World War II
Filed under: Gadgets
Built and designed by the Germans, the Enigma Machine came in a few varieties and where code creating and deciphering machines. Originally commercial units since 1926, they are quite possibly the most complex non-computerized code machines ever made (though they are a mixture of mechanical and electronic parts). The Germans used them to send coded messages during the war, relying on the machine's ability to have over a billion combinations. No one was ever able to break the code just by seeing it. Breaking the code involved secretly capturing working Enigma Machines, but that was only half the battle. Merely having the box wasn't enough. You needed to have some manner of pattern or other code, the helped you decipher the code you were trying to decipher in the first place - at least this is my understanding of it. The link to the Wikipedia page above has lots (and lots) more information. So being able to decrypt a code that required other codes was very tough.
It was returned to the heirs of Georg Behrens, who was arrested in 1938 and sent to a concentration camp, in 2008 based on advice from the Dutch Restitutions Committee. The heirs prefer to remain anonymous. Approximately 650,000 pieces were seized during the 12 years Adolf Hitler held power, and among them were works from the Behrens collection, which was considered one of the most important private art collections in Europe at the time. For 66 years, this Corot painting hung in the Kroller-Muller Museum in Otterlo (in the Netherlands).
The new Fighter Provenance Fountain Pen from London-based luxury goods firm Dunhill does not take its name in vain: the limited edition writing instrument is made from the original aluminum engine casing taken from the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine of the legendary World War II Spitfire MK1 fighter plane. Produced in very small numbers due to the scarcity of the material, the pen's details also reflect this iconic aircraft - the bolt and rivet effects in the original aluminum; the tapered edges echoing the aerodynamics; and a window feature on the side of the barrel displaying level of ink and even the pen clip design directly references the shape of the spitfire propeller. The cap is also created using plexiglass which is exactly the same material used for the bubble canopy of the late 1930's and early 1940's fighter planes. The pen nib is 18 carat gold with rhodium plating and the instrument is presented in a lacquered Alfred Dunhill display box.
Filed under: Wings
Usually when I hear of something in need of a home it's a kitten or maybe a puppy. Today's homeless item is a bit bigger, it's Texas Raiders, a member of the Commemorative Air Force (CAF). This World War II B-17 Bomber is one of 12 still capable of flight and it is losing its Houston home. Aero-News Network reports that the owner of the hangar that houses Texas Raiders will terminate the lease effective November 30, 2008 leaving the $3.5 million plane homeless. The CAF Gulf Coast Wing has to vacate the hanger and the vintage bomber is not flightworthy so another hangar is needed to complete the restoration process. They are seeking anyone in the Houston area who can offer a standard lease or donation agreement to allow the bomber to remain in Houston. Else it will have to go to go to the Commemorative Air Force Headquarters in Midland, Texas and will have to be partially dismantled basically undoing six years of volunteer restoration. It last flew in November 2001 to celebrate the opening of the National D-day Museum in New Orleans, LA.
A Pierre Cartier clock that belonged to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt is scheduled to go up for auction on December 4th at Sotheby's in Manhattan. Cartier gave the onyx clock with several different time zones (specific to key Allied forces locations in World War II) to the President back in 1943. Letters between Cartier and President Roosevelt regarding the gift are not part of the sale but can be viewed in the FDR Presidential Library in Hyde Park, New York.
The clock comes with a red leather presentation box inscribed with "F.D.R" and is expected to sell for as much as $1 million dollars.
I've mentioned the amazing auctions held by Red Baron Antiques before. The latest one, which will take place on November 11 and 12 in Atlanta offers the usual display of antiques such as a massive bronze sculpture of Apollo and his winged chariot and a 60-foot-long wrought iron and stone fence and stained glass windows. One of the most fascinating pieces is former President Dwight D. Eisenhower's library from Boulevard Lundy in Reims, France where he lived in 1945 at the end of WWII in Europe. President Eisenhower used this room as his office and worked on the treaty of unconditional surrender within these walls. The oak paneled library is carved in high relief and has panels which open to reveal shelves. There is also a rouge marble veined mantel with fluted columns that sits under a large beveled mirror. If you've got the money and the space you can bring history into your own home.
Filed under: Auctions
Spink, the London-based auction house, has a few rather unusual items up for sale in one of the lots in its April 27th auction. The lot is described as "a unique and secret collection of material produced by the Free French in London during the Second World War" and includes many different pieces of spy memorabilia and counterfeiting equipment, including prisoner of war money, a faux Nazi stamp and propaganda booklets. The most unusual item in the lot is a pair of prunes that were to be used to smuggle secret messages and maps in to prisoners of war to aid in their escape. The prunes were pitted and stuffed with sealed notes before being dried and shipped out. These particular prunes, however, were souvenirs of the spy who owned them and were not actually used to carry messages. The lot is estimated to sell for £800-£1200.
[Image Spink, via MSN]
Filed under: Wings