Tom Perera - W1TP

The Dayton Hamfest is the largest hamfest in the world. It is always exciting and has gradually evolved into not only a productive place to hunt for keys, but also a social gathering place for key collectors. The Rochester NH hamfest is also a large gathering with lots of telegraph keys. The following is a report of my experiences at these hamfests during the 2000 season.

I started out from New Jersey with my car and trailer loaded down with many thousands of pounds of telegraph keys. After the explosion of the air lift bags in the rear springs in 1998, I had installed air lift shocks and they functioned perfectly...

I arrived Thursday morning at about 10AM. The weather was threatening thunderstorms but I set up my three tents and began to arrange the permanent museum display cases and the trays full of keys for trade and sale... Many of the serious collectors were already there scouring the field for interesting keys and I had the pleasure of meeting Derek Cohn WB0TUA for the first time.

Since Zyg Nilski the owner/publisher of Morsum Magnificat was not able to come to Dayton this year, he asked me to accept payment for subscriptions to MM and a number of people took advantage of this convenience and signed up or renewed their subscriptions. Zyg was a very popular person when he shared my booth last year and lots of people asked about him... Zyg is doing an amazing job with Morsum Magnificat and it is always filled with fascinating information about keys and CW... He could really use more subscribers and renewals so please subscribe or renew at:

People began stopping by to purchase a copy of my new ''Telegraph Collectors Reference CD'' and second edition of my ''Telegraph Collectors Guide'' and to chat and show me the keys that they had managed to find...

Tony Rogozinsky came by and purchased a very nice
Postal Telegraph Bug, a Vibroplex Original, a Vibroplex Clone, and a copy of the new CD. Here is a
second view of the Postal bug. And here is a
third view of the very heavy cast iron base of the Postal bug.

Unfortunately, I was so busy talking to collectors and answering questions that I did not write down the name of the collector who stopped by to show me this amazing
A. W. Bowman straight key. Perhaps he will email me and I will be able to add his name to this description. I had never seen this model Bowman key and I had been under the impression that they only made their lovely spark key. It is very clearly stamped A. W. Bowman on the top of the lever.

Lloyd Price, N2KPC brought this lovely and rare
Dunduplex single-lever bug for me to see and photograph. It is a magnificent bug with very nice high speed ''feel''. The little knob on top of the frame can be used as a straight key. Here is
another view of the single-lever Dunduplex.

Joe Schroeder, W9JUV brought this lovely
Tillotson Camelback Key. for me to see and photograph. We compared it with my very similar looking Caton key which has a base which is identical with the Tillotson but an earlier style straight lever. The absolutely identical bases suggest a connection between Caton and Tillotson.

Another collector brought me this lovely
Kenco bug. to see and photograph. It is in magnificent condition. Here is
another view of the Kenco bug.

A British dealer brought me this interesting
Kent combination iambic paddle and straight key. He has commissioned the Kent company to make a batch for him. He says that if it sells well, they may add it to their product line.

I had read about the iambic paddle which could be made by
screwing two J-38 straight keys together and when someone walked up and asked whether I would like to buy one, I couldn't resist trying it out for ''feel''. To my immense surprise, it was super-light and crisp and very similar in ''feel'' to a well adjusted Bencher. I highly recommend this key for its great ''feel'' but its appearance leaves something to be desired...hi
Here is another view of this great paddle.

I was offered this
Cast-Base Private-Line KOB with a Steiner key integrated into the cast base. The color of the base was so unattractive that I decided not to buy it but I think that was probably a mistake since it could have easily been repainted and these sets are quite hard to find.

I was able to find several interesting Japanese WW-2 telegraph keys.
This one is enclosed in a black rectangular cover and mounted on a wooden base. Here is
another view of the key. And here is
a view of the key with the cover closed.

This is
a Japanese Military key from WW-2 with a straight lever.

Here is
a third Japanese telegraph key from the late 1930's. And here is
another view of the key.

On Sunday, I finally had a chance to go inside the HARA arena to look over the indoor exhibits. Mitch, W4OA, the owner of the Vibroplex Company posed for me to take
this photograph of him holding the new Vibroplex combination straight key and paddle and standing next to Wayne Smith, K8FF who is holding another Vibroplex paddle. The Vibroplex booth sold out of parts at the show and the square weights for the Champion/Lightning family of bugs were particularly popular along with replacement paddles and knobs. There were always a large number of
eager hands reaching out to try out the latest Vibroplex keys.

I just couldn't resist buying this fascinating
Russian electronic keyer which had been on display at the RSGB booth throughout the entire hamfest. Here are some other views of this unusual keyer which came in the original box with all of the original papers, instructions, and diagrams.

Another view of the key and box.

A view of the end of the box.

A view with the cover removed.

A close view of the paddle mechanism.

Well, that's about it for Dayton 2000. I made it back home with my new finds and the remains of my pile of keys and I am already looking forward to Dayton 2001 when I will be set up in the same spots around space number 2555.

I hope to see you there... 73 Tom - W1TP


This hamfest is held twice a year at the Rochester, NH fairgrounds and it attracts a very large number of sellers from all over the Northeast. The weather was good and there was a large turnout on Friday for early setups in anticipation of a big crowd on Saturday. A number of interesting keys showed up and were quickly snatched by the crowd of key collectors.

The first interesting key that I was able to find was this nice early
KOB with a pretty brass Lewis Key.

Then a nice
Western Union Private Line KOB turned up.

Then a nice
DOW straight key showed up.

Then, I found this very ''restored''
Steiner Key. The legs have been cut off to allow it to be mounted on the metal base. The key has been totally chrome plated and the original insulators have been replaced with white plastic material. The shorting lever knob has been replaced with a machined metal knob. I personally prefer to leave these keys in the as-found condition with perhaps a light cleaning to remove dirt. Here is
another view of the ''restored'' Steiner Key.

I found this
small Speed-X model 510 bug to be interesting on several counts. First, it had an ''X'' serial number, and second, it had an interesting and unusual grey paint job on the base but a black wrinkle-finish frame, and third, it had been inscribed with the call letters of ships that it had been used on. I think that it may have been a very early experimental version of the key which became the Speed-X model 510.
Here is another view of the Speed-X bug. And
here is a view of the underside of the base of the key showing the call letters of the stations where it was used.

The two most interesting finds were made by collector Roger Buttignol who quickly spotted this
very early DOW straight bug. Here is
another view of the Dow bug. And here is
a third view of this early Dow bug.

Roger also allowed me to photograph a very unusual bug which he had recently obtained. It is unlike anything that I have ever seen and has a very large and unique damper. Here are several views of this odd bug:
view 1.

view 2.

view 3.

view 4.

view 5.

David Hale, W1KR, the builder of an exact 1/3 scale model of a Vibroplex Midget was showing interested collectors two identical partially completed 1/3 scale models of the rare and magnificent Melehan Valiant. Here is a photograph of
David demonstrating a miniature steam engine which he built. It is powered by steam generated in a Cappucino maker heated over a portable stove.
Here is a
view of the completed frames and parts for the two miniature Melehan Valiants. You can see the two frames, the parts, and the original patent drawings which he is using to complete the complex project.
Here is a
slightly closer view of the parts.

Professor Tom Perera
Montclair State University

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