Rare circa 1860s Caton lineman's pocket telegraph set, as used by spies during the Civil War. Measuring just 5″ x 2.25″ x 1.25″ in its hard rubber case, this is a complete ultra-portable telegraph sending and receiving system. During the Civil War, telegraph operator spies used these to tap into the enemy's communications systems: a bare wire tossed over uninsulated telegraph lines—and grounded with a bayonet—allowed them to intercept messages or send along false intelligence. This diminutive unit features horizontally mounted sounder coils, a 1.5″ strap telegraph key, and a tiny shorting switch; both the key and the switch have ivory knobs. The center piece is engraved with the maker's name, "Caton, Ottawa, Ill." In fine condition. These were also known as a pocket telegraph machine, cavalryman's portable telegraph key, or Caton Pocket Relay. At the time of their use, the Caton was the highest quality machine on the market.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.