Morse Day report

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Thu May 2 23:39:43 EDT 2013

Morse Day sends message about lost art of telegraphy

Posted: April 29, 2013

By Laura McFarland

The Winchester Star

A member of the Morse Telegraph Club demonstrates on Saturday in Boyce how an 1881 straight key sent a telegraph. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)

Boyce - The steady clicks of a time gone by filled the office of the former Norfolk & Western Railway Boyce Depot this weekend.

Members of the Morse Telegraph Club celebrated the birthday of telegraph inventor Samuel Morse Saturday with an afternoon cookout, demonstrations and transmissions around the world.

Morse was born April 27, 1791, in Boston. He died in 1872.

About 100 people came through the train station while members sent messages that combine new and old technology, said Frank Scheer of Alexandria, a member of the club.

The event drew former telegraphers, ham radio operators, railroad enthusiasts and people simply interested in seeing part of history, he said.

"A lot of people have never seen telegraphy before," he said.

The celebration was one of about 15 held nationwide by members of the club, an international nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and perpetuating the knowledge and traditions of telegraphy, he said.

Since there are no telegraph lines left, club members communicated using traditional telegraph machinery that can be hooked up to the Internet, said Mike Cizek, one of the members who sent messages. At one point, he was communica ting with people in St. Louis and New Zealand.

"The thing I like the most is getting to know people all over the world from different backgrounds," said Cizek of Severn, Md.

He sent other club members messages using a telegraph key and listened to the replies on a sounder. The sounder uses an electrical magnet that makes clicking noises by pulling a little bar up and down.

For those not proficient in Morse Code, the messages were displayed on a computer screen.

For former railroad telegrapher Hubert "Hubie" Jewell Jr., 88, of Culpeper, the constant loud clicks of the telegraph station were almost soothing.

He worked as a telegrapher for 22 years for the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad and still misses it sometimes. He also has a telegraphy station at home he uses occasionally.

"I think it was a fascinating art," he said. "They claim if you don't have some musical ability, you can't operate a telegraph. It requires rhythm."

Often regular users can identify other telegraphers by the sound of their messages, Cizek said. It is almost like recognizing someone's voice because they have a distinctive "spacing and style."

Morse Day is a living history event about celebrating telegraphy's cultural and historical importance, said J. Chris Hausler of Rochester, N.Y., who came down for the event for a third year.

Many people do not realize how the telegraph helped shaped the nation. For instance, telegraphy was the first office job that accepted female workers, several decades before they were allowed to become secretaries.

After the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, governments required all ships at sea to monitor telegraph transmissions around the clock, he said.

"The purpose of the club is to preserve the history, the folklore and the technology," said Hausler, a retired railroad computer software designer. "Too many people have never head that clicking sound."

- Contact Laura McFarland at lmcfarland at

A member of the Morse Telegraph Club demonstrates on Saturday in Boyce how an 1881 straight key sent a telegraph. (Photo by Ginger Perry/The Winchester Star)
As of: April 29, 2013

Full text of the Winchester Star article appears above.  Non-subscribers can only see the first few sentences.
Best wishes,

Dr. Frank R. Scheer, Curator
Railway Mail Service Library, Inc.
f_scheer at
(202) 268-4996 - weekday office
(540) 837-9090 - Saturday afternoon
In the 1913 former N&W Railway depot along Clarke County route 723
117 East Main Street
Boyce, VA 22620-9369  USA

Please note: only parcels sent via USPS can be accepted at this address.

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Visit at

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