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. 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 is a replica of an early refinment of the key used by Samuel Morse and Alfred Vail. The key has a switch on the side called a circuit-closer that takes the key off-line when not in use.
Currently not on view
date made
Model Shop, United States National Museum
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
ivory (overall material)
wood (overall material)
overall: 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
nonaccession number
Credit Line
Made in museum
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Work and Industry: Electricity
Telegraph Keys
Data Source
National Museum of American History