Electro Importing Company Glass Base Telegraph Key

This model ABE1117 key was made by and sold by the Electro Importing Company, of New York, circa 1915.  It cost $1.25 at the time.

This company was one of the pioneering distributors of wireless, radio, and electrical apparatus, and was founded in 1904 by author and publisher Hugo Gernsback.

The key, though cheaply made and of a standard steel-lever design, is unique for one reason.  The base is made of glass.

It was an interesting choice of material.  It offered superior insulating characteristics, and was extremely heat resistant, an issue when used for keying spark transmitters.  It was fragile, however, and consequently these keys are very rare today.

Two versions were made.  The one shown here was primarily sold for telegraph use, though they were sold with some of their lower powered wireless transmitting outfits as early as 1912.  The contacts were appropriate only for low power applications.

The other version, the model BX9212, cost $2.00, and had 3/8 inch diameter coin silver contacts and heavier binding posts for use with higher powered spark transmitters. 

These keys were sold with either black or white glass bases.

The company logo was embossed into the glass base, as well as being engraved into the steel operating lever.
This image was scanned from a 1918 E.I. Co. catalog.