Vibroplex Clones

After Horace Martin introduced his new Vibroplex key, it took off in popularity, which enticed other companies to begin producing their own copies of the Vibroplex.

Martin had a sole selling agent in NY named JE Albright who owned a shop that sold typewriters and telegraph instruments. Albright saw how others were copying Horace Martin's design and decided to do something about it.

Albright prosecuted the makers of these Vibroplex copies and thought about going after the individual owners of these keys, but instead he forced the key owners to pay a $2 licensing fee to use their knock-off key. After the fee was paid, Albright removed the nameplate from the knock-off key and replaced it with an Albright label stating that the instrument was properly licensed. These Albright labeled keys can sometimes be found by lucky collectors. Even more scarce are the copy keys that have their original maker nameplate.

Although several different brands of instruments can be found with the Albright nameplate, probably the most common is The Improved Vibroplex, made by A to Z Electric Novelty Company in Chicago (ATOZ). It makes sense that Albright would go after this company vigorously since they used the actual Vibroplex name. It is much more common to find an ATOZ key with an Albright label than one with the original ATOZ label.

(Click on the pictures below to see larger versions of the photo)



An early 1910's advertisement by J.E. Albright warning telegraph operators to stop using "illegal" telegraph keys.


ATOZ Novelty Co. Key with Albright Label

This is an ATOZ bug in which the nameplate has been replaced with the Albright license label.


Red ATOZ key With Original Label

Here is a good example of an ATOZ key that still has its original nameplate. (Claudio Ruggieri, IZ0KRC Collection).


Two ATOZ Bugs

A Green ATOZ with original nameplate and a red ATOZ with Albright nameplate.


Other JE Albright Bugs

Albright labels were not just applied to ATOZ keys. Keys that clearly operated in a different manner from the Vibroplex were also forced to obtain the license from Albright and apply the special label. On the top row to the left is a Delaney bug and a Dinger bug with Albright nameplates.

Surprisingly, Albright also went after people with homemade bugs. The lower row shows 2 such keys with the Albright nameplate.


The Improved Vibroplex by A&E Co. Chicago

Another "Improved Vibroplex", this one made by A&E Co, Chicago. This key also has a JE Albright label so was probably made around 1911-1912. (From the Gil Schlehman, K4WDY, collection).


"The Vibroplex" by VD Liggett

A shameless Vibroplex copy made by VD Liggett of Tyler Texas. (K5RW collection)


"The Vibroplex" Double Lever Key by VD Liggett

Another VD Liggett Vibroplex knockoff. This one is a copy of the Vibroplex Double Lever


"The Vibroplex" Model X Key by VD Liggett

A VD Liggett copy of the Vibroplex Model X key


ATOZ Single Lever Transmitter


A rare example of an ATOZ bug that has BOTH the original nameplate and the Albright nameplate !


ATOZ Double Lever Transmitter

It wasn't just the Vibroplex Original that was copied. ATOZ also made a copy of the Vibroplex Double Lever bug.


ATOZ Oscilloplex

Another ATOZ double-lever key, The Oscilloplex. Perhaps they thought they could get away with making them by not using the Vibroplex name.


1912 Model ATOZ

This was ATOZ's copy of the Vibroplex Model X


Javor-Gaal Vibroplex

Even foreign countries got in on the action. This is a Hungarian made bug by Javor-Gaal (Gil Schlehman, K9WDY collection)