Telegraph Key

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. The operator pushes the key’s lever down briefly to make a short signal, a dot, or holds the lever down for a moment to make a slightly longer signal, a dash. The sequence of dots and dashes represent letters and numbers. This key was an early refinement on Alfred Vail's original lever key.
Currently not on view
Object Name
telegraph key
date made
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
ivory (overall material)
wood (overall material)
on mount: 3 1/2 in x 4 1/2 in x 8 in; 8.89 cm x 11.43 cm x 20.32 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Telegraph Keys
See more items in
Work and Industry: Electricity
Telegraph Keys
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
from Western Union Telegraph Co.
Additional Media

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