1993 >> January >> Porcelain Insulator News  

Porcelain Insulator News
by Elton Gish

Reprinted from "Crown Jewels of the Wire", January 1993, page 16

There have been a large number of reports of interesting multipart finds this year, and we keep getting further behind in getting these in PIN. You all continue to be very active searching for multiparts, and there is no end in sight for new styles. But, before we get started, let us clear up the mystery of John Webster's two white mushrooms shown on page 14 of the September, 1992 issue of CJ. I was hoping that we could flush out an answer to this mystery, and sure enough, they have now been identified. Jimmy Bums told me that these are porcelain drain covers for urinals! Just goes to show that, if you are always looking up, you are bound to miss something interesting down at ground level.

Steve Jones seems to be having good luck looking down, too -- down under the bushes that is. Steve, Bob Berry and Jeff Kaminski have been busy searching old power lines. On one of their recent trips to an old line near Paul Smith, NY, Steve found a nice specimen of a gray VICTOR M-2902. The bottom was mint, but the top was smashed. Steve recovered all of the pieces except a small one. Bob found a restorable one, too. Bob's term for these is "kitsulator". I guess that is similar to getting an insulator in kit form, and putting it together yourself. We all know that it is cheaper to get the kit, rather than getting it pre-assembled. Steve's finished "kit" is shown in the photo, in front of an incomplete New Lexington M-3890. Looks like the M3890 "kit" was missing a part. Bob says that the top skirt of the M-3890 is 14-1/2" in diameter (6" crown) and the bottom skirt is 11" by 16-3/4" tall!

M-2902 is a new style which was first reported at the Allentown National. Mike Guthrie got that one, and probably 3-4 others (not "kitsulator" types) have surfaced since then. Mike's M-2902 measured 12 - 7.5 x 8; however, Steve's specimen is 12 - 7 x 7.5, which shows the typical variation in multi specimens. It seems that all of these have come from this area of New York. Gray insulators date before about 1910 or 1912.

M-2902 VICTOR in front of top and bottom
 skirts of M-3890 unmarked New Lexington.

Gray multiparts are rare and very desirable to collectors. Some of them are" greenish-gray and others are bluish-gray. The differences in shading may be the result of firing temperatures or slight variations in glaze composition. Most have mottling where the glaze has dripped down to form a thicker, darker gray color. The Locke or Victor gray glazes tend to have a multitude of tiny blue specks, but the Thomas gray glaze does not. Below is a photo sent in by Bob Berry. This new style has been assigned, M-4321D:

14 - 7- 10 - 7.5 x 12

Steve also found on that line an unmarked Pittsburg multi that is similar to M-3122. This new style was reported on page 7 of the January, 1990 CJ. However, that one was probably made by Thomas, and it had the "D. R. R. E." incuse marking. Steve was very fortunate in that only the bottom skirt was broken. He easily made the repair, by gluing the two halves together, and it displays mint (see photo on following page).

Unmarked Pittsburg, M-3122

It seems that Jeff wasn't as lucky as Steve and Bob on this hunt. However, Steve reports that Jeff did find a gray skirt piece (M-2902?) that had the "VICTOR R=oo" marking inside the insulator logo. 

In another letter, Steve reports a M-3215A with the incuse Lapp marking on the top and middle skirts. The notches on the marking indicate the years 1924 and 1925. The drawing is from Lapp's 1923 catalog. This style is Lapp's version of the Westinghouse Faradoid design, which some call the pineapple shape (patent 1,374,998 granted on April 19, 1921). Westinghouse noticed the similarity, too, and they sued Lapp for patent infringement. After Lapp had devoted a tremendous amount of work and expense, preparing to defend their design, Westinghouse dropped the suit. I do not know if they reached a licensing agreement, or if Westinghouse decided not to pursue the case.

 10 - 9 - 5.5 x 7.5

Lapp M-3215A

Steve reports that he and Jeff obtained several very unusual specimens. Jeff's insulator came from Larry Emmons. These are 4-part multis with a cast metal crown, which I have assigned, M-4343. Steve has two varieties. The chocolate brown one is about 1/2" taller and has a bottom skirt (8.5 inches) that is one inch larger than the one with a pretty mottled orange glaze (7.5 inches). The mottling on the top skirt looks like tiger stripes. Both specimens have the incuse marking, "LOCKE / 23527". This style was not in any of the Locke catalogs that I have, but, from the size of the catalog number, I would guess that these were made in the early 1930's. The dimensions shown below are an average of the two specimens.

M-4343 with metal crown
 14 - 12 - 10 - 8 x 14

Steve said that M-4343 was found on a 69Kv line from the former Farmington River Power Co. He said that there were about a dozen in service in New Britain, CT, near the Stanley Works, until September. That is when he got his two.

I suspect that these metal crown multis were made based on the patent 1,988,369 granted to H. H. Brown on January 15. 1935. The purpose of the metal crown was to reduce the corona effect between the conductor and crown, and resultant electrical stresses; thus, reducing AM radio interference. That patent was assigned to Locke. Porcelain companies were frantically trying to solve the radio interference problem in the early 1930's, but cheaper solutions than the Brown patent were soon found, which probably explains why M-4343 was never cataloged.

Jeff Hogan reports some new finds, too. He sent shadow profile drawings to aid in identifying them. One is similar to M-3065. but the bottom skirt is two inches wider. It is unmarked, and has a red-brown glaze with some orange mottling. It has been assigned, M-3072 (8.5 - 5.5 - 6 x 8). Maybe we can get a picture of it later. 

Jeff reports an insulator similar to M-2220. It is almost chocolate brown with a little mottling. What makes this piece odd is the incuse marking shown below. Has anyone ever seen this marking before? The marking is 3/4" tall and 1/2" wide, and is located inside the top skirt. 

Jeff also reports a rather odd multi. It appears to be a 3-part, but closer examination reveals that the top skirt is glazewelded to the middle skirt, and. the bottom skirt is cemented to the middle skirt! Bill Rohde sent the following two photos that he took of the one in his collection. Bill's insulator is cemented on a Smith-grip pin. This insulator has been assigned M-2329. I don't know if the reproduced photo will show it, but there are horizontal lines cut into the top skirt, which show through the glaze. 

unmarked M-2329 7.5 - 5.5 - 4 x 6

M-2329 showing the glazeweld and cemented skirts

The thin glaze is a shiny medium mahogany, and it is obviously much more glossy underneath the skirts (characteristic of Lima ). This piece is obviously a Lima product. The glazewelded middle skirt shows the influence that Fred Locke had at Lima. Fred used a similar technique on M-2785, M-2795, M-2796, M-2842, M-3721, and M3725, but, in all of these cases, he glazewelded a collar under the top skirt, not a petticoat, or even another skirt. Note how thick the cement joint is around the bottom skirt, which is characteristic of pre-1912 multiparts. They soon learned that thinner cement joints help to reduce the forces of expanding cement.

The horizontal bands showing through the glaze on the top skirt, by itself, are not characteristic of Lima (early Victor marked specimens may show these, too), but when the glaze is a thin, light mahogany and/or has a purplish cast, you can bet that it is a Lima product. Also look for the characteristic spiraling machine marks inside the bottom skirt that we have talked about before. Lima glazes will also tend to be much more shiny or glossy underneath. 

Bill Rohde occasionally sends me a photo of an odd insulator to "add" to the M-Chart. I use to get very excited over these, and do some serious head-scratching, only to learn that Bill had mixed parts from two or more "kitsulators". You see, he has a lot of spare parts, and apparently spends countless hours putting various ones together, in hopes that, some day, he will find the right combination. I have finally learned about Bill's "trick" photos, and usually do not fall prey to his twisted sense of humor anymore, his latest "find" does look almost believable. The following photo is his latest "new" style. The top skirt was dug at the Pittsburg dump. Bill set it on the bottom three skirts of a Pittsburg M-4340 (note that the fourth skirt is recessed inside the third one). The glaze colors do match rather well. He guesses that the top skirt may be from a Pittsburg M-3890.

Hum, what M-number should this one be???
14.75 - 11 - 10.5 - 5.5 x 16

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