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The Greatest Insulator Find in the History of the Hobby
by Bill Meier
I'm impatient; I don't want to read this! Just show me the photographs!
Think back to some of the great finds in the hobby. Discoveries of new CD numbers like the Twiggs CD 141.7, the "Spaceman" CD 181.5, or the "Ram's Head" CD 109.9. How about the discovery of the skirt embossed EC&M CD 123, the aqua and cobalt "Richmond" threadless eggs, or the threadless Hemingray CD 732.2? Yes, all of those are some nice pieces to be sure!
But, what makes an insulator find really great? How about great color? The specimens in this "greatest find" are all Aqua... (strike 1). How about early threadless or threaded glass? These pieces are all circa 1900... (strike 2). How about "classic" names like Boston Bottle Works, Emmingers, Fisher, Combination Safety, Buzby, Seilers? These pieces are mostly Hemingrays... (strike 3).
So what makes this find great? How about a find of eight insulators in 1969 that were so radically different and unusual that only one of them had previously been assigned a CD number? Starting to get convinced? In fact, today, all of these remain "one of a kind" pieces, with one exception, where a part of a second specimen is known. One of the pieces found is a four part glass multisection insulator that stands 23" tall. Yikes!
Many of you probably never knew this find existed; it was not highly publicized and all the pieces were quickly sold to private collectors. Most of you have never seen more than a black and white photograph of these pieces in McDougald's book. I had the privilege of holding and viewing three of these pieces for the combined "PATENT MAY 2, 1893" display that we were coordinating at the 1993 National in Denver, Colorado. Awesome!
Here, you will get to view photographs of these fantastic pieces. But first, a little history...
In the 1960's an employee of the Hemingray Glass Company in Muncie, Indiana, became interested in collecting glass insulators. The infamous Hemingray factory dump was discovered, and this employee did a fair amount of digging at the dump. On one dig, he discovered a cache of some highly unusual and previously unknown insulators. It is interesting to note that these insulators were mostly covered with a large sheet of tin to protect them. Did someone intentionally cover this "time capsule"?
The pieces were recovered in remarkable condition, and were displayed at the First National Meet in New Castle, Indiana on June 20-21, 1970. Only a few "old timers" saw these pieces. There is even a photograph of this display in the August 1970 issue of Insulators - Crown Jewels of the Wire page 3. Between 1970 and 1989 these pieces stayed out of the mainstream of the hobby and remained virtually unknown to most collectors. Even today these pieces are seldom seen and remain in a few private collections.
Several of the pieces have associated patents detailing their design. Were these experimental pieces or part of a display at the factory or for trade shows? Were these pieces ever in use on lines? We may never know for sure...
For your viewing enjoyment, I have created two sets of photographs of these pieces. You should view the larger pictures if your monitor is set to display 1024 x 768 pixels or greater, or the smaller set of pictures otherwise. If, after reading this story, and viewing these photographs, you still don't agree this was the "greatest insulator find in the history of the hobby", send me email, and explain why not, and I will pay for the connect time (up to 30 minutes) that you used to read this article and view these photographs! That's how confident I am!
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Last updated Monday, April 15, 1996