The J-36 Page

This page is a study of five "J-36" bugs made before, during and after World War II. In some ways, they are very similar, and in others very different. There may be other J-36 models out there unknown to me...if you run into one, please let me know!

Vibroplex J-36

The Vibroplex J-36 was made with at least two different labels. In appearance, it essentially is a Lightning Bug with a J-36 label. According to Tom French's Vibroplex Collector's Guide, the Vibroplex J-36 was made from 1935 to 1943.

Vibroplex J-36 label

This is the smaller print label of the two label varieties known to me on the Vibroplex J-36. The larger label variety is scarcer, but so far as I know otherwise the same bug.

Brooklyn Metal Stamping Corp J-36

The Brooklyn Metal Stamping Corp made a bug that has the support structure of a Vibroplex Original, but has a different damper and has the U-spring for the dit repetition attached to the contact post instead of the lever arm as in the Vibroplex bugs. The identical bug was supplied as a J-36 to the Signal Corps, and the label has the Signal Corps and J-36 added to it as the only difference. This J-36 is the rarest of the domestic J-36s.

Brooklyn Metal J-36 label

The interesting thing about this label is the last line, which gives the order number for the lot, and also the order date: "6-10-30." Apparently The Brooklyn Metal Stamping Corp. had an order for their J-36 in 1930, which is quite early and may make it the earliest of the J-36 varieties.

In 1938, Whitely Electrical Radio Company (London) introduced the 'W.B. Morse Key' in an issue of "Wireless World". This key seems to have been the ancestor of a whole family of similar keys made during World War II and known generically as KEY WT 8 AMP. The four keys above (click on each name) are but a small sampling of the many variations known. Most were made in England, but J.H. Bunnell made a KEY WT 8 AMP in the U.S., and others were probably made in New Zealand, Australia, and Canada. These keys were ubiquitous and seem to have filled the same niche in the UK as the J37 key did for the U.S. during WWII.

--from "The Ubiquitous Key WT 8 AMP", by Jim Lycett G0MSZ, Morsum Magnificat 22

Lionel J-36

I suppose the most interesting part about the Lionel J-36 is simply that Lionel Corporation (yes, the same company which makes toy trains) made telegraph keys at all during the war. They also made a J-38 straight key. The Lionel J-36 is in all respects a Lightning Bug clone. According to a recent study, the Lionel is the most common J-36.

Lionel J-36 label

The label on the Lionel J-36 was long, thin, plastic and affixed to the base with five pins. There was a pin at each corner, and one to the right of the logo. For collectors, the challenge is to find a Lionel J-36 with the plastic label completely intact. Even if the label is intact when the bug is found, the plastic has become brittle enough with age that simply packaging the bug for transport sometimes breaks the label off the pins.

Bunnell J-36

The Bunnell J-36 is their Bunnell Speed Key Model 5-27 with a Signal Corps label. The label is metal, like all the J-36's except Lionel. However, the label on the Bunnell J-36 is highly prone to rust and near illegibility on many bugs. So, the collector challenge here is to find a Bunnell J-36 with a clean label. The label on the bug in the pic to the left is typical and rusted, but if you click on the pic for the larger jpeg file, a J-36 in pristine condition with a perfect label can be seen.

Australian J-36

An interesting J-36 of which little is known is the Australian made J-36, which was almost certainly made by Buzza Products. The label reads: "J-36 Automatic Key, Signal Corps USA, Made in Australia." This J-36 is a Lightning bug clone. The Buzza No.100 is on the left in this picture, with the Buzza J-36 on the right.

All these keys are Miniatures
They are about an inch long!

On to more keys!

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