Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Invisible-ink cigarette card

Reading Ask H&FJ recently, I was reminded of the browser's paradise that is the New York Public Library Digital Gallery (which I first looked into when it debuted in 2005). Here's one small item:

[Cigarette card, W.A. & A.C. Churchman, c. 1903–1907.]
The verso reads:
Invisible Ink for Writing Despatches.

Most scouts will be glad to know of a method of ensuring secrecy in the event of despatches falling into the enemy's hands. If the message is written in the juice of an onion and allowed to dry, it is then invisible to all unacquainted with the secret. When the despatch is warmed over a fire the writing stands out quite clearly.
I like the idea of writing with a metaphorical inkwell in hand. Yes, that's an onion in the scout's non-writing hand, and a penknife and piece of onion on the ground.

In kidhood, under the influence of Clifford Hicks' novel Alvin's Secret Code, I wrote several despatches with lemon juice and toothpicks. HTML makes invisible writing even simpler — and there's no onion smell! See?

comments: 2

j said...

Good old Alvin. You do him proud. :)

I don't suppose you ever read Harriet the Spy? But Elaine may have.

Around that same time, along with Alvin, I had another of Scholastic's publications,Spies of the Revolution. I can tell you, most assuredly, that there were no spies on my block.

Loved those Scholastic book clubs.

Michael Leddy said...

No Harriet for me. (A girls' book!) Elaine did read it, yes.

I loved Scholastic Books. Scholastic book fairs set up the trajectory of my life, sort of.