...my hubs collects insulators. Old insulators that you usually see on the top of telephone poles along railway lines through the Midwest. I noticed today, while I was dusting, that he likes to line them up like little soldiers! We do have quite a few and some of them are very unique not only in colouring but also in size/shape. We have a few that are crackled as though they couldn't stand the heat any longer.
Insulators have been around longer than most people realize. The first rudimentary telegraph line was built between Paris and Lille, France in 1793. The need for insulators to insulate the wire from grounding out soon became apparent. There were a number of early experimental lines in Europe and the United States before Samuel F. B. Morse finally developed a fully functional and commercial system using his particular code. He built his first commercial line between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. in 1844.
Insulators were first used extensively in the mid-1840s with the invention of the telegraph. They were necessary to prevent the electrical current passing through the wire from grounding out on the pole and making the line unusable. The first insulators were a beeswax soaked rag wrapped around the wire. They worked well in the dry laboratory but soon broke down when exposed to the weather. The next concept was a glass knob, which looked much like a bureau knob one might still find on antique furniture today, mounted on a wood or metal pin. From this evolved the pin style insulator, which had no threading inside the pinhole. It was cemented to the pin by driving it down on the pin with a mallet on an asphalted rag. This was not a perfect answer because the weather worked on the rag and eventually the insulator would work loose and pop off the pin allowing the wire to contact a grounding surface. Inevitably, however, as telegraph lines traced the westward expansion of railroad lines across the states, glass manufacturers began to create many new designs in an effort to secure a niche in the rapidly growing insulator market.
Thus, by the advent of the Civil War in 1860, original insulator models could be found in both porcelain and glass. While glass was more common from the beginning for telegraph and telephone line insulation, porcelain would later gain a firm foothold as the preferred material for insulating high voltage power lines. Over time, glass manufacturers would produce hundreds of designs; millions of insulators were made of glass and porcelain, then later of rubber, plastic and other composite materials."
Another article speculated the reason for the different colours. Supposedly the insulators were made at the end of the day with the leftover glass, so if the company was making green glass bottles that day then the insulators would be green. Most of the ones we have are clear, although we do have two porcelain ones, a brown and a white. They don't seem to be as sturdy as the glass ones.
Do you have a collection with an interesting history attached to it?