Auxiliary Hand Key

Auxiliary Hand Key

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Usage conditions apply
Description (Brief)
Until recently “wireless” meant radio, and operators used keys to send radio messages via Morse code. This telegraph key was designed and built by the US Navy for sending wireless messages from ships.
On label: "Auxiliary Hand Key. Volts 250 Amperes 50 Cycles 500 Type S.E. 68A Serial No. B1049 Mfg'd by Mach'y Div. Navy Yard Boston". Stamped on base: "J [anchor logo] L". Terminals marked in pencil: "B" and "G".
Standard telegraph key with wide space keying contacts for high currents. The Boston Navy Yard was designated to handle the research and design of sending keys. W. Chadbourne was the specialist in this particular area. After World War I, these designs were manufactured by the Wireless Specialty Apparatus Co. Reference: Clark Collection, SRM 26-021.
Currently not on view
Object Name
telegraph key
Other Terms
telegraph key; Radio
date made
Boston Navy Yard. Machinery Division
Physical Description
brass (overall material)
copper (overall material)
steel (overall material)
bakelite (overall material)
overall: 3 in x 2 1/2 in x 8 1/2 in; 7.62 cm x 6.35 cm x 21.59 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
from Franklin Wingard
See more items in
Work and Industry: Electricity
Telegraph Keys
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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I have an Auxiliary Hand Key that was manufactured by the Machy Div Navy Yard Boston. It says drawing number 68-A, Serial Number B861. I would like to know if there is any information on how this key was used or mounted. Thank you.
Hi Stewart: Unfortunately I don't have any specific information about this 68-A hand key in my files. The Wingard Collection is quite extensive but a lacks specific details about many of the objects. I can tell you that these early wireless keys were designed for use with spark transmitters that used relatively high currents. Hence the extra flange on the knob to protect the operator, and the large contact. The two knurled knobs adjust the action on the key, allowing individual operators a certain amount of customization. Some operators had a lighter touch on the key than others. There's no hole in the baseplate to secure the unit to a table, as with many landline keys, but the two legs on the back (holding the wire clips) appear to be coupling nuts. I can't say if those are original to the piece or not. Franklin Wingard was an active HAM for most of his life and modified pieces in his collection for use. If your key has similar coupling nuts then there's a good probability the key was secured to the operator's table from below by passing a machine screw up through the table to those couplers. For more detailed information you might reach out to the Antique Wireless Association at Their members have been quite helpful over the years in identifying objects in the collections.

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