American Landline Keys (Pre-1880)

An assortment of pictures of early American landline keys from 1844 to around 1880.

Pictures are arranged approximately by age with older keys first.

(Click on each thumbnail to view the full size image):

Alfred Vail's First Telegraph Key, Called the Vail Correspondent, Which Was a Simple Strap Key. 1844 (Smithsonian Museum) Vail's 2nd Key, Called the Vail LEVER Correspondent, Used in the First Demonstration of the Telegraph in 1844 (Smithsonian Museum) Alfred Vail's Improved Telegraph Key, Ca. 1846 (Smithsonian Museum) Another View of Alfred Vail's Improved Telegraph Key (Smithsonian Museum)
2 Modern Reproductions of the Vail Key. On the Left by David Combs, W5VJW and on the Right by Kent Co. in England Very Early Camelback Key by William Clark, Philadelphia, Ca. 1847-48. Note the Lack of a Circuit Closer Another View of the William Clark Camelback Very Early Camelback Key by SW Chubbuck, Utica NY. Ca. Late 1840's (Smithsonian Museum)
Close-up of the Unique Circuit Closer on the Chubbuck Key. Chubbuck is Believed to Have Invented the Circuit Closer Attached to the Key Camelback Key by Hinds & Williams, Boston. Ca. Early 1850's. Note the Ivory Knob and Insulator Another View of the Hinds & Williams Camelback Close-up of the Hinds & Williams Name
Another Very Early Camelback Key by Chubbuck With the Same Unique Circuit Closer Ca. 1850's (Museum Victoria, Australia) Another Example of an Early Chubbuck Camelback Key, Missing the Circuit Closer (Gil Schlehman K9WDY Collection) A Photo of an Early Camelback Key With Ornately Carved Lever, Possibly Chubbuck Very Early Camelback Key by Charles Chester, NY. With Ivory Knob Ca. Late 1850's (Museum Victoria, Australia)
Another View of the Early Chester Camelback Early Straight Lever Key by Charles Chester, NY Ca. Late 1850's Another View of the Early Chester Key Showing the Name Stamp Very Early High-Hump Camelback by Thomas Hall, Boston Ca. 1857
Another View of the Hall Camelback. Note the Long Adjustment Spring Which Can by Loosened to Allow the Lever to Fall to Act as a Circuit Closer Rear View of the Hall Camelback. Note the Non-Symmetric Pivots which is Sometimes Seen on Very Early Landline Keys The Hall Key is Actually Rather Small Close-up of the Hall Key Camelback Lever
A Drawing of the Hall Camelback From a Textbook by Prescott. Unusual Key Marked P&RR (Philadelphia & Reading Railway), Maker Unknown Ca. 1850's Another View of the P&RR Key Another View of the P&RR Key Showing the Unusual Circuit Closer
Early Camelback Key by Thomas Hall, Boston Ca. Late 1850's ((Gil Schlehman K9WDY Collection) A Different Camelback Design by Thomas Hall, Boston Ca. Late 1850's (AWA Museum E. Bloomfield NY) Another View of the Hall Camelback Unusual Early Camelback Key With 2 Humps. Maker Unknown. Ca. Late 1850's
Another View of the Double Hump Camelback Key Early Camelback Key by Charles Williams Boston Ca. Late 1850's Early Camelback Key of a Different Design by Charles Williams, Boston Ca. Late 1850's Another View of the Williams Camelback Key
A Third View of the Williams Camelback Key Camelback Key by James Clark & Co. NY Ca. Late 1850's (w1tp.com) Another View of the Clark Camelback Early Straight Lever Key by GM Phelps, NY Ca. Early 1860's (W2NI Collection)
Bottom View of the Straight Lever Phelps Key Straight Lever Key by Caton Instrument Shops, Ottawa Illinois. Note the Wire Binding Screws at the End of the Key Legs. Ca. Early 1860's Another View of the Caton Straight Lever Key Early Camelback Key by GM Phelps, NY (American Telegraph Co Version). Ca. Early 1860's
Side View of the Phelps Am Tel. Key Markings Early Straight Lever Key by A.S. Chubbuck Utica, NY. Ca. 1860's Top View of the Chubbuck Key Showing the Chubbuck Name and Railroad Markings An Early Straight Lever Key Marked US Telegraph Co Syracuse NY. Possibly Made by Chubbuck Ca. 1860's
Top View of the US Telegraph Co Key Early Straight Lever Key by EM Pierson, Cleveland Ca. Early 1860's Top View of the Pierson Straight Lever Key Camelback Key by Knox & Shain, Philadelphia Ca. 1860's
Straight Lever Key by Knox & Shain, Philadlphia. Note the Unusual Tension Spring, Which is Correct for This Key. Ca. 1860's Another View of a Knox & Shain Straight Lever Key Straight Lever Leg Key With Oval Base by Thomas Hall, Boston. Ca. 1860's Early Straight Key by William Lundberg, San Francisco, Ca. 1863. Note the Similarity to the Chester Straight Key. Lundberg Used to Work for Charles Chester
Top View of the Lundberg Straight Key Early Camelback by Charles Williams, Boston. Ca. 1860's Another Early Charles Williams Camelback. Ca. 1860's Top View of the Williams Camelback
Interesting Small Landline Key by Dr. Leverett Bradley, Jersey City Ca. 1860's Phelps Camelback Key With "Snapper" Circuit Closer. Ca. 1860's The "Snapper" Circuit Closer Uses a Special Spring and Wheel So the Lever Can Only be in 1 of 2 Positions. Here Shown in the Open Position (w1tp.com) The Circuit Closer in the Closed Position
Later Camelback Key by Charles Williams, Boston Ca. 1860's Close-up of the Camelback Hump and Williams Name Straight Lever Version of the Williams Key. Has a More Rounded Base Early Straight Lever Key Marked "Chester, New York". Ca. 1860's
Another Early Chester Straight Lever Key Marked "Charles T & JN Chester, NY". Ca. 1860's Another View of the Charles T & JN Chester Straight Key Camelback Key by Partrick & Carter, Philadelphia. Not as Early a Key as the Design Would Suggest. Ca. 1868 Straight Lever Key by WE Facer, Philadelphia Ca. Late 1860's
Another View of the Facer Straight Lever Key An Earlier Version of the Facer Key With No Spring Tension Adjustment Screw Early Small Straight Lever Key by GC Wessmann & Sons, NY Ca. 1860's Another View of the Wessmann Straight Lever Key
Straight Lever Key by Thomas Edison, Newark NJ Ca. Late 1860's (K5RW Collection) Another View of Edison Key Camelback Key by Edison & Murray Ca. 1870 Close-Up of the Edison & Murrey Name Stamp. Note the Name is Incorrectly Spelled "Murrey". It Should be "Murray" After Joseph T. Murray, Edison's Partner
Early Straight Lever Leg Key by Robert Henning @ the Caton Instrument Shops, Ottawa Illinois. Ca. 1860's Another View of the Henning Leg Key Camelback Key Marked "A&P Tel Co" (Atlantic & Pacific Telegraph Co) Ca. Late 1860's Another View of the A&P Tel Co. Key
Straight Lever Key by Shawk & Barton, Cleveland Ca. 1868 Top View of the Shawk & Barton Key Close-up of the Shawk & Barton Name Straight Lever Key by Union Electric Mfg Co. NY Ca. Late 1860's (Gil Schlehman K9WDY Collection)
Camelback Key by GM Phelps, NY Ca. Late 1860's Another View of the Phelps Camelback. This is the Later Western Union Design Which is a Little Different From the Earlier American Telegraph Co Design Phelps Style Camelback Key Marked "WA Chapin" Ca. 1860's Another View of the Chapin Camelback Key
Straight Lever Key by WD Greene, Ypsilanti Michigan Ca. Late 1860's Another View of the Greene Straight Lever Key Camelback Key by LG Tillotson, NY. Ca. Late 1860's Another View of the Tillotson Camelback Key
Caton-Pattern Straight Lever Key by George Bliss, Chicago. Note the "Snapper" Circuit Closer. Ca. Late 1860's Another View of the Bliss Caton-Pattern Key Caton-Pattern Straight Lever Key by LG Tillotson, NY Ca. 1860's Another View of the Tillotson Caton-Pattern Key
Miniature Camelback Key by LG Tillotson, NY. Ca. Late 1860's Another View of the Miniature Tillotson Camelback Key A Tillotson Caton-Pattern Key With Camelback Lever. Ca. Late 1860's Another View of the Tillotson Key
A 3rd View of the Tillotson Key Showing the "Snapper" Circuit Closer Straight Key by Franklin Pope, NY. Also Has a "Snapper" Circuit Closer. Ca. 1870 A Later Version Camelback Key by Knox & Shain, Philadelphia. Ca. 1870 Interesting Leg Key by RH Wilson, Ypsilanti Michigan. Ca. 1870.
Another View of the Wilson Key Straight Lever Leg Key by Utica Fire Alarm Telegraph Co. Very Similar in Design to Keys by AS Chubbuck Who Was Also From Utica. Ca. Early 1870's Another View of the Utica Leg Key Top View of the Utica Key Showing the Maker Name
Beautifully Machined Leg Key by LS&MS RR (Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad) Ca. Early 1870's (Gil Schlehman K9WDY Collection) Straight Lever Leg Key by MA Buell, Cleveland. Ca. Early 1870's Top View of the Buell Leg Key Straight Lever Leg Key by Gray & Barton, Chicago. (Gray & Barton Later Became Western Electric). Ca. 1870
Top View of the Gray & Barton Leg Key Unusual Key by Electrical Construction Co, San Francisco. Note How the Lever Dips Down Into a Slot in the Base. Ca. Early 1870's Another View of the Electrical Construction Co. Key Showing the Slot in the Base Early Western Electric Straight Lever Key, Chicago. Note the Similar Design to the Gray & Barton Key. Ca. 1872
Another View of the Western Electric Key A Nickel Plated Western Electric Straight Lever Leg Key Ca. 1872 Another View of the Western Electric Key Straight Lever Key by Charles Williams, Boston. Possibly Taken off a KOB Set. Ca. Early 1870's
Camelback Key by Partick & Carter, Philadelphia. Ca. Early 1870's (Gil Schlehman K9WDY Collection) Small Camelback Key by Partrick & Carter, Philadelphia. Ca. Early 1870's Another View of the Partrick & Carter Camelback Step Lever Leg Key by Electrical Construction Co (ECCo), San Francisco. Ca. Early 1870's
Another View of the ECCo Step Lever Key Small Oval Based Key by ECCo. Ca. 1875 Another View of the ECCo Oval Based Key Unknown Step-Lever Key. Ca. 1870's
Straight Lever Key by George Bliss, Chicago. Ca. Early 1870's (Gil Schlehman K9WDY Collection) A George Bliss Straight Lever Leg Key. Ca. Early 1870's Another George Bliss Straight Lever Leg Key. Ca. Early 1870's Close-up of the Lever Showing the Bliss Name
A George Bliss Camelback Key With an Unusual Circuit Closer That Has no Knob, or Even a Hole for One. Ca. 1870's A Very Unusual Legless Key by George Bliss That Uses No Binding Posts. Two Halves of the Key Base Are Insulated From Each Other With a Hard Rubber Insert (Gil Schlehman, K9WDY Collection) The Bliss Key With the Lever Removed to Show the Rubber Insulator. One Side of the Trunnions is Also Insulated from the Lever Pin. Wire Connections Are Made at Holes in The Trunnions Side View of the Bliss Key Showing the Rubber Insulator
Straight Lever Key by WE Davis, Jersey City. Ca. Early 1870's Step Lever Key by Partrick & Carter, Philadelphia. Ca. 1870's Another Step Lever Key by Partrick-Bunnell & Co. Ca. 1870's Partrick-Bunnell Step Lever Key With Unusual Circuit Closer
Close-Up of the Circuit Closer That Rotates Around the Center Contact Unusual Camelback Key by California Electrical Power Co, San Francisco. Ca. 1870's Another View of the Cal. Electrical Power Co Camelback Close-up of the Cal Electrical Power Name
Camelback Key bt Watts & Co, Baltimore. Ca. 1870's Camelback Leg Key by Watts & Co, Baltimore. Ca 1870's Step Lever Key Marked "B&O R.R." Probably Made by Watts & Co, Baltimore. Ca. 1870s Note the Finials On Top of the Pivots. This Was Often Seen on Watts Instruments, Especially Sounders
Partrick & Carter Bridge Frame Key. Ca. 1870's Top View of the Partrick & Carter Bridge Frame Key Showing the Name Step Lever Leg Key by Partrick & Carter, Philadelphia. Ca. 1870's Camelback Leg Key by Cooperative Mfg. Co, Philadelphia Ca. 1870's
Step Lever Leg Key Marked "S. Bergmann Maker" and American Union Tel Co. Ca. 1870's Close-up of the Lever Showing the Bergmann Name Another Camelback Key of Different Design by Cooperative Mfg. Co Ca. 1870's (Gil Schlehman K9WDY Collection) Miniature Camelback Leg Key by W. Hochhausen, NY Ca. 1875
Another View of the Hochhausen Camelback Key Miniature Camelback Leg Key by LG Tillotson, NY Ca. 1870's Another View of the Miniature Camelback Key A Miniature Straight Lever Key by LG Tillotson, NY Ca. 1870's
Camelback Leg Key by LG Tillotson, NY Ca. 1870's Another View of the Tillotson Camelback Key Straight Lever Key by Altoona RR Shops, Altoona PA. Ca. 1870's Another Altoona Shops Straight Lever Key Ca. 1870's
MA Buell "Eureka" Key. Ca. 1870's Step Lever Leg Key by California Electrical Works, San Francisco. Ca. Late 1870's Another View of the Cal Electrical Works Key Close-up of the Lever Showing the Cal. Electrical Works Name
Straight Lever Leg Key by LG Tillotson, NY. Ca. Late 1870's First Model Lewis Key, Western Electric, Chicago. Ca. 1875 Another View of the First Model Lewis Key 2nd Model Lewis Key Ca. 1876
Another View of the 2nd Model Lewis Key Unusual Lewis Key Designed for Use on European Style Open Circuit Telegraph Systems. Ca. Late 1870's Another View of the Lewis Open Circuit Key The Washington Key, Camelback Lever Version, Made by Thomas Hall, Boston. Ca. 1880
     
  Duplex Telegraph Key by Charles Williams, Boston. 1880 (Smithsonian Museum)    

 

 

 

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