Western Electric Telegraph Keys

This is known as a Lewis key, which was the name of its inventor, Charles W. Lewis.  It is marked W. E. M'F'G. Co. Chicago" and it shows two patent dates (May 25, 1875 and May 23, 1976).  There does not seem to be an applicable patent for the earlier date, but the latter date corresponds to patent number 177,856.  So, this key was made sometime after this patent date, and no later than 1881, when the company name was changed to the Western Electric Company. 

Sadly, the key shown here is in rather poor condition.  The ivory colored knob is probably not original, and one of the trunion adjusting screws has been broken off and lost with it's corresponding lock nut.  When I got it, the key was mounted on a piece of clear Lucite plastic, with modern wires attached.  Someone, probably a ham radio operator, had actually been using this key something close to a century after it was made.

This "leg key" was made with long mounting studs which allowed mounting on a table top.  The connections were made through these studs.  This key is unusual in that the lever was composed of two parallel metal rods which allowed the contact position to be adjusted.  The inventor, Josef Steiner, was awarded a U.S. patent on December 5, 1893 (No. 509,964) for this design.  The key shown here is marked "Western Electric Co." and "Pat. Appl'd For".  Since the application date for this patent was May 8, 1893, it is probable that the key was made between these two dates in 1893.