The handle on top of this telegraph register appears to have been an adaptation by the users at Oberlin College rather than something that came with the device. The register was made by Knox & Shain, a noted Philadelphia maker of telegraph equipment.
Telegraph registers are electrically-activated printers that receive Morse code messages. The message travels as a series of electrical pulses through a wire. The pulses energize the register’s electromagnets which move a lever-arm holding a pen or stylus. A clockwork mechanism pulls a strip of paper across the pen or stylus, recording the message. Short pulses draw or emboss a dot, slightly longer pulses a dash. The sequence of dots and dashes represent letters and numbers.
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