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A History of the Star Insulators

By Brent BurgerView Icon Profile

A reasonably good history of the Star production was established through research by Ray Klingensmith. This research eventually took him to Elmer, NJ, where there were two glass works, known as the "Upper" and "Lower" works. Through interviews with locals, archived newspapers, and site excavation, it became clear that this is where the non-Brookfield made Stars originated. Ray allowed this info to be published in McDougald's Volume I - the one directed at company histories and patents, etc. Ray has provided further information directly. Being a collector of Star CD 102's and CD 112's as a specialty, and having, more or less, kept my eyes open for the past 35 years to all CDs of Stars, patterns become obvious as to colors and mold techniques that can tell us which operator of the "works" made which insulators, although it was something of a hand-me-down situation, with considerable overlaps of production that will forever elude definitive explanation.

This much we do know:

There were 3 operators of the 2 different Elmer works that are known to have made the Star-marked insulators for GE. These are, in chronological order: Sterling, Harloe, and Novelty. Without getting out my notes for real specific dates, they were in operation from 1900 to 1904, with Harloe taking over the Upper Works from Sterling, while Novelty ran the Lower Works during part of the time Harloe was still in town (before vacating to Hawley) but continuing on to be the last one in production there (shut down by litigation brought by Brookfield) in 1904.

Moving on to examination of specimens, and comparing marked glass of Sterling and Harloe, one can see that Sterling made almost 100% lighter blue-aqua glass with a notably high degree of clarity. That is to say, finding a Sterling with junk in it is very unusual, as is finding one with amber of in any shade of green.

This becomes important, because Harloe made similar colored glass - it does seems to lean more aqua, and less blue - but Harloe's are often snowy, milky, and generally cruddy.

Novelty was the odd man out. Their glass leaned GREEN. You know those wango-tango yahoo! greens that Stars are found in? They also operated at the Lower Works, not the Upper, and apparently sourced their raw materials from places different than Sterling and Harloe to get the different colors.

The thing I find odd about 3+ companies making Stars is that they seemed to share, or hand down equipment across the board. 102 molds made for Sterling were later embossed with Harloe, and later still, retooled with a Star. Some CDs are found in all color ranges for all three companies - the common 162 design would be the best example. Being peripherally involved with this sort of manufacturing trade, I wonder if perhaps they shared a common mold maker/machinist/shop, or jobbed to one that did work for them all? But there are certain (and very distinct) molding techniques that are very Elmer, but seen on products made by all three mfr's.!

The only Star-marked piece of the puzzle I cannot make fit nicely are the wedge-drippers. The color is goofy, the shape isn't quite right, and of course, the drips are way-out weird.

Brookfield made the Star with regular drips. They also made plenty of smooth base units, but all the regular drippers were BF. The color/s, the mold shapes, dome numbers. No question, these were BF's. In the 102 Dept., one can see the unique mold that was marked "S.F." was retooled to carry a Star, with some still carrying the last period that was not erased. These are also the only style of 102 Star to carry regular drips. Given that these are almost always made in the later production darker BF aquas, one might surmise that GE approached BF to make Stars after the Elmer Works were finally shutdown?

As for the "S.F." / S. Fobes & Co. connection, ...... with no better explanation after 40 years of people trying to explain this one away, when I came across an old catalogue that showed they were around at the same time, in the same business as GE, and these S.F. pieces were only found in Fobes general service market, .... maybe they thought that GE's idea of offering their own marked goods was a valuable idea and approached Elmer or BF about making some glass? Definitive proof may come when someone turns up a 1904 or 1910 Fobes catalogue that shows these. Or maybe not? Just a theory. One other thing of note, .... in the Fobes catalogue I have, they "proudly" proclaim that they "now service the full line of Hemingray glass insulators". Does this suggest a switch from something else prior ? Only earlier catalogues will tell for sure.

In the meantime, these CD 102's and CD 112's prove to be an enduring source of fun to collect for me. I started with them just because I kept finding variations and they are so cheap. At present, I must have over 200 different ones, collecting first in mold variant, and then colors within each group.

If anyone has any additional information or clarification above, please get in touch with me. Thanks!

Brent Burger

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Last updated Sunday, February 15, 2003