Smithsonian museums continue to be closed to support the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19. No re-opening date is available at this time. Check our website and social media for updates.

Prototype Hebern Cipher Machine

Prototype Hebern Cipher Machine

<< >>
Usage conditions apply
This prototype consists of a keyboard wired to an array of vacuum tubes. The combined measurements do not include wires and plugs. The keyboard measures: 28 cm. w. x 34.5 cm. d. x 23 cm. h. The array of tubes measures: 48.2 cm. w. x 50.5 cm. d. x 26.7 cm. h. The keyboard resembles 1991.0190.05. There are three rows of black keys in front. These resemble a QWERTY keyboard, with a "." key instead of an "S". There is a space bar below the keys, with "SHIFT (/) LOCK" and "SHIFT (/) KEY" keys on the right. The keys are linked to electrical contacts. Some wires attach to a squat cylinder mounted horizontally on top of the machine. A capacitor is behind this cylinder on top, a motor to the left. Other wires are connected to a panel on the front of a large metal box. Holes in the top of the box hold a 5x5 array of vacuum tubes. There are three more tubes in back of the array, one smaller than the others. There is a condenser on each side of these three tubes. In back of these is a row with two large transformers on each side, a choke, and a small transformer. A back panel attached to the box contains a switch, a light and an ammeter. A large round plug is attached to numerous wire coming out of the box. A cord with smaller round plugs at each end fits the keyboard on the right side. The end of the plug that fits into the keyboard has a torn slip of paper around it. At the other end is tied a second torn slip of paper. A third, two-pronged plug extends from the keyboard and has a paper label tied around it.
Currently not on view
Object Name
cipher machine
Hebern, Edward
Edward Hebern
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
rubber (overall material)
overall: 26.7 cm x 48.2 cm x 93 cm; 10 1/2 in x 18 31/32 in x 36 5/8 in
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
Gift of T. Scripps Downing
Codes and Ciphers
See more items in
Medicine and Science: Mathematics
Data Source
National Museum of American History
Nominate this object for photography.   

Our collection database is a work in progress. We may update this record based on further research and review. Learn more about our approach to sharing our collection online.

If you would like to know how you can use content on this page, see the Smithsonian's Terms of Use. If you need to request an image for publication or other use, please visit Rights and Reproductions.


Add a comment about this object