Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice

    Description

    Original Spymaster's Listening Device with Links to "Intrepid". In the history of Western spying, the names William "Wild Bill" Donovan and Sir William Stephenson stand out. Both served with distinction in World War One. Donovan was an early proponent of an intelligence service with international reach. Despite lack of cooperation from the F.B.I. and other government entities, Donovan was given charge of the O.S.S. (Office of Strategic Services), located in Room 3603 at Rockefeller Center. Disbanded after the war, it reemerged at the Central Intelligence Agency in 1947. Stephenson was closely connected with Winston Churchill and was placed in charge of British Security Coordination (BSC) in the Western Hemisphere. This became MI6. During the war, BSC was given an entire floor at Rockefeller Center rent-free to conduct their clandestine operations. Stephenson set up a training center called Camp X in Whitby, Ontario, employed thousands of people (mostly at his own expense) and oversaw intelligence gathering, propaganda, sabotage and the management of decoded messages. He and Donovan were close friends who worked hand-in-hand towards a common goal. James Bond author Ian Fleming supposedly trained at Camp X and admitted that the role model for Bond was an actual spy; namely, Stephenson, sometimes known by the code word "Intrepid". This lot consists of a "black box" that contains a listening device that was left behind when Stephenson moved from his Sutton Place apartment in New York in the 1970s. He spent his last days in Bermuda. Donovan lived at 1 Sutton Place at one time, although we are unsure if the two were neighbors or shared an apartment. A signed and notarized statement from the consignor relates the circumstances involving his acquisition of the object which took place when his employer, a moving company, assigned him to help "pack up and move... a man named Intrepid, the World War Two spy..." The device was placed in a pile outside the front door by the caretaker with the understanding that it was discarded material and could be retained by the movers if so desired. It is unclear whether the item belonged to Donovan or Stephenson, but it was removed from Stephenson's apartment. Given that fact, and Stephenson's status as a technician and inventor, it seems more than likely it was something used in his particular line-of-work. The black, wood and leather case measures 14" wide, 11" deep and 8.5" tall. The interior has three compartments. One has an object labeled a "Speak-O-Phone" It has a volume control, a "Recorder" jack, jacks to connect to phones, an on-off switch, a selector knob, a "Contact Micro Ind. Coil" threaded connection, microphone jacks and a "Line Tap" jack. A second compartment contains the electrical cord and what seems like a recording device that one might press against a shared wall... possibly the "Contact Microphone". The third compartment includes a set of headphones, an unknown cylindrical object filled with a solid resin with cord attached, a large bolt of insulated wire, a round microphone with attached cord and jack, plus two brown envelopes, one of which is labeled "Rubber Band and Two Tacks for Holding Contact Microphone Against Wall or Door." The unit is in overall excellent condition, with one wooden partition wall slightly out of alignment. We can only imagine what conversations were recorded - the nefarious plans of saboteurs, fifth-columnists, Nazi spies, Bund members, later-day Mata Hari's - not the stuff of fiction, but the real thing!

    Shipping, Taxes, Terms and Bidding
    Calculate Standard Domestic Shipping

    Sales Tax information  |  Terms and Conditions

    Bidding Guidelines and Bid Increments

    Glossary of Terms

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    May, 2012
    12th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 1,459

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    19.5% of the successful bid (minimum $14) per lot.

    Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    VIEW BENEFITS
    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
      winnings 
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Only 18 days left to consign to the 2018 October 27 Musical Instruments - Dallas!

    Learn about consigning with us

    We had a wonderful time in New York during the October 2013 Historical Manuscripts auction that featured my mother’s papers collected during her tenure as Martin Luther King, Jr.’s secretary. In fact, the entire experience from beginning to end has been a pleasure.
    Howard Ballou,
    Brandon, MS
    View More Testimonials

    HA.com receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source: Similarweb.com)

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search

    Recent auctions

    2018 June 10 Arms & Armor, Civil War & Militaria Signature Auction - Dallas
    2018 June 10 Arms & Armor, Civil War & Militaria Signature Auction - Dallas
    REALIZED $614,788