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 replica of an early type of lever key used by Samuel Morse and Alfred Vail.
Currently not on view
Object Name
telegraph key
date made
Vail, Alfred
Morse, Samuel Finley Breese
Model Shop, United States National Museum
Physical Description
wood (base material)
brass (body material)
overall: 3 1/8 in x 2 in x 6 3/4 in; 7.9375 cm x 5.08 cm x 17.145 cm
place made
United States: District of Columbia, Washington
ID Number
catalog number
nonaccession number
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Work and Industry: Electricity
Telegraph Keys
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Made in museum
Additional Media

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