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 strap 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
Chester, Partrick & Co.
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
wood (overall material)
copper (overall material)
plastic (overall material)
cloth (overall material)
overall: 1 7/8 in x 3 1/2 in x 6 in; 4.7625 cm x 8.89 cm x 15.24 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Telegraph Keys
See more items in
Work and Industry: Electricity
Telegraph Keys
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
from the Smithsonian Institution Collection of Apparatus, thru William C. Winlock
Additional Media

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