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
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

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.