A Word with the Insulator Men

[Trade Journal]

Publication: The Telegrapher

New York, NY, United States
vol. 9, no. 372, p. 212, col. 2-3

A Word with the Insulator Men.



THE newspapers have a story of an eloquent member of some State Legislature pretty far west, whose maiden speech opened something like this: "Mr. President, I smell a rat; see him floating in the air;" (in a loud whisper) "I propose to nip him in the bud!" Mr. Editor, I "smell a rat," too! There is every indication that the interminable insulator dispute is about to break out again in its most violent and aggravated form. We are beginning to see once more, in the columns of the electrical and telegraphic periodicals, occasional paragraphs, running something in this wise.

The following tests were made recently during the continuance of a violent simoom, on the lines of the Somewhere, Everywhere and Nowhere Telegraph Company, which will serve to show the relative merits of the Boggs insulator (glass), the Hoggs insulator (wooden), and the Noggs insulator (iron), in comparison with the newly invented and highly remarkable Scroggs insulator, which is composed of the purest Lake Superior copper:








The above tests conclusively demonstrate the great superiority of copper as an insulator over any other known substance, especially glass.

Now, begging the pardon of the well intended people who furnish these items to the telegraphic journals, they fall a long way short of demonstrating anything. Most people would view it in the same light that the man did when his friend propounded a conundrum something like this: "A boy said mother had two children, a son and a daughter, yet the daughter is not my sister.' How do you account for that?" "Well," said the man, " my explanation is that the boy lied."

It is not necessary, however, in these cases, as a general thing, to assume that the "boy lied." If one could get at the facts in the case he might very probably find that the tests were actually made, resulting in the published figures. He might further, after due investigation, ascertain that the Boggs insulators were put up twenty years ago, and were covered with a two inch coating of solid carbon, deposited by passing locomotives; that the Hoggs insulators were in the bottom wire, said wire being boded for miles in the luxuriant foliage of the swamp alder, beside the track; and that the Noggs insulator was an old and defective pattern of a decade ago, au early experiment of the inventor, and bearing no resemblance whatever to the article sold as the Noggs insulator by the dealers of today; while the Scroggs copper insulators had been just put up on a new wire and carefully varnished with two coats of shellac, under the personal supervision of the talented inventor, the natural result being that when the varnish wore off, in a month or two, the Scroggs insulator would cause the atmosphere of every telegraph office from Somewhere to Nowhere to be perfectly azure with the profanity of the afflicted operators.

Now, in writing the foregoing, I am far from wishing to discourage the making of competitive tests of insulators, or any other of the appliances of telegraphy, and the publication of them for the information and benefit of the profession; but, to be of the slightest earthly value to the unprejudiced and intelligent electrician, the records of these tests should be got up in a very different style from those we usually see, and of which the one quoted is a very fair average specimen. They should contain at least the following data: (1). Locality of line. (2). Length of wire tested. (3). Kind of insulators, exactly specified, with their average mechanical condition, and length of time they have been exposed. (4). Kind of instrument used in testing, and methods employed for making the test. (5). Condition of the weather at the moment of observation and also during the previous six or twelve hours. (6). Name of the person making the test.

With this information given, the intelligent reader would be able to form a tolerably fair idea of the real merits of the case. It is in all cases very important to know the name of the observer, because, in testing insulators, the "personal equation" of the individual using the instruments is a prominent factor in the result. Some observers are careless, and would, take no pains to ascertain if there were other escapes on the wire than those due to the insulators, others are incompetent, and, with entire honesty of intention, would figure out very erroneous results, while it is not impossible that cases of positive dishonesty might occur, as, for example, if a large block of stock in some insulator manufacturing company were "put where it would 'do the most good." But if the observer signs his name to his work, he, in a measure, stakes his professional reputation, such as it may be, upon its honesty and accuracy, and the average public will know pretty well just how much or how little weight to allow to his conclusions. Unless the data above specified are furnished, no telegrapher ought to place any great degree of reliance on the figures he sees published in the telegraphic journals, especially when unaccompanied by any responsible name. It is the easiest matter in the world to make a test which, while seeming to be perfectly fair even to the eye of an expert, may be in fact grossly unfair, and we are thus obliged to depend largely; upon the skill and experience, and, above all, upon the integrity of the personal character of the observer. Every one knows that there are among electricians, as in every other class of business and professional men, persons whose opinions are their own, and not for sale at any price, and there are also others who will furnish an ingeniously worded certificate, apparently testifying to the value of any worthless device-but really quite non-committal in its character-for a "suitable consideration," at the shortest notice. Both of these sorts of people are probably really much better understood by their constituents than they themselves ever imagined, and therefore a man's name, signed to the record of a test, would be a pretty good index of its degree of accuracy and impartiality.

So I say to the rival insulator men, go on and publish your tests-the more the better-but give us the data, to form an intelligent opinion. If we could have, also, the readings of the thermometer and hygrometer, constant of galvanometer, electro-motive force of testing battery, and the actual readings of the galvanometer tests, so much the better. If the insulator of Boggs, Noggs or Scroggs is really superior to those of their respective rivals, there is no surer way to convince the world of the fact, than by furnishing the full details of the tests by which the said fact was demonstrated. "A word to the wise is sufficient."



Researcher notes: 
Supplemental information: 
Researcher:Bob Stahr
Date completed:December 17, 2005 by: Elton Gish;