Early and Unusual Telegraph Insulators

By Mike GuthrieView Icon Profile

Design and layout by Bill MeierView Icon Profile

In the world of insulator collecting literally dozens of books have been written about glass and porcelain pin type insulators. Many of the books even include a few samples of non-pin type insulators and a small number even have Consolidated Design (CD) numbers issued.

Almost all of these books, however, have ignored the insulators which were among the first invented, many of which are made of materials other than glass or porcelain. This section will reveal some of the very oldest telegraph insulators, some of which were patented and others which were not, published in color for the first time. In addition to the oldest insulators, you will find samples of some specimens which are equally intriguing, even though they are considered "modern" (1865-1872) by telegraph era standards.

As you travel back in time to the invention and early expansion of the telegraph, imagine for a moment the thought and effort that went into the design and production of these items. Then imagine the appearance of these items in a heavy forest carrying a lone telegraph wire which bore news of the California Gold Rush, the Civil War, and other events going back as much as 150 years in our nation’s history... If you can picture these things, you can begin to appreciate the historical significance of insulator collecting.

As you embark on this journey into history, please enjoy this selection of extremely rare and unique insulator specimens.

Enjoy the trip!

Tip: To view the complete series of photographs and descriptions outlined below it is recommended that you use the arrow button to progress through the slides before following any links that are contained within these pages.

Start the journey!Get started!

List of slides:

List of early patents:

DATE PATENT DESCRIPTION
May 6, 1851 8,075 Nelson Goodyear patent for “Improvement in the Manufacture of India-Rubber
October 14, 1851 8,418 John Montgomery Batchelder patent for “Improvement in Insulators for Telegraph-Wires”
September 14, 1858 21,492 Moses G. Farmer and John M. Batchelder patent for “Improvement in Telegraph-Insulators”
November 29, 1864 45,221 David Brooks patent for “Improvement in Insulators for Telegraph-Wires”
August 6, 1867 2,717 David Brooks patent for “Improvement in Insulators for Telegraph-Wires” (Reissue of 45,221)
October 8, 1867 69,622 David Brooks patent for “Improvement in Insulators for Telegraph-Wires” (Representing the actual design of specimens marked with the August 6, 1867 date)
July 26, 1870 105,656 W. H. Dechant patent for Improvement in Securing the Line Wire by use of Offset Twisting 'Cramp Hooks' (The patent was later assigned to David Brooks)
January 23, 1872 122,961 Chester H. Pond patent for “Improvement in Telegraph-Insulators”

For questions or further information on items in this section, you may e-mail Mike GuthrieView Icon Profile at

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Written Sunday, January 19, 1997; updated Tuesday, November 18, 1997
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