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  Vintage Tradecraft in Cryptology and Espionage  

Collection - Richard Brisson - Collection

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Welcome to the website which is intended to reflect portions of a personal collection of items/artifacts which relate to cryptology, vintage clandestine or espionage tradecraft, and communications technology particularly equipment used by the major powers during the Cold War and by the Canadian military during WW-II. This collection has been accumulated over the last 20 years or so. You will also notice an emphasis on vintage children's decoders and spy toys over the years starting with the decoder badges and instruction manuals associated with Radio Orphan Annie and Captain Midnight starting in the 1930's with radio reception become popular especially in American homes.

In August 2011, I retired from the Government of Canada here in Ottawa after a 31 year career mainly as a mathematician and as a manager. If you are interested, here is a somewhat updated biography which was originally put together for the Cryptologic Symposium's website - this biennial symposium was held in Charlotte (North Carolina) in 2012, 2014, 2016 and 2018 (being the last).

From September 1999 to April 2000, a partnership was struck with the Canadian National Museum of Science and Technology to put on exhibit vintage cryptographic devices (notably Enigma) and children's secrecy items such as decoders from Captain Midnight and Radio Orphan Annie eras.

In late 2001, advice and equipment were provided to GAPC in the production of Secret Secretaries which was a one-hour feature of women who worked at BSC (British Security Co-ordination) for Sir William Stephenson during WW-II. Credits also acknowledge CSE as contributing a 4-rotor naval Enigma. It aired on May 2nd and May 4th 2002 on WTN (Women's Television Network) in Canada. One can play a short video clip (about 2 minutes) of Secret Secretaries at this other GAPC website.

Another partnership ensued with the Diefenbunker in Carp (near Ottawa, Ontario) to launch a "Spy Tools" exhibit. The Diefenbunker is also known as Canada's Cold War Museum. The exhibit was in place from February 2002 until early September 2002. The display was expanded to a 2-room display to accomodate children's clandestine toys over the years - that included items such as Secret Sam, Batman cards, James Bond, Spiderman and Get Smart.

A local television station CJOH aired a short piece related to this Diefenbunker exhibit and this collection on 27 April 2002 during "Regional Contact". It was great fun and entertaining to have done this with host Joel Haslam.

In September 2002, part of the collection (mainly Cold War and cryptographic) were part of a display at the CASIS (Canadian Association for Intelligence & Security Studies) 2002 conference in Ottawa. This was in concert with other displays by CSE and CSIS.

On 26 September 2003, a MidCan production crew took footage of a number of artifacts (crypt and clandestine from WW-II) which will be part of a 1-hour feature titled "The True Intrepid" which aired on June 5th 2004 on Mystery Channel and again on July 17th 2004 on Global Television - please consult MidCan's website (bottom of their page).

In November of 2003, part of the collection formed the "Cryptologic Toys" exhibit at the National Cryptologic Museum at Fort Meade in Maryland. The exhibit focused on children's decoders and secret writing over the years such as those related to Radio Orphan Annie and Captain Midnight - it remained until January 2006 but can still be seen at the National Security Agency's Photo Gallery website (under "Exhibits"):


On the 1st of March 2005, a film crew from Breakthrough Films & Television visited to take photos of clandestine radios from WW-II, notably the B2 suitcase radio and code on silk. This was part of a production titled "The Secret Liberators" which aired later in 2005. For further details, please consult the The Secret Liberators website by Breakthrough Entertainment.

On the 1st of March 2007, I took the B2 suitcase radio to the Marriott Hotel in Ottawa where a film crew from CBC/SRC Television took still photos of that clandestine transceiver. This is to be part of a production which focuses on German spies who landed on the eastern shores of Canada in WW-II. The documentary (titled "Les espions venus de la mer" in French) aired on the 21st of December 2008 on Radio-Canada (French network of CBC). For related details, please consult this section of the CBC Archives or Les Archives de Radio-Canada. The English version was first shown on CBC's "DOC ZONE" on 20 August 2009 - more details are available at this CBC link.

On April 2nd 2007, I was interviewed by Hallie Cotnam from CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning (91.5 FM) in Ottawa about Enigma and its history which you can click to hear it (it's an MP3). This was in advance to a talk on the history of Enigma and related books at the Ottawa Book Collectors Club that same evening - here's their schedule.

Over the last few years, there have been frequent exhibits at key events such as those tied to Remembrance Day in November each year around the Ottawa area. One of these is the "Canada Remembers" all-day event at Billings Bridge. Here are some photos taken from the event on the 1st of November 2012 with two tables of artifacts from WW-II - the first with clandestine artifacts and the second with cryptographic items:


On January 4th 2013, a 6-page article in Collection & Chineur (publication from France) featured a number of artifacts from my collection.

Since 2013, I have given several talks on either cryptology (especially Enigma) or espionage to a number of venues including the University of Ottawa, Carleton University, University of Waterloo, Gananoque Historical Society, Brockville Museum, the Royal Kingston United Services Institute, Probus Clubs (Oakville, Brockville, Kemptville, Kingston, Gananoque, Kanata). In 2019, talks were given on Enigma at the University of Ottawa and another given at the "Mallorytown Talk" in Mallorytown in April.

If you have any of the items in my ITEMS WANTED section or if you can assist in identifying leads to where they could be found, I would be most grateful if you would send me an email at (Richard).

Any content (original photos or text) which is displayed herein is for the strict viewing and educational enjoyment of those who visit this website. Other sites can link to content of this website or parts therein and must do so with appropriate and clear accreditation. The whole or any portions of photos and/or text herein or local to this website (i.e. which extend from ) must not be copied nor reproduced without the explicit consent of the author Richard Brisson at his email address.

Copyright © 2002-2024
Tous droits réservés © 2002-2024

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