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You might have seen those glass or porcelain things up on the poles and crossbars of telephone poles, but have you ever wondered what they are and why they’re there?

Well, stay tuned, because I’m about to reveal the secret of these unsung heroes of the communication world.

Insulators, these peculiar-looking devices, have an important task. Their purpose is to prevent the electrical wires surrounding them from having a little chat with the pole or, heaven forbid, the ground below.

If they didn’t do their job, all that power (or those precious phone calls) would just fizzle away. Imagine trying to have a long-distance conversation, and your voice fading after a few hundred meters. No fun, right?

You’ll find a true treasure trove of insulator styles and colors. While many of the older ones were made of glass or porcelain, some were crafted from wood and glass, animal materials (yes, you read that right), and even more bizarre materials.

Size matters too – smaller insulators hung around telephone and telegraph wires, while their larger counterparts partied with the high-voltage wires. It’s like a VIP area for insulators, depending on the voltage!

You see, when it comes to power lines, the rule is: the higher the voltage, the bigger the insulator needed. Why? Because electricity can show off a bit, and if the voltage is high enough, it might just decide to jump over a considerable distance – a phenomenon known as « flashover. »

Insulators with wide « umbrella » discs and broad lower skirts are like the bouncers at the nightclub, making sure the wire stays at arm’s length from the pole, so that electrifying dance move doesn’t happen.

Believe it or not, collecting insulators is a thing! It really started in the 1960s when utility and power companies began burying their lines.

Many of these vintage insulators couldn’t join the underground party, so they ended up in the « discard » pile. But, as the saying goes, one person’s trash is another person’s treasure.

Collectors are a diverse group. Some appreciate the aesthetics and adorn their windowsills and gardens with the colorful glass pieces to add a touch of sparkle to their surroundings.

Others have more specific preferences and seek out particular types of insulators. Prices can range from freebies to staggering sums.

Rare specimens can fetch tens of thousands of dollars, but there are also many budget-friendly options. You could find one for less than a dollar or, if you’re lucky, even snag one for free at flea markets.

It’s worth mentioning that most insulators in collectors’ hands are between 70 and 145 years old, and some types haven’t been manufactured since the early 1900s. Anything old and out of production tends to become a collector’s item, and insulators are no exception to this rule.

So, the next time you see one of those peculiar glass or porcelain insulators high up on a telephone pole, take a moment to appreciate the important role they’ve played in the history of communication.

They may seem like relics of the past, but they’ve left an indelible mark on our ability to connect with each other, whether through a phone call or a lightning-fast text message.

And who knows, maybe you’ll be inspired to start your own collection and join the ranks of insulator enthusiasts who find beauty and history in these humble artifacts.

Good Info