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 moved the handle back and forth to send the message. Called a pump-handle key, Charles Shirley patented this design in 1901. The heavy, detachable base gave Shirley a portable key that could be quickly placed in operation without clamps or other mounting hardware.
Currently not on view
Object Name
telegraph key
date made
ca 1902
Foote, Pierson & Co.
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
brass (overall material)
cloth (overall material)
plastic (overall material)
overall: 5 1/2 in x 3 5/8 in x 6 1/2 in; 13.97 cm x 9.2075 cm x 16.51 cm
ID Number
catalog number
serial 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 Foote Pierson & Co.
Additional Media

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