Telegraph Key

Description (Brief)
Telegraph keys are electrical switches used to send messages in code. The message travels as a series of electrical pulses through a wire. This British key was designed for use on underwater telegraph cables. Typical telegraph keys turn the current on and off in the line. This double-current key keeps the battery on the line and reverses the direction of the current flow when the operator presses down on the lever. Setting the small lever to “receive” sends the current to a separate relay instead of through the main section of the key.
Currently not on view
Object Name
telegraph key
cable key
submarine telegraph key
date made
ca 1895
Silvertown Telegraph Works
India-rubber, Gutta-percha, and Telegraph Works Company
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
glass (overall material)
wood (overall material)
overall: 6 1/4 in x 4 3/4 in x 8 1/4 in; 15.875 cm x 12.065 cm x 20.955 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 ITT World Communications, Inc., thru John Van Ingen
Additional Media

Visitor Comments

Add a comment about this object

**Please read before submitting the form**

Have a comment or question about this object to share with the community? Please use the form below. Selected comments will appear on this page and may receive a museum response (but we can't promise). Please note that we generally cannot answer questions about the history, rarity, or value of your personal artifacts.

Have a question about anything else, or would you prefer a personal response? Please visit our FAQ or contact page.

Personal information will not be shared or result in unsolicited e-mail. See our privacy policy.

Enter the characters shown in the image.