Out of the Museum

Who knew that everyone would know?

-A +A


Where: Beermann Plaza at 640 5th St.

When: Open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays

Free: Donations always accepted



We hit a key with last week’s mystery item. Readers immediately knew the answer to what the item was and its history.


Hopefully, this week will be the same. We’ve included two versions of this week’s mystery item. If you know what this week’s item was called and used for, please send answers to by Tuesday.


Last week’s mystery item


Don and Diana O’Bella said the item is a telegraph key and that “Amateur radio people also call it a ‘straight key’ and use it for CW (Continuous Wave).”


Gregory Matthews: “A telegraph key and/or a Morse Code key used by a ham radio operator.”


Carla LaFave: “I am pretty sure that it is a vintage telegraph key.  My dad had one of those (straight key style) American telegraph keys.  He used it during World War II to transmit messages from our shed in Roseville for the U.S. military.  The shed was in our backyard and had black-out curtains.  Dad needed to use a rapid pumping action to send out messages using Morse code.  His brother, Dr. Carl Sepponen, was serving as a veterinarian for the U.S. Army in Burma at the time, taking care of the large animals.  Uncle Carl eventually became a veterinarian here in Lincoln.”

 Ronald Weinreich: “I believe this is a telegraph key. It sends messages via Morse code. Used by Western Union.”

Jim Kerbey: “The item in the July 26th Lincoln News Messenger is a transmission clacker for sending Morse code messages over telegraph lines . . . dit dit dit da da da dit dit dit  (SOS). I think the formal name of it was a Morse Telegraph Key.”

Dona Jones: “My contractor friend, Jack White, was visiting when I asked him if he knew what the weekly item was and he said it looked like a telegraph unit for sending messages with Morse code.”

Susan Worthington: “Well, I was born in 1947 but we taught our history of not so far off means of, at the time, high tech communication... the telegraph! Morse code could be tapped out on emergency called SOS!”

John Shutz: “It has to be a telegraph device for sending Morse code messages over electric wires. It was perfected by Samuel Morse in 1844. I still remember as a kid playing with a telegraph. The first and only message I learned was SOS, which was three dots, three dashes and three dots.”

Reese Faucette: “OK, I know everyone has already IDed this one a thousand times but my wife says I should still write in:  it’s a telegraph key.” It sounds like Reese is a really good husband, taking his wife’s advice!

Debbie McMannis, Victoria Fritz, Larry Lynn, Ken Dzor and Pauline Kimball also knew it was a Morse code key to send messages over wire.

Logan Wilson: “This is a telegraph key(pad) used to send telegraph messages. My grandfather, S.P. Linn (named after a southern General Sterling Price) was a train depot agent for over 50 years at Bronaugh, Missouri. As a kid visiting my grandparents (late ’40s or early ’50s), I would walk down from their home to the depot and there grandpa would be telegraphing messages. Probably he was telling or signaling the next depot or station what train was coming or results of his inspection, etc. Grandpa wasn't a big man but I was amazed to see him jump up into a train car to inspect the cargo. Across from the depot was a fairly large railroad pond made by the Missouri Pacific Railroad to fill the engine's water tanks. I used to catch fish in the pond and had to carefully dodge water snakes that loved fishing too. Ah, the memories! The sad thing (to me) is the depot, the pond and the railroad tracks are no longer there.”

Charley Kendall: “I think many will recognize this as a telegraph key pad. We had one in my mom's attic.”

Barry Johnson: “The mystery item is a key pad used to send Morse code. I believe I have one, in much better condition, in my attic. I'll see if I can find it and give it to the (Lincoln Area Archives) Museum.”

The docents just loved Barry’s answer.

And saving perhaps the best, and most diplomatic answer, for last was from Dennis Gilman. He was referencing the recent battle of the sexes from the previous two Out of the Museum articles.

“Hopefully another one for the men, although we will never exceed the women's talents!

This week is a Morse Code switch originally invented by Samuel Morse in the 1800s,” Dennis said. “Rarely used today but still popular among amateur radio enthusiasts.”


And the Lincoln Area Archives Museum docents explanation

Throughout the centuries, we’ve wanted to communicate long distance.

English partners Sir William  Fothergill Cooke and Sir Charles Wheatstone in 1837 received a patent for “sending electrical signals and sounding alarms in distant places,”  according to museum docents. Ninety years prior, in 1747, William Watson in England showed others how to send messages along a wire.

In the United States, inventors including Samuel Morse (1791 to 1872), Leonard Gale (1800 to 1883) and Alfred Vail (1807 to 1889), worked on transmitting  messages long distances.

Morse took out a U.S. patient on the telegraph in 1937. On May 24, 1844, Morse sent an electromagnetic telegram to his assistant in Baltimore and it was returned to Morse in Washington, D. C. 

Visit the Lincoln Area Archives Museum Tuesdays through Saturdays to learn about earlier times. The museum is downtown at 640 5th St.

­- Carol Feineman