1980 >> August >> Foreign Iinsulators  

Foreign Insulators
by Marilyn Albers

Reprinted from "INSULATORS - Crown Jewels of the Wire", August 1980, page 2

DIA -- Doulton Insulators Australia Pty. Ltd.

Most of us, when we hear the name Royal Doulton, think only in terms of beautiful figurines, fine china tableware and Toby jugs. So it was a surprise to me when I learned that Royal Doulton makes insulators, too! The history of the company and its growth through the years makes a fascinating story.

In the year 1815, a young man of 22, named John Doulton, ventured his entire savings of 100 (100 pounds) on a partnership in a small Thames-side pottery in Lambeth, London. From this humble beginning has evolved the now world famous Royal Doulton group of companies. 

Early Doulton products included stoneware figure-jugs representing Napoleon, King William IV, the young Queen Victoria, etc. The main production, however, was of plain bottles and jars for beer, spirits, boot blacking, inks and chemicals. 

The first impetus to expansion came from the demands of the then rapidly developing chemical industries for acid resisting stoneware plants. John Doulton was quick to seize the opportunity, and by the middle of the century had become the largest producer in the world of this material.

In 1835, Henry Doulton, John's second son, entered the business at the age of 15. He quickly mastered, with extraordinary aptitude, the basic processes of pottery making. An early outcome of his inventiveness was the use of steam to drive the potters' wheels. In this the Doulton factory was ten years ahead of any other.

In 1846, Henry Doulton established in Lambeth the first factory in the world for the manufacture of stoneware pipes for drainage and sewerage. Within the next few years the demand became so great that other Doulton factories had to be opened in Staffordshire and Lancashire. 

Improvements in drainage and sewerage of towns led to the increasing use of pottery closets, wash basins, sinks and similar equipment. The production of these became and still is another important branch of the business. Oh, would that I might have in my guest bathroom a commode emblazoned with Royal Doulton! And I suppose if I should ever need a plumber, I would look under the "Fine China" department of Neiman-Marcus! 

The introduction of the electric telegraph in the 1840's created a need for ceramic insulators. Henry Doulton was one of the first potters to supply these. Insulators for the telephone systems, early power stations and electrified railways were subsequently developed. 

In 1867, at the Paris Exhibition, Henry Doulton introduced a few simply decorated stoneware vases designed by George Tinworth and other students at the Lambeth School of Art. These made such a favorable impression that during the next three decades the number of artists and designers grew into hundreds, and 'Doulton Ware' was shown at one great exhibition after another, taking highest international honors.

In 1877, Henry Doulton extended his interest into the field of fine earthenware by acquiring an old established pottery at Burslem and engaging a very distinguished staff of designers, modelers and artists. In 1884 he added a new wing to this plant and began producing fine bone china. 

On the death of Sir Henry in 1897, his son, Lewis Doulton, formed a Limited Company, which began trading as Doulton & Co. Ltd.

In 1901, King Edward VII conferred a double honor upon the company by presenting it with his Royal Warrant and, at the same time, authorizing it to use the word 'Royal' to describe its products. As some manufacturers have themselves assumed the designation 'Royal', it must be emphasized that the Doulton Potteries use this distinguished prefix by virtue of a specific privilege granted by Edward VII. 

Up to this time a few Doulton figurines had been made, but in 1920 production of these began in earnest. Next came animal models, and in 1930 appeared the first Royal Doulton Toby jugs and character jugs. 

Meanwhile at the Lambeth and other Doulton factories equally important progress had been made in meeting the specialized needs of architects and builders, chemical, electrical and sanitary engineers for other types of ceramics. One of the remarkable features of the Royal Doulton Potteries has been the high reputation they have won in industrial and technical ceramics as well as in fine china for domestic use. 

By the 1930's it was apparent that the Lambeth Thames-side would soon be no longer a suitable site for a large pottery-works producing a vast range of entirely different products. It was realized, too, that some of these products were no longer economically viable, and that, to take full advantage of modern processing methods, it would be necessary to concentrate clearly defined and profitable product groups in separate units. 

Long term plans were made to discontinue gradually pottery making at Lambeth; to reorganize and modernize the other factories; and to build or acquire new works in suitable areas. By 1939 a beginning had been made, with the erection of a new factory in Kent and the purchase of two old and established potteries in Staffordshire which had considerable development potential.

In 1946, a selling company, Doulton & Co. Inc., was established in New York as the first step in a new merchandizing policy for fine china products in the North American market. 

In 1956 the Lambeth Works was closed. In the same year the first four subsidiary manufacturing companies were created to deal with the manufacture and sale of distinct product groups. 1956 also saw the beginning of new developments in Canada and Australia, which subsequently led to the formation of subsidiary companies in these markets. One of these was formed when Doulton bought the already established API (Australian Porcelain Insulators) and renamed it DIA (Doulton Insulators Australia). So you may come across insulators marked either way, depending on whether they are "pre" or "post" Doulton. There are two DIA plants of operation. The first one to be established was at Tamworth in the State of South Wales, followed by a second located in Melbourne, Victoria. It is called their Yarraville factory. DIA insulators of many types are produced not only for use in Australia, but transmission line disc insulators have been sent to Iran, and post insulators and distribution line insulators have been exported to Mexico. Orders for post insulators from Rumania and hollow porcelains from Hungary signify important penetrations of the Eastern European market. Work for the Canadian Nelson River D.C. project has entailed the production of the largest porcelain housing yet undertaken at Tanworth. A picture of it in the catalog made it appear more than twice the height of a man six feet tall.

Throughout DIA insulator production special interest has been taken in the design of insulators for operation under polluted conditions. In Australia atmospheric pollution arises from the use of local brown coal which the power stations are designed to employ, but it creates a particular design problem. Here, and in other countries, as operating voltages and the length of transmission lines have increased, the problem of maintaining continuity of supply under varying atmospheric conditions has become more acute. Countries once considered free of pollution are now meeting difficulties. In desert regions, for example, pollution may be caused by wind-driven salts being deposited on insulators during long dry periods; later, when condensation takes place, surface breakdown over the insulator may occur. In industrialized countries and in coastal areas there have long been more obvious causes of pollution failures. The Australian engineers are greatly interested in this problem, and this has resulted in different approaches to the question of insulator design, often leading to a much simpler insulator shape than was formerly supposed necessary for polluted areas. 

Since the beginning of this century, the name Doulton has been associated with railway electrification. Immense quantities of insulators have been supplied for the D.C. systems of British Rail Southern Region and London Transport and for the overhead 25 KV A.C. systems of Eastern, Midland and Scottish regions. Most of the Doulton insulators supplied for these systems have been the solid core one-piece type. Recent developments have been directed towards reducing the size of insulators, for economic reasons, and toward the use of stabilized insulators (from Tamworth) for polluted areas. 

I wrote to the Yarraville plant in Melbourne several weeks ago requesting updated material which, hopefully, would include sketches of their various insulator types, since I have not a one in my collection! So far I have not had a reply and have none to show you at this time. But I do have a snapshot of a few DIA insulators from Lu Farin's collection (Decatur, Texas) which she and her husband managed to bring back from a tour through the plant in Melbourne when they went to Australia in 1972. These are most interesting! They are all porcelain (as are all DIA insulators). #1, #2 & #3 are avocado green, #4 is chocolate brown, and the fifth one is light grey. In the picture #1 and #4 are probably the only complete insulators, while the others appear to be parts of insulators. #1 and #5 have sand bands applied to their crowns and inside the pinholes (no threads), while #4 has a standard 1" threaded pinhole. The largest in the group is the light grey one -- 5" tall and 7" across the base. 

Fig. 1 Fig. 2 Fig. 3 Fig. 4

Fig. 5 

Two of the insulators bear the DIA trademark with manufacture date -- Sep 72. It shows the outline of Australia. The others probably missed the trademark because their other "parts" were intended to bear it. 

None of these insulators have ever been used. They came right off the assembly line. During her tour of the plant, every once in a while Lu would say "Oh, that's a nice one!" and s-w-i-s-H!! it was hers! Apparently the plant manager was the one who took them through and was super obliging since he'd made them wait nearly an hour before he was free to see them. 

Thanks to Lu Farin, one more time, for her great help.

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