Hemingray Glass Insulators are a type of vintage glass insulator used on early 20th-century telephone and telegraph lines.
There are hundreds of different insulator types, but we’ll stick with Hemingray glass insulators. Hemingray was the largest manufacturer of glass insulators in the United States.
In the early 1900s, there was a 10-year period when virtually all basic insulator shapes were introduced, and this time flashes collectors’ interest today.
These insulators are now a hot commodity among collectors, with some rare specimens selling for thousands of dollars.
This blog post will look at the history of Hemingray Glass Insulators and their current value in the collector’s market.
Let’s dive in for more about Hemingray Glass Insulators!
Brief History of Hemingray Glass Insulators
Hemingray Glass Insulators are some of the most popular and highly collected American glass insulators. They were first produced by the Hemingray Glass Company in 1848 and were one of the first companies to produce glass insulators for use with telegraph wires.
Gray and Robert Hemingray founded Gray & Hemingray in Cincinnati in 1848. Telegraph Glasses and “Lightning rod insulators” weren’t made until the 1850s. We don’t yet know which lightning rod insulators Hemingray made.
They moved to Kentucky, Covington, in 1852. During the 1850s and 60s, the firm changed names multiple times before becoming Hemingray Glass in 1870. The December 19, 1871 patent for Robert Hemingray’s insulator molding process was awarded.
This patent date appears on early Hemingray insulators. It’s no secret that H.G.CO embossed insulators began at style No7, with styles from 1 through 5.
After two years of floods in Cincinnati, Hemingray constructed a second facility in Indiana. A drip point patent was awarded on May 2, 1893, to James C. Gill and Ralph G. Hemingray.
The feature was meant to pull condensation off the insulator and prevent water from producing a short. These patents date back to the 1920s for many of Hemingray’s insulators. In 1919, Covington closed.
In the 1930s, Owens-Illinois owned Hemingray and began making transparent insulators. Sharp drip points were replaced with circular ones. Hemingray manufactured one billion insulators in 1937.
In 1951, Owens-Illinois renamed its Hemingray-branded primary power distribution insulators Kimble. In addition, Hemingray insulators continued to be manufactured.
The corrugated base was an alternative to drip points, with rough, cross-hatched bases to keep moisture at bay.
In 1967, Hemingray made its last insulator. Muncie, Indiana, ceased to produce glass TV face panels in 1972. A long history of making glass insulators ended with closing of the largest glass insulator factory in the United States.
The Different Types of Hemingray Glass Insulators
There are many types of Hemingray Glass Insulators, all with unique characteristics and uses. Some of the most common types include:
This is one of the most common types of Hemingray Glass Insulators, designed to hold electrical wires on wooden utility poles. It features a flat base with a large hole in the center and two smaller holes at each end for attaching wires to it.
The top part is rounded so people can quickly grasp it when removing or replacing it from its pole mountings. The most notable feature about these insulators is their unique shape, which looks like an upside-down letter “A.”
The most common type of Hemingray glass insulator is the Hemingray-16, which features a smooth top and bottom edge and has a hole drilled through the center for wire attachment. This type of Hemingray insulator was designed to be used on telegraph lines.
It has a broader base than other glass insulators and is usually found with a wire loop around the top. The Hemingray-16 is often called a “button” or “oval” style insulator.
These were made from about 1850 until 1910, when newer designs like the Hemingray-19 (which featured a more streamlined shape) were replaced by newer designs.
● Hemingray-42 Glass Insulator
The Hemingray-42 is similar to the Hemingray-16 in that it is teardrop shaped, but it has a smaller teardrop shape than its predecessor. This type of glass insulator was manufactured from about 1910 until 1920.
The color range for this type of glass insulator is also similar to that of the 16: aqua blue, yellow, green, and brown are all standard colors found in this style of insulator.
● CD 113
This is a Hemingray No.113 insulator made from 1907 to 1916. It can be found in many colors and is expected in the Hemingray line. It has a large wire groove on the top edge, which helps to hold the wire in place while it is being soldered.
This insulator also has a smaller one on the bottom edge. The minor groove is used for attaching the wire to an insulator using a hot glue gun.
● CD 117
This is a Hemingray No.117 insulator made from 1917 to 1927. It has no wire grooves but two small holes on each side, which may have been used for attaching wires with crimp-on ferrules or solder splices at one time, although there is no evidence today.
How to Identify A Hemingray Glass Insulator
The Hemingray Glass Company made Hemingray Glass Insulators between 1848 and 1938. They are still sought after today by collectors and can be identified by their distinctive shape, style, and color.
When you’re collecting Hemingray glass insulators, there are some things you can look for to make sure that you’re getting a genuine piece.
1. Check for embossed Markings.
A Hemingray Glass Insulator will have an embossed mark on one side of its base. The mark will be either a diamond with no numbers or one or two numbers inside it.
So, look at the base of the insulator to see if it has an embossed “HEMINGRAY” mark on it. If there is no embossed mark, look at the insulator’s bottom to see if it has a number like “3” or “4” stamped. These numbers indicate which machine made the insulator on your hand (or vice versa).
2. The color and texture
Check out the color and texture of your piece’s glass. Hemingray comes in many colors, including aqua blue, cobalt blue, green-amber, light green-yellow, and yellow-green (among others).
Most collectors specialize in one color to help focus their collecting efforts and keep track of their finds more accessible.
Also, look for bubbles or other imperfections in the glass — these are common on older Hemingrays from before 1900 when they were manufactured by hand instead of machine blown like today’s examples.
3. Number of Grooves
Another thing to look at is how many grooves there are in the wire groove (the indentation on the back). Early Hemingrays had two grooves that could hold two wires, one above the other. Later examples had three or four grooves holding three or four wires side by side or stacked vertically.
4. Wire groove spacing
There is a standard spacing between these wire grooves on a Hemingray. If the insulator has more than one groove, then they should be spaced evenly apart from each other.
If they aren’t spaced evenly, then it’s likely not a real Hemingray but another manufacturer’s insulator that looks like one.
5. Number of Petticoats (Skirts)
This refers to how many layers of glass were used to make the skirt or outer layer on an insulator. A single petticoat is a basic design with only one layer of glass around the outside edge of an insulator. In comparison, multiple petticoats will have more than one layer of glass around the outside edge.
A double dress has two layers, while a triple petticoat has three layers. Most types of Hemingray insulators have double petticoats, but there were exceptions, such as some vault caps and larger lightning rods where triple dresses can be found.
How to Find the Value of Hemingray Glass Insulators
Hemingray Glass Insulators are one of the more popular and collectible insulator types. They were made in several different styles, colors, and sizes.
How much is a Hemingray Glass Insulator worth? The value of any collectible item is based on its age, rarity, condition, and demand. With that in mind, here’s some general information about Hemingray Glass Insulators:
1. Design Number
The design number is the first thing you need to check when you have a Hemingray Glass Insulator. This number indicates the year and month in which the insulator was manufactured.
For example, if your collector has a No. 11, it was made in January 1915; if it has a No. 12, it was made in February 1915; if it has a No. 13, it was made in March 1915, and so on.
2. Primary and Secondary Embossing
Hemingray Glass Company used two different styles of embossing during its production period.
The first style is primary embossing, which features an impressed letter “H” surrounded by diamond-shaped patterns on each side of the letter “H.”
The second style is called secondary embossing, which features an impressed letter “H” surrounded by diamond-shaped patterns on each side of the letter “H” but without any other markings.
The rarity of Hemingray glass insulators is based on the number of examples known to exist and the number of those still in original condition. Rarity is also a factor of the type of insulator, as some types were produced in more significant numbers than others.
For example, the Hemingray No. 5 (aka No. 5 Barrel or No. 5 Hemingray) was produced in far greater numbers than a No. 15 or No. 19 Barrel or Hemingray, making it more familiar.
4. Base type
The base type is the essential factor. Hemingray made four types of bases: flat, round, sharp, and corrugated.
Each has unique characteristics that affect its value as an antique collectible item.
The condition of your insulator is one of the most critical factors in determining its value; if it’s still in good condition — with no cracks or chips — it can fetch up to $20 at antique stores and flea markets if it is in perfect condition with no repairs or restoration work.
If there’s any damage whatsoever, its value drops considerably; however, some collectors will still buy damaged ones as long as they’re old enough and in good condition otherwise.
Color can be an essential factor when trying to identify a color variation on a particular type of insulator. For example, a red-purple “glass” (actually colored glass) would be worth approximately up to $300 than an uncolored glass up to $5.
7. Manufacturing Anomalies
Manufacturing anomalies are problems that occur during the manufacturing process that alter the value of an item or items being produced.
An example would be a broken wire or missing color layer in a soda-lime glass insulator manufactured by Hemingray that causes it to be more valuable than similar pieces without these anomalies.
If you want to find out if an item has one of these anomalies, check with an expert before purchasing it to know what you’re getting into before investing.
Ultimately, unless you’re an avid collector of insulators, your best bet is to find out its current value—either through an auction or by researching the selling prices for similar insulators online.
Where to Find Hemingray Glass Insulators For Sale
There are many places to purchase antique insulators on the internet. Here is a list of some of the most popular websites:
Amazon has wide common and rarer varieties of Hemingray glass insulators. You can find them through their search bar or by visiting their Antiques & Collectibles page.
eBay is a good option if you want to go the traditional route. You’ll find thousands of listings for antique Hemingray glass insulators, with prices ranging from around $10 to more than $100 for some rare colors and styles.
Etsy is another great place to look for antique Hemingray glass insulators because many sellers on this site sell only these types of items and not much else, so they have more knowledge about what they’re selling than someone who sells many different types of items at once.
● Antique stores
If you’re looking for an antique glass insulator, your best bet is to visit an antique store. These stores usually carry an inventory of items, including antique glass insulators.
You can also find these stores online through websites like collectors weekly, where they sell all sorts of items, including glass insulators from different eras, colors, and styles.
How to Date Hemingray Glass Insulator
The date code on Hemingray insulators can be found on the bottom of each piece of glassware or the top under the handle. The date code consists of two numbers separated by a space or dash with an additional letter suffix for specific years of production.
The first number represents the year that production started; for example, 02 would indicate 1902 while 12 would indicate 1912.
The second number represents the year that production ended; for example, 03 would indicate 1903 while 13 would indicate 1913, etc.
The third character is sometimes used to represent batch numbers, but most.
Tips to Clean Hemingray Glass Insulator
The problem with these collectible glass insulators is that they get dirty very quickly. They can be cleaned with a soft cloth or sponge, but you have to be careful not to damage the fragile glass.
Here are some tips on how to clean Hemingray Glass Insulators:
- The first step is to rinse the insulator under warm water. If you have a garden hose, this will work great! Make sure to use warm water because hot or cold water will crack the glass.
- If you have a large amount of dirt on your insulator, it would be best to soak it overnight in warm soapy water before cleaning (i.e., dish soap).
- After rinsing off the insulator, you can use an old toothbrush or fingernail brush to scrub any stubborn dirt deep inside your insulator’s crevices.
- If you still see some remaining dirt after brushing it out with an old toothbrush or fingernail brush, then you can use rubbing alcohol (70% solution) and a small paint brush to rub it over the surface of your insulator. This should help remove any remaining dirt or grime from the inside of your insulator!
Hemingray glass insulators will always be some of the most desirable collectibles for antique insulator collectors worldwide.
While prices for these items don’t consistently achieve high numbers, their value to the collector increases with the uniqueness and beauty of each piece.
As a resource for insulator collectors, this guide acts as a price value reference and an identification guide for key Hemingray insulators.
Hopefully, these values and information will allow collectors to make more informed decisions about their insulator purchases, determine the current market value of their collection, and get an idea of the worth of their rare or valuable pieces.
We also hope readers can use this guide to determine the rarity of their Hemingray insulators without digging through endless Internet forums and message boards or traveling hundreds of miles to see them in person.
1. How much is a Hemingray glass insulator worth?
The value of a Hemingray glass insulator varies based on the type of item, its condition, and the market demand for that particular item.
The most valuable items have been unearthed in their original, unbroken condition. That said, even broken items can be worth something if they are rare or unusual in some way.
The value of a Hemingray glass insulator depends on several factors, including the color and pattern of the insulator, as well as its condition.
Insulators in good condition can sell for anywhere from $10 to $50, but those in poor condition may only be worth $5 or less.
2. How can you tell how old a glass insulator is?
You can tell how old a glass insulator is by looking at the markings on the insulator. Insulators made before about 1900 will have a number representing their diameter, but after 1900 they will have a number representing their height.
3. What is a Hemingray 42?
Hemingray 42 was a type of glass insulator made by Hemingray Glass Company. It is called the Hemingray 42 because it has a 42 at the bottom of the base.
The Hemingray 42 is an insulator used on telephone lines in the United States from 1921 until approximately 1960. The date it was first produced is unknown, but it appears to have been available for purchase in 1921.
4. Which insulators are worth the most?
The most valuable insulators were made in the late 19th century and early 20th century by major manufacturers like the American Bell Telephone Company (AT&T). These include Hemingray, Pyrex, Niles, and Western Electric Co.
The most valuable pieces are those with rare colors or patterns: purple Pyrex, blue Hemingray No. 17s, and red Hemingray No. 7s are just three examples of these rare colors.
5. What is a Hemingray No 40 worth?
Hemingray No 40 is one of the most sought-after insulators among collectors and antique dealers. It is estimated that about 1,200 known examples of this type of glass insulator exist today.
A single example can cost anywhere between $20 and $50 depending on its condition, rarity, and whether or not it has an intact pontil mark or chip at the base.
6. What are Hemingray glass insulators used for?
Hemingray glass insulators protect electrical wiring from moisture and other elements. The earliest insulators were pressed glass, but Hemingray changed to molded glass.
Hemingray was one of the first companies to make insulators, but it wasn’t the only one. Other popular manufacturers included Illinois Glass Company and Western Electric Company. Some companies made pressed and molded-glass insulators, while others specialized in one type.
7. How much is a Hemingray 16 insulator worth?
The base value of a Hemingray 16 is $25.00. You should expect to pay this price for it if you were to sell it in an eBay auction or on a website like Craigslist. However, many factors can affect an insulator’s price, including its rarity and condition.