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Porcelain Insulator News
by Elton Gish, NIA #41

Reprinted from "Crown Jewels of the Wire", November 1987, page 13

There was a very unusual porcelain insulator at the 1986 National show in Saratoga Springs, New York that I have let slip by without being reported. It was proudly displayed by Larry Emmonds as part of his fantastic Model A Ford truck display. The insulator is pictured below -- and it is sim U-292 with THOMAS prominently incused on the top of the crown. You are probably saying "What is so special about that?". Well, the reason the photo lacks good contrast against a white background (I hope that the weak image shows up after printing) is not that it has a white glaze, but because the glaze is a beautiful light peach PINK. Yes, I said P-I-N-K.

Larry acquired a huge collection of porcelain from a lineman and this piece was covered with dark grime from years of heavy service. You have got to see this rare jewel to believe the color. There is no doubt after close examination that it is genuine and is the only insulator known with this glaze color.

The next insulator is pictured below on the left with an Imperial U-923 on the right for comparison. This is a new style of Imperial and Jack has assigned it U-923E. The other five cross-top styles are shown for comparison. The U-923E has a white glaze and bears the typical incuse Imperial style date of manufacture stamp with the date 5-16-03. No other markings were used. The 1903 date is late for Imperial in their manufacture of pin types. The latest date known on an Imperial pin type is 3-17-04. They may have made pin types until a fire destroyed their plant in 2-03-1907. However, with few specimens extant from this period and the prominence of other porcelain manufacturers such as Locke, Thomas, New Lexington and Lima, I doubt that Imperial was able to successfully compete. Imperial was primarily a specialty porcelain manufacturer until they went out of business sometime soon after 1936.

The cross-top originated as a design by Fred Locke in 1895. He had units made for him by Electrical Porcelain & Manufacturing Co., Imperial Porcelain Works and maybe Peru Electric Manufacturing Co. in the 1895 to July 1, 1897 period. The first style was the dry process style U-923C which was probably made by Electrical Porcelain & Mfg. Co. and introduced by Locke in 1895. The only marking used was an embossed (raised) Fred Locke two date marking #2-1 in the top cross grooves (see Jack Tod's second edition book Porcelain Insulators Guide Book for Collectors for a detailed list of Fred Locke markings. Also produced about this time was U-923B which was also a dry process unit probably made by another company but again not an Imperial item. I have never seen a U-923B and the U-923C is very scarce.

The first cross-top style manufactured by Imperial was U-923A. It was similar to the dry process styles of U-923B and U-923C (similar crown design) but it was made by the superior wet process. The dry process units were too porous to provide sufficient insulation during wet conditions for the higher voltages of the new lines. The U-923A was made in 1896 until late in the year. The units are incuse marked in the cross-top grooves with Fred Locke's two date marking #2-2 and on the lower skirt "Manufactured by Imperial Porcelain Works". The U-923A is fairly common.

Beginning in late 1896 until July 1, 1897, Imperial made style U-923. These units are never marked in the cross-top grooves but bear an incuse wordy Imperial marking on the skirt which states 'Manufactured for F. M. Locke Victor, N. Y. of Imperial Porcelain followed by three of Fred Locke's patent dates. Now this was a bold step by Imperial to proclaim more of their share of the recognition for their fine workmanship and to minimize the exposure of Fred's name and patent dates. The marking still carried the two Locke patent dates which before was so prominent in the cross-top grooves and, by the way, had nothing what so ever to do with the insulator.

After July 1, 1897 (officially July 15 although the new marking appears on specimens as early as July 7), all Imperial porcelain insulators were marked with their familiar crown logo and wordy Imperial markings without any reference to ole Fred or his patent dates. Imperial started to market their own insulators and snubbed Fred by not marking units made for him with his name and patent dates. This surely was a major force to convince Fred to enter into manufacturing his own porcelain insulators.

Finally, U-923D was manufactured by Fred Locke. Only one specimen is known to exist and it bears Locke's six patent date marking #6-l on the skirt without markings in the cross-top grooves. This style is patterned after the original crown design and was probably produced in 1901.

There are two new porcelain styles that need to be reported. One is an exchange that Jack has assigned U-74. The unit is unmarked.

The second is a little more exiting. It has been assigned U-927D. As you can see from the drawing, it is a glazeweld. The glaze color is a pretty mottled and speckled reddish pumpkin, different than the Lapp pumpkin glaze. It has a 1-3/8" unglazed pinhole as you might expect from Pittsburg. The unit is unmarked and is illustrated in Pittsburg's catalogue No. 3 (year unknown). Two other glazeweld styles are shown in the catalogue: U-933 and U-964A. Do any of you have these three Pittsburg styles?

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