Victorian London - Communications - Telegraph - 'The Comic Telegraph'


Among the telegraphs exhibited in that portion of the middle gallery north of the British side of the nave [of the 1851 Great Exhibition, ed.], which is appropriated to philosophical instruments, is one which is sure to attract the attention of those who for awhile pause to examine the numerous examples of the application of electricity to the transmission of signals between distant places. Surely, the inventor of this contrivance - called a Comic Electric Telegraph - must have determined in his own mind to produce an instrument, at any rate, in external appearance, wholly different from anything of the kind which had previously appeared. In this he has certainly succeeded; but we are not at present prepared to say to what extent a communication by this instrument may be transmitted. As the inventor truly says, the instrument would, no doubt, prove an amusing and instructive addition to the ornaments of the drawing-room, as it might be used to illustrate the principle of magnetic induction.

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The action on the eyes and mouth of a comic face is produced by three bent iron bars within the figure, which are rendered magnetic by induction, and attract either of the features as above by means of armatures attached thereto. In addition to these novel signals, there are also the sgns -, +, and \ by which not only all the letters of the alphabet are represented, but also the end of each word and sentence respectively properly indicated. These signals are shown by the elevation of shutters above the face. As each of the bars is capable of being separately magnetised, either of the signals can be shewn at the will of the manipulator, by touching the corresponding key in front of the figure. The telegraphic alphabet of Mr. Smith is made up of combinations of lines and crosses, and is therefore rather of a retrograding character as regards this important branch of telegraphy, which has been sadly neglected by most of the inventors of telegraphs.
    A bell, used to call attention, is placed inside the figure.

Illustrated London News, July-Dec., 1851