2007 >> January >> paisley_insulators  

By Powell Brown

Reprinted from "Crown Jewels of the Wire", January 2007, page 16

(Caution - LARGE DOWNLOAD)                                                                              

The insulator below is the source for the nickname "Paisley".                                                                                                                                      

The embossing reads:                                                                                      


(Editor's Note: In recent years Crown Jewels has received more requests for an article about Paisley insulators than any other subject. At the same time, very little is known about who the manufacturer or manufacturers were. We do not pretend to know even a tiny fraction of all the facts about Paisley's. The purpose of this article is simply to introduce you to this fascinating insulator subject. If we spark your interest, even if you have more questions after reading this than you do when you start, we will have accomplished our goal.)

What's a Paisley?

Paisley is a mystery. Paisley is a misnomer. Paisley is misleading.

A mystery... because of a connection between these little-known insulators and the language you use every single time you answer a telephone.

A misnomer... because Paisley is NOT the name of an insulator manufacturer. Paisley is NOT the name of an insulator patent holder. Paisley is NOT the name of a railroad. NOR even a telegraph company.

Misleading... because Paisley is simply the hobby's nickname for a group of insulators of various styles that have similar mold characteristics and, therefore, may have been made by the same manufacturer.

The name originates from the embossing found on a single style of insulator. CD 132.2's are found with embossing that reads: S.T. PAISLEY / MAKER / BEAVER FALLS, PA.(1)

Who was S.T. Paisley? When the first paid fire department was organized in Pittsburgh, PA in 1870, a man named S.T. Paisley was listed as the alarm-telegraph superintendent.(2) Did Paisley design the CD 132.2 style as part of his duties for Pittsburgh's fire department? (By the way, Pittsburgh will be spelled in this article as it was in the 1870's.)

Is this the same S.T. Paisley? Research hasn't come up with another. Collector Tim Grantz has found a 1906 newspaper obituary regarding S.T. Paisley which confirms he had financial dealings with the city of Pittsburgh. Grantz also believes Paisley was in the signal corp (telegraph) in the Civil War. There, he might have become acquainted with some of the people named on the next few pages. But why is Paisley's name embossed on an insulator? Names found on insulators are usually the patent holders, glass manufacturers, railroads, or telegraph companies. Not fire alarm superintendents.

Nevertheless, Paisley certainly upstaged the glass manufacturer. Considered as the maker of these insulators is the Beaver Falls Glass Company of Pennsylvania. A purer identification of this group of insulators, therefore, would be a reference to Beaver Falls. But in a fascination for interesting nicknames, collectors generally call these "Paisleys", and have since the 1970's. Why? Is "Beaver Falls Insulators" just too many syllables?

The reverse of the Paisley 
is embossed: 
JULY 25TH 1865

(page 17)

History of the Beaver Falls Glass Company

"In 1866 William F. Modes purchased a glasshouse in Lawrenceville, a northeastern borough of Pittsburg, PA. ... The 1869-70 edition of Thurston's Pittsburgh City Directory had an ad for an Aetna Glass Works, with W.F. Modes listed as the manufacturer of black and green bottles and fruit jars. Modes sold the Aetna Glass Works in 1869... "(2)

That same year, Modes and a partner bought land in Beaver Falls, located about forty miles northwest of Pittsburgh. There they operated the Beaver Falls Glass Company from 1869 to 1879, when the operation was reorganized as the Co-Operative Flint Glass Company. It remained in business until 1937.(2)

The embossing "B.F.G. Co." on the
CD 133.2 above is believed to refer to the 
Beaver Falls Glass Company,

(page 18)

The Mystery

It is Mode's partner who is a key figure in the mystery surrounding Paisley insulators. He was Captain Thomas B.A. David. The Captain served as head of Military Telegraphs in West Virginia during the Civil War, and later was superintendent of the Western Union Telegraph Company in Pittsburgh. In 1874, when insulator production was likely at its peak at the Beaver Falls Glass Company, Captain David founded the Central District & Printing Telegraph Company. The printing telegraph bypassed the use of Morse code, allowing the telegrapher to type the message at one location and, when received, the message printed out on paper tape at its destination.(3)

In June of 1877, Alexander Graham Bell's father in law, Gardiner Hubbard, traveled to Pittsburgh to promote the telephone. The lines of the C.D.&.P. Telegraph Company were used for demonstration purposes. Hubbard left a set of telephones with Captain David, who installed them at his residence. Pittsburgh's first commercial telephone exchange was in operation in the fall of 1878, and lines connected to Beaver Falls by 1879. The C.D.&.P. reportedly leased lines from Western Union to service phone subscribers in the region. The Western Union line followed the Ohio River, and was subject to damage from flood waters. C.D.&P. didn't construct its own lines to Beaver Falls until 1881.

(page 19)

Taken in 1876, the picture above shows Alexander Graham Bell speaking into 
his new invention, the telephone. "Hay, Hay". Can you hear him now?

Somehow during the early period of telephone expansion, Captain David won the confidence of Bell's chief competitor, Thomas Edison. And in so doing, the Captain became a participant in a decision that affects everyone of us nearly every day of our lives. You see, Captain David was involved in the decision to use the word "Hello" when answering a telephone. Alexander Graham Bell insisted on using "Hoy, Hoy", or "Ahoy". But on August 15 1877, Thomas Edison wrote a letter to Captain David in Pittsburgh and proposed, "Friend David, I do not think we shall need a call bell as 'Hello!' can be heard 10 to 20 feet away. What you think? Edison".(5)

Apparently Edison didn't think a phone needed to "ring". The operator would just shout, "Hello!" to get the attention of the recipient of an in-coming call. Obviously, phones did get ring tones. But the public took to Edison & David's "Hello"; and "Hoy, Hoy" quickly fell into disuse.

Edison's letter may also indicate that Captain David was ordering phones for his new venture from Edison instead of Bell. We can also presume that Captain David ordered insulators from his own company, the Beaver Falls Glass Company, when serving as superintendent of Western Union and then president of the Central District & Printing Telegraph (and telephone) Company.

(page 20)


By studying mold characteristics, insulator collectors Ora Beary and Keith Roloson have come to believe that the various insulators described in this article potentially could have been made by the Beaver Falls Glass Company. The evidence is circumstantial, based on similar characteristics from one style to another. Similarities had been noted by collectors Gerald & Jeff Osler in the 1970's, who thirty years ago were already were calling this group of insulators "Paisleys"(7)

Distinguishing Marks

A. A primary mold characteristic common to many Paisley styles is the fiat, circular spot at the very top of the dome. The picture on the left clearly shows the flat dome on a CD 133.2 embossed P&W.

B. Embossed on the fiat part of the dome can be letters, numerals, a symbol, or nothing at all. The picture on the right shows the numeral "2" on the dome of a CD 127 W.U.P. in cobalt blue.

C. There is often a crease in the glass at the top of the pin hole in the shape of a "Y", or a broken "Y". The mark is believed to have been created by the plunger as it formed the threads. Roloson writes, "This unique feature is an important indicator that you have a Beaver Falls insulator, even if it is a no-name."(6)  Beary writes that in his opinion "that crease was created when a threadless plunger with the "Y" mark was used to create the pinhole, followed by a threaded plunger to form the threads."(2) Evidence of the "Y" can be seen behind the "2" in the picture above.

D. There may also be a bead of glass at the top of the pinhole. Quoting Beary, "The dimple or lathe mark at the top of the pinhole would be created from the threaded plunger since it is always located at the center of the pinhole, while the "Y" marking is not always centered."(2)

E. In the threaded Paisleys, the threads are distinctively rounded.

(page 21)


CD 728.2

Also a 728.2?

"Property of the Beaver Falls Glass Company was purchased in May, 1869; so it is possible no insulators were manufactured until the year 1870. It would have been necessary to build the factory, furnaces and other infrastructure to support such an endeavor."(6) Whatever the date, the factory became operational only four to five years after Louis A. Cauvet obtained his patent for threads in insulators (July 25, 1865). Brookfield was the first company to take an interest in Cauvet's patent, but founder James Brookfield didn't even obtain a patent for his invention of a screw machine to employ Cauvet's patent until May 31, 1870.(2) Robert Hemingray's press for "moulding glass telegraph insulators" with screw threads wasn't patented until December 19, 1871.(2) And since Brookfield and Hemingray were the pioneers in the manufacture of threaded insulators, there's little doubt the first insulators produced by the Beaver Falls Glass Company were threadless.

Shown on the left above is a CD 728.2. The insulator has what is believed to be the letter "M" embossed on the dome. While the letter could be a "W", the serifs (accents) make the letter appear most-likely to be an "M". Some have speculated the "M" could be an initial for William Modes, co-owner of the Beaver Falls Glass Company.

Beary feels the insulator on the right should be assigned a CD number other than 728.2 due to being shaped somewhat different. It also has an "M" on the dome.

(page 22)


CD 731

Shown on this page are three CD 731's which are attributed to the Beaver Falls Glass Company.

Paisley 731's also have the letter "M" on the top of the dome.

Additionally, Paisely threadless have the characteristic "Y" mark at the top of the pin hole (see mold characteristic "C" as described on page 5.)


(page 23)

Could Emmingers be Paisleys?

(page 24)

The CD 141.9 Emminger is one of the hobby's. most sought after insulators.. It: has a unique design; a pleasing angelic shape (imagine the projections are wings);. and is extremely rare with very few examples known to exist.

David R.P. Emminger of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania was granted a patent for the design on February 20, 1872. His patent states "the nature of my invention consists in so constructing my improved insulator that dust and dirt are prevented from accumulating upon its outer surface." The purpose of the projections. was to reduce the amount of contact between the conducting wire and the. insulator itself.(8)

Evidence supporting the theory Emmingers are Paisley's includes: 
1) The existence of the "Y" shaped crease at the top of the pin hole. 
2) Threads similar to those in threaded Paisley's. 
3) Emmingers date from the time Beaver Falls Glass was operating. 
4) Most examples have been found in Pennsylvania.

An alternate theory attributes the production of Emmingers to the Lancaster Glass Works. Lancaster is a Pennsylvania city not too far from Emminger's hometown of Harrisburg.(8) But it would appear there were also glass manufacturers in Lancaster, OH and Lancaster, NY during this general time period. Kenneth Wilson's "American Bottles & Flasks and Their Ancestry" makes a reference that for a period during the Civil War, the Lancaster Glass Works in New York produced telegraph insulators in large quantities. But what styles are unknown.(2)

The Civil War date is, of course, too early. But it is interesting to note from the patent drawings that Emmingers were designed to be threadless insulators.


(page 25)


Remember the 728.2 we pictured a few pages back that doesn't quite look like a 728.2. Well, here's the same threadless insulator photographed alongside a CD 133.2 that doesn't quite look like a CD 133.2. But the two insulators do look at lot like each other. And, they both have mold characteristics tying them to the Beaver Falls Glass Company. Could it be that 133.2's, at least this version of them, were the first threaded Paisley's? Below, left: Another early version 133.2. Below right: The more typical 133.2 no-name Paisley. Some have an "M" on the dome, and some do not.

(page 26)


Above left: 133.2 P&W (010) embossing with #2 on flat dome.
Above right: 133.2 P&W (020) embossing without a dome mark.
Below left: 133.2 P&W (030) embossing, green glass.
Below right: 133.2 P&W (030) embossing, aqua glass with amber swirls. 
What does P&W stand for? Mostly likely the Pittsburgh & Western Railroad. Formed in 1870, it later merged with other small railroads and eventually became part of the Pennsylvania Railroad system.

(page 27)

CD 131.8 - A Unique Design

131.8's are a CD style only found in the Paisley family. Even aqua examples are extremely rare, and will set you back a couple thousand dollars. Colored examples? Well, you can imagine. The purple is the only Paisley of any CD style known in amethyst glass. It was recently dug out of an old privy in Elizbethtown, New Jersey. The yellow green is one of only a few 131.8's in that color. Like milk? Well, it would be hard to beat the example at the lower left.

(page 28)

Western Union Pattern

We've enlarged this picture more than the others to better show the skirt embossing which runs much of the way around the insulator: W. U. PATTERN

The entire concept of a Paisley family of insulators is built around circumstantial evidence; so let's carry the thought process one step further. Captain Thomas B. A. David was the superintendent for Western Union in Pittsburgh in the early 1870's. At the very same time, Captain David was also co-owner of the Beaver Falls Glass Company. CD 127 insulators shown on this and the following few pages have mold characteristics tying them to the Beaver Falls Glass Company. The "W. U. PATTERN" insulators shown on this and the following page are also embossed (above the wire groove) "L.A.C.S PAT. JULY 25th 1865." Most of the CD 127's in the hobby are Brookfield's. None of those Brookfields, not one of them, are embossed with the Cauvet patent date of 1865. Could it be possible that the CD 127 style originated at the Beaver Falls Glass Company, owned by Captain David, who as a Western Union superintendent ordered them for the telegraph company? And could the no name CD 127 Paisleys have been ordered by Captain David a few years later when he founded the Central District & Printing Telegraph Company? As I wrote in this article's first paragraph, we have more questions than answers!

(page 29)

Shown here are more Paisley style W. U. PATTERN insulators, in various shades of aqua and with different amounts of "character" in the glass. Bill Plunkett dug the one in the upper left corner while using a two-tine pitch fork on an insulator hunt. He's still excited about the find, and well he should be. These historic artifacts comprise some of the earliest examples of threaded insulators.

(page 30)


Did you know that CD 127's are found in cobalt blue and in sapphire blue?

Not many examples are known, but two are shown here.

Both are embossed: W.U.P. (Western Union Pattern).

There is no other embossing on the insulators, except for a large number "2" on the flat dome of the cobalt (see page 21 for a close up), and a small number "2" on the flat dome of the sapphire.


McDougald's price guide notes that W.U.P.'s are also found in aqua, light aqua, blue aqua, dark aqua, and dark teal green. All colors, including the aquas, are extremely rare. The price guide also states there are two embossing styles: one with large letters and one with small.(1)

(page 31)

CD 132.2 

(page 32)


(page 33)

No - Name Paisley CD 127's

No- Name CD 127's from the Paisley family are found in a good variety of colors also. The price guide lists aqua, light aqua, light blue, dark green, dark yellow green, & emerald green. A collector purchased the nice yellow green in the upper left corner on Ebay.

(page 34)

Some Paisley 127's are completely unembossed, while many have embossing on the flat dome. Typically, the embossing on these is a "W" over a "1". One of the insulators on these two pages is generally not considered to be a Paisley. Can you tell which one? The insulator in the lower right corner is a base-embossed Homer Brooke's. It is slightly shorter in height, and smaller in diameter. But Brooke's 127's also have a flat circular spot on the top of the dome. The one shown here has the number "2" embossed on the flat spot. Brooke's is known to have worked for Brookfield and Tillotson.(9) There's no evidence he did any work for Beaver Falls Glass, but some mold characteristics are similar.

(page 35)

CD 132.2'5 - The Paisley Rainbow

No name CD 132.2's are the most colorful members of the Paisley family. It's why we featured them in the centerfold of the magazine (see pages 32-33). Here are eight more nice examples. The olive green example in the upper left photo is ranked right along with cobalt blue as the most desirable specimens.

(page 36)

Most 132.2's have the numeral "2" embossed in the flat circle on the top of the dome. The size of the "2" varies; and in some cases the "2" is found with serifs. We've seen at least one example with a "W" over the "2". The dark green example on the opposite page is completely unembossed with no marking on the dome at all. Why so many colors? Well, the Beaver Falls Glass Company was busy making lots more than just insulators. William Modes advertised black and green glassware, demijohns, ale & soda bottles & fruit jars. Insulators were made from the same batches of glass as other factory products.

(page 37)

This Union fruit jar,

manufactured in the 1870's

by the

Beaver Falls Glass Company,

could be considered a

P aisl ey "go-wi th" .


(page 38)

Crown Jewels wishes to thank Ora Beary (left) for his assistance with this article.

Ora brought his collection of Paisley insulators to the Springfield, Ohio show in November for Crown Jewels to photograph.




Thanks also goes to Ross Baird (right), who brought his fabulous collection of Paisleys to the National Show in Austin, Texas last summer for Crown Jewels to photograph.


The photo below was sent to us by Bill Plunkett.

(page 39)


I hope you have enjoyed this introduction to Paisley insulators. It would be my hope that a collector or two will use this information as a starting point for an in-depth study of this subject. To me, "Paisley" epitomizes just how much fun, insulator collecting can be.                           Howard Banks

Footnote: The aqua CD 132.2 insulator shown on lower right comer of page 33 is threaded, but the threads are so weak it appears in the photograph to be threadless.

Footnote: The "Central District & Printing Telegraph Company" later became the "Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Company"; later a part of the Bell Atlantic Corporation; and, today, part of Verizon.(4)

Footnote: "Legend has it that Thomas Alva Edison was the first to say hello over the telephone. But Edison didn't invent 'hello' by a long shot. As a matter of fact, the greeting has been around for centuries much before the invention of telephone.

"In ancient times, people greeted each other with 'hallow', which may have come from the Old French word 'hola', meaning 'stop!' or 'whoa'. By the time the telephone came along, the Americans were saying 'hullo' to each other every day, so it was a short jump to 'hello'. But it wasn't until the telephone was invented that 'hello' emerged as a universal form of greeting and as a way of establishing contact.

"So, Edison made hello a popular greeting and an integral part of our lives. Alexander Graham Bell, who invented the telephone, never liked 'hello' and advocated the use of 'ahoy' as a telephonic greeting. The telephone links kept expanding, so did the greeting. And soon it became a general greeting. Webster's dictionary kept printing 'hello' as a greeting word even as Alexander Graham Bell rejected the greeting all his life! He insisted on saying 'Ahoy, Ahoy'!"(10)


(1) Insulators Price Guide, by John & Carol McDougald, 2003.

(2) A History and Guide to North American Glass Pin type Insulators, Volume 1, by John & Carol McDougald, 1990.

(3)http://www.bchistory.org/beavercounty /beavercountytopical / technology / HistoryofTelephone /TelephoneHistoryMSU96.html

(4) http://www.scripophily.net/cediandprtec.html

(5) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hello

(6) The Beaver Falls Glass Company / Early Threaded Telegraph Insulators, compiled by Keith Roloson, 1993.

(7) Crown Jewels of the Wire, November 1975, pages 9 & 10.

(page 40)

(8) A History and Guide to North American Glass Pintype Insulators, Volume 2, by John & Carol McDougald, 1990.

(9) http://www.nia.org/timeline/details/HB1860.htm (compiled by Dick Roller and provided to the web site by Bob Stahr)

(10) http://www.pitara.com/discover/5wh/online.asp?story=184


Historic photograph of Alexander Graham Bell is from "The Telephone Book", by H. M. Boettinger, 1977.

Insulators shown in this article belonged to Ora Beary, Ross Baird, Mike Green, David Wiecek, Bill Plunkett, Paul Plunkett, Cody Zeleny, John McDougald, Tim Wood & Howard Banks.

Photography was by David Wiecek, Bill Plunkett, Kevin Jacobson, & Howard Banks.

Support & encouragement for developing this article provided by Galen Howard, Jack Roach, Keith Roloson, Ora Beary, Ross Baird, Tim Grantz, and many others.

Color Printing provided by Tommy Bolack.

Parting shot: 
CD 132.2 Paisley full of "seed" bubbles.

(page 41)

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