2001 >> August >> H.G.CO. Petticoat Beehive  

H.G.CO. Petticoat Beehive
by Paul L. Rosenberger

Reprinted from "Crown Jewels of the Wire", August 2001, page 29

Like all other ventures, the collecting of insulators has been a combined effort on the part of myself, my son Paul and daughter Paula.

It didn't take long for us to decide on specializing on a CD more common to our area. This proved to be CD 145 H.G.CO. PETTICOAT beehives. 

All this was during the early 1970's; and when we began to have duplicate colors we found different letter embossings so we began a mini-collection within the framework of the whole. 

The quest began. There are several styles, but they are all beehives and they fall into five categories:

  1. Those with no letter 
  2. Those with only a dome letter 
  3. Those with letters above the H. G. CO. 
  4. Those with letters below the H. G. CO. 
  5. Those with letters below the PETTICOAT

We now have over 250 insulators with the most color among the J's, K's and no letters. 

I would like to thank the Lord for watching over us on our quest protecting us from bees, wasps, mosquitoes, barbed wire, thorny bushes and railroad cars with struggling cables. Hiking, bicycling, but no pole climbing, has made creating this collection a great adventure.

 Paul Rosenberger

Cover Photo

The H.G. CO Petticoat beehive is a railroad insulator and as such can still be seen on telegraph lines along rail lines that remained unmolested for years. But as mentioned in the July issue of CJ, the poles along the railroads are coming down. Heavy equipment and even the heavy snows of winter have resulted in downing the base rotted poles of many a rail telegraph line. What we are seeing is the end of rail walking for glass and the final elimination of the source of a major CD 145 variant, the HG petticoat.

Our insulator hunting started in Elgin, Illinois where we have the Union Pacific (old Chicago Northwestern), the Milwaukee, and the old Aurora-Elgin electric line. You might even include the Illinois Central and Great Western if you were to push the town boundaries a bit. With this combination, you had the making of some great insulator hunting in the 70's and 80's and the start of a love affair with the HG petticoat beehive.

The magical beehive embossed "Petticoat" that has entertained my father, sister, and myself for 31 years of insulator hunting and collecting. 

Your editor has put together a terrific display of not just color, but the embossing variants that get some of you hooked, intrigued, and just waiting for the next show when you can pick up one of these gems. The shape is a "classic", the embossing is varied, and the colors unpredictable. There are skirt differences, dome differences, embossing differences, and the wild cards that surprise you. 

It seems we go in cycles in this hobby where a certain CD is "hotter" than the others. Right now I'm told Mickey Mouse's are "heating up" again, CD 162 signals are hot, and beehives were hot but not as hot as signals. One hears at the shows how the "prices" of this CD or that CD have just gone sky high and the non-specialist refuses to put his "parachute" on and jump in to the melee. Well, I think the prices on rarer petticoats have all but bought tickets for the space shuttle and I sometimes question if "to the moon" is as high as they can go. But don't let the prices of some let you dismiss the overall collectability or availability of some very nice glass for some very reasonable prices. You can collect HG petticoats on a budget and put together a rather impressive display case and what can be better than a starter collection that has room for growth.

Many of you may not have even realized there were collectors that push the limits of "weird" to collect and specialize in a particular embossing of HG petticoat. Some of you have been fortunate or unfortunate enough to receive an email or call from me asking "what letter is on that petticoat you have for sale". So for all you petticoat collectors and for those nonbelievers out there, lets start our trip into "weird". 

I know of five basic ways to collect petticoats and correct me if you collect a different way.

  1. Color 
  2. Narrow skirt versus wide skirt 
  3. Mold letter (skirt/dome) 
  4. Mold letter Variants within a single mold letter/ tall dome 
  5. Goobers/snot, milky streams, snow or bubbles, pot stones, impurities, heavy pours


Generally speaking, darker is better. Recently the "catalogs" have defined blue teal and green teal for us, probably more as a marketing ploy than anything else, but it gave credibility to a semi-hard color that would otherwise be left as "dark aqua". Pea soup became a color and one that costs a lot more than your average bowl of Campbell's. It is a hard color to find and they probably should have put it on the new Pennsylvania quarter. It would have looked a lot better than a 'keystone".

The emphasis on "dark" colors has lead to what I think is a great opportunity to collect in the pastels. Most of these don't jump at you from a sales table but put them in a lit display case and you'll be surprised. The letter J and I offer various tints of blues that sometimes just glow.

So I'll rank the colors from hardest to easiest in the most general sense. Remember, just like other insulator CD, what is a twenty-five cent color in one petticoat is "gold" in a different petticoat. This is only an opinion from offerings I see at shows etc.

1) White milkglass 11) Forest green
2) Dark lavender  12) Cornflower blue
3) Sapphire blue 13) 7-up/ J mold green
4) Blue milkglass 14) Teal
5) Olive/Pea Soup 15) SCA 
6) Pink 16) Lemon
7) Yellow 17) Light lavender
8) Depression green 18) Hemingray blue
9) Amber 19) Clear
10) Purple 20) Aqua variations

The most abused color description is the "apple" or "lime" green. I haven't listed it in the colors because the shades of green go from very light almost depression. Then there is sage green and celery green. Well Bam! Bam! I just gave it some essence and now we are cooking with Emeril. Green is over cooked but it's a comer. Once the poles are down you'll have wished you had kept more of these. The look great in that lit cabinet.


This is a "slicker" style of petticoat beehive that is thought to be of more recent issuance because of its refined appearance and smaller economical shape. It comes in four known colors: aqua, light aqua, light green, and purple. I have been told the variations of purple are such that you can collect just those. The common purple is light to medium in shade. I have not seen a royal purple but have been told they exist and are so dark you can hardly see though them which is not the case in the medium purple. A characteristic of this style is annealing/stress cracks in the skirt. Don't hold your breath looking for one without them. This variation doesn't have skirt letters but dome letters A, B, C are known to exist. From a distance it looks much like some thinner style Brookfield beehive.


The HG petticoat can carry a mold mark in two places: the dome and the skirt. The dome letter mayor may not be in combination with a skirt letter. The letters are: A, B, C, D, E, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, backward N, upside-down and backward C, and upside down L. The position of the skirt letter can be above or below the HG.CO on the front or below the word petticoat on the rear. Please reference the black/white photos for examples of letter placement. 

To become aware that the mold letters are special also opens your eyes to the distinct differences in the beehive mold characteristics. For instance, the mold A petticoat has a distinctive but almost unseen flair to the skirt the other mold letters don't have. The E mold has a more rounded dome and shorter inner skirt and if you ever compared an orange amber E to an orange amber M, you can see what dome shape and depth of inner skirt can do to show the same color two different ways. Because of the extended inner skirt the "M" orange amber shows darker while the mold "E" orange amber glows because the shallow inner skirt allows the light through. 

The J mold has a distinctive narrow and pointy dome and the L mold / upside down L are prone to heavy pours and the appearance of what some would call a "third" petticoat. A third ring of glass appears on the inside of the outer petticoat as a result of too much glass in the mold. The K mold has the tall dome, flat top dome, and a pyramid like symmetry of an angled dome.

The dome lettered and no letter petticoats almost appear to be from reworked A through backward N molds. There is little doubt in my mind that the backward N molds were re-machined and used without skirt letters.


In the "I" letter molds, there are three different styles of the letter "G" in H.G.CO.


The letter could be a "G" backwards and upside-down, but it matches a backwards" 'J" as typed in quotes here. The letter is a very small letter in relationship to every other skirt embossed letter.

Front Skirt Embossed - BELOW the word H.G.CO.

Letter    Mold Count   Description 
I    3 Directly below "G" in H.G.CO.;
3 different letter styles of "G" in H.G.CO.
Directly below "G" in H.G.CO.; in "petticoat" 
the "CO" are elevated from the baseline. 
Under right side of "G" in H.G.CO.; "O" in "petticoat" is slanted.
C Backwards    1   A smaller letter than every other skirt letter used.



Front Skirt Embossed - ABOVE the word H.G.CO.

Letter   Mold Count Description
K 3 Back leg of "K" is directly above period after H.G. 
Back leg of "K" is above the "G" in H.G. 
Back leg of "K" is between the "G" and "CO."
upside-down L 1 "CO" in petticoat are spaced wider than normal
L 2 Directly above period after H.G.; petticoat is in small letters. 
Directly above period after H.G.; petticoat is in large letters.
M Left leg of "M" is directly above period after H.G. 
Center of "M" is directly above period after H.G. 
Left leg of "M" is directly above period after H.G.; 
H.G. are squished together
backwards N 3 Large script letters in H.G.CO.; "N" has three feet crossed
Small H.G.CO.; "N" has three feet crossed 
Small H.G.CO.; "N" has three feet crossed; "A" and "T" in petticoat are widely spaced.
N none No letters after "N" have been reported.



Rear Skirt Embossed - BELOW the word PETTICOAT

Letter   Mold Count Description
A 1 Directly below the "I" in petticoat.
B 4 Directly under the second "T" in petticoat. 
Directly between the second 'T' and "I" in petticoat.
Directly under the "I" in petticoat. 
Word "PETTICOAT" is slanted to the right, letter by letter.
C 1 Directly under the "I" in petticoat.
D 2 Directly under the "I" in petticoat. 
Directly between the second "T" and "I" in petticoat.
E 3 Directly between the second "T" and "I" in petticoat. 
Directly under the second "T" in petticoat, top and bottom of "E" are short. 
Directly under the second "T" in petticoat, top and bottom of "E" are extended.
F 0 None have been reported.
G 4 Directly between the second "T" and "I" in Petticoat.
Directly under "I" in Petticoat; "T" slants to right away from "A" in Petticoat. 
Directly under "I" in Petticoat; two "T"'s in Petticoat -- first leans left, other leans right.
Directly under "I" in Petticoat; two "T"'s in Petticoat -- right T's top ramps upward to right.
H 1 Directly under the "I" in Petticoat

The E, H, and M molds may have been used the same way. This is conjecture on my part, but the pieces are so alike I think one can make that, deduction or logical leap. 

The question of whether A was first and then B and so forth down the alphabet has been asked a lot. I'm not a historian of glass but by observation, the A mold is very rarely found without chipping and flaking in the wire groove. To me this indicates that the wire was not copper but older thicker iron. You could say a loose wire tie would produce the same "nibbled" wire groove or an insulator that could spin on the peg but I tend to believe the A mold was indeed first and was more often than not used on older iron wire telegraph lines.

As far as color distribution, some mold letters have the full rainbow of colors while others are not colorful at all. The M and N mold have the greatest variety with letters J, K, and E following. Another reason for my conclusion that mold A came followed by the B through D series is that the glass colors are so similar. The infusion of color, minus a few odds and ends, seems more prolific in the latter part of the alphabet.


This is a category that seems to be very "hot" in just about all CD's right now. Probably as collections advance, we need to seek out that "different" piece no other collector or collection will or can have. In petticoats these things are rarities indeed. Pot stones in white or brown show up, but if in the skirt they often cause fractures, even while setting on your shelf. Petticoats normally don't have a lot of "milk" or "gunk". When they do, its often in mold letters B, L, K, and M. The letter J seems to have a lot of white pot stones or "oven lining"? The heaviest jade blues seem to concentrate in letters B and E.


I'm sure I've not covered certain aspects of the collecting the CD145 HGCO petticoat to make everyone happy. I thank fellow petticoat collectors for bringing me up to speed on mold variations; especially the collector who got me to notice the different K positions. Since my father, sister, and I collect color by mold letter, we never dived head first into the distinct mold variations until now. 

And this brings us to a missing piece I would like to focus on or be the focus for -- a color chart cross reference by mold letter. It was to difficult to try to slide that into this article, mainly because it would probably have been too incomplete and therefore frustrating to all you fellow petticoat collectors. But I would like to try to compile this chart. Clarice Gordon previous articles attempted this, and it needs to be revisited. Please feel free to contact me. I also send a special request to the non-specialty collectors, who have some of the rarer color pieces in their collections, to assist by letting us know what those mold letters are.

In closing, I think mold letter collecting in the petticoats is a tremendous way of starting a collection on a shoe string because a lot of color still exists for under $10, a great way to specialize in a specific mold letter (feel free to choose one for the first letter of a child etc.), and a better reason for the advanced collector to hang onto that piece that would otherwise be a duplicate. Its not a duplicate if it's a different mold letter or mold letter variation and its not a duplicate if it's a different color in that mold/mold variation.

Paul L. Rosenberger can be contacted by writing to:
201 South Alfred Avenue, Elgin, IL 60123 Phone: 847-742-1069

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