Telegraph Key

Description (Brief)
Telegraph keys are electrical switches used to send coded messages that travel as a series of electrical pulses through a wire. Due to special difficulties in sending pulses through long underwater cables, so-called double-current keys were used. Instead of the short dots and long dashes of land-line telegraphs, submarine telegraphs sent positive pulses and negative pulses that made the receiver move right or left. The operator pressed one lever on the key to send a positive pulse and another to send a negative pulse. The code consisted of the sequence of left and right movements recorded on a paper tape.
Currently not on view
Object Name
Morse key
telegraph key
submarine telegraph key
Silvertown Telegraph Works
India-rubber, Gutta-percha, and Telegraph Works Company
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
metal (overall material)
plastic (overall material)
overall: 6 1/4 in x 4 1/2 in x 6 1/4 in; 15.875 cm x 11.43 cm x 15.875 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.