According to the International Spy Museum, this lipstick case disguises a cunningly wrought
4.5mm single-shot pistol, and was designed for use by KGB operatives
during the Cold War. This particular gun was confiscated at an
American checkpoint in West Berlin.
In order to make sure operatives'
equipment could remain undetected, the CIA would design entire
outfits to incorporate gadgets seamlessly. "America's
intelligence officers can safely collect intelligence in hostile
environments because they know that quality and craftsmanship have
been "built in" to their appearances, leaving no traces to
alert the enemy," says the CIA.
The agency does not specify which parts
of the above ensemble incorporate spy equipment. It's possible that
the jewellery contains cameras or listening devices, and that the
purse could be used to carry sundry relevant items; however, the
cigarette packet in her hand is almost definitely a concealed camera.
A lady's powder compact makes an
excellent spy tool. Even today, it wouldn't be an unexpected item to
find in her bag. This version, made by the CIA for its female
operatives, looks like a normal compact. However, tilted just so, the
mirror reveals codes engraved into its surface.
This watch -- called the Notora,
from manufacture Favre-Leuba
-- dates back to around the 1920s, and was probably more a curiosity
than a spy gadget -- but it's still pretty fascinating. The
rectangular case -- a style more particular to ladies' watches than
to mens' -- contains a Swiss-made mechanical winding movement, and
two extra, seemingly pointless, lugs. When the wearer pushes the
button at six o'clock, the entire watch face lifts up, revealing a
scroll of paper inside, on to which could be inscribed secret
messages. The two extra lugs scroll the paper back and forth.
The best spies are the ones who can
improvise, who can use their environment and normal, everyday objects
to their advantage. Take Anna Strong from the American Revolution. She would use her laundry as
a signal to the Culper Spy Ring -- certain garments and linens hung
upon the line would convey a certain message, all without having to
speak face-to-face. Harriet Tubman, Union spy during the American Civil War, used chickens and even a newspaper to create a diversion and disguise
herself from being recognised. Molly Rinker, also during the
Revolution, would perch herself on a rock to watch the comings and goings of theBritish. She would then slip messages containing this information
into balls of yarn, which would later be "found" by
During the 19th Century,
personal protection devices became all the rage: Miniature pistols,
such as derringers, and cunningly concealed firearms in other
wearables, such as, say, a pocket watch -- or even cutlery (there's another picture here). So this c.1870 seven-shot pepper-box revolver -- named the Femme Fatale, crafted out of German silver -- is unlikely to have been a spy weapon so much as a
device a lady could conceal about her person in event she should need
to protect herself.
Still, the idea of a lady spy carrying
one of these is utterly delightful.