Semi Automatic Bug Keys

T. R. McElroy Bugs

T.R. McElroy – Mac Key 1936A  s/n 8556
 
The 1936 models are identified by the U-shaped connector between the fixed dot and dash contacts. On the very earliest 1936 model, the connector bar is in two pieces (two L-shaped bars joined at the centre to form a U). I call this variation the "split U-bar." The connecting wire terminals on the earliest split U-bar 1936A bugs are conveniently located on the right side. Unfortunately, this feature would be gone when the one-piece U-bar appeared. Only about a half dozen of the early split U-bar 1936A bugs are known.
This is the later, common style of U-bar found on 1936 Mac-Keys. It is one piece. The wire terminals were now far apart, one on the damper post and the other at the front left U-bar mount. Sometime early in the 1936 model run the small nameplate became aluminium, as shown here.
T.R. McElroy – Mac Key 1937 Standard s/n 7899
 
1937 model The civilian version of the Navy key. Starting with left-over Navy base castings, the small aluminium nameplate was affixed, and "U.S. NAVY" was ground off so that the legend reads "PROPERTY OF." Presumably the owner would scratch his name or call letters into the blank area. There are four known variations in the cast legend on the 1937 model:
1. PROPERTY OF remainder ground off.
2. PROPERTY OF remainder cast blank.
3. Side cast blank.
4. MFD IN BOSTON MASS USA.

1937 model: PROPERTY OF. The most common civilian version of the Navy key is that on which "U.S. NAVY" was ground off so that the legend reads "PROPERTY OF". On a few of the "PROPERTY OF" keys, that is the only lettering that was cast; the remainder of the original legend was cast blank. (Sometimes the grinding on the common variety was done so well that it takes a sharp eye to spot this scarce variation.)
 
 This is a good example of the 1937 civilian model and appears to be one of the few that the remaining lettering is cast blank. Complete with two weights and pendulum clip, with all parts cad plated. One terminal post thumb screw appear non standard .
T.R. McElroy 1939 Standard model s/n 6736
 
This was the last Mac-Key to carry the large nameplate. It is very similar to the 1938 model, but the T-bar or pivot frame risers are much wider, having a "hump" that extends beyond the upper horizontal top bar. This was available in two versions, the Standard, with a black wrinkle finish, and the Deluxe, in Marbleite. The Deluxe came with a circuit closer, but typically do not have the dot stabilizer (a few early ones do have the thin stabilizer). This key is missing its weight screws but apart from that is in great condition.
 
T.R. McElroy  S-600 Super Stream - Speed bug. Circ 1941
 
S-600 model The S-600 model, the "Super Stream-Speed," was the bug McElroy said he'd never make. It is "very poor practice to have chrome or nickel plated base on a key," he wrote in a March 1938 flyer. He must have remembered this comment when he came out with the S-600 because he said the chrome had "a bluish tinge to prevent glare." This key comes in two models, the S-600-PC with platinum contacts and the S-600-SC with silver contacts. It also comes in three variations of mounting holes in the base: none, two, and three.
T.R. McElroy's famed "teardrop" bug, one of the last made by McElroy (1941). The above version has three mounting holes and is complete with both weights although one weight has a non standard screw. Apart from that this key is in good condition and complete.
T. R. McElroy Professional Speed key model P-500 Semi Automatic Bug. 1942-3.
This semi Automatic Bug is a beast of a key weighing in at 6lb it certainly was made to stay where you put it with a base of 3.75” x 6.50”. It was made during 1942-43 and was the last of the true Mac Keys with the CP-500 being manufactured by the Telegraphic Apparatus Company or T.A.C. as it was known although it was still a company owned and run by McElroy. In an advert of 1942 it was described as follows.
Designed to conform with United States Navy Specifications. Heavy Parkerized base casting, finished in fine black wrinkle enamel. Carefully designed superstructure finished to match base. All other metal parts finished in chrome. Moulded plastic knob and finger paddle. Circuit closing switch. 3/16” contact points are silver; beryllium copper main spring and U spring. Right and left arm tension springs, contact spacing and anti vibrating arm all fully adjustable. Size 3 ¾” x 6 ½” x 3 ¼”. Moderately priced through volume production, the P-500 is sure to please the most critical operator. Shipping weight 6lb. Price $7.50.
This example, although having a label it is beyond recognition, the finger paddle is also a replacement.
Telegraph Apparatus Co. Chicago, Illinois. U.S.A. ( T.R. McElroy ) 1944 –1946  CP-500 bug
 
This was TACs first key; it was advertised in early 1944. Cast into the underside of the base is CP500. The base shape is similar to the previous McElroy P-500. The design of the pivot frame and damper is a direct copy of the Vibroplex Original. The damper wheel, however, includes a rubber O-ring or bumper. This is a scarce model; the TAC 510 and 810 (hole-in-the-wall) bugs are more commonly found. Complete with both weights and in good operating condition. The nameplate is nicely readable but shows some light rust areas.
Telegraph Apparatus Co. Chicago, Illinois. U.S.A. ( T.R. McElroy ) 1944-46  CP-810 Hole in the wall bug.
 
TELEGRAPH APPARATUS CO. This key was manufactured by one of Ted McElroy's companies. It is a chrome plated key with chrome plated, square cornered rectangular base. There is a unique round hole in the frame for the lever, (Label missing). TAC was a WWII Chicago partnership that included Ted McElroy and a couple of his friends. The company made two models of bugs, which were advertised from 1944 through 1946. One was the "hole in the wall" type that came as the model 510 (standard, painted base) and the model 810 (deluxe, with chrome base). The other bug was similar to the Vibroplex Original style, and used a cast base like that on the McElroy P-500. This was offered as the model CP500 (standard, with painted base) and CP800 (deluxe, with chrome base).

Speed X Bugs

Speed-X Radio Manufacturing Co. Stewart Johnson 1934 - 1937
 
The Speed-X name is first associated with Electro Manufacturing Co. located in Fresno, California. In 1934, Stewart Johnson bought the Speed-X name and relocated the company to San Francisco. Johnson changed the name of the company to Speed-X Radio Manufacturing Company and the address was 30 Ninth St. in San Francisco. Johnson built Speed-X keys from 1934 until he sold the company to Les Logan in 1937. The Speed-X shown in the above photo is similar to the later model 515 Speed-X but with a somewhat smaller base similar to the Vibroplex Blue Racer. The image that follows is the reverse frame version. These are the only two models known to have been produced while Stewart Johnson ran the company.
Earlier Speed-X bugs will have the combination of knob and paddle but the later Speed-X bugs use two paddles instead. Although there is no identification on this bug it is apparent that many of the parts used are identical to later Speed-X parts, e.g., the damper, the posts and the knurls used on the hardware are all typical of later Les Logan Speed-X keys.

Speed-X Radio Manufacturing Co. Stewart Johnson 1934 – 1937.- Reverse frame version.

Speed-X Manufacturing Co. Les Logan –  Model 500.  1937 – 1947.  Serial No S 7.

Les Logan purchased Speed-X Radio Manufacturing Co. from Stewart Johnson in 1937. Logan dropped "Radio" from the name, changing it to Speed-X Manufacturing Company and the location was moved to 646 Jessie St. in San Francisco. Les Logan's name is usually associated with Speed-X from 1937 up to 1947. Les Logan's bugs were well-built and quite popular. Logan's bugs use two paddles rather than a knob and paddle combination.
Above is an early example of the Model 500 in near mint condition complete with box and advertising paperwork with a serial number of S 7. Only very early examples tend to have a designated serial number but no documentation exists to confirm dates or explanation. The S 7. Could be Standard No7. Or Special? The shorting switch also is early, looking like the same design as the Model 515 below, later models of the 500 and 501 have a shorting bar coming from the left hand side of the main frame as shown in the image of the Model 501. This example is complete with both weights and original paddles also with box and Speed X advertising paperwork and dates from 1937 – 38.
Speed-X Manufacturing Co. Les Logan - Model 515
 
This key is the Model 515, Speed-X's standard model with black wrinkle base built mainly for the amateur market. It is generally in good condition but missing its weights.
Les Logan sold the Speed-X line to E.F. Johnson Co. of Waseca, Minnesota in 1947.
Speed-X Manufacturing Co. E. F.  Johnson – Deluxe model 501
 
Above is the deluxe model 501, which was the 500 with nickel plated base. The deluxe keys with the "T" handle allowed the key to be placed on its side and used as a straight key it also allows an easy method for carrying. Les Logan sold the Speed-X line to E.F. Johnson Co. of Waseca, Minnesota in 1947.
This key, although missing its label and having the Les Logan 'bulls eyes' paddles it is missing the cast Speed X logo on the T frame found on the Les Logan models, it is believed to be manufactured by E. F. Johnson after 1947.
Speed – X Model 114-520 E. F. Johnson. Waseca, Minnesota. U.S.A. 1947 - 1972
 
The above early example evident by the older style nameplate and flat fibre ‘bulls eye’ paddles synonymous  with Les Logan but after the new style weight had become standard. This key dates from 1947 – 1953.
Speed – X Model 114-520 E. F. Johnson. Waseca, Minnesota. U.S.A. 1947 - 1972
 
In 1947, Logan sold Speed-X to the E.F. Johnson Co., and it continued production of the Speed-X keys, both the bugs and the straight keys. Johnson simply altered the Speed-X nameplate to add its company name and continued to churn out the moderately priced keys. At some point, Johnson changed the pivot frame on the 501 key, removing the “T-bar” and making it an “ear-less” design. The new pivot frame also was the mounting point for the updated E.J. Johnson nameplate, which arrived in the 1960s and was used on the bugs and in advertising. Johnson made changes to the finger paddles, making them molded plastic instead of flat fiber board  (while keeping them adjustable), and the company also changed the damper weights; Johnson made the weights larger in diameter and flatter, while employing a unique clip design that allowed users to adjust the weights without tightening or loosening any screws. The dampers on the Johnson-era Speed-X bugs stayed the same. The bugs were available in two finishes, chrome base and a painted, black crackle base.
The above example, apart from missing its damper weight, encompasses all the changes brought in by Johnson dating this key to 1960-1970.

Vibroplex Clone Bugs

Vibroplex “Original” Clone Bug circa 1910 s/n 559
 
This bug is an illegal copy of a Vibroplex Original manufactured by an unknown maker. The design of the damper and mainframe are identical to a Norcross Vibroplex which was manufactured between 1906 and 1908. The serial number of #559 stamped on the damper body is not sequential and the style of stamping is not that of Vibroplex. Given that Horace Martin secured all the patent rights in 1913 from Coffe and almost eliminated the illegal manufacture of his design, it places this key manufacture date circa 1910. This is also backed up by e-mail correspondence with Tom French W1IMQ, Tom Perera W1TP and Gil Schlehman, K9WDY who has probably the largest collection of semi automatic bugs in the world by various manufacturers currently at over 350.
Albright Bug, a Vibroplex Clone licenced by J. E. Albright s/n 1213 circ 1910
 
This key although not by a known manufacturer is very collectable due to it having been licenced by J. E. Albright and carrying a serial number of 1213. It dates from between 1910 and 1915 is generally refered to by collectors as being an Albright licenced Telegraph Key. This example also has its Albright wedge and cord which to date is the first time I have seen one. James Albright who ran a typewriter and telegraph instrument shop at 235 Broadway, New York was Horrace Martin's sole selling agent for his Vibriplex Keys so when it became clear that people were manufacturing bugs to Martin's design  he threatened and prosecuted the manufacturers of these illegal bugs. He might also have sued the individual owners of these "bastard bugs," but he had a better idea: He allowed the operators to use their bugs if they paid a two dollar license fee. Upon payment, a plate was affixed to the instrument allowing its continued use. This operator was obviously employed by W.U.T.Co as seen on the nameplate and they probably payed the $2.
Because the maker's tag was removed from the bug when the Albright plate was attached, determining the maker of these keys can be difficult. 
 
 “The Improved Vibroplex” by the A to Z Electric Novelty Company. Circ 1914.
This semi automatic bug was made by the A to Z Electric Novelty Company, also known as ATOZ and was run by Max Levy of Chicago, Illinois. Horace G. Martin, inventor of the 'semi-automatic' key, later called a bug, had many patents to protect his invention. ATOZ was in business around 1914 manufacturing telegraphic bug keys in direct patent violation of Vibroplex's patents, and was fairly quickly shutdown. ATOZ made a copy of the Vibroplex Original, which is the most common ATOZ found and made them with different coloured bases apart from the black. ATOZ was probably the most blatant of the Vibroplex patent violators, having the audacity to call its version "The Improved Vibroplex" in large fancy letters right on the label of the bugs they produced. Martin's partner was J. E. Albright. He was a clever businessman and was successful through litigation in shutting down all the manufacturing of illegal copies of their bugs. He convinced Western Union and others that some of the bugs they had in service were illegal. To legalize these bugs, Albright sold a label that could be riveted to the bug absolving Martin, and Vibroplex from any liability, yet authorizing its use, these labels cost $2 at the time. Most of the A to Z bugs surviving have the Albright label replacing the original manufacturer's label. One clue is that some A to Z bugs have a "1" cast into the underside of the base.
This example started life as a red based A to Z bug as can be seen from the bottom face of the base but has been de-labelled and had the base Japanned black so as to make it blend in with all the other Vibroplex keys being used at that time, obviously the original owner of this key didn’t want to pay for the Albright registration.

Vibroplex Bugs

Vibroplex improved model X. s/n 73111 circ 1920.
C3 Nameplate. 253 Broadway, New York. 6 Patents.
 
The Model X was offered with the usual black japanned or optional nickel plated base finishes. There are two basic variations of the model X although there are many differences between them. The early model has the square pendulum and T type damper where the improved version introduced in 1919 and was only produced until 1921 has a round pendulum and a cheaper post, screw and jam nut. Collectors usually refer the models as either the square or round pendulum version. Overall, it ranks as the forth on the scale of scarcity, well behind the Midget, Upright and Double lever. Of the two variations, the late, round pendulum model is harder to find but the early square pendulum Model X is probably more desirable.
The model shown above is missing its contact bar and damper screw and jam nut but does have the decal and a small amount of visible gold pin striping still visible.
 
Vibroplex Delux No 4 'The Blue Racer' 1923 s/n 89611 D2 Nameplate 825 Broadway N.Y. - 7 Patents.
 
Martin introduced the fourth Vibroplex in 1914. It had a base that was 2.5” wide compared to the 3.5” of the Original, weighed about a pound and a half less, and had a clover leaf frame which was smaller than that used on the Original. The damper assembly resembled the letter “U” with a damper wheel on one leg. This key was also called the “number 4”, since it was the fourth Vibroplex model.
Many early Blue Racers were made with a dark blue base rather than the black base used on the Original. A nickel-plated base was also an option. Any Vibroplex with a 2.5” wide base is a Blue Racer. However, the Blue Racer was also available (by special order) on the standard 3.5” base, and several have been found with a 3” base.
Vibroplex No6 “Lightning” Bug 1928 s/n 102533 D3 Nameplate. 796 Fulton St, Brooklyn, N.Y. - 7 Patents.
 
A beautiful example of an early black japanned No6 Lightening Bug in good condition with gold pinstriping complete with original cord and wedge stamped with the matching 796 Fulton St address.
Vibroplex Champion 1946 s/n 148408.
D5 Nameplate. 833 Broadway N.Y. – 6 Patents O.P.P. - NPI.
 
The Champion used the assembled frame and flat pendulum of the Lightning Bug, but had a simplified damper assembly and lacked a circuit closer (shorting switch). It was the lowest-priced Vibroplex, handled well, and could send good code a bit slower than the round-pendulum models. Consequently, Champions are probably the second most common Vibroplex.
When the Champion was introduced in 1940, it came in only one base finish, black crackle. In the mid-Fifties the standard Vibroplex base colour was changed to gray, and the Champion came only in gray. Like the Lightning Bug and Original, some Champions were made with Sienna brown and beige bases around 1980. Vibroplex quit making the Champion about that time, but you could buy a gray-base Champion from Vibroplex for more than ten years after that. The simple damper assembly on the Champion is called an “I” damper.

Vibroplex J-36 Bug 1941 order no 5702-NY-41 date 6-6-41 s/n 265 Nameplate. 796 Fulton Street, Brooklyn. N.Y.

The Vibroplex J-36. The WWII semiautomatic key made by Vibroplex for the Army Signal Corps was the military version of the company's Lightning Bug. These are somewhat scarcer than the Lionel version. They have a metal nameplate which occurs in several variations: small and large pre-WWII Fulton Street plates, and two WWII small plates with either Fulton Street or 833 Broadway addresses.
Each plate includes the order number and date, as well as a stamped serial number. Many of the Vibroplex J-36s used for Signal Corps Morse school training will be found with a mounting hole drilled in the base (between the pivot frame and nameplate) and an inventory number painted on the front edge of the base (facing the operator).
Well after WWII, only Vibroplex supplied semiautomatic keys to the military. These were stock keys stamped on the key or the box with the contract information; they carried no special nameplate.

All Other Manufacturers of Bugs

The Automorse by Hitchcock Bros. Co. Adelaide. Australia 1918

The Automorse, what a key, this complex looking key can operate either as a semi-automatic or fully-automatic key, depending on the requirement and skill of the operator.
It was invented by Mr. Norman Percy Thomas who was born in Adelaide in 1881 and died in the same city at age 56 during a tennis match on Sunday 24 October 1937. Thomas presented his application for the Automorse patent on 11 April 1918 and which was subsequently recognized and awarded the patent number 7023/18, so came into the market the first mechanical “fully automatic” key in the world. Although the Automorse was used by the PMG Offices the officers using them bought them privately. The construction and distribution of these great keys was entrusted to the Hitchcock Bros. Company, located in Flinders Street in the city of Adelaide.

If you look at the key from the paddle end you will see that on the top tier we have, what is essentially a double lever key similar to the “Double Lever Vibroplex” invented by Horace Martin in 1907, where the automatic dots are produced with the left hand lever and manual dashes produced by the right hand lever. That is where the similarity ends as there is a lower tier housing a third lever which is used to produce automatic dashes. In operation the upper left hand lever produces dots automatically by means of moving the pendulum off its stop position allowing it to oscillate. The lower lever differs as it is under constant spring tension and is allowed to oscillate after the pendulum stop is moved away from the pendulum by moving the paddle to the left, commonly called the “tension release” method.

In some publicity at the time, the key was described as being available as standard in right and left handed versions, both initially sold at the modest sum of £5. Then with the rise of his fame, just two years after, the purchase price was raised to £35. The first question that may arise is why the first fully automatic mechanical key was developed in Australia and not in the USA, “the home the bug was born in”? A plausible answer to this question may be in the fact that in the USA, telegraphy by wire was always based on use of the American Morse code, while in Australia the American Morse code was used only until International Morse became compulsory from 1 July 1897. At Eucla in Western Australia, east met west. Telegraphers in one room used American Morse to the west and messages were passed to another room where Telegraphers used International Morse to the east. As is known, the American Morse code has some of the letters formed with dashes of different lengths. The International Morse Code uses the same length of dashes for all characters, allowing Thomas to develop the first fully automatic key, which would not be usable for the American Morse code.

The above key was purchased from Claudio IZ0KRC in December 2016. Claudio is based in the town of Ariccia in the Metropolitan City of Rome. and some of the above information was taken from his very informative description of this key which was published in the “Key Note” which is a magazine produced by the FISTS CW Club and is available to see in Issue 27, Series 2 February 2015. Claudio also has a website can be found on my links page.

Ron McMullen, contacted me to correct information regarding the use of American Morse code in Australia and the fact that it was individual officers who purchased the keys that they opperated, not the P.M.G. Both these points have been corrected and I thank Ron for pointing this out. Ron has a wonderful collection of telegraph keys and related items in Australia. A link can be found on my links page.
Electrical Specialty Mfg.
 "Cedar Rapids Bug" 1938 - 1948
 
The Cedar Rapids Bug was perhaps the only bug to be offered either in assembled form or as a kit, (the price difference was minimal.) The rubber bumper on the damper is another unusual feature. The company name is cast into the bottom of the base. There are variations on the locations and quantity of rubber feet used. Since many were assembled kits, builders sometimes took liberties with custom paint colours and hardware. The example shown is the standard Cedar Rapids Bug. Dates from the late thirties up into the late forties. The company was located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Go Devil Bug. A.H. Emery of Poughkeepsie, New York. Circ 1930
 
This is the scarce ''GO-DEVIL'' BUG manufactured in the 1930’s.    This is the first model which was manufactured in the basement of A. H. Emery in Poughkeepsie, New York. Label on cast black wrinkle finished base (label missing) would read:
The Transmitting GO-DEVIL, Pat. applied for. Mfg by A.H.Emery. 263 Mill St. Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
This key is missing its weight and label but the remaining appears to be complete.
Kenco Bug - The Kenmore Company, Boston, Massachusetts. 1939 - 1943. Delux Nickel Plated Version.
 
This unusual bug was made by the Kenmore Co. of Boston and sold by Radio Shack in the late 1930's and early 1940's and were advertised for $2.95 Cat. No. S9602. Two models are known. One as here with two levers, and another with a split arm mechanism. It is noted that Herman - VK2IXV has one with a label that reads "PAT. APL'D FOR. RAYLYNN MFG. BOSTON - MASS this may have been manufactured under licence form Kenmore. On the split arm version, the lower half of the lever swings to left for dashes while the upper half remains in position. It is mounted on an unusual cast base. These keys are fairly rare and this one is the only example I have seen in a fully nickel plated version, most have painted / crackle glaze hardware.
Martin Research and Manufacturing No6 Flash Key S/N 5688 1938-39.
 
In 1938, two of Horace G. Martin’s sons, J. W. Martin and R. W. Martin, joined with three investors to form the Martin Research and Manufacturing Company, located at 233 Broadway, New York, New York. Little is known about MR&M. Bill Holly’s book describes an agreement between Vibroplex and MR&M whereby MR&M would develop and manufacture bugs and Vibroplex would sell them. However, this agreement was apparently never completed, or was short-lived, because advertisements by MR&M tout the hiring of one E. M. Weber, formerly Sales Manager of Vibroplex, as Secretary and Treasurer of MR&M. J. W. Martin and R. W. Martin were the President and Vice President, respectively, of MR&M.
 
Martin Research and Manufacturing made four models, three of which were patterned after the Vibroplex #1 (Original), #4 (Blue Racer) and #6 (Lightning Bug). These keys were called the #1, #4 and #6 Martin Flash Key. The fourth model was an inexpensive model unlike any Vibroplex model, although it had a mechanism similar to the Midget..
 
MR&M didn’t last long. In December, 1939, MR&M sold out to the J. H. Bunnell Company, the leading U.S. key manufacturer. Not many Martin Flash Keys were made. Serial numbers seem to range from around 5000 to over 6000, so between one and two thousand of them were made.
 
The above information is thanks to Randy Cole KN6W and his great website The Vibroplex Collecor's Page. www.vibroplexcollector.net
The 'Green Racer' ?
 
This key certainly catches the eye. Someone has taken this circ 1920 Vibroplex 'No 4 Blue Racer' and really made it unique. From the Teal coloured base to the modified 'U' damper, most parts have been changed or modified, removing terminal posts, repositioning the shorting bar and hard wiring the cable on the underside of the base, even unused holes have been filled but one part dates this to circ 1920 and that is the cast dash pivot lugs on the main arm. From around this date the pivot design went to the bent lug. It has extremely clean and modern lines for the time it appears to have been modified, the early cord and wedge indicate that this was modified quite early on. Whoever did this must have been quite ahead of their times.
 
Martin Odenbach DK4XL contacted me with some very interesting information regarding this key, an extract reads as follows:
Gil Schlehman K9WDY (who says that he owns more than 350 different bugs) owns a bug which is exactly like yours but has a nameplate. Photos attached. As far as I can see, yours doesn't have holes for a label so I would not exclude that the label on Gils bug wears the name of the owner - but who knows...
Now you know that yours "is not alone". Two have been made at least. As far as I remember, Gil told that a very small number of this
bug was made as salesman samples (no proof for that).
 
Thank you to Martin for this great bit of information. Martin is a collector of mainly Vibroplex coloured based bugs and reproduces wonderful examples of scarce and rare keys. Some of his work can be seen on Tom Parera's website www.w1tp.com
High Speed Key - Mikasa Radio Co. Japan circ 1943 - 50

This scarce semi automatic bug is a direct copy of the Vibroplex Lightening Bug Key and was made by Nanaboshi Electric Mfg. Co. Ltd. for Mikasa Radio Co. Kobe. Japan and was made during the 1940’s. On the underside of the bottom plate of the pivot assembly is the stamped name Nanaboshi giving good provenance and allowing this key to be dated reasonably accurately. This example is in good overall condition; it has a black japanned base with nickel plated mechanism and is all original apart from the weight which appears to be a replacement. The Mikasa Radio Co. nameplate, being written in English, would indicate that it was manufactured for the western market. My thoughts are that production quantities were small as Vibroplex would have clamped down on this plagiarism shortly after the end of the war which is why these bugs are scarce.
Nanaboshi Electric Mfg.Co.,Ltd. was founded in 1943 and their line of business includes manufacturing current-carrying wiring devices.
Their address is:
1-49-15, Kamitakada
Nakano-ku, 164-0002
Japan

This key was purchased on 27 February 2017 from Mrs Marianne Burton, the daughter of the late Bob Roberts G2RO S.K. and describes it as follows:

“The Morse key belonged to my late father who was an Amateur Radio enthusiast all his life. His call sign was an early one, G2RO. As a BBC Radio Engineer he travelled the world installing and advising on radio stations in dozens of developing countries early on in his career, later rising in the corporation to a high administrative position. His final responsibility before retirement was overseeing the building of Pebble Mill in Birmingham.”

Bob was a noted radio amateur and an active member of the Leicester Radio Society in Leicestershire. In the 1930's, membership of the Leicester Radio Society was restricted to professionals. Members included physicians, solicitors and local businessmen. Meetings were held in a private room above 'Winns Oriental Cafe' in Granby Street, probably in the hopes that membership to younger, enthusiasts would be averted. Bob Roberts - call sign G2RO, had taken over Pallet's job as Secretary and other call signs in evidence were G6VQ, G5VH, G6WU, G6GF and G6JQ.

In 1939, World War II again impacted amateur radio. Although all amateur stations were ordered to close, it is believed that some were allowed to keep their stations for the activity of 'eavesdropping.' The Leicester Radio Society remained active during the war period, meeting at a chapel in Charles Street.