Side-action Telegraph Key

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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. This key has a lever that moves side-to-side rather than up and down. The operator touches the key’s lever to one contact post briefly to make a short signal, a dot, or holds the lever against the contact for a moment to make a slightly longer signal, a dash. The sequence of dots and dashes represent letters and numbers. Both contact posts on this key are electrically connected so the signal travels through a wire attached to the back of the lever mount.
Currently not on view
Physical Description
plastic (overall material)
metal (overall material)
overall: 1 3/4 in x 2 1/2 in x 5 in; 4.445 cm x 6.35 cm x 12.7 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
from Franklin Wingard
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Work and Industry: Electricity
Telegraph Keys
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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