Yankee Pole Cat Insulator Club hosts annual show

By Annie Gentile - ReminderNews
Enfield - posted Wed., Apr. 6, 2011
Ed Katz is a collector of milk bottles, but became interested in insulators when he bought a box lot of bottles from an auction that contained a few insulators. Photos by Annie Gentile.
Ed Katz is a collector of milk bottles, but became interested in insulators when he bought a box lot of bottles from an auction that contained a few insulators. Photos by Annie Gentile.

From the mid 1800s to around the early 1970s, several American manufacturers of bottles, lamps and glassware also churned out insulators. Originally used to electrically insulate copper telegraph and telephone wires, they came in a broad range of sizes, styles and colors. When the industry changed over to ceramic and later plastic insulators, many of the linemen took home the discarded glass insulators - and the hobby of collecting insulators was born.

On Sunday, March 27, the Yankee Pole Cat Insulator Club held its annual Spring Insulator, Bottle and Tabletop Collectibles Show and Saleat the American Legion Post 80 in Enfield. The show included about 40 vendors.

“As with anything, there’s a myriad of styles, colors, shapes and words on insulators,” said John Rajpolt, organizer of the event. With so many different types of insulators made by various companies over the industry’s history, Rajpolt said many collectors focus on collecting a specific manufacturer or style - such as Hemingray insulators, or the earlier type of insulators that had no threads, or castle-type insulators that allowed linemen to run cable wires in any direction.

“The companies that made [insulators] often also made bottles, so as long as the insulators they were making met certain specifications, most people didn’t care what color they were,” said Rajpolt, pointing out insulators in his collection that included  purples, greens, sapphires, cobalts and ambers. “Sometimes you will find two-toned insulators where the manufacturer mixed batches of glass,” he said.

Depending on the rarity of particular insulators, the prices at the show could range from as little as $10 to as much as $7,500.

“Some collectors only collect the oddities,” said Stan Mirecki, who came to help out his son, Zac, in showing his collection. “Sometimes you come upon an insulator where a penny or a nail was thrown into the glass while the insulators were being made. Or someone might not have been paying attention to the stamping and a letter in the manufacturer’s name would get printed upside-down or backward. Those things are extremely rare,” he said.

This was the first year that Norman Heckler - owner of a family run bottle, flask, and glass object auction house in Woodstock- participated in the Yankee Pole Cat Show. Heckler said there was a lot of activity from the 1940s to around the 1970s, with actual digging of old glass at abandoned dump sites and privys. In the days before indoor plumbing, he said men would often keep a bottle of spirits out near the outdoor privy, tossing finished bottles into the hole when they were done, so some digging is still done on old farm properties.

Dave Sokol, whose family organizes the Somers Antique Bottle Show and Saleheld earlier in February and who was also selling at the Yankee Pole Cat Show, said that these days most collecting is done at shows, online, and by word of mouth between collectors. “People used to go down near rivers, to old farm beds, and to dumps,” he said. “It’s still done, but now not many people want the liability of letting someone go on their property anymore.”

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