A great number of telegraph instrument designs were patented in the US Patent Office (as well as foreign patent offices). Before the internet, finding a patent meant first going to a large library and looking through the patent gazettes which provided brief summaries of all the patents. There was typically one gazette published each year. Even then, finding what you were looking for was difficult if you didn't know the exact patent number or the name of the person on the patent. Once you found the patent summary you wanted, you had to submit a request to the US Patent Office to get a hard copy of the full patent in the mail.
With the internet came the ability to search for patents online. When the US Patent Office (USPTO) came online, patents prior to 1976 could NOT be searched by patent number or key words. Instead, you had to search by the Classification Number, which for Telegraphy is 178. Searching Classification 178 would return an enormous number of hits, so you could then narrow it down by searching the Subclass. For example, Telegraph Keys is Classification 178/101, Sounders is 178/98, Bugs is 178/82R, etc. The full list of Subclasses for the Telegraphy Class 178 can be seen here.
Once you found the patent you wanted, the patent itself was encoded as a special type of TIFF file, which required an add-on for most image viewers to be able to open it. It was not an easy process to download a patent !
Several years ago, Google introduced a Patent Search Tool. This was an improvement because it allowed you to search by number, inventor, or name of invention. It's not perfect, but it's much easier than trying to use the USPTO website. The major problem I've been seeing with the Google Patents tool is that if you search by the patent number, some patents simply do not seem to exist. In cases like this you can try the "Advanced Search" tab where you can enter specific words to search. Again, in some cases even entering the name of the patent or inventor fails to return the desired patent. In this case you need to use the USPTO site.
Recently, the USPTO converted all their early patents from TIFF format to the standard PDF format. All the early patents are there, but they did a sloppy job scanning the originals, as many of them are crooked. However, with the move to PDF, you are now able to search by patent number, issue date, inventor name, classification, etc by using the Advanced Search Page. If you know the patent number, you can quickly find the patent by entering it on this USPTO Patent Number Search Page.
At any rate, if you decide to do some searching for telegraph patents, you will likely find many many interesting telegraph instruments. However, keep in mind that quite a number of these instruments were patented but never actually manufactured, other than a patent model.
So, for many years, I have been collecting patents on actual real-life telegraph instruments. Sometimes an instrument will have the patent date stamped on it. This helps immensely in finding the actual patent. Other times knowing the inventor's name can assist you in finding the patent.
Below I have compiled a list of telegraph related patents. Click on the patent number to see the front page of the patent, which includes the image(s) of the instrument. If you are interested in seeing the full patent, write down the patent number and simply search for it on Google Patent Search or the USPTO Patent Number Search page. Most of the patents you will see below are for instruments that were actually manufactured. However, I did include a few interesting ones that were patented but probably never actually made.
You will find many of the instruments that go along with these patents in my Photo Gallery pages. For convenience, if I do have a photo of the actual instrument to accompany the patent, click the "PHOTO" link at the end of the patent description to see the photo.
4453a, 4453b, 4453c. Samuel Morse's First Telegraph Register. Patented April 11, 1846 by Samuel F.B. Morse, NY. (PHOTO)
6203. Winegar Register. Patented March 20, 1849 by Caleb Winegar, Springport, NY.
6420. Samuel Morse's Improved Telegraph Register. Patented May 1, 1849 by Samuel F.B. Morse, Poughkeepsie, NY. (PHOTO)
32854. Bain Acoustic Telegraph Sounder. Patented July 23, 1861 by Alexander Bain, NY.
42253. Henning Improved Telegraph Register. Allowed the stylus to move laterally to make a 2nd or 3rd embossing line on the paper tape after the tape ran out, creating a more economical usage of the tape. Patented April 5, 1864 by Robert Henning, Ottawa, Illinois (at the Caton Instrument Shops)
65628. Worth Telegraph Register. Patented June 11, 1867 by Lewis Worth, Sonoma, California.
66945. Browning Repeating Sounder. Patented July 23, 1867 by Walter Brownson & Daniel Shull, Wellsville, Ohio.
92284. The "Uncle Sam Sounder". Patented July 6, 1869 by William Davis, Jersey City, NJ. (PHOTO)
96992. Splitdorf Box Sounder. Patented November 16, 1869 by Henry Splitdorf, NY. (This instrument was made by LG Tillotson, NY). (PHOTO)
125806. Goodyear Sounder. Patented April 16, 1872 by Miles Goodyear, Chicago. (PHOTO)
130793. Davis Improved Circuit Closer. Patented August 27, 1872 by Augustus Davis, Baltimore.
131306. Vertical Telegraph Key. Patented September 10, 1872 by Arthur Shearer, Davisville, California.
132815. Rotating Telegraph Key. Patented November 5, 1872 by Almarian Decker, Cleveland, Ohio.
144274. Self-Closing Telegraph Key. Patented November 4, 1873 by William Hochhausen, NY.
144730. Key with Self-Cleaning Contacts. Patented November 18, 1873 by Charles Billings & George Stockly, Cleveland, Ohio.
149539. Castanet Sounder. Patented April 7, 1874 by Henry Splitdorf, NY. (A patent model is known to exist for this instrument). (PHOTO)
159894. Bunnell 1875 Sounder. Patented February 16, 1875 by JH Bunnell, NY. (PHOTO)
165578. Western Electric Pocket Relay. Patented July 13, 1875 by Edward Hill & Hermann Schneider, Chicago. (PHOTO)
8342D (Design Patent). Lewis Key, Adjustable Trunnion Model. Patented May 25, 1875 by Charles Lewis, Chicago for Western Electric. (PHOTO)
177856. Lewis Key, Fixed Trunnion Model. Patented May 23, 1876 by Charles Lewis, Chicago for Western Electric. (PHOTO)
190191. Bunnell 1877 Patent Sounder. Patented May 1, 1877 by JH Bunnell & Miles Goodyear, NY. (PHOTO)
196747. Edison Electric Pen. Patented November 6, 1877 by Thomas Edison, Menlo Park, NJ. Not a telegraph instrument but too cool not to include here, especially since it is an electromagnetic device. (PHOTO1), (PHOTO2)
203369a, 203369b. Phelps Polar Relay. Patented May 7, 1878 by George Phelps, NY. (PHOTO1), (PHOTO2)
228111. Phillips Key. Patented May 25, 1880 by Walter Phillips, Washington DC. (Made by LG Tillotson, NY). (PHOTO)
232007. Delany Key. Patented September 7, 1880 by Patrick Delany, Philadelphia. (Made by Partrick & Carter, Philadelphia). (PHOTO)
237808. Bunnell 1881 Patent Key. Patented February 15, 1881 by JH Bunnell, NY. (PHOTO)
239723. Cain Key. Patented April 5, 1881 by Jacob Cain, Altoona, Pennsylvania. (Made by Altoona Railroad Shops, Altoona, Pennsylvania). (PHOTO)
255932. Bunnell Mechanical Practice Set. Patented April 4, 1882 by JH Bunnell, NY. (PHOTO)
256645. Cumming Periphery Telegraph Key. Patented April 18, 1882 by George Cumming, NY. (Made by LG Tillotson, NY) (PHOTO)
262063. LeGrande Telegraph-Telephone Signaling Instrument. Patented August 1, 1882 by William LeGrande, Louisville, Kentucky. (A patent model is known to exist for this instrument). (PHOTO1), (PHOTO2)
267833. Bunnell 1882 Patent Sounder. Patented November 21, 1882 by JH Bunnell, NY. Patent was for the unique base. (PHOTO1), (PHOTO2)
269321. Prosch Key. Patented December 19, 1882 by Cyrus Prosch, NY. (Made by The Electrical Supply Company, Ansonia, Connecticut). (PHOTO)
269521. Victor Key, 1st Model. Patented December 26, 1882 by Emery Hamilton, NY. (PHOTO)
270767. Edwards Key. Patented January 16, 1883 by Edgar Edwards, Cincinnati Ohio. (PHOTO)
273264. Davis Vertical Sounder. Patented March 6, 1883 by William Davis, Jersey City NJ. (PHOTO)
275433. Stevens Rear Contact Key. Patented April 10, 1883 by Edgar Stevens, Cleveland Ohio. (PHOTO)
288881. Bunnell 1883 Patent Sounder. Patented November 20, 1883 by Walter Smith, Philadelphia PA. (PHOTO)
291236. Smith Quadruplex Telegraph. Patented January 1, 1884 by Gerritt Smith, Astoria, NY.
293979. Plumb Key. Patented February 19, 1884 by Charles Plumb, Buffalo, NY. Uses two rotatable disks for the upper and lower contacts, much like the Cumming Periphery Contact Key.
294259. Neifing Circuit Closer. Patented February 26, 1884 by Julius Neifing, Dyer, Indiana.
297540. Smith Duplex Telegraph. Patented April 22, 1884 by Gerritt Smith, Astoria, NY.
297819. Steel Lever Lewis Key. Patented April 29, 1884 by Charles Lewis, Chicago. (Made by Western Electric Co. Chicago). (PHOTO)
303956. Automatic Circuit Closer. Patented August 19, 1884 by Amos Stoneburner & Jacob Kasper, Dyer, Indiana.
315763a, 315763b. Gilliland Drum Sounder. Patented April 14, 1885 by James Gilliland, Indianapolis, Indiana. (PHOTO)
336653a, 336653b. Maloney-Johnson Rotating Lever Key. Patented February 23, 1886 by James Maloney & Andrew Johnson, Washington DC. This patent was referenced in the design of the Lytle Triplex Bug, which also features a rotating lever.
340134. Automatic Circuit Closer. Patented April 20, 1886 by Robert MacReady, NY.
351485. Biggs Rear Contact Key. Patented October 26, 1886 by John Biggs, Louisville, KY. (PHOTO)
351834. Jenkins Key. Patented November 2, 1886 by Marion Jenkins, Browning, Missouri. (Made by JH Bunnell, NY). (PHOTO)
354814a. Steiner Key. Patented December 21, 1886 by Josef Steiner, Brooklyn, NY. (Made by Western Electric Co.) (PHOTO)
354814b. Steiner Sounder. Patented December 21, 1886 by Josef Steiner, Brooklyn, NY. (Made by Western Electric Co.)
357789. Rutherford Secret Sounder. Patented February 15, 1887 by Reuben Rutherford, Quincy, Illinois.
366400a, 366400b. Keating Key for Open Circuit Telegraph Systems. Patented July 12, 1887 by Alfonso Keating, Corry, Pennsylvania.
377862. Combined Telegraph Key & Sounder. Patented February 14, 1888 by Bartholomew Oehmen, NY. (Made by New Haven Clock Company). (PHOTO)
379060. Victor Pony Relay. Patented March 6, 1888 by Emery Hamilton, NY. (Made by ES Greeley & Co, NY) (PHOTO)
379063. Victor Key, 2nd Model. Patented March 6, 1888 by Emery Hamilton, NY. (Made by LG Tillotson & ES Greeley, NY) (PHOTO)
418443. Bunnell Mechanical Practice Set. Patented December 31, 1889 by JH Bunnell, NY. (PHOTO)
509964. Steiner Rod Lever Key. Patented December 5, 1893 by Josef Steiner, Brooklyn, NY. (Made by Western Electric Co.). (PHOTO)
538816. Bunnell 1895 Patent Main Line Sounder. Patented May 5, 1895 by JH Bunnell, NY. (PHOTO)
629645. Baynard Secret Sounder. Patented July 25, 1899 by James Baynard, NY.
650172. Dittmar Sounder Patent. Patented May 22, 1900 by Allen Dittmar, Jersey City, NJ for Manhattan Electrical Supply Co (MESCO). Metal baseplate suspended at the corners and open in between to allow for better sound projection. (PHOTO)
650836. Hatmaker Sounder. Patented June 5, 1900 by Francis Hatmaker, Pittston, Pennsylavania. (PHOTO)
654834. Landgraf Secret Sounder. Patented July 31, 1900 by George Landgraf, Waterloo, Wisconsin.
668257. Foote-Pierson Adjustable Armature Sounder. Patented February 19, 1901 by George Foote, Brooklyn, NY. (PHOTO)
678395. Ghegan Main Line Sounder. Patented July 16, 1901 by John Ghegan, Newark, NJ. (PHOTO)
680695. Audible Alphabet Morse Code Practice Set. Patented August 20, 1901 by Charles Comins, Quincy, Mass. (PHOTO1), (PHOTO2)
682433a, 682433b. Skirrow Resonator Box. Patented September 10, 1901 by John Skirrow, E. Orange, NJ (PHOTO)
685301. 20th Century "Pump Handle" Key. Patented October 29, 1901 by Charles Shirley, Brooklyn NY & John Skirrow, E. Orange, NJ. (PHOTO1), (PHOTO2)
689426. Portable Telegraph Key. Patented December 24, 1901 by Charles Shirley, Brooklyn NY & John Skirrow, E. Orange, NJ. Basically a different patent for the Pump Handle Key.
717966. Telegraph Transmitter. Patented January 6, 1903 by Charles Bourk, Lima, Ohio. (PHOTO)
732648a, 732648b, 732648c. The Martin Autoplex. Patented June 30, 1903 by Horace Martin, Brooklyn NY & Walter Phillips, Bridgeport, Conn. (PHOTO)
734452. Telegraph Relay. Patented July 21, 1903 by John Barclay, NY. Also known as a "Gooseneck" Relay. (PHOTO)
734453. Barclay Box Sounder. Patented July 21, 1903 by John Barclay, NY. (PHOTO)
736936. The Omnigraph Code Practice Machine. Patented August 25, 1903 by Charles Chinnock, Brooklyn, NY. (PHOTO)
744575. Miniature KOB Set. Patented November 17, 1903 by Benjamin Levi, NY. (PHOTO)
750289. Leech Resonator Box. Patented January 26, 1904 by James Leech, Staunton, Virginia.
760029. Skirrow Sounder. Patented May 17, 1904 by John Skirrow, E. Orange, NJ. (PHOTO)
764027. Beeko Sounder. Patented July 5, 1904 by Gustave Zundel, NY (PHOTO1), (PHOTO2)
767303. Improved Martin Autoplex. Patented August 9, 1904 by Horace Martin, Brooklyn, NY.
770549. Beeko Key. Patented September 20, 1904 by Gustave Zundel, NY (PHOTO)
776160. Wood Sideswiper. Patented November 29, 1904 by Roye Wood, Chicago, Illinois.
805735. Lefley Rear Contact Key. Patented November 28, 1905 by Samuel Lefley, Florinel, Pennsylvania. (PHOTO)
812183a, 812183b. Coffe Vertical Mecograph Bug. Patented February 13, 1906 by William Coffe, Cleveland Ohio. (PHOTO)
815809. Bunnell Sideswiper. Patented March 20, 1906 by John Ghegan, Newark, NY. Note the similarity to patent 776160 (Wood Sideswiper). (PHOTO)
842154. The Vibroplex (Original). Patented January 22, 1907 by Horace Martin, NY. (PHOTO)
855085a, 855085b. Mecograph Model 4. Patented May 28, 1907 by Benjamin Bellows, Cleveland, Ohio (PHOTO)
868624. Zelenka Wrist Telegraph. Patented October 15, 1907 by Jerome Zelenka, Chicago, Illinois.
874602. Left Handed Mecograph. Patented December 24, 1907 by John Kinney, Pocatello, Idaho. An attachment to convert a Mecograph Model 3 into a left-handed bug.
886755a, 886755b. Mecograph Combination Model. Patented May 5, 1908 by Benjamin Bellows & Ambrose Behner, Cleveland Ohio. (PHOTO)
893115a, 893115b. The Vailograph. Patented July 14, 1908 by Frank Vail, Minneapolis, Minnesota. An attachment to convert a straight key into a combination straight key & bug. (PHOTO1), (PHOTO2)
909198. Sound Amplifier Horn for Telegraph Relays. Patented January 12, 1909 by Alfred Meyer, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
918294. Delany Autodot Bug. Patented April 13, 1909 by Patrick Delany, S. Orange, NJ. (PHOTO)
920034. The Dinger Bug. Patented April 27, 1909 by Paul Dinger, Cleveland, Ohio. This appears to be an early version that was not manufactured. (See patent 1189546 for the manufactured version).
923033. Dunduplex Bug. Patented May 25, 1909 by Thomas Dunn, Jersey City, NJ. (PHOTO)
933726. The Conkling Bug. Patented September 7, 1909 by De Witt Conkling & Frank Smith, NY. (PHOTO)
939383a, 939383b. Mecograph Model 5. Patented November 9, 1909 by Benjamin Bellows, Cleveland, Ohio.
939507a, 939507b. Hulit Transmitter. Patented November 9, 1909 by John Hulit, Topeka, Kansas. (Made by the Hulit Transmitter Company). (PHOTO)
947224. Delany Autodot Bug. Patented January 25, 1910 by Patrick Delany, S. Orange, NJ.
954298a, 954298b. Propst-Jackson Transmitter. Patented April 5, 1910 by William Jackson, Gastonia, North Carolina. (PHOTO)
1042457. Vibroplex "457" Patent Bug. Patented October 29, 1912 by Horace Martin, E. Rutherford, NJ. (PHOTO)
1043449. Model X Vibroplex Bug. Patented November 5, 1912 by Horace Martin, E. Rutherford, NJ. (PHOTO)
1066410. Sound Amplifier Horn for Telegraph Relays. Patented July 1, 1913 by Ransom Grout, Davenport, Iowa. (PHOTO1), (PHOTO2)
1071267. Shawplex Bug. Patented August 26, 1913 by William Shaw, Sheridan, Wyoming. (PHOTO)
1140151. Bunnell Gold Bug-1st Model. Patented May 10, 1915 by John Ghegan, Newark, NJ. (PHOTO)
1163201. Banholzer Telephone Key. Patented December 7, 1915 by Paul Banholzer, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A mechanical key designed to make an audible clicking sound that can be heard over the telephone. (PHOTO)
1168696a, 1168696b. Abernathy Bug. Patented January 18, 1916 by John Abernathy, Danville, Va (PHOTO)
1178291a, 1178291b, 1178291c. Boulter Bug. Patented April 4, 1916 by Royal Boulter, Los Angeles, California. (PHOTO)
1189546. The Dinger Bug. Patented July 4, 1916 by Paul Dinger, Cleveland Ohio. (PHOTO)
1260008. The Vibroplex Upright. Patented March 19, 1918 by Horace Martin, E. Rutherford, NJ. (PHOTO)
1319773a, 1319773b. Irvin-Curtis Secret Sounder. Patented October 28, 1919 by Ralph Irvin & Albion Curtis, Granby, Colorado.
1338497. National Upright Bug--Dunn Patent. Patented April 27, 1910 by Thomas Dunn, Jersey City, NJ. (PHOTO)
1348249. Insulated Key Knob. Patented August 3, 1920 by Louis Steinberger, Brooklyn New York.
1406428. Teegarden Secret Sounder. Patented February 14, 1922 by Chester Teegarden, Washington DC.
1445226. Vibroplex Improved Lever Pivot. Patented August 3, 1920 by Horace Martin, Brooklyn, NY. (PHOTO)
1483669a, 1483669b. The Lytle Triplex Bug. Patented February 12, 1924 by Walter Lytle, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Made by the Precision Thermometer Company, Philadelphia). (PHOTO)
1531543. JJ Cooper Secret Sounder. Patented March 21, 1925 by James Cooper, Atlanta, Georgia.
1543609. Ultimate "73" Bug-Amateur Model. Patented June 23, 1925 by Louis McIntosh, Los Angeles (PHOTO), (PHOTO)
1557155. Bunnell Gold Bug, 2nd Model. Patented October 13, 1925 by John Ghegan, Newark, NY. (PHOTO)
1960236. Go-Devil Bug. Patented May 29, 1934 by Alfred Emery, Poughkeepsie, NY. (PHOTO)
2147812. Bancroft Secret Sounder. Patented February 21, 1939 by Erwin Bancroft, Brooklyn, NY for Postal Telegraph Company.
2228469. Martin Rotoplex Bug. Patented January 14, 1941 by Horace Martin, Brooklyn, NY. (PHOTO)
2302290. Breedlove Electronic Keyer Circuit. Patented November 17, 1942 by Bernard Breedlove, Boston, Massachusetts. Sold under the name Codetrol. (PHOTO1), (PHOTO2)
2325631. Pinelli J-36 Bug. Patented August 3, 1943 by John Pinelli, US Navy. (PHOTO)
2329531. Melehan Valiant Bug. Patented September 14, 1943 by Melvin Hanson, Huntington Beach, California. (PHOTO)
2425457. Breedlove Electromagnetic Bug. Patented August 12, 1947 by Bernard Breedlove, Boston, Massachusetts.
2481091. Dow Universal Rotary Bug. Patented September 6, 1949 by Lawrence Dow, Washington DC. (PHOTO)
2526001a, 2526001b. Codetrol Bug. Patented October 17, 1950 by Bernard Breedlove, Boston, Massachusetts. (PHOTO)
3098898. Autronic Keyer Paddle. Patented July 23, 1963 by JJ Jakosky. (PHOTO)
3166638. W8FYO Iambic Keyer Paddle. Patented January 19, 1965 by Joseph Hills, Dayton, Ohio. (PHOTO)
203995D1, 203995D2. (Design Patent). Brown Brothers Key & Paddle Combo Set. Patented March 8, 1966 by William Brown, St. Louis Missouri. (PHOTO)
3757045. Brown Brothers Keyer Paddle. Patented September 4, 1973 by William Brown, St. Louis Missouri. (PHOTO)
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