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 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
Object Name
telegraph key
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
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Work and Industry: Electricity
Telegraph Keys
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


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