The Chaocipher Clearing House

Progress Report #16

Moshe Rubin (

The National Cryptologic Museum Foundation (NCMF) acquires the Chaocipher machine and papers

It's official now: the National Cryptologic Museum Foundation (NCMF) recently announced on its web site that it successfully negotiated the acquisition of John F. Byrne's Chaocipher machine and papers from Mrs. Patricia Byrne, wife of John Byrne and daughter-in-law of John F. Byrne.  Mrs. Byrne kindly donated the entire collection of materials, papers, and correspondences to NCMF.

How the acquisition came about

For the record, the hunt for the Chaocipher material began in August 2009 when I realized time was moving forward and that the junior John Byrne might not be around for too many years.  I knew from Kruh's and Deavours's 1990 article that the junior John Byrne had lived in Vermont.  Several phone calls to persons named Byrne in Vermont finally netted the one I was looking for: Patricia Byrne, the widow of the junior John Byrne and daughter-in-law of John Francis Byrne.  The junior John had passed away a year or two earlier.

A combination of phone calls and a long, detailed letter to Pat Byrne led to her associate, Cheryl Needle, a book seller living in Pepperel, Massachussets.  Cheryl had been authorized by Pat Byrne to search for and negotiate a buyer or a good home for the material.  A professional bookseller and antiquarian, Cheryl had cataloged the material but was still looking for a lead.  Cheryl and I communicated several times by e-mail.

At one point I decided that the National Cryptologic Museum in Ft. Meade, Maryland, USA would be the ideal home for the material.  An e-mail to David Kahn led to an introduction to David D'Auria, the chairman of the NCM Acquisitions Committee.  David D'Auria was interested in pursuing the issue further.  At that point, I put Cheryl and Dave in contact with each other.  Within a couple of months Pat Byrne had magnanimously decided to donate the entire corpus of Chaocipher material to the NCM.

General availability of the material

In the near future, all the Chaocipher material will be available to the public through the NCMF library.  Researchers will be able to visit the NCM library and gain access to the material.

An article is being written for submission to Cryptologia.  The article will describe the Chaocipher system and analyze its technical and historical aspects.

Copyright (c) 2010 Moshe Rubin
Created: 1 June 2010
Last updated: 12 November 2018

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