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The pictures above is of a Signal Electric MFG. CO. Model R-62 straight key. This key style is also referred to as the "Standard Wireless Key". The model R-62 indicates 3/16 of an inch contacts, the model R-63 has 1/4 inch contacts while the model R-64 has 3/8 inch contacts. Model numbers for the keys were only found on the original box that the key came in and was not stamped on the key. The key was manufactured in Menominee, Michigan beginning in the 1920's. The earliest examples were designed for keying high current primaries of spark transmitters. They can be identified by their 1/4 or larger contacts and Mica insulation under the base.

This key has an all brass construction with lacquer finish. The base measures 2 1/8 wide by 3 5/8 inches long. The Signal Electric MFG. CO. key's can be identified by the manufacturer stamping at the rear of the key base between the two connection terminals. This style of straight key was extremely popular and was produced for many years by several different manufacturers. An incredible number of keys with this design were produced from the 1920's to the present day. Signal Electric continued to manufacturer their spark key for radio use which will have smaller contacts, no mica, and many different bases. These bases will include the original brass design, chrome, chrome-edge black, and a black wrinkle finish. Today companies such as the WM.M.NYE CO.(Nye-Viking) produce and sell a very similar key such as their model 320-001.

  

Signal Electric MFG. CO. literature descriptions of this key:

1920's = The Fundamentals of Telegraphy for Beginners published by the Signal Electric MFG. CO. in the 1920's describes the key as: "Brass base, heavily insulated, 3 contact sizes of coin silver, sturdy construction". The cost of the different contact sizes were 3/16($3.50), 1/4($3.70) or 3/8($3.90).

1941 = A Signal Electric Mfg. Co. 1941 brochure describes the key as follows:"This standard wireless key is designed to carry heavy currents. All brass construction with lacquer finish. Furnished with 3/16($3.50), 1/4($3.60) or 3/8($3.85) inch coin silver contacts. Navy type key knob."

1950's = The Fundamentals of Telegraphy for Beginners published by the Signal Electric MFG. CO. in the 1950's describes the key as: "This model represents the very finest in key design. Built to the most exacting engineering specifications. The rugged and sturdy all brass construction of this key has made it a particularly popular model with shipboard operators. Fine balance and accurate adjustments. For the operator who wants the very best. Comes equipped with navy type plastic knob. Furnished with 3/16($4.50), 1/4($4.60) or 3/8($4.85) inch finest coin silver contacts".

  

Signal Electric MFG. Company:

The Signal Electric MFG. CO.  began in the 1892 in Menominee, Michigan as the Menominee Electric Co. At that time the company built and sold Crank telephone generators, telephones and switch boards. In 1904 the original plant was destroyed by fire and operations are temporarily moved to Marinette, Wisconsin. Once the plant was reopened he product line was expanded to include Telegraph Instruments and Wireless Radio devices. In 1919 Menominee Electric Co. is reorganized and renamed the Signal Electric Manufacturing Co. and also expanded their product line at this time. In 1952 King-Seeley Thermos Co. purchases the Signal Electric Manufacturing Co. On June 1st, 1964 King-Seeley Thermos announces that it will close the Signal Electric Division in Menominee, Michigan. Oct. 30th, 1964 The Vernco Corporation of Tennessee agrees to purchase the Signal Electric Division from the King-Seeley Thermos Co. In December 1977 Emerson Electric company purchases the Vernco Corporation of Tennessee. On September 9 2004 Emerson announced the closing of the Menominee facility by the end of 2005 and will move production to Mexico.  

The picture on the left is a close up of the 3/16 of an inch contact found on this Signal Electric MFG. CO. Model R-62 straight key. The model R-62 indicates 3/16 of an inch contacts, the model R-63 has 1/4 inch contacts while the model R-64 has 3/8 inch contacts. Model numbers for the keys was only on the original box that the key came in and was not stamped on the key.

The picture on the right shows how to identify a Signal Electric key. The Signal Electric MFG. CO. key's can be identified by the manufacturer stamping at the rear of the key base between the two connection terminals. This style of straight key was extremely popular and was produced for many years by several different manufacturers. Even today companies such as Nye Viking produce and sell a very similar key such as their model 320-001.

  

  

The picture on the left is of the bottom of the key. Notice the Mica material between the two screws and underneath the insulated wire. Along with the contact insulation, this is what Signal Electric Company refers to as "heavily insulated". These keys, especially the ones with the larger contacts, were built to withstand high current situations. The earliest examples were designed for keying high current primaries of spark transmitters. They can be identified by their 1/4  or larger contacts and Mica insulation under the base.

The picture on the right is showing the key mounted to a junk piece of wood that I found in the garage. Basically, I needed one more picture to round out this page. Plus I thought it only right to show the key with the correct Navy style knob attached to it. The “Navy type” knob is fitted with a skirt for both comfort and safety. Back in the days when spark gap ruled the airwaves keys were often connected in the transformer’s PRIMARY section. Some keys could handle as much or more current and voltage then used today in modern arc-welders. Stated another way, it could key the arc-welder. 

  

References:

Signal Electric Mfg. Co. 1941 Brochure

Tom Perera's(W1TP): Telegraph Collectors Guidebook

Tom Perera's(W1TP): Telegraph Collectors CD-ROM

WM.M.NYE CO. website: http://www.nyeviking.com/index.htm

The Fundamentals of Telegraphy for Beginners published by the Signal Electric MFG. CO.  

Menominee Plant History from the Menominee County Historical Society records

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