How Blank Book Pages Won the American Revolution

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1106 Design

January 29, 2016

As some of you know I love, love, love to read history. This past weekend, while reading George Washington’s Secret Six: The Spy Ring that Saved the American Revolution, by Brian Kilmeade (@kilmeade) and Don Yaeger (@DonYaeger), I was amused to learn that often-reviled blank book pages played a crucial role in winning the war.

British and American spies were everywhere during the war, so creativity was needed to share intelligence that would not be detected. One method, employed by both sides, was to use “invisible” ink  to write between the lines of ordinary-looking letters and business documents. Codes such as “S.T.” were added to these letters to alert the recipient to apply a chemical stain to reveal the secret message.

George Washington knew that the couriers of these letters risked their lives with every delivery so he formulated a better plan:

“…he should occasionally write his information on the blank leaves…of a common pocket book, or on the blank leaves at each end of registers, almanacks, or any new publication or book of small value. …He may forward them without risk of search or the scrutiny of the enemy, as this is chiefly directed against paper made up in the form of letters.”

So, the next time you’re tempted to ask your book designer to remove those blank pages, think again. You just may be giving birth to a new nation. (I can’t wait to discover more hidden gems in the authors’ latest book, Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War that Changed American History.)

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