"the nicest and the sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens, but just those that bring simple pleasure, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string."
Lucy Maud Montgomery

Thursday, October 20, 2011

History lesson...

...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.

A little history;   *from the Wiki*

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?


  1. Always loved them... the blues and greens are my favorites ... I cried as a kid when they replace them with underground wires and new lines and poles... AWESOME collection Love it! love you :)

  2. What a great lesson. I didn't know a thing about insulators. They are actually quite beautiful.

  3. No collection. And what I do have has no history.
    But I saw a box of insulators at the flea market last weekend.

    Thanks for the post. Very interesting. :)

  4. I love the weight of them, they are so substantial, you know. I collect wooden spools. I display them in my store in old Coca-Cola crates. I have so many that I have a big candle holder meant for a center piece filled with them. I have some nice chunky big one and some tiny ones. I don't have any of the great big ones used on commercial machines, though.

    I love old things, and ove it even better when I can think of a way to repurpose them.

  5. I have a few of these myself. I love it when the sun shines through them. I have one deep maroon one. Your hubby has great taste! lol

  6. Learned something new...thank you!

    I used to collect and it's all still in "that room" I'm ignoring. I should pick a particular collection and stick to it. That would be normal. I'm not normal LOL

    Great post!!

  7. Wow! I never knew any of that! Thanks for the history lesson.
    I collect Cabbage Patch Dolls.

  8. Wow, that is quite a collection. We have a couple as well, but not really a collection! It was interesting to read your post!

  9. Amazing lesson.It never occurred to me before.thanks for sharing.

    Love your blog.

    Follow each other.

  10. I have a few too... you can see the bare pegs on poles where they have been stolen...

  11. Wish I had known you when I moved out of my house in town I would o sent you my hubby's collection of these.
    I learned a lot today from your post.
    I use to collect the beautiful Lady's heads that were used for flower vases.
    Now I try not collect but downsize. lol

  12. What a wonderfully unique and beautiful collection. I remember the beauty in some of the older insulators. What can I say...I'm old!

    God bless ya and have yourself an extraordinary day! :o)

  13. Nice little lesson there!

    Funny, the things we collect...


  14. I've always thought insulator were pretty, but didn't really understand what they were for. The things we bloggers learn from one another! Nice collection. I'm not a rabid collector, but I do have a jar of old buttons, many vintage plates, and some very old paintings.

  15. Having worked for the telephone company for 40 years, I know all about these insulators. I have a few, but sold most of them.

  16. cool history lesson! My husband and I photograph trains as a hobby and we know a few insulator collectors too.


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