1980 >> December >> The California Connection  

by Brent Burger

Reprinted from "INSULATORS - Crown Jewels of the Wire", December 1980, page 24

Following the well known Electrical Construction and Maintenance Company of San Francisco and the California Electric Works, the California Glass Insulator Company was third in line of West Coast insulator manufacturers. Opening in 1912 under the name California Glass Insulator Company at West Anaheim Road and Hayes Street in Long Beach, California, they produced 20 known embossed styles for both power and communication, with three unique styles not offered by other companies at that time. Their early products were embossed C.G.I. Co. In 1914 the company was reorganized into the California Glass Works under the management of C. L. Eshelman. Under this name they continued to produce only insulators. R. M. Moore was manager in 1915. Late 1915 or early 1916 marked the end for the California Glass Works when the plant was destroyed by flooding. It was never reopened. Although a great number of insulators were produced in the short time they were in business, the company was never a financial success. 

This is a basic outline for the producers of the CALIFORNIA insulators. I began collecting CALIFORNIAS two years ago when my Brookfield specialty collection consisted of 675 different specimens and still no end was in sight for them. CALIFORNIAS have always been special to me because they were used right in my own neighborhood where I grew up and where I got started collecting these "things". So CALIFORNIAS became my specialty. I began taking notes on the variations between specimens a short time after I started collecting them, and I now have close to 150 pages of notebook paper filled with them.

I know my information is not complete, because I am continuously discovering new variations, but I hope it will be of some help to interested collectors. Any information you might be able to add, I would sure enjoy hearing. Preferably direct responses to Brent Burger 13406 N.E. 108th Redmond, WA 98052. 


Colors must be outlined and defined before any descriptions can be made of different specimens. Below is the color description chart I use to classify my CALIFORNIAS. I must stress that I compare CALIFORNIA colors only with CALIFORNIA glass. What I call "California blue" would be blue-aqua to most people, but, by comparison with other CALIFORNIAS this color stands out as blue. I have tried to describe and compare any questionable colors with things besides insulators that you would be familiar with in everyday life, no matter where in the world you might happen to live.

BLUE  This color has been found in only a few C.D. numbers. It is very much like a deep swimming pool blue. It is not an obvious blue such as peacock or cobalt blue, but this is a true blue.
AQUA "Aqua falls anywhere between blue and green," wrote John C. Tibbitts, whose book number one was my very first source of knowledge about insulators. This observation still holds true today. Most aqua CALIFORNIAS are on the blue to mid-range end of aqua, with the mid-range being the darkest color. 
GREEN CALIFORNIAS have been found in five distinct green shades. 
  1. Sage green, a green with a smoky-grey hue. 
  2. Plain green, a difficult color to describe, probably the closest color to grass green that CALIFORNIA made. It is clean, very plain green, with no other colorations to make it easy to describe.
  3. Steel green, a plain green with an inky blue cast. 
  4. Yellow-green, a color that speaks for itself, a yellowish green. 
  5. Light green, a color extremely close to clear, with just the lightest dash of green thrown in to give the insulator an overall green appearance. These are usually full of very small bubbles that give a slight glow to the insulator. 
YELLOW  There are two major yellows that CALIFORNIA Glass is found in. 
  1. Gold, similar in color to a rich white wine. 
  2. Lemon yellow. This color has more green in it, making it appear more "lemon" than the gold. This color is more washed-out looking than the rich gold yellow. 
CLEAR I have personally laid eyes on only one absolutely clear CALIFORNIA. It was the C.D. 162 smooth base. I classify clear CALIFORNIAS as those with no detectable color. The only color one might see in a clear CALIFORNIA is the slightest light grey cast.
SMOKE Smoke is the widest category for shades, ranging from clear grey to smoke-purple. Smoke can easily be outlined in four groups. 
  1. Smoke-yellow, simply the yellow color described before with a varying intensity of smoke cast in it. 
  2. Smoke-grey, close to the clear described before, with just too much grey to be considered clear any longer.
  3. Plain smoke, which is quite simply the color of smoke as it rises from a long-burning wood fire, a sort of grey-brown. 
  4. Smoke-purple, a plain smoke with purple mixed in. The line has been drawn between smoke-purple and purple where the brown-grey cast is lost and the purple stands out clearly. 
PURPLE California purple is usually a brilliant rose purple, much more to the red side of purple than most other purple insulators. This color classification varies from a light pink-rosy purple all the way to a deep burgundy purple. To be accurate when dealing through the mail, I choose to describe each purple individually, rather than classify them, as California purples come in more shades than you can shake a stick at.

These are seven major colors that California Glass Insulators were produced in. All other colors I have seen have been a variation of one of the seven major colors There is one exception: 

PEACH This color is an odd-ball. It is rarely of uniform intensity or darkness and comes in very few styles. Peach can be accurately described as an orange-purple, a weird color, caused by mixing yellow and purple. With most specimens streaks of both yellow and purple are clearly visible in the overall orangish coloration. This is truly a beautiful color that stands out from the rest. 

While on colors I should take time out to mention that those folks working for the CALIFORNIA company had a habit of forgetting to mix their batches well. This, of course, caused multi-colored glass. Most of this is a combination of sage green and a varying degree of purple. I have many CALIFORNIAS with just a streak of green swirled through a purple insulator, and these are pretty common. One that has a nice, good-sized glob of one color in the midst of another color is a desirable item. Some come with even more than two colors in them. I have always called these "two-tones" for some reason, and I refer to them as that later in these articles. 

So far I have accounted for six different CALIFORNIA pony styles: two different C.D. 102 CALIFORNIA embossed ponies; two different styles embossed C.G.I. Co.; and two different styles of the C.D. 112 "double groove", both embossed CALIFORNIA. I have reports of a C.G.I. Co. embossed C.D. 112, and it is listed in Milholland's "Most About Glass Insulators", but, to this date I have not seen or heard of one in any collection. Please advise if you have any info on this one. 

Style 1

Style 2

Style 3

Style 4

Style 5

Style 6

The CALIFORNIA embossed C.D. 102's that I have listed are styles 1 and 2. Style 2 is most common and can easily be found on sales tables here on the West Coast for ten to twelve dollars. Style 1 is not usually any more expensive, because no one takes the time to notice the differences between the two, but it is a little scarcer. Style 1 is a bit taller than Style 2, being about 3-1/2 inches tall, while the style 2 is 3-3/8 inches tall. All CALIFORNIA embossed C.D. 102 ponies that I have ever seen would fall under the "BLUE" category. CALIFORNIA embossed 102's are very similar to their C.G.I. Co. counterparts. Their main difference is that the CALIFORNIAS are more slender. 

Styles 1 and 3 are basically the same, as are styles 2 and 4. I refer to 1 and 3 as the "point top" version of each embossing style, and to 2 and 4 as the "round top" version. The "point top" has a small button on the very top of the dome, and the dome is noticeably more pointed than the "round top" version. The "point top" is fairly common with the C.G.I. Co. embossing, but I have just recently discovered the CALIFORNIA in this style. In both versions, the skirt section of the C.G.I. Co. is wider than the CALIFORNIA. 

When standing side by side, the C.G.I. Co.'s have an obviously heftier look to them due to this wider section. With the "round tops" the C.G.I. Co. has a skirt diameter at the base of close to 2-1/4 inches, while the CALIFORNIA has only a 2-1/8 inch diameter at the base. The "point tops" have an equal size ratio. 

I have or have seen the style 3 "point top" in light sage green, yellow, clear, and smoke-purple. The style 4 "round top" I have in all the colors I know of, which are: (bluish) aqua, plain green, smoke, and smoke-purple. I have yet to see either style in a solid dark purple, as you can commonly find the C.D. 161 or 162 signals, but I believe they exist. C.G.I. Co. ponies generally sell for $4-$6 in all colors except yellow. I paid $2 for mine, but that was a heck of a deal. The only other one that I have seen sell had a price tag of $25 on it. That, I would say, is a fair price for this item. 

So far, there are only two styles of "double groove" pony embossed CALIFORNIA known. One is the "straight side" version (style 5), and the other is the "keg" (style 6). I have seen well over 100 of these "straight sides", and I have yet to come up with a consistent color for them; however, smoke, in one shade or another, is most common. They range from a light bubbly green to a nice rich purple. The colors that I have never seen are: blue, aqua, any darker green, or yellow. These "straight sides" value right around $10 in these parts, but I have paid as much as $15 for a deep, rich purple one, and as little as $4 for a near clear one.

All of the "straight sides" that I have ever laid eyes on had the sharpest, boldest, most pronounced embossing on them. Never a weak or smeared embossing. This seems to be a trait with these. The only other "CAL" I have seen with consistently bold embossing on it like on the "straight sides" is the bottom half of the two-piece tramp. I will get back to the tramps later. 

The "keg" is a real goodie. Every one that I have seen is BLUE, and most are a brilliant pool-blue. I have seen four sell to date, and all took between 40 and 50 dollars. Those who got them were lucky, as they rarely hit the sales table. I am still looking for one of these for my own collection. I always get there too late. Oh well, maybe next time.

I haven't noticed any variety amongst these guys, but I have not seen a whole lot of them, either. They closely resemble the "round top" CALIFORNIA embossed 102, so maybe there is a "point top" version of this one, too?

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