Peter Cooper claims to have invented the glass insulator


Publication: The Grand Prairie Texan

Grand Prairie, TX, United States
vol. 3, no. 49, p. 8, col. 2-4

New News of Yesterday


Solved Problem For Morse

How Peter Cooper Invented the Glass

Insulator Which Made Possible

the Stringing of Electric Telegraph

Wires Above Ground

I told recently an anecdote which was narrated to me by the late Abram S. Hewitt, mayor of New York from 1887-1888, describing the manner in which his father-in-law, Peter Cooper, the philanthropist, invented an apparatus by means of which it was possible to lay the first Atlantic cable between the coast of Newfoundaldn [sic] Newfoundland and Ireland.

Mr. Cooper's interest in the electric telegraph began at a much earlier period than the time when Cyrus W. Field proposed to him and to several other men of capital that a company be organized to lay a telegraph cable upon the bed of the ocean, so that telegraphic communication could be established between the continent of Europe and the United States.

Peter Cooper was a personal friend of Professor Morse, who invented the modern electric telegraph and the Morse code system, the fundamentals of which have been practically unchanged to this day. Mr. Cooper used often to visit Professor Morse at his workshop, which was situated in the topmost story of a building that faced Washington Square, New York city. One day Cooper said to Professor Morse: "How far do you suppose you can carry your wire? For I should think that it will be very important for the business success of your telegraph that it be possible to extend it for a distance of one hundred miles or more."

"Yes, I understand that," replied Professor Morse. "I know, too, that it is perfectly practicable to send the electric current intelligibly through the wire for a distance of two hundred miles, perhaps more, without relaying. But it is necessary to protect the wire and to support it. I don't see how we can carry the wire in the open air because, first, it will be necessary to support it upon poles or posts, and in the next place it will be necessary, if we do support it in that way, to insulate the wire; otherwise the electric energy would be lost, or greatly impaired. So it seems to me that I shall have to run the wire in tubes underground. The expense of doing this would be large, and I am sometimes afraid that it will be so great as to be prohibitive."

"I will think about that," said Peter Cooper: and he went away, determined to find some method, if possible, which would eliminate the necessity of burying the telegraph wires under ground.

It must have been about this time that one of Professor Morse's assistants, Theodore Vail, suggested to him that he string the wires upon posts or poles, showing that this would be a much cheaper method of carrying them. For Mr. Cooper called upon Professor Morse one day and said that he was sure he had thought, of a little device, very inexpensive, which would make it possible for him to use the wire overhead, instead of underground.

Thereupon Mr. Cooper asked Mr. Morse to let him have a telegraph wire. When that was done Mr. Cooper took his cane and attaching it to the neck of a glass bottle which had been broken from the bottle, ran the wire through this bottle neck, saying that, all Professor Morse would have to do to insulate his wires would be to get bottle-necks, attach them to poles, and run his wire through these necks, and in that way he could carry his wire to the uttermost, limits of the battery's strength.

It was, in fact, the device accepted by Professor Morse, obviating the expensive method of burying the wires; although, instead of having actual bottle necks, Professor Morse caused the familiar glass bulb of the telegraph pole to be made at the glass factory.

"In this way," said Mr. Hewitt, who told me this incident, "Peter Cooper was associated with both the perfecting of the Morse telegraph apparatus and with the successful laying of the ocean cable." (Copyright, 1911, by E. J. Edwards, All Rights Reserved)

Keywords:First Insulator : Peter Cooper
Researcher notes: 
Supplemental information: 
Researcher:Bob Stahr
Date completed:September 4, 2010 by: Bob Stahr;