TURN: Washington’s Spies is currently winding up its final season and I had heard great things about it, so I thought I would give it a watch and find out what the buzz is all about. Even though I enjoy historical pieces I didn’t have any prior TV watching experience with the Revolutionary War time period but I found TURN to be really interesting. It takes place during the Revolutionary War, and follows the Culper spy network on the American side.
There are several major characters in this show, but the shows hero (or maybe anti-hero) would have to be Abe Woodhull; an unsuspecting farmer that is recruited to be a spy for the resistance. He gets into some pretty close calls including landing himself in jail. However he always keeps the independence of America his top priority and even chooses to stay in confinement for the sake of the cause.
One thing I found to be really interesting in TURN is the methods that the spies use to pass information to each other. Living in a digital world, it is such a foreign concept of passing information without using technology and to watch these different methods was probably my favorite part of the show.
At one point messages are conveyed through the use of writing on hard boiled eggs that the person can see once they’ve cracked and opened the egg. Other than being an historical accuracy from the war, the egg is a perfect metaphor for Abe. On the surface he is just like all the other people in Setauket. however underneath, once the shell is ripped away it becomes revealed that there is more than meets the eye. Both the egg and Abe are also literally carry messages vital to the war effort. The unassuming is carrying a secret.
I knew that this magic had to be attempted. I looked all over the internet on how this was done back then and decided to try it for myself.
First I hard boiled eggs in my usual manner. I was curious how this would work out using store bought versus farm fresh eggs so I used a couple of both to see if there was a difference.
Then I dissolved the alum into the vinegar and used one of my kid’s paintbrushes to “paint” the mixture onto the egg. I could still see it but it was difficult to keep track of on the egg’s surface. I suggest doing this experiment in a very well lit place.
Then I let the eggs sit and dry for about an hour. I peeled them and…viola! I am using a stock photo here because although my message came out, my accuracy was not good.
My theory is that it works because the vinegar softens the shell and allows the dye to work its magic on the egg. This was a super fun experiment and one that kids would love to do too. I can definitely see the correlation between the eggs and Abe’s character but I also really appreciate the historical ingenuity behind using the eggs to send messages.
2 Cups of White Vinegar
1 tablespoon of Alum Powder
- Place the desired amount of eggs in a single layer in a small saucepan.
- Fill the saucepan with water and cover it with a lid. There should be at least one inch of water over the egg.
- Place the saucepan on the stove and turn the heat on high and bring water to a high rolling boil.
- Let the egg boil for a minute or two. and the turn off heat. Let sit in water 10-12 minutes.
- Drain the water out carefully. Run cold water over the eggs until it cooled. This will allow you to touch it without being burned.
- Place the alum and vinegar in a small bowl and stir with a spoon. Make sure the alum is completely dissolved into the vinegar.
- Dip the paint brush into the solution and write a secret message on the egg’s shell. It might be difficult to see what you are writing, so try to be as accurate as possible.
- Let the solution permeate onto the inside of the egg by letting it dry. You can speed this process up by placing the egg under a bright light for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Remove the shell from the egg and you will see your secret message written on the egg