Wireless Telegraph Key

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Description (Brief)
Until recently, “wireless” meant radio and operators used keys to send radio messages via Morse code. This wireless telegraph key operated a Poulsen arc transmitter on the Italian-made dirigible S.S. Roma. The Roma, purchased by the U.S. Army in 1921, was destroyed in a landing accident at Hampton Roads Naval Station. Henry Epsal was in the rescue party that entered the airship and retrieved this key before the ship was destroyed.
Currently not on view
date made
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
rubber (overall material)
slate (overall material)
overall: 1 3/4 in x 2 7/8 in x 6 1/4 in; 4.445 cm x 7.3025 cm x 15.875 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
from Mrs. Donald Bliss
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Work and Industry: Electricity
Telegraph Keys
Data Source
National Museum of American History


"note the heavy duty contacts on this key vs all the other keys. Transmitters like the arc type had very heavy current flowing through their contacts, so they had to have much heavier contacts as well as heavier springs to break the contact."

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