Morse Telegraph Register

Grade Range: K-12
Resource Type(s): Artifacts, Primary Sources
Date Posted: 11/4/2008

This telegraph register, manufactured in accord with the Morse patent, was installed in 1848 in South Bend, reputedly the first telegraph office in Indiana. Stamped on the base is "j. Burritt & son ithaca." Pulses of electricity caused the two vertical electromagnets (on the right) to pull against an iron bar attached to the horizontal brass lever arm. The other end of the arm then pressed a metal stylus against a strip of paper tape (not shown) which was pulled through a pair of rollers by the clockwork mechanism. This caused short and long marks (dots and dashes) to be embossed on the paper. Morse specified this embossing process because he found that pens tended to get clogged when he tried to use ink. The apparatus also made a clicking noise, and operators soon found that they could "read" messages by ear, making the tape unnecessary. By the 1850s, "sounders" began to replace registers. These simple, rugged instruments were ideally suited to the American situation, where many offices were in isolated locations without easy access to repair facilties.

Use this Investigation Sheet to guide students through describing the object and analyzing its meaning.