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 very early key used by Joseph Henry in experiments made at the Smithsonian.
Currently not on view
Object Name
telegraph key
date made
ca 1850
Henry, Joseph
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
wood (overall material)
copper (overall material)
overall: 1 3/4 in x 2 in x 6 3/8 in; 4.445 cm x 5.08 cm x 16.1925 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
See more items in
Work and Industry: Electricity
Telegraph Keys
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


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