National Treasure Find - CD 1190 pancake fisher

By Colin Jung; posted July 14, 2011

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If you are a CD collector, you will have to travel to the end of the CD numbers (CD 1190) and visit San Jose, California to even get a whiff of a Fisher "pancake" insulator. This was a custom order by the Detroit Electrical Works to insulate an underground power rail for the San Jose Fisher Electric Road (1887-1889), one of the first electric streetcar systems in California. The Fisher Road was a spectacular failure as the contact mechanism would regularly break the insulators and this underground power rail design was likely never attempted again.

These pancake Fisher insulators were not used in the Highland Park, MI Fisher Road as my research indicates that the power rail was located above ground or at grade in the Highland Park system. The pancake Fishers have been known since the early days of the insulator hobby (See CJOW July 1973, Old Bottle Magazine Sept. 1973, and Crossarms Sept. 1973), but have never been popularized because of their limited numbers, very limited geography and the fact that they are non-pintype insulators that have only recently appear in the price guide (McDougald 2007 edition). All known examples have been dug by local bottle diggers and other local relic hunters and have all pretty much stayed in California collections, except for the notable exception of the Gerald & Esta Brown's pancake Fisher which I believe was repatriated to California when the Brown's collection was sold.

Until the 2011 National, and to the best of my knowledge, all known examples and specimens of the pancake Fisher were held by four California-based collectors and a 2002 eBay auction that was won by a Sante Fe, MO collector (See [id=316171832] ). A mint condition pancake Fisher was also observed in the Bolack Collection during the 2014 Farmington National. Tommy does not recall when he acquired the Fisher.

For the first time in a long time, a pancake Fisher was publicly sold at the 2011 San Jose National in the early hours of NIA Day. The specimen (most are broken in one place or another) has been owned by the same individual for over 10 years and was dug in the J. Lohr/Wielands/Falstaff/Fredericksburg Brewery redevelopment site that was also formerly the Fisher streetcar barn. Due to the scarcity of information about the insulator, the owner did not realize what he had until recently and the insulator was pretty much stored in a dirty sock in a closet for a decade. Photos of the piece were not taken, so I am posting a photo of my own example, which I understand is similar in condition to the one that sold. Another Fisher fragment from the brewery site dig appeared at the National (See Diane Tjerrild's show photos) in a non-insulator collector's hands but he indicated it was not for sale.

The buyer is a well-known CD collector from the East Coast and to the best of my knowledge this is the very first time this CD has traveled east of the Mississippi River. Welcome to the Pancake Fisher Club !