Telegraph Register

This telegraph register, manufactured in accord with the Morse patent, was installed in 1848 in South Bend, reputedly the second telegraph office in Indiana. Stamped on the base is "J. Burritt & Son ithaca." Pulses of electricity caused the two vertical electromagnets to pull against an iron bar attached to the horizontal brass lever arm. The other end of the arm then pressed a metal stylus against a strip of paper (not shown) which was pulled through a pair of rollers by the clockwork mechanism. This caused short and long marks (dots and dashes) to be embossed on the paper. Morse specified this embossing process because he found that pens tended to clog when he tried to use ink. The apparatus also made a clicking noise, and operators soon found that they could "read" messages by ear, making the tape unnecessary. By the 1850s, "sounders" began to replace registers. These simple, rugged instruments were ideally suited to the American situation, where many offices were in isolated locations without easy access to repair facilties.
Currently not on view
Object Name
telegraph register
telegraph receiver
date made
Morse, Samuel F. B.
J. Burritt & Son
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
brass (overall material)
iron (overall material)
copper (overall material)
overall: 7 1/4 in x 4 in x 11 1/2 in; 18.415 cm x 10.16 cm x 29.21 cm
United States: New York, Ithaca
United States: Indiana, South Bend
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Telegraph Registers
Communication, telegraph
See more items in
Work and Industry: Electricity
Telegraph Registers
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
from the Telegraph Historical Society, thru Charles M. Heaton
Additional Media

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