Hebern Electric - Cipher Machine Rotor

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Edward Hebern of California designed this rotor for a cipher machine. Commercial rotary cipher machines would be introduced in the 1920s and 1930s for commercial purposes by several people in several countries, and proved most important during World War II.
Hebern’s rotor has twenty-six electrical wires which directed the flow of current representing each letter of the alphabet from one location to another. The twenty-six wires are covered with green cloth, each wire having lugs at each end. One lug of each wire is lettered. The lettered lug is screwed into electrical contacts on one side of the rotor. The wire then passes through a hole in the rotor and is attached to a contact on the other side. As the rotor is wired, alternate lettered and unlettered lugs appear around both circles of contacts.
The rim of the rotor has a paper inset that reads: HEBERN ELECTRIC CODE. Another inset reads: NAVY-PRIVATE CODE. The rotor is stamped near the edge: MADE JAN 10 -1915.
The rotor has a cardboard case covered inside and out with green velvet. The date on the rotor precedes Hebern's patents for rotary cipher machines and his establishment of a company to manufacture them.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1925
Hebern, Edward
Hebern, Edward
place made
United States: California, Oakland
overall: 2.5 cm x 11 cm x 11 cm; 31/32 in x 4 11/32 in x 4 11/32 in
ID Number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of T. Scripps Downing
Codes and Ciphers
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Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Data Source
National Museum of American History