Hello everyone on this beautiful, but slightly wet, day! This post is in response to the many questions from people regarding insulators. Very few people today even know what I am talking about, so this might help a bit and even if you are not that interested I hope you will continue reading anyway.
So what are they, what are they used for? I will have some pictures here as well, showing some of the different kinds. I presently have over 500, all different, had to count them again just to make sure, I thought it was a bit less actually. Insulators were invented after the telegraph was invented, most of my insulators are telegraph types. As wire was strung across the nations they were attached to poles, but they had to be held in place, so various ideas were tried.
Electricity is needed to relay the telegraph message, but some is lost over distance and whenever the wire comes in contact with something, such as wood, water, metal, etc. The first insulators were metal hooks, which obviously didn’t work good. Rubber hooks were also tried but did not survive the changing temps too well. Glass was good, but how to keep the wire attached to the glass was a problem. Again, various methods were tried until finally they developed a way to produce the glass insulator with a ‘wire groove’. Thus began a new industry and countless millions of these insulators were produced to hold the wires safely in place.
And of course, there had to be a way to secure the insulator to the pole, so wood pegs were used. The first were smooth but insulators kept popping off the pegs, until someone came up with the idea of threaded pegs that insulators could be screwed onto, thus preventing that problem.
The fact that so many were produced is why there are still many to be found, so value on most of these things is quite low. There are some exceptions to that of course. Plus, there are not many collectors of insulators so that also keeps prices down. Fewer and fewer new collectors are joining in since younger people don’t remember them and so the thrill of collecting is just not there.
Insulators also come in porcelain varieties which was most popular in Europe until after 1930. Just the opposite occurred in N. America where glass was the most popular until about 1920. Here is N. America they stopped producing glass insulators around 1967, except for a couple special orders later on. Now, wires are encased in large cables so insulators are no longer needed.
Aside from the initial telegraph use, insulators were also used for telephone and electrical wires. Electrical insulators were often much larger, while those for telephone were the smallest, except for some of the first telegraph insulators which were also small.
As I have mentioned before, my dad was the first to start collecting insulators and eventually he got me interested as well. We had so many great times together walking along the railroad tracks looking for these insulators and we hauled home thousands of them, though not all different. Dad eventually gave me most of his collection and then the remaining ones just before he died. His favorite was an insulator produced by the California Glass Insulator Company in a beautiful dark plum color, worth about $150 now I think. Unfortunately, when I moved to this apartment 3 years ago it broke into hundreds of pieces.
I wanted to wait until a closer to Father’s Day before posting this, just so you know I wasn’t ignoring your requests. I guess this is sort of a tribute to my dad and the many enjoyable times we had together. And not just collecting insulators. We also did a lot of hiking together, camping, and looking for old bottles for my collection, even though dad didn’t like old bottles at all, but he still enjoyed the times we had digging for old bottles. I will be sharing more of these adventures over the coming months and I hope you will enjoy them as much as we did.
If you need more info on insulators, don’t hesitate to ask and I will try to answer any questions you might have. I hope you enjoy the pictures as well. For any fathers out there that might be reading, an early Happy Father’s Day to you!! If you have a father and are able to, take some time this weekend to spend with your dad, I wish I still could.
Well, that is all for now everyone, thank you for taking the time to read and hopefully I will get one more post out today. Enjoy your day and your weekend and God bless!
Steve and Muffin.
© 2019 Steve McLeod.