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 key has a switch on the side called a circuit-closer that takes the key off-line when not in use. The so-called humpback design was uesd in early telegraph keys.
Currently not on view
Object Name
humpback key
telegraph key
date made
ca 1865
Phelps, George M.
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
plastic (overall material)
overall: 3 1/2 in x 6 1/4 in x 3 1/8 in; 8.89 cm x 15.875 cm x 7.9375 cm
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
collector/donor number
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Work and Industry: Electricity
Telegraph Keys
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center


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