Brass dating methods
Simple to operate and virtually incapable of making errors, the Hand Key is the basic tool for the radio telegrapher.The J-6 was used by the Signal Corps for the small airborne spark transmitters that were in use at the end of WWI up into the early 1920s.The name was changed to Signal Electric Manufacturing Company and they remained in business until the 1960s when they were purchased by a Thermos company. These were available with different size contacts depending on the intended service.
This particular style of hand key was also built and sold by other manufacturers, like the Standard Co. This key doesn't have the Navy-style finger rest and has smaller 5/16" contacts. Most of these types of keys are brass construction with a gold lacquer "wash" applied.
There were various owners after Jesse Bunnell's death but the company did continue on with other owners.
Bunnell was sold to INSO Electronic Products in 1960 and then to it's current owners, MNJ Industries, in 1989.
Originally the SE68A was a "leg-key," that is, it had long threaded rods on the bottom of the key base that allowed direct mounting to a table with connections made to the rods from under the table.
Unfortunately, someone in the past has cut off the "legs" on this key.
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Both keys shown are mounted on their original bakelite bases which have the "L" embossed on the bottom to signify "Lionel." The J-38 and J-47 are known for their excellent action and feel. Signal Electric had been making telegraph keys along with other electrical items since the turn of the century.