The Telegraph Office


Books, Periodicals and Articles of Interest to the

Wire and Wireless Telegraph Key Collector and Historian.

Compiled by Neal McEwen, K5RW

last updated 29 May 1998

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One of the hardest tasks that a collector or someone interested in antique telegraph and wireless telegraph instruments has, is finding reference material. Listed here are many references. Both wire and wireless telegraphy is addressed. Please send any additions, corrections or suggestions to

  • PERIODICALS : Journals you can subscribe to
  • ARTICLES : Recent Articles in Periodicals
  • BOOKS : In Print References
  • ANTIQUE BOOKS : Wire Telegraphy, Wireless Telegraphy, Submarine Cable Telegraphy, Civil War Telegraphy, Catalogues, & Biographies


    These periodicals may be subscribed to by writing the address referenced by the link. You may also purchase back issues of these periodicals. For a more complete description of these periodicals go to Telegraph Lore .

    The Vail Correspondent, quarterly, by Tom French, Artifax

    Morsum Magnificat., bi-monthly

    Dots & Dashes, quarterly, by Morse Telegraph Club

    The Old Timers Bulletin, "Key and Telegraph" column, quarterly, since 1983, Antique Wireless Association

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    The references listed below have appeared in periodicals in the past twenty years. Some of these will be available at a public library. Others may be available by writing to the publisher. Frequently, back issues of these periodicals show up at ham fests and flea markets. Most amateur radio operators keep back issues of QST, CQ Magazine and 73 Magazine. These journals are frequently on the shelves at used book and magazine dealers.

    "THE MOREAU COLLECTION", QST, December 1977

    "Alfred Vail - The Man Behind the 'Morse' Code", June 1970 CQ

    "Classic Keys and Key Collections Revisited", CQ Magazine, June 1986

    "Return of the Classic Keys", CQ Magazine, June 1987

    "A Key Bonanza", CQ Magazine, November 1990

    "More Terrific Keys, CQ Magazine, May 1991

    "CW Forever: More Keys, Keys, Keys!", CQ Magazine, May 1992

    "CW Forever: More Keys, Keys, Keys! Part II", CQ Magazine, June 1992

    "The K5RW Collection", CQ Magazine, May & June 1985

    "Another World Class Key Special Part I", CQ Magazine, April 1993

    "Another World Class Key Special Part II", CQ Magazine, May 1993

    "Morse Mania: The Romance of Keys Continues", CQ Magazine, April 95

    "Morse Mania: The Romance of Keys Continues - Part II", CQ Magazine, May 95

    "The World of Telegraph and Keys", Radio Communications, April 1993

    "The Magic of Keys and Code", Radio Communications, June 1993

    "Iambic Keyer Paddles", 73 Magazine, December 1992

    "History of the Canadian Key", QST Canada, October 1988

    "History of the Canadian Key Part II", QST Canada, November 1988

    "Foreign and Military Telegraph Keys", AWA Review , Vol. 3, 1988

    "Unusual Military Morse Keys", AWA Review , Vol. 8, 1993

    "Bug Collecting", QCWA News, Vol. 31 #3

    "The McElroy Keys", QCWA News, Vol. 32 #1

    "Collecting Tips", QCWA News, Vol. 32 #2

    "Odd Ball Bugs", QCWA News, Vol. 32 #3

    "The Elwood Collection", "Sparks Journal", Society of Wireless Pioneers , Summer 1977 *

    "A Century of Telegraph Key Development", The A.W.A. Review" , Vol. 2 *

    "American telegraph instrument makers 1837-1900", Dots & Dashes , Vol. XV, Nos. 2-3-4, by Roger Reinke (also in Morsum Magnificat # 23-24-25, 1992.) *

    "The Origination of the Bencher Paddle", by Bob Locher, Morsum Magnificat #25, Autumn 1992

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    All of the books listed below are currently available. You may purchase them by writing to the address shown by the link. As some of these dealers are very small operations, it is wise to include a SASE ( self address stamped envelope) to insure a timely answer. These books represent the major works on collecting and history and should be a part of any key collectors or historians library.

    Louise R. Moreau, , "The Story of the Key", Morsum Magnificat, through G.C. Arnold Partners *

    Holly, W.R., "The Vibroplex Company, Inc., 1890 to 1990", Vibroplex, Inc. *

    Carron, Peter, "Morse Code, The Essential Language", ARRL *

    Nutting, Larry "J-Series Telegraph Keys", Nutting (An excellent reference for military key collectors) *

    Coe, Lewis, "The Telegraph, a History of Morse's Invention and it Predecessors in the U.S.", MacFarland & Co. *

    Israel, Paul. "From Machine Shop to Industrial Laboratory: Telegraphy and the Changing Context of American Invention, 1830-1920", 1992, Johns Hopkins University Press *

    Edwin Gabler, "The American Telegrapher: a social history 1860-1900" , Rutgers University Press, 1988, ISBN 0-8135-1284-0 (hardbound), 0-8135-1285-9 (paperback)

    "The Signal Corps, U.S.A. in the War of the Rebellion" , 1896, The Signal Corps Association reprint. ( 916 pages, 40 maps, 600 photos. This book by Joseph Willard Brown, is described as "a superior history of a facet of the war often overlooked by historians". Included are chapters on principles and methods of signaling, signal apparatus, and the field telegraph.) order from: Walter F. Mathers, No. 13 Beach Rd., Glen Burnie Maryland 21060

    D. G. Sanders, "The Brasspounder", copyright 1978, ISBN 0-8015-0881-9, Hawthorn Books, Inc., New York

    Davis, E. Stuart, "The Postal Telegraph", 1976.

    Collectors Reprint of Bunnell Student's Manual of 1884. privately printed by L. A. Bailey, 909 S. Evergreen Ave., Clearwater, FL 34616. 48 pp. $8.00 ppd.

    French, Tom, "The Vibroplex Collectors Guide", Artifax

    French, Tom, "The Mac-Key Blue Book", Artifax *

    French, Tom, "Introduction to Key Collecting", Artifax, out of print

    French, Tom, " McElroy, Worlds Champion Radio Telegrapher", Artifax *

    French, Tom, "Railroad Telegrapher's Handbook", Artifax

    Prescott, George B., "History, Theory and Practice of the Electric Telegraph", 1860 / 1866, reprint, Artifax *

    I.T.U., "From Semaphore to Satellite", 1965, International Telecommunications Union, Geneva, Switzerland *

    Ault, Phil, "Wires West", 1974, Dodd, Mead & Co. *

    Bright, C., "Submarine Telegraphs: The History, Construction and Working", 1898, reprint, A.R.C.

    "Development of Submarine Cable Communications", 1973, anthology, A.R.C.

    Smith, W., "The Rise and Extension of Submarine Telegraph", reprint, A.R.C.

    "Electric Telegraph: An Historical Anthology", collection of early writing, A.R.C .

    "Eyewitness to Early American Telegraphy", reprints of Vail reports and letter, A.R.C.

    Mabee, Carlton, "The American Leonardo - a Life of Samuel F.B. Morse", Octagon Books, NY, 1969 (originally pub c.1942) Collector's leather bound edition, The Easton Press, Norwalk, Conn. 1990.

    "The Bug Checklist, Listing and Description of Full and Semi-automatic telegraph keys (bugs)", Doug Senecker , (loose leaf sheets)

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    The following books are listed even though they are long out of print. These may be available from a public library or some of them may be able to be checked out from the Library of Congress. Some of these books show up from time to time in book stores specializing in old and rare books. Some book dealers are connected to other book dealers and will do a nation wide search for you. Before purchasing these books, it might pay to review them at a local university or public library. Not all may be applicable to your particular interest.

    Wire Telegraphy | Wireless Telegraphy | Submarine Cable Telegraphy | Civil War Telegraphy
    Military Telegraphy | Communications | Catalogues | Biographies | Nostalgia

    Wire Telegraphy:

    Thompson, Robert Luther, "Wiring a Continent", 1947, Princeton University Press, (An industrial study up to 1866) *

    Morse, Edward L., "Samuel F. B. Morse - His Letter and Journals, Edited and Supplemented by His Son", two volumes, 1914 (Includes notes and diagrams bearing on the invention of the telegraph)

    Vail, James Cummings (son), "Early History of the Electro-magnetic Telegraph from Letters and Journals of Alfred Vail", 1914

    Houston and Kennelly, "Electric Telegraphy", 1897, The W.J. Houston Co., N.Y. *

    Dodge, G.M., "The Telegraph Instructor", 1901 *

    Turnbull, Laurence, "The Electro-Magnetic Telegraph: with an Historical Account of the Rise, Progress and Present Condition", 1853 (Truly amazing account of very early telegraph systems. Details many points not known or omitted by historians of the 1860s and 1870s) *

    "Technical and General Instruction Pertaining to Western Union Telegraph Business, Circuit Rules, Signals, Tariffs, Accounts, Cables, Press Dispatches, and Train Orders used in Valentine's School of Telegraphy". 1898 Sixth and Revised Edition, Gazette Printing Company

    Edison, Theo., A., "Telegraphy Self Taught A Complete Instruction Manual", 1902 & 1918, Frederick J. Drake & Co., Chicago, Ill. USA *

    Herbert, T.E., "Telegraphy", 1906, Whittacker & Co. (Outstanding technical reference on British telegraphy)

    Maver, "American Telegraphy, Systems Apparatus Operation" , 1899 (Excellent reference on the technical aspects of all types of 19th century telegraph instruments) *

    Meyer, Frederic L., "The Twentieth Century Manual of Railway and Commercial Telegraphy", 1905, Rand, McNally and Co., Chicago (A detailed students guide to becoming a telegraph operator for railroads. Many examples of telegrams and business dealings.) *

    Meyer, Frederic L., "The Twentieth Century Manual of Railway and Commercial and Wireless Telegraphy", 1914, Rand, McNally and Co., Chicago (Same as above with small section on wireless) *

    "Hawkins Electrical Guide #8", 1923-24, Audel, Theo., (Pages 2201-2262 have man good cuts of telegraph instruments and wiring diagrams)

    International Correspondence Schools "A Treatise on Telegraphy" , Vols. 1 & 2, 1901, Scranton

    "Joseph Henry and the Magnetic Telegraph", 1886, Scribners *

    Prescott, George B, "History, Theory and Practice of the Electric Telegraph", 1860, Ticknor and Fields (The most complete work on the technical side and the personal side up to 1860; excellent reference) reprint available from Artifax *

    Prescott, George B. "Electricity and the Electric Telegraph" , 1877, D. Appleton & Co. (Another complete work on the telegraph up to 1877; excellent reference) *

    Churchill, Charles H., "Theory and Practice of the Electric Telegraph, A Manual for Operators and Students", 1875, Shearman Bros.

    Hubbard, G. "Cooke and Wheatstone and the Invention of the Electric Telegraph", 1965, Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., (English inventors of the telegraph)

    International Correspondence Schools, "Telegraph Engineering", 1901 (two volume set; very complete work with lots of illustrations and diagrams)

    Pope, Frank L., "Modern Practice of the Electric Telegraph", 1873, D. Ban Nostrand. (Basic textbook on telegraph) *

    Thomas, C. & Collins, F. "The Electric Telegraph - A Manual of complete instruction in the Principles, Mechanics and Practice of the art of Sending & Receiving Telegraphic Messages, including Multiple & Wireless Systems of Transmission. Part 1. The Electric Telegraph, Part 2. Wireless Telegraphy" , 1908

    Abernathy, J.P., "The Modern Service of Commercial and Railway Telegraphy in Theory and Practice", 1886, W.W. Williams. (Comprehensive text on the subject) *

    Reid, James D. "The Telegraph in America, Founder, Promoters and noted Men", 1879, Derby Brothers (A classic account of who did what when from a business point of view.) *

    McNichol, Donald, "American Telegraph Practice", 1913, McGraw Hill. (Said to be the best general technical textbook of its time) *

    Oslin, George, "The Story of Telecommunications," (An epic history of the Western Union Telegraph Co.)

    Maver, William, Jr., "American Telegraphy and Encyclopedia of the Telegraph", 1903

    Terry, Ashley C. and Finn, William, "Illustrations and Descriptions of Telegraphic Apparatus", 1884, Terry

    Shaffner, T.P., "The Telegraph Manual", 1859

    Maver, William, "American Telegraphy and Encyclopedia of the Telegraph: Systems, Apparatus, Operation", 1912, Maver Publishing Co., New York *

    Casper, Louis, "Telegraph Circuits, Testing of Telegraph Circuits, Regulating of Telegraph Circuits", 1928, International Text Book Co. (A text on maintenance of telegraph and circuits) *

    "Technical and General Instruction Pertaining to Western Union Telegraph Business, Circuit Rules, Signals, Tariffs, Accounts, Cables, Press Dispatches, and Train Orders used in Valentine's School of Telegraphy", Gazette Printing Company, 1898

    "Modern Land and Submarine Telegraphy", 1914, American School of Correspondence ( A very good primer, a few nice cuts) 

    Military Telegraphy:

    Scriven, "Regulations of US Military Telegraph Lines, Alaskan Cables & Telegraph Stations". 1915, Washington

    Lavine, A. Lincoln, "Circuits of Victory,", 1921 (Complete story of the use of telephone, telegraph and wireless telegraphy by American forces in WWI. Includes a concise history and role of Western Electric in the war)

    Schauble, Peter L. "The First Battalion: The Story Of The 406th Telegraph Battalion Signal Corps., US Army", 1921, Philadelphia. Bell Telephone of PA.

    "A Manual of Military Telegraphy for the Signal Service, United States Army, Embracing Permanent and Field Lines", Wash, DC: GPO, 1872. 100 p.

    "Regulations for United States Military Telegraph Lines, Alaskan Cables, and Telegraph Stations". Wash, DC: GPO, 1915. 137 p.

    "War Department Telegraphic Code", Wash, DC: GPO, 1899. 122 p.

    Bright, Charles. "Telegraphs in Wartime." 19th Cent (Apr 1915): pp. 861-78. (magazine)

    Devereux, Tony, "Messenger Gods of Battle: Radio, Radar, Sonar: The Story of Electronics in War", NY: Brassey's, 1991. 322 p.

    Submarine Cable Telegraphy:

    Field, Henry M. "The Story of the Atlantic Telegraph", 1903, Charles Scriber & Sons *

    Field, Henry M. "History of the Atlantic Telegraph, to the return of the expedition of 1865", 1866, (not published, privately distributed",

    Bright, C. "The Story of the Atlantic Cable", 1903, Appleton (history on the laying of the Atlantic cable)

    Brown, Francis H., "The Ocean Telegraph March", 1858.

    McDonald, Philip B, "A Saga of the Seas: The Story of Cyrus W. Field and the Laying of the first Atlantic Cable", 1937 *

    Carter, Samuel, "Cyrus Field: Man of Two Worlds", 1968.

    DeGiuli, Italo, "Submarine Telegraphy, a Practical Manual" , 1932, Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons Ltd 

    Civil War Telegraphy:

    Bates, Homer David, "Lincoln in the Telegraph Office", 1907, The Century Co. (A telegraphers view of Lincoln and the Civil War; chapter on encryption of telegrams), Available as reprint, ISBN 0-8032-6125-X *

    Plum, William R., "The Military Telegraph during the Civil War in the United States", Jansen, McClurg and Co., Chicago, 1882. (two volume set)

    "The Signal Corps, U.S.A. in the War of the Rebellion" , 1896, The Signal Corps Association reprint. ( 916 pages, 40 maps, 600 photos. This book by Joseph Willard Brown, is described as "a superior history of a facet of the war often overlooked by historians". Included are chapters on principles and methods of signaling, signal apparatus, and the field telegraph.) order from: Walter F. Mathers, No. 13 Beach Rd., Glen Burnie Maryland 21060

    Harlow, Alvin F., "Brass Pounders, Young Telegraphers of the Civil War", Sage Books. 1962 (true accounts of young Civil War telegraphers) *

    Beardslee, George W., "Directions for the Practical Working of Beardslee's Magneto-Electric Signal Telegraph", NY: Gray & Green. 16 p.

    O'Brien, John E., "Telegraphing in Battle: Reminiscences of the Civil War", Scranton, PA: Raeder, 1910. 312 p.

    Scheips, Paul J., "Union Signal Communications: Innovation and Conflict", Iowa City: State U, 1963?


    Maryland, E.A. "Early Electrical Communication"

    Baarslag, Karl, "SOS to the Rescue", 1935, Oxford University Press (NOT juvenile fiction; it is a well researched work on the use of wireless in maritime emergencies) *

    Wilson, Geoffrey, "The Old Telegraphs", 1976 (NOT ABOUT ELECTRIC TELEGRAPHY! It is a thorough study of visual communications predating electric telegraphy) *


    "Smith's Manual of Telegraphy", c. 1875, L. G. Tillotson & Co. (Pages 49-132 are complete catalog of Tillotson telegraph instruments)

    "Abridged Catalogue and Manual of Telegraphy", c. 1903, J. H. Bunnell. (Pages 31-58 show Bunnell products)

    "Manhattan Electrical Supply Co. Illustrated Catalogue and Price List", 25th edition, New York (835 pp. Telephone, Telegraph, Wireless, lighting, etc.) 

    Wireless Telegraphy:

    Hancock, H. E., "Wireless at Sea, the first fifty years" , 1950, Marconi International Marine Communications Ltd. (Authoritative work on the history of early marine wireless and the Marconi companies; interesting section on the Titanic disaster) *

    DeSoto, Clinton B., "Two Hundred Meters and Down" , 1936, American Radio Relay League (The definitive work on early amateur radio history) available as reprint *

    Bucher, E.E., "Practical Wireless Telegraphy", 1921, Wireless Press, N.Y. *

    Bucher, E.E., "The Wireless Experimenters Manual" , 1920, Wireless Press, N.Y. *

    Aitken, Hugh, "Syntony and Spark, The Origins of Radio" , 1985, Princeton University Press (science and technology of very early radio and how radio changed our lives) *

    Leggett, Bernard, "Wireless Telegraph - With Special Reference to the Quenched Spark System", 1921 (centers on quenched gap spark transmitters and their appropriate receivers)

    Aitken, Hugh, "The Continuous Wave, Technology and American Radio, 1900 - 1932", 1985, Princeton University Press, (technical progress and impact on business and government) *

    Laughter, Victor H., "Operators' Wireless Telegraph & Telephone Hand Book", 1909 and 1918, Frederick Drake, Chicago *

    Story, A.T., "The Story of Wireless Telegraphy", 1904, D. Appleton, N.Y. *

    Morgan, A.P., "Wireless Telegraphy and Telephony" , 1920, Henley, N.Y. *

    St. John, Thomas M. " Wireless Telegraphy", 1906, St. John, N.Y. *

    Nilson and Hornung, "Practical Radio Telegraphy" , 1928, McGraw Hill, N.Y. (complete text on wireless and radio technology for operators) *

    Schroeder, Peter B., "Contact at Sea, A History of Maritime Radio Communications", 1967, Gregg Press (Concise history of wireless at sea; good references) *

    Trevert, Edward, "The ABC of Wireless Telegraphy." 1907, Bubier Publishing, Lynn, Mass. (Early treatise on wireless telegraphy embracing theory, methods of operation and how to build wireless apparatus.)

    "The Year Book of Wireless Telegraphy and Telephony", 1918, The Wireless Press, London *


    Mabee, Carleton, "The American Leonardo: A Life of Samuel F.B. Morse," 1944 ( Not only the telegraph founder, but artist, business man, promoter and politician. Extensive bibliography)

    Oakley, Violet, "Samuel F. B. Morse," 1939 (general biography)

    Carneal, G., "Conqueror of Space, The Life of Lee De Forest" , 1930, Horace Liveright, N.Y. *

    Marconi, Degna, "My Father, Marconi", 1962, McGraw Hill *

    Gunston, David, "Marconi, Father of Radio", 1965

    Dunlap, Orrin E., "Marconi: the Man and His Wireless", 1937

    Bryan, George S. "Edison, The Man and His Work", 1926, Knopf (several chapters on Edison's as a young telegrapher and the life of telegraphers in the 1860s) *

    Jehl, Francis, "Menlo Park Reminiscences", Vol. 1, 1937, Edison Institute, Dearborn, Mich. (A laboratory assistant of Edison describes experiments and events in the Edison lab before 1878; includes telegraph inventions) *

    Jepsen, Thomas C. "Ma Kiley: The Life of a Railroad Telegrapher", Texas Western Press, El Paso, Texas, 1997 Ma Kiley (born Mattie Collins Brite) was a "boomer" from 1901 through 1942 and worked as a first class operator all over the U.S., Mexico and Canada during that period. She wrote up the story of her life and published it in a three part series in Railroad Magazine in 1950. She died in 1971 at the age of 91.



    Hayes, Jeff W., "Autographs & Memoirs of the Telegraph" , 1916, French (Interesting human interest stories about telegraphers)

    "Lightning Flashes & Electric Dashes", 1877, Johnston, New York (A Volume of Choice Telegraphic Literature, Humor, Fun, Wit & Humor. Contributed to by All the Principal Writers in the Ranks of Telegraphic Literature) *

    Parker, E T., "Morse Telegrapher Calls the Old Depot" , Harlo Press

    Johnstone, Richard, "My San Francisco Story of the Waterfront and the Wireless", 1965, Wholer, Sebastopol CA. (Johnstone a very, very early wireless operator recants interesting stores) *

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  • Antique Periodicals of the Telegraph Trade

    The following periodicals were journals of the Telegraph trade in the 19th and 20th centuries. Some of the periodicals are also Electrical Engineering journals; yet telegraphy was the first practical use of Electrical Engineering. These periodicals can sometimes be found in used magazines dealers shelves. The best bet, however is a library. More to come as I collect more info.

    The value of these periodicals is two fold. First you are able to follow the development of the telegraph and second you are able to see the advertisements. These advertisements are valuable in identifying information about the makers and dating the telegraph instruments.

    "Telegraph and Telephone Age, Commercial and Railroad Telegraph, Telephony, Submarine Cables, radio-Telegraphy" , c. 1882-1940s+

    "Western Union Technical Review", c. 1944-1958+

    "The Telegrapher", Sept. 26, 1864 - Feb. 3, 1877, journal of the National Telegraphic Union. Merged with "Journal of the Telegraph in 1877.

    "Journal of the Telegraph", c. 1860s - 1914, Western Union's newsletter

    "The Railroad Telegrapher", c. 1900s

    "The Telegraphic Journal and Electrical Review", Nov. 1872 - 1891

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  • Out of Print Periodicals

    The following periodicals were recent journals devoted to the study and lore of telegraphy. Most were short lived and the work of just a few very dedicated retired telegraphers and historians. They are excellent resources for the collector and historian. Most article have a research slant or a personal recollection. These are certainly difficult to find but well worth the effort to obtain.

    "Brass Pounders' Gossip", by The Toledo Morse Telegraph Club, c. mid 1970s (One of the editors was Donald K. DeNeuf, a former officer of Postal Telegraph and expert on Submarine Cable Telegraphy. In his 70s Don was a Radio Officer on supply ships going to Viet Nam)

    "The Telegrapher", by The National Telegraph Office, Stuart Davis, editor, c. late 1970s (Davis was Franklin Roosevelt's telecommunications advisor and former telegrapher. He also had one of the top private telegraph museums in the country)

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  • The Publishers

    Artifax Books, Box 88, Maynard, MA 01754]

    Antique Radio Classified, Box 2, Carlisle, MA 01741

    ARRL, 225 Main St., Newington, CT 06111

    CQ Magazine, 76 North Broadway, Hicksville, NY 11801-2953

    Morse Telegraph Club, c/o R.A. Iwasyk, 12350 W. Offner Rd, Manhattan, IL 60442

    QCWA (Quarter Century Wireless Club), QCWA online , also check out the QCWA online museum

    SOWP, 146 Colleen St., Livermore, CA 94550


    Larry Nutting, 4025 Slate Ct., Santa Rosa, CA 95405

    Vibroplex, 11 Midtown Park, E. Mobile, AL 36606-4141

    MacFarland & Co., Box 611, Jefferson, NC 28640-2795

    A.W.A., c/o Bruce Kelly, Route 3, Holcomb, NY 14469

    Seneker, Doug, 505 E. Center, Mt. Vernon, MO 65712 

    For more information, visit the Telegraph Office home page

    Neal McEwen,