This key, believed to be from the first American telegraph line, was built by Alfred Vail as an improvement on Samuel Morse’s original transmitter.
On October 24, 1861, the first transcontinental telegraph system was completed, making it possible to transmit messages rapidly (by mid-19th-century standards) from coast to coast.
This technological advance, pioneered by inventor Samuel F.B. Morse, brought an end to the Pony Express, the horseback mail service which had previously provided the fastest communication between the East and the West.
In February 1753, a mysterious letter appeared in the Scots' Magazine describing a simple method of transmitting messages using electricity "An Expeditious Methods of Conveying Intelligence." At least 60 experimental electric telegraphs are known to have been made in the following 100 years.
Samuel Morse "caught the telegraph bug" in 1832 on board of the ship Sully crossing the Atlantic. He teamed up with the professor in chemistry Leonard Gale and received help from physicist Joseph Henry.