The Sparks Telegraph Key Review

Great Keys!

Telegraph Keys possess both historical value as well as aesthetic appeal. As more keys find their way to collectors, fewer are available for the rest of us to see. This display and the links provided will hopefully allow all who wish to enjoy seeing them. Please visit as often as you like and tell your friends about our website. Thanks in advance for coming and for any suggestions you have for future improvements.

Early Landline Keys

Prior to the introduction of wireless by Marconi, telegraph keys were used to communicate over wire often along railroad lines. Alfred Vail and Samuel Morse pioneered the technique. Vail's original key is at the Smithsonian Institute. Landline took off after 1844 and the "What Hath God Wrought" demonstration over the Baltimore to Washington line. Some of the keys produced between 1850 and 1900 are pictured below.

Straight Lever Key

Western Electric Keys

Early Leg Key lewis key

Straight Lever keys were made during the 1850's to 1880's by several manufacturers, including Altoona Shops, Gray and Barton, Tillotson, and perhaps others.

This Lewis key from about 1875 was one of several keys made for and by Western Electric in Chicago, IL. Several variations of the Lewis key were produced.

phelps key
1870's WE leg key

This Phelps Camelback gets its name from the "hump" in the lever arm, which was originally intended to balance it better.

This early Western Electric leg key follows the style of Gray and Barton and was probably made in the early 1870's.

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steiner key

This Steiner key was made about 1880. This one is legless, but Steiner keys were also made with long bolts out the bottom to attach to the operating desk just like the Phelps key.