British Spark Keys


(Click on the pictures below to see larger versions of the photo)


Marconi's first telegraph key, nicknamed the "Grasshopper Key". Very rare, only 2 or 3 genuine examples known. However, some very nice reproductions are available to collectors.





This is probably Marconi's most famous telegraph key, nicknamed the "Guillotine Key" because of the side lever, which is used to short out the receiver to protect it during transmit. This is the same type of key that was used in the shipboard wireless station on the Titanic. Also note the engraved label, which is typical of those used on early Marconi Wireless instrument.




A later version of the Marconi Guillotine Key, used on Australian landline systems (Museum Victoria, Melbourne).




Another early wood-based British Marconi Wireless key. This type of key does not have a side switch but has larger contacts to carry higher current. Note the auxiliary contact switch at the rear of the key.



An early Marconi Wireless key that came from Australia. Note the burn marks around the front contact indicating heavy use at high currents.




An unusual early Marconi key with leaf spring pivot. (Gil Schlehman K9WDY Collection)





Another unusual Marconi Wireless key mounted on a wooden box. Note the adjustable, replaceable upper contact.



A different version Marconi box-mounted key with smaller contacts.




An early Marconi Wireless key for lower currents. Mounted on a hollow wooden base which usually contained a large filter capacitor.




Marconi Wireless Type 100.




A round based Marconi key mounted on a small wooden box. Inside the box is a buzzer, which is inductively coupled to the 4 connection terminals. There is also a space for a battery. It is believed that this set was used to provide a spark signal (from the buzzer) to align the receiver detector. (




A British Type H spark era key by Radio Communications Co Ltd, London. This company was founded after WW1 by Basil Binyon. His company produced equipment and trained wireless operators for the Merchant Navy and British Navy. His company later merged with Marconi Wireless in the late 1920's.




Siemens Model SB-43. Similar design to the Marconi Type 100




A later version of the Marconi Type 100 on bakelite base and metal cover.




Marconi Wireless Hand Key Type WT 10 Amp No. 2. This key was part of the Marconi Wireless 120 Watt telegraph set, circa 1918. The key has a set of auxilliary contacts near the front of the key. (M6BRN collection)




An airplane wireless key by S.G. Brown. Produced a spark between the contacts at the top rear of the key, which could be seen by the pilot through the small mica window on the top of the metal cover.




A large wireless key by S.G. Brown with a crystal detector at the rear of the key.





An unusual telegraph key, part of a British 20 Watt spark transmitter set. Note that the key is actually double sided and can be operated with the mounting panel open or closed.



Another British airplane wireless key with gasket around the lever to seal it from gas fumes.