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
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
The list of prices from a Universal Specialty Co. postcard:
No. 1001 . . . . . . $3.90 per 100
No. 1002 . . . . . . $6.25 per 100
1003 . . . . . . $7.81 per 100
5/16 x 4-1/2 in. galvanized lag screws at Market
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