The Telegraph Office

"An Öller key made by

LINDHOLM and WIKSTROM of Stockholm, Sweden"

DRAFT

by Neal McEwen, K5RW

k5rw@telegraph-office.com

Copyright © 2001 Neal McEwen

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The key pictured to the right is a fitting tribute to Swedish engineering and craftsmanship.  Lindholm and Wikstrom of Stockholm, Sweden made this particular key approximately 1890 to 1905.  The design, dating from the mid-19th century is rather unique.  It is unlike any American or European made telegraph keys of the of the same period.  (Click on any of the images for a full size image.)

A large key by American standards, the base measures 4 3/4 "by 3 3/8" by 1" thick.  The lever is 6 7/8" long -- longer than most American camelback keys.  The base is constructed from three pieces of  wood laminated together.  Notice that there are kerfs cut into the base at each binding post.  This is to allow the connecting wires to be dressed neatly to the table.

The most unusual aspect of the key is the placement of the contacts.  Notice that the contacts are at the rear of the key, away from the operator, on a steel tongue attached to the end of the lever.  As with all 'open circuit' keys typical of European telegraphy technology, there are two sets contacts. What appear to be contacts in the front, by the operators hand, are not contacts at all; they are 'stops' to limit the downward travel of the lever.  Both the upper and lower stop are at the same potential as the frame of the key.  When the lever is depressed, the tongue contact mates with the fixed upper contact.  The Öller design gives the operator a softer feel than conventional designs when pressing the lever.

This type of key was designed by Anton Henric Öller in 1857.  Öller built the first telegraph line in Sweden using equipment from France and Germany.  He set up his own shop in Sweden to build telegraph instruments.  Öller and watchmaker N. P. Lundström were issued Swedish patent No. 54 for his design.  He manufactured the design from 1859 until 1886.

Two of Öller's machinists, J. A. Lindholm and John A. Wikstrom, broke away and set up their own shops in 1878.  When Öller died in 1889, they bought his tooling and inventory and made telegraph instruments until 1905.

The keys shown has "LINDHOLM & WIKSTROM" stamped into the base.  Others have a small metal tag fixed to the front edge of the base.  This key is the smaller of two models.  A second model had a longer base to accommodate additional binding posts and pins needed for switching between sets of batteries.

Another Öller employee, Lars Magnus Ericsson, started as a trainee around 1870.  He went to France and Germany in 1872 on a government scholarship to learn telegraph instrument manufacturing technology.  Ericsson formed his own company in 1876 to repair telegraph instruments.  He later went into the manufacture of telephone and telegraph equipment and is still in business today.  The dimensions of Ericsson made Öller keys and Lindholm and Wikstrom Öller keys are identical. Ericsson made the Öller designed key until at least the late 1930s and probably beyond.

Anton Öller probably never guessed his design would be used for such a long time period.  The basic design has been manufactured by various companies for 120 plus years.  The design was popular in Scandinavia, copied not only by Lindholm and Wikstrom and Ericsson, but by Great Northern Telegraph of Denmark and Ihili of Norway.  Only the American Bunnell "Triumph" design used for 100 plus years rivals the Öller design in terms of longevity.

The Öller design is also present in a Swedish Navy key made before and during W.W.II.  The Navy key has two sets of contacts on parallel tongues.  The first tongue mates shortly before the second and is used to key the oscillator circuit of a radiotelegraph transmitter, letting it stabilize before the second tongue keys the remainder of the transmitter.

The Swedish Army used an Öller design with a modification of the fulcrum; the lever was mated to the base with a flexible spring steel piece.  A single set of contacts was used for radiotelegraph use.  The Army key was made by several contractors and later was copied and marketed by Lennart Pettersson & Co. of Hoverberg, Sweden to amateur radio operators worldwide to this day.

Marconi of England had a similarly designed key for wireless use, the model PS-213A, after 1950.   The Öller design was also used by the British Post Office shops in, Rugby for keys used at  Portishead Radio, GKB, and other coastal stations.

The Great Northern Telegraph works of Copenhagen manufactured 53 Öller based keys,  serial number 141707 to 141759, in December of 1969.  Amplidan, made the Type 5013/C key with a heavy current strap for radiotelegraph use; it is based on a variation of the Öller key by MP Pedersen of Denmark.

A special thanks and tip of the hat to Jan Moller, K6FM for providing information on Öller, L&W and Ericsson.



Bibliography

Ericsson, L. M. Home page. http://www.ericsson.com/annual_report/1997/eng/inbrief/history.html:  History of Ericsson.

Eriksson, Gunnar. "A Short History of the Öller and Ericsson Keys," Morsum Manificat, No. 75, May/June 2001.

Davies, Wyn. Email to Neal McEwen, 22 November 2000.  GPO shops and Portishead Radio key.

Jones, Ken. "Key Type P.S.213A," Letters, Morsum Manificat, No. 62

Moller, Jan. Email to Neal McEwen, 20 June 2001.  Öller, Lindholm and Wikstrom and Ericsson.

Moller, Jan. Letter to Neal McEwen, 24 February 2001.  Öller, Lindholm and Wikstrom and Ericsson.

Moreau, Louise R. and Willer, Murray D. "Foreign and Military Telegraph Keys," The Antique Wireless Association Review, Vol. 3, 1988.

Palmer, Doug. Email to Neal McEwen, 1 July 2001.  Military key.

Scherrer, Thomas.  Home page. http://www.webx.dk/oz2cpu/key-main.htm:  GNT, Amplidan. Lennart Pettersson & Co, MP Pederson keys.


For more information, visit the Telegraph Office home page

Neal McEwen, k5rw@telegraph-office.com