The American Cryptogram Association (ACA) was organized originally to give emphasis to the simple-substitution "cryptogram" and thus contribute to mankind's happiness. It has grown to encompass many phases of the field of cryptography, and makes use of both pencil-and-paper and computers.
During the 1920's, "Detective Fiction Weekly" had a feature on cryptography by M.E. Ohaver (SUNYAM). Dr. C.B. Warner (CHERRY BLOSSOM), and some of his friends were attracted by the technical aspects of cryptography as a hobby, and joined to form the American Cryptogram Association on September 1, 1929. The ACA was at first concerned only with mono-alphabetic substitution ciphers, termed by them "The Aristocrat of Puzzles".
Meanwhile, in Burton, Ohio, George C. Lamb (DAMONOMAD, commonly known as DAMON), ran the "Secret Corner" in the local newspaper. He had been reading Ohaver's column, and was also a member of the National Puzzler's League, from whom we have inherited the idea of using noms-de-plume, or "noms", as a means of bringing equality -- or at least anonymity -- to their cipher- solving. Lamb too was concentrating on Aristocrats, and on finding that the demand for his column was increasing, he and Warner agreed to publish a magazine which would be the official journal of the ACA. It was to be named "The Cryptogram".
In 1933, "The Master Puzzler" was published, and contained the name of Helen Fouche Gaines under her nom of PICCOLA. Her major interests were in ciphers -- various systems of disguising text aside from the Simple Substitution. Her first article appeared in "The Cryptogram" in December 1933, and was followed by the opening of the "Cipher Exchange" department in that magazine. The following year, a foreign-language department was started under the name "Xenocrypts".
In 1936, interest having grown in ciphers and methods of breaking them, it was suggested that the ACA should publish a text book. The contents would be taken from the "Round Robin" lessons that had been a major method of spreading information and practice among members, with additional material from foreign sources and hard-to-find books. With help from many volunteers, "Elementary Cryptanalysis" appeared for the first time in 1939, under the editorship of Helen Fouche Gaines. The book was also dedicated to George Lamb, who died before it appeared in print. PICCOLA died soon after. "Elcy" was the first book of its kind to appear in English, and was reprinted by Dover in 1956 under the title "Cryptanalysis". It remains a standard text to this day. The ACA has since published many other booklets on specialized subjects, all produced by volunteers among our members.
During World War II, many ACA members were called into service; and some, with their background of Cryptography, were fortunate in serving their country as cryptographers and/or cryptanalysts, both in and out of uniform.
In 1982 a regular "Computer Column" was started. In deference to those who do not possess computers, fully developed programs are not published in this column, but only hints and suggestions for enciphering and deciphering. In 1986, a "Computer Supplement" began publication; it contains more information on computer activities.
The ACA now has nearly 700 members all over the world. The first issue of "The Cryptogram" in 1932 was four pages, and has grown to a 32-page bimonthly journal, with six major departments and a separate Computer Supplement. These departments include:
"Aristocrats", most popular from the standpoint of puzzlers, are simple substitutions using normal word divisions;
"Patristocrsts", so named for PATRISTOCRAT (W.C. Patterson), are similar in construction except that they do not use normal word divisions -- they are presented in 5-letter code groups instead;
"Cryptarithms" are mathematical problems in cipher -- letters represent numbers;
"Xenocrypts" are various ciphers in different foreign languages;
"Cipher Exchange" includes several standard cipher systems and is for the more analytical minds demanding something of a more complex nature;
"Analyst Corner" is for those wishing to enjoy the challenge of real-world cryptographic problems, where cipher type and clues are sparsely given.
Progress in cryptography within the ACA has been due entirely to the unselfish cooperation of the members, with special emphasis placed on certain individuals and groups who gave of time and finances. It is unfortunate that all who played an important part in the growth of the organization cannot be recognized here, for there are many more than the few mentioned.
Cryptography has been more than merely an entertainment for the enjoyment of ingenuity. It engages the mind fully, and can provide a healthy period of work for those unable to do much else. George Lamb was confined to a wheelchair, but the world of cryptography opened its content as well as its friendships to him. It can become a harmless addiction, a passion, so captivating are the efforts required in grappling with a problem.
A member reminded us once that it's a nice hobby in that it can be enjoyed with no more equipment than a pencil and paper, and little expense beyond postage and a subscription to the ACA.
Cryptographers are diversified in every way. Hardly a trade or profession has missed representation among us. Age is not a factor; we have had members under 10 and over 90. Formal education seems totally unrelated to the curious talent. The use of noms brings a degree of anonymity to the members; only cryptography counts. We are banded together in an organization which represents everyone with these aims: to gain the most from a study of cryptograms, to form worth-while friendships, and to pass on the knowledge we have been able to add to the Art.
Once a year members and friends, experts and novices, gather at a Convention. Many meet for the first time, although they may be old friends by mail. New enthusiasm is generated for the hobby as mutual help is given and experience is shared.
Regular dues for individual members are $23 per year in North America, and $32 overseas. You may optionally reduce the multi-year total by $1 for a 2-year renewal, by $3 for 3 years, by $6 for 4 years, and by $10 for a renewal of 5 or more years. Members 65+ with 10 years prior membership or full-time students may pay $15. These memberships must be renewed annually. *** An initial one-time $5 fee is assessed new members.*** Annual subscriptions for public or private organizations are $41 (North America) and $54 (overseas). Send all dues payments and requests for more information concerning subscriptions to the ACA treasurer at the following address:
Charles Schretzmann, (MANDRAKE) ACA Treasurer, 56 Sanders Road, Moraga, CA 94556 Treasurer's e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org