The Telegraph Office

Telegraph Key

Photo Gallery

A Photographic Reference for Wire and Wireless Telegraph Key Collectors and Historians

by Neal McEwen, K5RW

Last Updated 16 August 2004

Copyright © 1996 - 2004 Neal McEwen

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The Photo Gallery consists of photos of telegraph keys, bugs, sounders, and related wire and wireless telegraph artifacts for identification and reference purposes.  Where known, the maker and approximate date of manufacture are given to assist in identifying similar items.

All photos are copyrighted. Non-profit organizations and individuals may link to them, given proper recognition to The Telegraph Office.  Those parties with pecuniary interests must seek permission to use.

Table of Contents

Spark Keys
Radio Telegraph Keys
pre - 1920 Bugs
pre - 1915 Landline Keys
pre - 1925 Martin - Vibroplex Bugs
Submarine Cable Instruments
Pocket Test Sets
pre - 1930 Bugs
Sounders and Resonators
Pegboards and Switches
post - 1930 Bugs
Code Learning Instruments
Wireless Components
post - 1940 Bugs
Relays, Repeaters and Registers
Telegraph Offices and Operators
Military Bugs
Misc. Artifacts

for Keys

Advertisements for Telegraph

and Wireless Services

Spark Keys -- Spark keys typically carried the high voltage and high current of the primary of the spark transformer. Spark technology was largely gone by the early 1920s.

Radiotelegraph keys --Radiotelegraph keys were used with CW transmitters and were usually in the cathode circuit or keyed a low level stage. They did not need the voltage and current requirements of the spark key.

Pre-1920 Bugs -- Horace Martin introduced the semi-automatic key, or 'bug' as it is more commonly called in, 1905. Many worked around the Martin patents with their own design, while other copied the design in violation of the patents.

Pre-1925 Martin - Vibroplex Bugs -- Horace Martin introduced many unusual models during this period. This section under construction! Much more to come! Pre-1930 Bugs -- Making bugs was a profitable endeavor; many makers joined in, some with their own unique features. Post-1930 Bugs -- More makers entered the market, many targeting radiotelegraph operators. World Champion code operator Ted McElroy was one of them. post - 1940 Bugs -- The last days of the bug before the popularity of electronic keyers and the disappearance of American Morse landline telegraphy. Military Bugs -- W.W. II created a demand for more bugs and keys than could be produced normally. Lionel (of toy train fame) and others filled in. pre -1915 Landline Keys -- These keys were used to send American Morse code over iron or copper wires. Typically the current through the contacts was less than a tenth of on ampere. KOBs -- KOB is an early abbreviation for Key on Board. Usually this refers to a key and sounder or a key and a box relay on a single board. Sounders and Resonators -- Sounders are electromechanical devices that make the dot and dash sounds for landline American Morse operators. Resonators amplified or directed the sound; they were especially useful in large offices so an operator could here the correct 'wire.' Pocket Test Sets -- Pocket test sets were used by line walkers and repairmen. They were also used by trainmen to report the position of an off schedule train. Relays, Repeaters and Registers -- Relays and repeaters were electromechanical amplifiers used to boost weak signals on land lines. Registers were very early devices used to copy American Morse code before the sounder was invented. Dots and dashes were traced onto a moving paper and later transcribed into a telegram.. Submarine Cable Instruments -- The first telegraph cable between Europe and North America was laid in 1858. Pegboards and Switches -- Pegboards are the telegraph equivalent of a telephone switchboard. Code Learning Instruments -- Many schemes were devised to automate the learning of both codes, American Morse code and International, sometimes call Continental, Morse code. Wireless Components -- Early transmitting and receiving equipment was made of individual components, often very well made and attractive. Telegraph Offices and Operators Misc. Artifacts Advertisements for Keys Advertisements for Telegraph and Wireless Services

For more information, visit the Telegraph Office home page

Neal McEwen,