Telegraph Register

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Description (Brief)
This tape reel pulled a strip of paper through a telegraph register in a fire alarm system. Many early telegraph registers used a weight to power the tape reel but this unit used a steel spring that the user wound with the key seen below the paper tape. The spring kept tension on the paper tape so that when the register began printing, the paper flowed smoothly.
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
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
glass (overall material)
steel (overall material)
paper (overall material)
overall: 8 in x 5 in x 5 1/2 in; 20.32 cm x 12.7 cm x 13.97 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Credit Line
from Richard Pitman
Communication, telegraph
See more items in
Work and Industry: Electricity
Telegraph Registers
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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