Brass narrow base key on wood stand; steel trunnions. Marked on frame: "L.G. Tillotson & Co. (/) 5 & 7 Dey St New York." This style key was patented by Walter P. Phillips, May 25, 1880 as (US) #228111. The general object of this key was to secure ease and accuracy in transmission by guarding against the oxidation of the contact points. The aim was to prevent the "burning" of the contact points by making it easy to remove and clean them and by making the upper point (in the lever) small and the lower point or anvil in the base large in the expectation of "bringing the electric sparks out on the bottom point or anvil". This design permitted the use of hardened steel points in place of platinum. According to the inventor platinum points tended to stick and required more play in the lever. With steel points the play could be lessened and transmission thus speeded up. The patent claim concerned only the design of the anvil.
The manufacturer claimed that points (the anvil) could be removed without detaching the instrument from the table to which it was attached or disturbing its adjustments in any manner. This key was made in two models either with a straight lever or a curved lever. This specimen is a curved lever model sold in 1881 for $3.00. Anvil replacements cost six for 25 cents. Source: L.G. Tillotson & Co. Catalogue (16th edition) and Patent Specifications.
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