Hebern Cipher Machine

Hebern Cipher Machine

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Edward Hebern of California designed several machines to encipher and decipher typed messages. Hebern was one of the first to patent one of the most important developments in cipher machines, the rotor. This black metal machine has a keyboard, a lever and two switches in front, three rotors and two half-rotors behind the keyboard, and typewriter keys and carriage in back. Twenty-six lettered white keys are arranged as on a QUERTY keyboard. Keys in the top row also have numbers painted on them. The bottom row has a short black bar on the right. The rotors and half-rotors are lettered from A to Z on the rim and have toothed edges. Two of these edges fit into two mechanisms behind the rotors. The typing mechanism has a spring attached that prevents printing from occurring in some circumstances. A shift key is on the left and an advance key on the right.
Two electrical components on the underside of the machine are marked: WESTERN ELECTROMECHANICAL CO. (/) MANUFACTURING ENGINEERS (/) 300 Broadway OAKLAND 7, CAL.
The black suitcase that holds the machine is lined with purple cloth. It has four straps on the inside and two on the outside. A stamp on the bottom (or back) reads: 24ELKIDE 803. A worn tag attached to one of the outer straps reads: -FROM- (/) OMO 47 BRANCH (/) Bank of America (/) TRUST AND (/) NATIONAL SAVINGS ASSOCIATION (/) [...] To Douglas Chase (/) SK91269 (/) Black Suit Case. Another mark on the tag reads: 3-4-50.
Currently not on view
Object Name
cipher machine
cipher machine
date made
Hebern, Edward
Edward Hebern
place made
United States: California, Oakland
overall: 20.5 cm x 61 cm x 42 cm; 8 1/16 in x 24 1/32 in x 16 17/32 in
ID 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
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