MC 00098 Guide to the Nathaniel C. Browder Collection of Cryptography Manuals and William Thomas Prestwood Diaries, 1808 - 1983

The collection is organized into two series: Cryptography Manuals and William Thomas Prestwood Diaries.
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The Cryptography Manuals series consists of two of Nathaniel C. Browder's World War II-era War Department manuals on cryptography.
[Box 1, Folder 1] Elementary Military Cryptography, 1945
[Box 1, Folder 2] Advanced Military Cryptography, 1944
The bulk of the William Thomas Prestwood Diaries series consists of the original diaries. There are twenty-eight of these "diaries," numbered in a modern hand based on their chronology. The first "diary" is actually a handwritten description of an out-of-body experience as recorded by a minister in 1783. The remaining twenty-seven diaries are small, hand-sewn volumes, varying in size from 3 x 3.5 inches to 6.25 x 7.7 inches. Twenty-two of these volumes contain short daily entries that are almost all written in ciphered writing (excepting the dates and any writing on the covers). Another three books are partially or mostly enciphered. The remaining two volumes are #12, a book of Prestwood's thoughts on various subjects (especially mathematics), and #20, a ledger or accounting-type book.
Prestwood generally wrote short, daily entries recording his everyday activities, observations, and information about his family and friends. Notably, several members of the Baird family make appearances in the diaries. Illnesses, births, deaths, and major community events were recorded, as well as observations of weather, astronomical events, and animals. Prestwood wrote about Masonic activities and his work--farm work, teaching, milling, surveying, and mustering for the militia. He also recorded his various romantic and sexual exploits. His wife and mistress, as well as several other women, appear in the diaries in this context.
Also in this series are photocopies of diaries 2 through 5, and the book The Enciphered Diary of William Thomas Prestwood 1808-1859, a deciphered and transcribed version of the diaries written by Nathaniel C. Browder and published in 1983. In the published edition the diaries, and portions of diaries, not originally written in cipher are not necessarily presented in full and the excerpts tend to be replications rather than transcriptions.
[Box 1, Folder 3] Browder, Nathaniel C. The Enciphered Diary of William Thomas Prestwood 1808-1859. Raleigh, N.C.: Nathaniel C. Browder, 1983.
[Box 1, Folder 4] Copy of Prestwood Diary #2, 1808 March 13 - Dec. 31
[Box 1, Folder 5] Copy of Prestwood Diary #3, 1809 March 26 - 1811 Aug. 25
[Box 1, Folder 6] Copy of Prestwood Diary #4, 1812 May 1 - 1813 March 27
[Box 1, Folder 7] Copy of Prestwood Diary #5, 1813 March 28 - Nov. 30
[Box 1, Folder 8] Diary 1
[Box 1, Folder 9] Diary 2, 1808
[Box 1, Folder 10] Diary 3, 1809 - 1811
[Box 1, Folder 11] Diary 4, 1812 - 1813
[Box 2, Folder 1] Diary 5, 1813
[Box 2, Folder 2] Diaries 6 and 7, 1814 - 1816
[Box 2, Folder 3] Diaries 8 and 9, 1816 - 1819
[Box 2, Folder 4] Diaries 10 and 11, 1819 - 1823
[Box 2, Folder 5] Diary 12
[Box 2, Folder 6] Diary 13, 1825 - 1826
[Box 2, Folder 7] Diary 14, 1826 - 1828
[Box 2, Folder 8] Diaries 15 and 16, 1822 - 1833
[Box 2, Folder 9] Diaries 17 and 18, 1833 - 1837
[Box 3, Folder 1] Diary 19, 1837 - 1839
[Box 3, Folder 2] Diary 20, 1832 - 1840
[Box 3, Folder 3] Diaries 21 and 22, 1841 - 1848
[Box 3, Folder 4] Diaries 23 and 24, 1848 - 1851
[Box 3, Folder 5] Diaries 25 and 26, 1852 - 1856
[Box 3, Folder 6] Diaries 27 and 28, 1856 - 1859


Browder, Nathaniel C., 1904-


Prestwood, William Thomas, 1788-1859


1.5 Linear feet

General Physical Description note

3 archival boxes


For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Special Collections Research Center Reference Staff external link.



Acquisitions Information

Received as a gift upon the death of Nathaniel C. Browder in 1984 (Accession 1984-0006).


Processed by: Jennifer McElroy;machine-readable finding aid created by: Jennifer McElroy

Scope and Content Note

Nathaniel C. Browder Collection of Cryptography Manuals and William Thomas Prestwood Diaries contains papers and publications related to some of Browder's interest and work with cryptography. The William Thomas Prestwood Diaries series contains 28 diaries written between 1808 and 1859. All were handwritten by Prestwood; most in a cipher. Generally, the entries are daily, very short, and reflect Prestwood's everyday activities, his observations, and information about his friends and relations. Illnesses, births, deaths, and major community events were recorded, as well as observations of weather, astronomical events, and animals. Prestwood recorded information about Masonic activities, his daily work, and his amorous encounters. Also in this series are photocopies of some of the diaries and the book, The Enciphered Diary of William Thomas Prestwood 1808-1859, written by Browder. The collection's cryptography manuals series consists of two United States military cryptography manuals from the late years of World War II.

The collection contains materials dating from between 1808 and 1983, fitting into three distinct time periods. The bulk of the collection is the original Prestwood diaries, dating from 1808 to 1859. The manuals date from 1944 to 1945, and the book and photocopies date from the early 1980s.

Biographical Note

Nathaniel Clenroy Browder, was born February 4, 1904, in Hickory, North Carolina. He received a bachelor's degree in education from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill in 1930 and married Blanche Penland, of Hayesville, North Carolina, in December of the same year. He worked as a high school teacher before moving back to Chapel Hill in 1938. Browder completed a year of graduate level study in English at the University of North Carolina and then began working for the Federal Writers' Project (FWP) in Chapel Hill, North Carolina from 1939 to 1940. His projects for the FWP included various history-related interviews throughout the southern United States. In April 1940, Browder moved to Raleigh, where he completed a course in drafting at North Carolina State College (later North Carolina State University) and began work for the North Carolina State Highway Department.

In 1943, Browder began working for the Army Signal Corps and served as a cryptographer in Arlington, Virginia during the war. During his term of service, he was also loaned to the Air Force and stationed in Okinawa, Japan. After the war, he continued his career in cryptography in Washington, D.C., working for the National Security Agency until his retirement in 1965. After his retirement Browder moved to Clay County, North Carolina and pursued his interest in local history and genealogy. He wrote, edited, and published a number of books, including: Notes on the Browder Family of Tidewater, Virginia, 1704-1850 (with Blanche Penland Browder, 1970); The Cherokee Indians and Those Who Came After: notes for a history of the people who settled western North Carolina (1973); De Soto & Other Spanish Explorers & Their Historians (1975); The Tri-State Tobacco Growers Association, 1922-1925 (1983); Just Plain Folks (abstracted stories from the Federal Writers Project, ed., 1983); The Enciphered Diary of William Thomas Prestwood, 1808-1859 (ed., 1983); Ground Level History (1984); A Story of the Civil War: a story of the late war by Hannah Lide Coker (ed., 1984); and Isham Browder, Revolutionary soldier, man of mystery (with Blanche Penland Browder, 1984).

In 1984, Browder made arrangements to donate his papers and books to North Carolina State University. Included in these papers were the original enciphered Prestwood diaries, which Browder spent six years deciphering, transcribing, editing, and researching. Also in 1984, Browder and his wife created the Nathaniel C. and Blanche P. Browder Scholarship Endowment, an undergraduate endowment in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences at North Carolina State University. Browder died on November 7, 1984.

William Thomas Prestwood was born in 1788 in Chesterfield County, South Carolina. His grandfather was the founder of the influential Coker family, which was established on the upper Pee Dee River prior to the Revolutionary War. He often taught school, but he also did a variety of other types of work, including jobs as a surveyor, mapmaker, clerk, constable, militia officer, farmer, gold miner, and stone carver. He was also a musician and naturalist, and, at the time of his move to Burke (later Caldwell) County, North Carolina between 1813 and 1814, he was a Master Mason. Prestwood married Celia Clarke and they raised six sons and one daughter. Prestwood began keeping an enciphered diary in 1808, and continued to do so until his death in November 1859.

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Box 7111
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Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Nathaniel C. Browder Collection of Cryptography Manuals and William Thomas Prestwood Diaries, MC 98, Special Collections Research Center, North Carolina State University Libraries, Raleigh, NC

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