Telegraph Register

Description (Brief)
This early telegraph register was designed and made by Alfred Vail, who worked closely with Samuel Morse on the telegraph invention. The beige coils are electromagnets and their large size was typical for early units. Vail’s signature is stamped on the base.
Telegraph registers are electrically-activated printers that receive Morse code messages. The message travels as a series of electrical pulses through a wire. The pulses energize the register’s electromagnets which move a lever-arm holding a pen or stylus. A clockwork mechanism pulls a strip of paper across the pen or stylus, recording the message. Short pulses draw or emboss a dot, slightly longer pulses a dash. The sequence of dots and dashes represent letters and numbers.
Currently not on view
date made
ca 1845
Morse, Samuel Finley Breese
Vail, Alfred
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
brass (overall material)
copper (overall material)
fiber (overall material)
overall: 7 5/8 in x 6 1/4 in x 11 1/2 in; 19.3675 cm x 15.875 cm x 29.21 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
from Western Union Telegraph Co.
Communication, telegraph
See more items in
Work and Industry: Electricity
Telegraph Registers
Data Source
National Museum of American History