September 2020

    … at least, I do suspect that the “=” signs may be word dividers (spaces). That would make the “slashed delta” a possible “A”, which would make sense not only because of it being a single letter word, but due to the proclivity of the creators of these simple ciphers to use characters reminiscent of the actual plain text letters they represent.

  4. #4 Matthew Brown
    24. September 2020

    I’ve also not had much luck with this one. Its hard to tell if some of the similar shapes are unique symbols or just variations in the handwriting. I’ve not been able to find many repetitions in the ciphertext which makes me think it might be homophonic.

    I agree with Richard that the “=” looks like a word divider.

    There’s an interesting long repeated sequence on the second to last line of postcards 1+2.