Early predecessor of Crypto AG · 1916-1930
Aktiebolaget Cryptograph, or AB Cryptograph – commonly abbreviated
Cryptograph – was a Swedish limited company (Ltd), which developed and
marketed cryptographic machines (crypto),
founded on 21 July 1916 and liquidated
in 1930. The company was owned by various investors –
including Emanuel Nobel – and employed Arvid Gerhard Damm
and later also Boris Hagelin.
The latter took over the assets of the company in 1930
and turned it into a successful business.
The origins of the company date back to early in the First World War
(WWI) – in December 1914 –
when two Swedes, Olof Gyldén, a navy officer with an
interest in cryptography, and Arvid Gerhard Damm,
an engineer and inventor,
met to discuss Damm's ideas for a new type of crypto machine. Impressed by
Damm's ideas, Gyldén managed to interest a group of Swedish business men
to invest in a project to exploit the ideas commercially. A patent consortium
– Cryptograph – was founded in June 1915. A year later, a shareholding company
with the same name was established with Gyldén as chairman and CEO.
Damm, who was also a shareholder, became the engineer .
Expectations were great, with projected sales of 50 desktop machines
and 500 handheld units per year, but the actual figures turned out to be
far less optimistic. And despite the fact that
Damm had meanwhile invented and
designed new cipher machines, the company struggled to stay afloat.
With the infusion of new money,
mainly from Emanuel Nobel, the company was kept alive and continued to produce
cipher machines, albeit with very limited success .
In 1922, Boris Hagelin
was given an engineering job at AB Cryptograph.
Boris was the son of Karl Wilhelm Hagelin, a close associate of Emanuel Nobel.
In 1925, Boris became the general manager of the company and in 1928, in
competition with Zählwerk Enigma A28,
he managed to secure an order from
the Swedish General Staff for a newly developed machine,
It was based on the ideas of Damm's B-13, but was equipped with a battery
and with an Enigma-style lamp field.
Formerly: Ingeniörsfirman Teknik · 1928-1958
Arvid Gerhard Damm
died in November 1928, in Bayonne (France), but had not
been involved with the company during the last years of his life.
In 1930, Cryptograph was liquidated 1 and the patent rights were transferred
to Hagelin's own company, Ingeniörsfirman Teknik – established in 1928 –
which in 1939 was renamed AB Cryptoteknik.
The company stayed in business until 1958, when the
activities were transferred to
Boris Hagelin's new Swiss company
By this time, Emanuel Nobel had already withdrawn from AB Cryptograph.
He died in in 1932.
Crypto AG had been founded in 1950, after Hagelin had
entered into a joint venture in 1948 with competitor
Dr. Edgar Gretener, with the
aim to co-develop an electric cipher machine.
It offered Hagelin an opportunity to be closer to the action in Central Europe
and to evade the high Swedish taxes.
The cooperation with Gretener
didn't last, but Hagelin, who had
meanwhile bought a house in nearby Zug, knew that his future would be in
Switzerland and decided to stay, hiring
Gretener's main engineer,
as his first employee.
Crypto AG started trading in 1952.
Crypto AG eventually grew to become the biggest supplier of cipher machines
for the civil market in the world.
Over the years, there were recurring rumours about a secret arrangement
between Hagelin and American intelligence services.
In 2020 it was revealed that
in 1970 Hagelin had secretly sold his company
to the German intelligence service BND and the American CIA .
➤ More about Crypto AG
- Anders Wik, personal correspondence
- Anders Wik & Kjell-Ove Widman, Damm och AB Cryptograph
FRA historiska skrifter #27. Bromma, 2017. 40 pages.
- Boris Hagelin, Die Geschichte der Hagelin-Cryptos
Original manuscript by Boris Hagelin in German language. Zug, Fall 1979.
- Boris Hagelin, The Story of Hagelin Cryptos
English translation of the above. BCW Hagelin, Zug, Spring 1981.
Later edited by David Kahn and published in Cryptologia, Volume 18, Issue 3, July 1994, pp 204-242.
- Paul Reuvers & Marc Simons, Operation RUBICON
Crypto Museum, 19 March 2020.
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© Crypto Museum. Created: Monday 15 June 2020. Last changed: Monday, 03 July 2023 - 07:57 CET.