Handmade Telegraph Key

Description (Brief)
Telegraph keys are electrical on-off switches used to send messages in Morse code. A semi-automatic key or "bug" repeated the Morse code dots rapidly. The operator still keyed the dashes but could work much faster. This semi-automatic key was hand-made by an American soldier in early 1944. The catalog card from Western Union reported: "Bug made by Corporal Julian N. Jablin while on the Anzio Beachead [sic]. It was made of scrap brass from a shell case, plastic from a German plane that had been shot down and hardware from an Italian clock. It was actually used in radio communication until the operator on the other end told Cpl. Jablin to change to his left foot."
Currently not on view
Object Name
telegraph key
semi-automatic key
sending key
Jablin, Julian N.
Physical Description
metal (overall material)
plastic (overall material)
cloth (overall material)
overall: 2 3/4 in x 3 in x 9 in; 6.985 cm x 7.62 cm x 22.86 cm
ID Number
accession number
collector/donor number
catalog 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 Western Union Corporation

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.