Scribner telegraph repeater

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 Charles Scribner of Toledo, Ohio, on 9 August 1876 along with his patent application. Only 20 days later, he received patent #181600 for his "Improvement in Telegraphic Repeaters;" perhaps one of the shortest review periods ever for a patent. The rods seen along the top of the repeater connect the armatures of two relays to a centrally-mounted switch so that each relay can control the other. The armature of one relay is Stamped "Western Union Telegraph Co. Cleveland, O."
Currently not on view
Object Name
telegraph repeater
telegraph relay
date made
Scribner, Charles E.
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
wood (overall material)
cloth (overall material)
rubber (overall material)
overall: 5 in x 12 in x 6 in; 12.7 cm x 30.48 cm x 15.24 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

Visitor Comments

Add a comment about this object

**Please read before submitting the form**

Have a comment or question about this object to share with the community? Please use the form below. Selected comments will appear on this page and may receive a museum response (but we can't promise). Please note that we generally cannot answer questions about the history, rarity, or value of your personal artifacts.

Have a question about anything else, or would you prefer a personal response? Please visit our FAQ or contact page.

Personal information will not be shared or result in unsolicited e-mail. See our privacy policy.

Enter the characters shown in the image.