The Big Unsolicited Brookfield Question

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Timeline with Hard Dates

  • 1898 Purple CD 293 LOCKE pieces, made by Locke, installed on line
  • 1898 Brookfield Incorporates in New York
  • 1906 Old Bridge plant is built, insulator production starts
  • 1908 Brooklyn production of insulators stops
  • 1908 Brookfield incorporates in New Jersey
  • 1912 Brooklyn plant closed
  • 1919 Thomas Gillespie plant explosion
  • 1922 Broofield plant sold

Original Emails

Brent Burger

July 6, 2013

The Big Unsolicited Brookfield Question [Reply to ICON] Brent Burger, Spokane, WA "Brent Burger" <> [Reply to sender only] Fri, 5 Jul 2013 10:20:44 -0700

OK, .... here we go !  ;-) Get out our big Can of Worms opener and let's see where this roller coaster goes !

I have given this lot of thought on how to organize my thoughts and the best I can come up with is a chaotic mess of random observations that I will try to present in a way that makes sense and/or provokes others to give feedback that might provide some key tidbit to put more of "the impossible puzzle" together.

It is my hope that some of you can provide examples of CD's, colors, shop numbers that are outside the scope of my own collecting that might tie up some loose ends or jar the existing thinking on a given point. I do keep a few non-102 Brookfields as side interest/study value, my main study group in the 102. Those who can offer comment/ photos of other CD's relevant to the discussion are greatly encourage. Another angle to this would be the discovery of dated photos of the California Glass Insulator Co. showing that styles thought to be LATE production were actually very EARLY production ! I am fully prepared (and welcome) being proven wrong on any of this and invite anyone with even shaky "evidence" to speak up, as the chance observation might prove far more viable if we can connect the dots.

That said, let me preface this with how I fit into this, as my scope in the very large Brookfield picture is vague on the large range and more acute on the more narrow focus of post-1900 insulators, and much more specifically on those pony styles made by the company. In this way, I will rely heavily on others to bring examples and theory to the table on items outside my narrow scope.

My area of study centers around skirt embossed Brookfield (SKEB) CD 102's, which we presume to be made roughly post-1897 to the end of production in 1921. The focus of this writing and following discourse will be the various embossing types - WBFNY, BFNY, BF, and B and how they may or may not relate to the production facilities in Bushwick (Brooklyn, NY) 1860's - 1912 and Old Bridge (OB), NJ, 1906-1921.

Some of Brookfield history is known. Much has been taken as fact from dialogue had with Wm. Brookfield Jr., something that has proven to be less than accurate as research has been done. BUT ! ... I feel this "known" history is the perfect jumping off point, as it allows us all to walk through the new knowledge and note the corrections as our hobby knows this history. So, I will lay this out as much as I have known it, with addendum and corrections, and everyone can add, comment, or otherwise as we move along to build an as up-to-date history and historical theory as possible.

Brookfield History as known in 1967:

1865 - Brookfield gets into the insulator business after Louis Cauvet sells the screw-thread pinhole patent rights to the Brookfields. I have heard it discussed in recent years that a start date is more likely to have been around 1868, and that the patent granting date does not necessarily indicate a start of production. Brookfield kept their admin office at 55 Fulton St. from their earliest insulator production days to some time in 1882.

1882 - Brookfield moves their offices to 45 Cliff St. It should be cautioned that while it is highly likely that Wm. Brookfield Sr. moved quickly to re-engrave his molds to reflect the new address (based on anecdotal knowledge of the man and his drive to build dominance in the field), this assumption loses merit after his death and should not be considered absolute.

1890 - Brookfield moves the offices again. This time to 83 Fulton St. I am uncertain if, or when Brookfield ever moved again, but of importance to dating the product, this would be the last address engraved on their insulators and it was sporadic - some getting it while others did not - and what I suspect was a transitioning away from the crown embossing that Brookfield had favored since the beginning. This leads us into the area of study and discussion about the less defined SKEB embossings and periods of use.

1897 - I am drawing a blank here for specifics, but written accounts say Brookfield was at the 83 Fulton address from 1890-1897.

1903 - William Brookfield Sr. dies, setting off a string of changes within the company. William Brookfield Jr. states that the "W" was dropped from use at this time. Whether this happened immediately is questionable, but 1903 is the general date for when the BFNY began to appear and the WBFNY emb'g may have carried on until service was required or the molds wore out.

1908 - Brookfield moves to Old Bridge. This information has been proven incorrect by period documents stating work began on the new plant in 1906 and was in production before 1908 there. Also, it once was believed this move also meant that the Bushwick plant closed in 1908. It actually remained in service into 1912.

As we know it now, insulator production began at OB in 1906. It was the first production to be done at OB, and of note, insulator production continued at Bushwick for several years before all insulator production was moved over to OB. Do we have definite dates for start at OB and stoppage at Bushwick ?

It once was considered fact that after the move to OB, the "NEW YORK" emb'd was dropped. This is almost certainly untrue, as OB glass was notably much darker than those glasses made at Bushwick, and many examples of the OB glass are found marked with BFNY. Conversely, examples of the earlier Bushwick glass are found marked WBFNY and BFNY (as would be expected), but also BF and B.

Which leads to the last comment about embossing types. It was once considered fact (based on ???) that "B" marked insulators were made during and after WW1, based on a shortage of skilled workers available to engrave new molds. This has proven to be nothing but poppycock, as B-marked insulators can be found in Bushwick colors, and the standard OB dark aquas. A keg variant found in Bushwick light aqua is also embossed BFNY on the skirt with a "B" between the grooves. It appears the B marking was used randomly from perhaps as early as 1897 to the very end with no obvious rhyme or reason to its application.

It is my belief that OB production was always primarily a dark aqua (tealish) to dark green, and often swirled with olive to create greens, two-tones, and the occasion olive or amber run. The latter occurring with greater frequency at, or near the very end. More on this later.

Very end production is noted by a change in glass appearance and molds/molding techniques. Common items showing these attributes are the Brookfield No.9, 31, 36, and 44 marked pieces, however, others are also found with these characteristics as well. The glass has a different feel to it. The surface is often less smooth, and the mold lines are often sharp edged. The glass color was often a lighter blue-aqua, often seen with snow in it, but runs were made that were much more green, and we are all familiar with the olive and ambers also made in this period. The No.9 and 44 probably being the most often seen in these amber type colors.

I find the greatest "mystery" about Brookfield production to revolve roughly around the 1900 to 1918 period with moments of clarity to *perhaps* help us put some of the questionable periods in better focus. Going on the assumption that Bushwick glass was primarily lighter blue-aqua in color, and Old Bridge glass being primarily the dark aquas and greens, I find myself plugging in observations of profiles and colors to build theories about what stuff was made when.

Following are photographs of different pieces and groupings with my theories. This is already a #@! book, so I will submit the entirety in sections to aid the "short of attention span".  ;-) Please feel to concur, comment, add, or just plain disagree, preferably with photos to support your feedback. Little that I know or theorize is set in stone. As mentioned above, much of what was considered fact about BF history has proven to be "inaccurate" at best, total hogwash at worst. I consider most anything on this topic open for debate and welcome evidence to support any new or different ideas.

The first group will be the WBFNY marked pieces. This bunch appears to be fairly small, with a couple profiles much more common than others. We might guess that these were made roughly prior to 1903 as outlined above and perhaps as early as 1897 (?) although I can think of no verifiable evidence beyond comments made by William Brookfield to base this on.

 Album: Reference Information
 Title: 102 SKEB WBFNY - Different Profiles
 Album: Reference Information
 Title: 102 SKEB WBFNY - Fat
 Album: Reference Information
 Title: 102 SKEB WBFNY - Squat
 Album: Reference Information
 Title: 102 SKEB WBFNY - Others

July 7, 2013

The Big and Overly Complicated Brookfield Question [Reply to ICON] Brent Burger, Spokane, WA "Brent Burger" <> [Reply to sender only] Sat, 6 Jul 2013 07:27:59 -0700

The second group in this study (BFNY) is a frustrating bunch. It is the largest and most complicated / confusing of all the SKEB 102's. I have spent many, many hours studying them and am only able to find "patterns" on a few. I am at a loss to name each style, as it seems there is an infinite number of variations that "almost" seem to make "this one" part of "that group", but defy PID that way. Muy frustration ! This is also my primary motivation and interest in studying the SKEB 102. This area is like a black hole of mystery with factors like purple glass, yellow-green, the move to Old Bridge, and a whole bunch of transitional stuff yet to be defined, it is just a ball of clues looking to be tied together. After much hesitation and an inability to draw conclusions, I have decided to push forward with many of them lumped together in loose groups and hope to enlarge my study group to perhaps get some answers.

- -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

According to William Brookfield Jr., after the death of William Sr., the "W" was "dropped" from the embossing. What exactly that meant is open for debate. Were the molds immediately pulled from use and re-engraved ? I highly doubt it. Samples of BFNY units in my study group could be suggested to be made from reworked WBFNY, but none I have show evidence of simply having the "W" blotted out - something Brookfield was well known to do.

William Jr. went on to say that the company "moved" from Bushwick (Brooklyn), NY to Old Bridge (OB), NJ in 1908, and at this time the "NEW YORK" was "dropped" from the embossing. This over-simplification of their move is grossly inaccurate and is the primary focus of my studies here.

Brookfield began work at Old Bridge in 1906 and began producing insulators there that same year. However, insulator production continued at Bushwick for several years, giving them TWO plants making insulators at the same time over the course of 3-4 years.

Comments made by William Jr. make it clear that the typically light blue-aqua glass so favored by William Sr. changed to the familiar dark aquas and greens at the Old Bridge site. Raw materials were sourced locally and the old Long Island quarry used to supply the Bushwick works was not used for the new plant at OB. While anything coming from William Jr. should be filtered through the knowledge that he was very young at the time the company was still in operation, this tidbit seems to have supporting evidence in a known source quarry used by BF and anecdotal knowledge of the change.

Hypothetically using this point as a matter of fact as a jumping off point, a number of theories can be postulated. I will get into many them in later installments, but while still on the subject of the BFNY embossing as it relates to the move, if we accept this color change to dark aqua as being a distinct characteristic of OB production, a number of examples exist of BFNY marked 102's in the OB colors, clearly suggesting that the "NEW YORK" marking was NOT dropped immediately, and some were made at Old Bridge.

 Album: Reference Information
 Title: 102 SKEB BFNY - Old Bridge Colors

To confuse matters further, a peculiar color group seems to straddle the BFNY / BF marking, suggesting units marked simply "BROOKFIELD" were put into service in Bushwick toward the end of production there. I will submit that this theory *could* be reversed and the OB dark aquas were not made immediately after they came on line there. However, for argument's sake, I will go with the former until evidence suggesting otherwise outweighs the evidence suggesting this is the case. In any case, this color group is noted for it's typically glowing radiant quality of glass, and colors ranging from an odd sagey kind of aqua, to more tealy, to a very pretty yellow-green.

 Album: Reference Information
 Title: 102 SKEB Brookfield Study - The Transitional Color Group

Also of note is a peculiar tall and skinny 102 design that I have yet to find in a OB dark aqua, but is commonly seen in the aforementioned color group that suggests to me this color group was made at Bushwick in the last years before they moved all insulator production to Old Bridge.

 Album: Reference Information
 Title: 102 SKEB BFNY - Concave Skirts Skinny

On to the rest of the BFNY presentation ....

The BFNY group has 3 distinct size groups of units with concave skirts. Odd amongst all 102's, but nothing too unusual in the field of BFNY marked 102's. This lot has the distinction of straddling all color spectrums, from early Bushwick light aqua and light green to transitional yellow-green to what appears to be Old Bridge dark aqua.

 Album: Reference Information
 Title: 102 SKEB BFNY - Concave Skirts Medium

Following up on the medium sized concave skirt units, this group represents the fattest of the lot. It also offers some odd clues in being a BFNY group I have yet to locate in any color but the dark Old Bridge colors. The dripped unit is the only BFNY 102 I have seen with drips.

 Album: Reference Information
 Title: 102 SKEB BFNY - Concave Skirts Fat

Jumping around a bit, this anomaly to the whole BF 102 equation is the MLOD SKEB.

 Album: Reference Information
 Title: 102 SKEB BFNY - MLOD

A group of similar, but not the same, pieces with a taller, skinnier proportion than normal.

 Album: Reference Information
 Title: 102 SKEB BFNY - Tall Skinnies

A distinct group with very vertical skirts.

 Album: Reference Information
 Title: 102 SKEB BFNY - Straight Skirts

This group is very peculiar, both in colors, but also in profile.

 Album: Reference Information
 Title: 102 SKEB BFNY - "O" Types

A group of similar, but not the same units. See photo caption for more detail.

 Album: Reference Information
 Title: 102 SKEB BFNY - Misc. 1

Another group of similar, but not the same units. See photo caption for more detail.

 Album: Reference Information
 Title: 102 SKEB BFNY - Misc. 2

As stated up top, this is an overwhelming group of similars and almosts that has so far defied my attempts to neatly organize into any form. More study is needed here for sure.

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