1971 >> July >> Universal Fire Plug  

The Universal "Fire Plug" of Terre Haute, Indiana
by Paul E. Mohrs

Reprinted from "INSULATORS - Crown Jewels of the Wire", July 1971, page 18

In 1906 a man by the name of Scotterman, with another man, established the Citizen's Independent Telephone Co. in Terre Haute, Indiana. Scotterman became vice-president until his partner's death in the mid 1930's.

As the story goes on the Universal insulator: Scotterman was out of town on business and was trying to sleep in his hotel room, but couldn't. He got out of bed and started to draw up his idea for house connecting insulators for drop-lines. If he hadn't, there would never have been the well known "fire plug", because that next morning he had completely forgotten about the idea.

Left to right: Universal No. 1002, Universal No. 1003.

He applied for the patent in 1909, and patented on April 12, 1910. Production started soon afterwards. From 1910 until 1932 the units were manufactured at Macomb, Illinois. They were discontinued in 1932, due to the purchase of the telephone company by General Telephone. While Mr. Scotterman was selling his units his office was located at 120 South 7th Street, Terre Haute. The office was in the same building used as the telephone building while Scotterman was still in business. He sold a large number to the Graybar Packing House in Chicago, a few firms in southern Indiana and Illinois, with a small trickling around Iowa.

The list of prices from a Universal Specialty Co. postcard:

No. 1001 . . . . . . $3.90 per 100 
No. 1002 . . . . . . $6.25 per 100 
No. 1003 . . . . . . $7.81 per 100 
5/16 x 4-1/2 in. galvanized lag screws at Market Prices.

The early ones are usually found in a mottled glaze with simply, f- UNIVERSAL/ 1001! b- PATENT PEND. These units were manufactured before 1910. Directly following the patent some were embossed, f- UNIVERSAL/NO/1001, b- PAT. APR. 12/1910. !(Only on the small one; numbers change on the other two.) The rarest is the small 1001; next rarest is the 1003.
Paul E. Mohrs 
Rt. 2 Box 186 A 
Michigan City, Ind. 46360

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