Coin Slasher, ca. WWII

A concealed blade is always helpful for an operative in the field. This ingenious device could slash tires, cut ropes, and perhaps injure someone in a pinch.

Counterfeit German Ration Coupons, ca. 1944

Forged food stamps for staples such as bread, meat, and cheese, were part of the Allies’ psychological warfare operation. They were distributed to German civilians to disrupt the government’s food rationing system.

Domino Concealments, ca. 1942

Britain’s special WWII military intelligence unit MI9 devised escape tools for downed airmen and prisoners of war. The tops of these dominos come off to reveal sections of a map of Burma (Myanmar).

Expo Watch Camera, 1905 – 1939

Miniature cameras have been around for more than a century. The Expo was designed in the US to be carried as a pocket watch.

Merlin Camera, 1936

The Merlin Camera, made in Britain out of cast metal, fits comfortably in a pocket.

German Bombing Map, WWII

In 1941, SPY Historian Andrew Hammond’s grandfather watched as the German Luftwaffe bombed his hometown of Glasgow, Scotland—termed the “Second City of Empire” because of its incredible industrial output. They were guided by maps like these, targeting factories and shipyards for destruction along the River Clyde.

Information Poster, WWII

“Cover Your Tracks!” Useful advice for artists, architects, and designers working in the Camouflage Section at Fort Belvoir, VA in the early 1940s.

Intelligence Poster, WWII

The US 4th Army remained stateside during the war as a part of Western Defense Command, an area that stretched from Alaska to Southern California. The swastika megaphone suggests that you don’t have to be a Nazi to advance their cause.

J. Edgar Hoover Letter, 1951

FBI Director Hoover suggests sentencing for the key players in the Rosenberg case, all convicted of passing secrets to the USSR. Despite Hoover recommending leniency, Julius Rosenberg and his wife, Ethel, were both executed. Evidence later came out proving Julius had spied for the Soviets, but Ethel’s guilt remains controversial. Sobell received a more lenient 30 years, and Greenglass 15 years. Both later confessed their guilt.

Lipstick Pistol, ca. 1965

Nicknamed the “Kiss of Death,” this 4.5mm single shot weapon would have been used for self-defense more than assassination. It fires by pressing the barrel into the victim.

Mata Hari Pencil Sketch, ca. 1905

Dutch dancer Margaretha Zelle rose to fame in the early 1900s as Javanese princess Mata Hari, shocking and delighting audiences across Europe. She sketched this costume for a performance she titled “Dream.”

Polaroid Camera, ca. 1957

The Polaroid camera revolutionized photography by providing an instant image. It was invented by Edwin H. Land, a major pioneer of espionage photography, who was involved in the U2 spy plane and Corona satellite reconnaissance projects. He was the Steve Jobs of his day and an idol to the Apple founder.

Rectal Tool Kit, ca. 1960s

Spies of all nations have used unique hiding places for items they might not want found during a search, such as this escape tool.

Shoes with Concealed Blades, ca. 1942

During WWII, Britain’s Special Operations Executive (SOE) fitted these shoes with pivoting blades and a serrated stomping plate to be used for offensive or defensive purposes.

Silent Kill Crossbow, ca. 1970s

This lightweight weapon was modeled after a crossbow built by the OSS during WWII. Its intended use by both British and American intelligence was for assassination, combat missions, or killing guard dogs. It typically shot a steel bolt or knife blade. A metal wire served as the bowstring.

SMERSH Agent ID Card, 1945

SMERSH was a ruthless Soviet counterintelligence agency attached to Red Army units during WWII, focused on rooting out spies and subversives. Its name comes from Smert Shpionam (СΜepTЬ ШПИОНаМ) or “Death to Spies.”

The Neptune Monograph, ca. 1944

The maritime component was a key to the success of D-Day, the Allied invasion of Europe. No wonder “Top Secret Bigot” was WWII’s highest security classification.

US Information Poster, WWII

Hand gestures help get the message across in this poster by cartoonist Milton Caniff—keep quiet and keep the Fuhrer on edge. Caniff excelled in uncomplicated communication.

Victor Laszlo’s Prop Passport, ca. 1942

In the final scenes of the classic film Casablanca, Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) stands on a misty airport runway after helping Resistance leader Victor Laszlo (Paul Henreid) escape Casablanca to continue his fight against the Nazis. In Laszlo’s passport are stamps for Lisbon and New York. One hitch: Laszlo is accompanied by his wife, Ilsa Lund (Ingrid Bergman), the woman Rick loves…

Wanted Poster, ca. 1945

In WWII Europe, who could you trust? Not these twelve individuals, according to US Army Counterintelligence. Each of them were known or suspected Nazi agents, wanted for questioning.

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