The AWA Annex and the Louise Moreau Key Collection

The following are excerpts from an email note in which I described the key collection of Louise Moreau. Louise became a silent key in 1994. Her key collection was preserved intact and is now on display at the AWA Museum Annex in Bloomfield NY.


Well, it turned out the flea market was a bust on Saturday morning mostly because everybody left and also due to terrible weather. I discovered the AWA museum was open for a couple of hours Saturday afternoon. So, it was time to head out to Bloomfield. When I arrived, I discovered Bruce Kelley was giving a tour to a group of about 6 or 7 people, who turned out to be mostly hams. I joined the group and was treated to a super-deluxe tour of the museum with full narration by Bruce. Also included was the normally locked up third floor with the ultra-rare wireless equipment. This of course included the demonstration of the monstrous spark transmitter, which apparently was the cause of a splitting headache I began suffering shortly afterwards. That damned thing is loud !! Finishing the tour, someone mentioned the ANNEX. I had no idea what the annex was, but Bruce had soon agreed to conduct a tour. Well, everyone hopped in their cars and followed Bruce to a building right next to some softball fields, maybe a mile or two from the AWA museum. I had no idea what to expect, but this thing was just mind-boggling beyond belief. Let me see if I can describe:

All concrete building, hard to estimate but about 2500 square feet. Segmented into several rooms. The walls in each room have shelving constructed so that large quantities of equipment can be stored. One room has a collection of ham radio equipment. The radios are stored two to three deep. Someone into vintage ham stuff would drool about a gallon in the first 5 minutes. I spotted what appeared to be the very first prototype National HRO.

Another room is stacked high with AM broadcast. Another room is packed with military radio. Another room is packed with ultra-rare tubes, some of which are displayed in glass cases. The AWA offices are in one end of the building. The AWA archives are stored here. I seem to recall microfiche and copy machines. It is set up so that a visiting historian can comfortably do research. I think you get the idea that this building is mega-jammed with neat stuff.

Lou's collection is stored in a room about the size of a second bathroom in a typical 3 bedroom house. It is sort of a microcosm of the other rooms. Shelving is on all four walls and extends to the ceiling. And the shelves are covered with straight keys, bugs, sounders, relays, omnigraphs, and an extremely rare mechanical Morse typewriter (hit a key and it transmits a Morse character). A glass case contains some of Lou's historical keys, such as the key from the Johnstown flood disaster and the key used on the submarine Nautilus.

Inconspicuously below the glass display case are several boxes. I seem to recall that there was some kind of indication that these contained documents, not more instruments. If this is true, Lou had a LOT of documentation. In fact, I believe she specialized in keys that could be traced to some historical event.

Seeing the big pile of documents that Lou had compiled was a lesson for me. I have done a poor job of documenting the instruments in my collection. Several of my keys were bought from the original owners. That information is now lost to the wind. From now on, I intend to carefully record any information I can when I obtain an instrument, even if it be only the date it was acquired and the price I paid.

I had my 35 mm auto-everything camera, but I could have kicked myself as I only had 4 exposures left on the roll of film and no more film ! I used the 4 shots in the tiny room. 3 of 4 turned out OK. I sent the prints to Tom French, hoping he would publish one of them in TVC. Also I suggested that he try arranging a tour for the purpose of photographing the collection. This could take up an entire issue of TVC ! I'll try to scan one of the photos I took and post it to the Telegraph Lore web page.

The collection is pretty much unorganized. Someone had made up a bunch of labels for each key, but Bruce said he was not familiar enough with telegraph stuff to attach the labels to the proper keys. I do recall all of the military keys had one wall to themselves.

Well, if someone got really serious they could probably arrange to do some investigation of Lou's documentation. Judging from the quantity of material that I saw, this looks to be a several day job. Perhaps some of the myths could be proven or disproven once and for all.

73 Greg

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