Telegraph Register

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Description (Brief)
In 1853 James J. Clark received U. S. patent 10,128 for his “self-winding telegraph register.” Clark submitted this model to the Patent Office to demonstrate his invention, an electromagnet and set of cogs that would automatically wind the spring of a telegraph register. Most registers used wind-up springs or a weight-driven mechanism to pull the paper under the pen or embossing stylus. Like a mechanical clock, either type of mechanism would occasionally need to be rewound. Ultimately, Clark’s invention became unnecessary as more operators switched from printing registers to audible sounders as telegraph receivers.
Telegraph registers are electrically-activated printers that receive Morse code messages. The message travels as a series of electrical pulses through a wire. The pulses energize the register’s electromagnets which move a lever-arm holding a pen or stylus. A clockwork mechanism pulls a strip of paper across the pen or stylus, recording the message. Short pulses draw or emboss a dot, slightly longer pulses a dash. The sequence of dots and dashes represent letters and numbers.
Currently not on view
date made
Clark, James J.
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
wood (overall material)
overall: 8 1/2 in x 10 in x 5 in; 21.59 cm x 25.4 cm x 12.7 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
patent number
Communication, telegraph
See more items in
Work and Industry: Electricity
Telegraph Registers
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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