Telegraph Register

Description (Brief)
In 1853 James J. Clark received U. S. patent 9514 for his “telegraphic register.” This may be the model Clark submitted to the Patent Office to demonstrate his invention, related to his work on self-winding registers. Most registers used wind-up springs or a weight-driven mechanism to pull the paper under the pen or embossing stylus. Like a mechanical clock, either type of mechanism would occasionally need to be rewound. Clark filed several patents for self-winding devices and this patent covered his method of shutting off current from the mechanism when the spring was completely rewound.
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
Object Name
telegraph receiver
telegraph register
date made
ca 1860
Clark, James J.
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
brass (overall material)
cloth (overall material)
ivory (overall material)
metal (overall material)
copper (overall material)
overall: 8 1/2 in x 12 in x 6 1/2 in; 21.59 cm x 30.48 cm x 16.51 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
patent number
Communication, telegraph
See more items in
Work and Industry: Electricity
Telegraph Registers
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Additional Media

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