Smith telegraph repeater patent model

Telegraph repeaters amplified electrical signals in a telegraph line. Telegraph messages traveled as a series of electrical pulses through a wire from a transmitter to a receiver. Short pulses made a dot, slightly longer pulses a dash. The pulses faded in strength as they traveled through the wire, limiting the distance a message could travel. Repeaters remedied that problem by detecting a weak signal and using a local power source to re-energize and re-transmit the signal down the line.
This model was submitted to the U.S. Patent Office by inventor John E. Smith of Troy, New York, along with his patent application. On 18 August 1857, he received patent #18022 for his "Improvement in Telegraphic Repeaters." Smith's goal was to, "dispense with the use of a main battery continually on the line and enable the telegraph to be worked by local batteries at the several stations [and also by] the reversing of the current over the line by every stroke of the key, [compensate for] the escape of current to the ground...." Many of the components of this model are wooden and represent a telegraph line between New York and Baltimore. A real key and sounder made by S. W. Chubbuck of Utica, NY, are also mounted on the unit.
Currently not on view
Object Name
telegraph relay
telegraph repeater
date made
S. W. Chubbuck
Smith, John E.
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
brass (overall material)
bone (overall material)
steel (overall material)
cloth (overall material)
silver (overall material)
copper (overall material)
overall: 5 1/4 in x 22 in x 12 in; 13.335 cm x 55.88 cm x 30.48 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
patent number
Telegraph Relays & Repeaters
See more items in
Work and Industry: Electricity
Telegraph Relays & Repeaters
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Additional Media

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