MAC's Believe It Or Not!
Reprinted from "Crown Jewels of the Wire", July 1985, page 26
One of the great fascinations of the insulator hobby for me has been the
incredible variety of specimens that have been found by avid collectors,
primarily in the past 25 years, when the hobby has enjoyed its most active
participation. As a new collector 12 years ago, I was amazed at the listings
that appeared in Milholland's reference book, particularly since I hadn't seen
much more than some aqua Hemingray 42's and an Armstrong DP - 1.
purple we added to the collection was a real milestone, and so it went for a few
years as our modest collection grew. Then it happened! That first piece that I
was sure had been a misprint in Milholland was in my hand. For me, it was a CD
127 W.U.P. in Cobalt. To the best of my knowledge, there are now three known,
and I was fortunate enough to see the other two at the St. Charles National last
That experience made me wonder how many collectors haven't had the
opportunity to gain first hand knowledge about the super rare pieces. Maybe they
haven't been able to attend the shows when they've been on display. Maybe they
haven't purchased collections and had an extremely rare piece hiding on the back
shelf. And, maybe they haven't been close enough to hear the whispering when one
gets passed from hand to hand under the table at one of the shows.
column is dedicated to all of you who haven't seen every rare insulator you
would like to see, even if you don't ever have a chance to own it. Each column
will highlight a rare insulator and, when itís available without compromising
the sources of the current owner, a little history including how it got to its
This month's "Believe It or Not" piece surfaced for the first time
to my knowledge at the St. Charles National. One of the hobby's great human
resources, Ray Klingensmith, turned up this piece, and it now belongs to Cecil
Boos. I think it can fairly claim the title of the "Earliest Known Glass
Insulator" until an earlier one comes along. Compare the picture of this
glass gem to the reprint of Figure 3 on page 38 of Milholland's Fourth Revision.
A striking resemblance, wouldn't you say? A physical inspection of the piece
would convince you of the likelihood of this being one of the original
"Bureau Knob Insulators."
These pieces were used by the first
telegraph company in the United States, the Magnetic Telegraph Company, who
contracted to construct a line from Philadelphia, Pa. to Newark, N.J. in 1845.
This particular piece was dug in a privy in Norristown, Pennsylvania, one of the
towns through which the telegraph line ran. Think of it, a glass insulator used
140 years ago -- a real "Believe It or Not".
That's it for this month. By the way,
I'm sure many readers have a good story to tell and pictures to share about some
rare finds, and I welcome any and all contributions for the column. Until next
time, good collecting, and keep turning up those rare jewels.
Above: Drawing of "Bureau Knob" insulator. Right: Actual glass
insulator belonging to Cecil Boos.