Telegraph Register

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Description (Brief)
In 1850 William S. Thomas received U. S. patent #7,092 for his “telegraphic register.” This model demonstrated his method of using the heat generated by an electric current to record Morse code signals. Thomas designed a system that electrically heated two platinum points. As the paper passed under them, the points would record the dots and dashes as a series of scorch marks. Also, an operator could see the points glow and fade as the current switched on and off, enabling them to read the message optically. His idea never gained acceptance as his system failed to convince operators to give up on recording Morse code messages with ink and listening for the sounds of the clicking electromagnets.
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
Thomas, William S.
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
overall: 5 1/4 in x 3 3/4 in x 7 1/4 in; 13.335 cm x 9.525 cm x 18.415 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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