Chester telegraph relay

Chester telegraph relay

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Telegraph relays amplified electrical signals in a telegraph line. Telegraph messages traveled as a series of electrical pulses through a wire from a transmitter to a receiver. Short pulses made a dot, slightly longer pulses a dash. The pulses faded in strength as they traveled through the wire, to the point where the incoming signal was too weak to directly operate a receiving sounder or register. A relay detected a weak signal and used a battery to strengthen the signal so that the receiver would operate.
This unusual looking relay bears the stamp of Charles T. Chester of New York. Charles and his brother John ran a business manufacturing electrical devices from 1855 to the latter's death in 1871. Charles patented several devices including improvements for batteries however we have not been able to associate a patent with this relay. The unit itself is a production piece with serial number 326.
Currently not on view
Object Name
telegraph relay
Chester relay
date made
ca 1860
Chester, Charles T.
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
brass (overall material)
ivory (overall material)
cloth (overall material)
overall: 7 3/4 in x 5 5/8 in x 12 in; 19.685 cm x 14.2875 cm x 30.48 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
from International Business Machines, Inc., William J. Hammer Collection
See more items in
Work and Industry: Electricity
Telegraph Relays & Repeaters
Data Source
National Museum of American History
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