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“It was a surprise to me, for no matter what may be said about my organization, it can never be charged that any of us ever played politics, either for promotions or for honors. In fact, we were happy to remain unknown, hidden behind curtains, as long as our work was useful to the United States Government.” (Herbert O. Yardley in, The American Black Chamber, p.322)

Imposter Revealed: Terminating the American Black Chamber

By 1929, the American Black Chamber had dealt with a variation of codes, solving over forty-five thousand cryptograms from 1917 to 1929. They had broken code of Argentine, Brazil, Chile, China, Costa Rica, Cuba, England, France, Germany, Japan, Liberia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Russia, San Salvador, Santo Domingo, Soviet Union, and Spain. 

In 1929, big changes were happening in Washington. On March 28th, 1929,  Henry Lewis Stimson was appointed Secretary of State in President Herbert Hoover’s cabinet.

Henry Lewis Stimson

With Stimson as the new director,  Yardley was to Washington and explain to him, in details the history of the activities and accomplishments of the American Black Chamber, and to give him any plans for the future. After an extensive conversation with Stimson, Yardley returned to New York, going back to usual business, however, not for long.




By 1929, the American Black Chamber had reached its lowest point yet. Although there were hopes for another conference, newly placed restrictions on the amount of access they had on telegrams made it increasingly harder for the Black Chamber to obtain copies of the code telegrams of foreign governments. As a result, they were forced to adopt other method to obtain these telegrams, which might not have been fully legal.

One day, Yardley received a letter from the Secretary of State. While he expected it to be in regards to the impending armament conference that was meant to occur, it was actually regarding the Black Chamber’s impending closure. When the Secretary of State hear of the manner in which the Black Chamber had been obtaining their telegrams, and how they were deciphering telegrams from ally countries, he was quick to express his disapproval. Quickly following this, Secretary Stimson ordered that all State Department funds be withdrawn, and that the State Department have absolution nothing to do with the Black Chamber. By then, the Chamber's funds had been reduced from its original annual hundred thousand dollars, to a measly twenty-five thousand.

Last Financial Report of the American Black Chamber

July 1929

  • Rent: $3,000

  • Books,postage,travel, and transportation, misc.: $2,370

  • Personnel:

    • 1 Chief {Yardley}—$7,500

    • 1 Code & cipher expert—$3,660

    • 1 Japanese translator —$3,750

    • 1 Secretary—$1,800

    • 1 Clerk typist—$1,600

    • 1 Clerk typist—$1,320

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On October 1929, the American Black Chamber had official been terminated, and so had the end of a notable cryptologic era.


 When Herbert O. Yardley started his career in military intelligence and cryptography, he had been twenty four years old, and after sixteen long years, at the age forty, he was closing this chapter of his life.  Still, the end of this chapter was not the end of Herbert O. Yardley’s story, it continues and grows, even after his departure from U.S governmental work. Now, whether his future work was as noble and heroic as his past, that is up to the reader.

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