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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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!