03 October 2011

Grandpa's code key

While the FCC has dropped the code requirements to earn licenses, There is still a family historical interest driving me to learn.  You see my Grandfather was in the Signal Corps in WWI and this was his telegraph key:
I think he would be happy to see his key in action again by his offspring.

We don't know much about it, though it's probably at least 100 years old.   There is am 1899 date cast into the receiver(?) frame.  If anyone knows more about it, please answer in the comments (Bobbi?, anyone) or via direct email sandcastlescrolls at msn dot com.


Wilson said...

Cool! It's great that you still have a piece of family history like that.

Roberta X said...

The key looks like a Signal Electric or possibly a Bunnell. The standard U.S. "Triumph"-pattern key (named after the Bunnell model that defined the form) is very standard indeed. It's probably not a Western Electric -- they usually had a straight-sided knob on the circuit closer. There may be a stamping or rollmark on the lever itself, between the pivots.

The sounder looks like WU or WeCo but I'm far from expert about them.

It's a lovely keepsake.

Tom Perera or Russ Kleinman or one of the other big key collectors (I have links to some at Retrotechnologist) will have info about stabilizing and preserving the key and sounder (NOT a good idea to take polish to them, they were lacquered) and can be of more help figuring out manufacturer and age.

If your Grandfather habitually flipped the circuit closer shut, I will not be surprised; landline telegraphy used a type of battery that would depolarize unless a constant current was drawn -- and all the stations on a line were in series! So you closed the circuit at the end of traffic. When someone else came on ("opened up," you see), everyone along the line would hear their sounders release: -click!- And they'd start to pay attention. A good telegrapher could "copy behind," and finish his conversation or coffee before he started writing/typing the incoming message.