Telegraph Key

Description (Brief)
Telegraph keys are electrical on-off switches used to send messages in Morse code. The message travels as a series of electrical pulses through a wire. The operator pushes the key’s lever down briefly to make a short signal, a dot, or holds the lever down for a moment to make a slightly longer signal, a dash. The sequence of dots and dashes represent letters and numbers. This key has a switch on the side called a circuit-closer that takes the key off-line when not in use. The wooden base was made in the museum to display the key. In operation, the key was mounted to a table using the bolts and wingnuts.
Currently not on view
Object Name
telegraph key
date made
ca 1890
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
aluminum (overall material)
rubber (overall material)
overall: 5 in x 3 in x 6 in; 12.7 cm x 7.62 cm x 15.24 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Telegraph Keys
See more items in
Work and Industry: Electricity
Telegraph Keys
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
from Manhattan Electric Supply Co.
Additional Media

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