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Porcelain Commemoratives Made for the National Show

In 1974, R.E. (Dick) Alumbaugh, who was a procelain insulator collector, though it would be nice to have a porcelain commemorative made in honor of the National Insulator Association conventions.  He approached the hosts of the 6th N.I.A. Convention, Addie and Maury Tasem, who advised him to take it before the N.I.A board.  The board met in Oroville, California at the Western Region Show held August 21-23, 1974 where approval was granted for the first N.I.A commemorative.

Originally Dick was going to use the Cutter tree insulator as the model.  After N.I.A. approval, the Cutter family withdrew their support, and a new design had to be selected.  According to the 1998 National display handout compiled by Hunsaker and Lawless, after some preliminary attempts, including "two U-293s" being made in white Dresden China, the U-390 design was selected.  The model used was a U-390 belonging to Dee Willett.  In the Drip Points Newsletter of June 1975, it is indicated that the insulator was about 12% smaller than the model.  A steel mold was designed and plaster of Paris casts were made from it.  The insulators were hollow and felt was glued to the opening at the base.  They were manufactured by H.P.C. Co. of Sissell, California.  Lettering on the insulators was embossed with serial numbers either ink stamped or incised.

It's likely that the display houndout by Hunsaker and Lawless that indicated that preliminary attempts included "two U-293s" contained a typographical error and the insulator should have been listed as a U-393 since this is a more unique style and a commemorative with the embossing for the 6th N.I.A. Convention showed up in an eBay auction that ended December 14, 2003.  At the time, the seller was also selling other porcelain commemoratives with the 001 serial number so the insulators came from one closely connected to the commemorative project or a serious collector of these.

I also cannot find any information on "Sissell, California" or "H.P.C. Co." through a Google search on on Switchboard.com.  Other variations of the city I have tried include "Sessel," "Sessell," "Sisal," "Sissal," and "Sissel."  I also looked through the city list at http://www.calif.com/ca/calif-cities.html .
Registration certificates were issued for at least three of the insulators with the color of the certificate matching the color of the insulator: 1975 (gold), 1976 (blue), and 1977 (green).  The 1975 certificates stated that "This is to certify that the person whose name appears below is the owner of the 6th N.I.A. Convention Commemorative procelain insulator, bearing the serial number shown and that it is duly registered."  The number of the convention was changed to the 7th and 8th for the 1976 and 1977 conventions respectively. 
The first two certificates contained the following addition that was deleted on the 1977 green certificate:
If this commemorative is re-sold, and the new owner wishes
to have it re-registered in their name, please send a bill of
sale signed by the person whose name appears hereon and a
S.A.S.E. to R.E. (Dick) Alumbaugh, 413 Via de Leon,
Placentia, CA., 92670.

By 1977, the third year these had been made, the number made was decreased significantly to 150 from the first year's production of 500.  In the Spring 1977 Drip Points, Alumbaugh indicated that the reduced number was to keep the cost the same as before ($8.00 plus $1.50 postage).  Also as a cost-cutting method, the back embossing was eliminated except for collectors who requested a serial number by May 1 of that year meaning some of the 1977 light green commemoratives may have an incuse serial number on the back and some may not.  As an indiction of the overproduction in the two previous years, Alumbaugh offered to sell a set of the three commemoratives issued to date for $25 postage paid.

It must have been difficult for Dick to offer the commemorative in 1977.  In his 1977 Drip Points note, he noted, "My job has kept me on the go with trips all over.  I may be a little slow getting orders filled, but I will get them out."  He also indicated that he was only accepting orders by mail.  Finally, his address at this point had changed from Placentia, California to 4024 Emerald, Apt. 216, Torrance, California 90503 adding the stress of moving and possibly a smaller home to the pressures of his job and this project.  In 1978, his address would change again to 519 Verdin Street, El Cajon, CA 92021.

Dates, colors and quantities are listed below.
1975-6th NIA Convention, San Diego, CA U-390
Harvest Gold 500
1975-6th NIA Convention, San Diego, CA
1976-7th NIA Convention, Berea, OH U-390
Light Blue 277
1977-8th NIA Convention, Lakeland, FL U-390
Light Green 150
1978-9th NIA Convention, Reno, NV U-390
Red 197
1979 [Convention and location not indicated on insulator] U-390
Light Brown 60
1979 [Convention and location not indicated on insulator] U-390
Winter White 40
1980 [Convention and location not indicated on insulator] U-390
Cobalt Blue 25
1981 [Convention and location not indicated on insulator] U-390
Terrastone 25
1982 [Convention and location not indicated on insulator] U-390
Medium Brown 24
1983 [Convention and location not indicated on insulator] U-390
Black 20

Displays at shows which contained these insulators include:

1998 National Insulator Association Convention, Show & Sale, Williamsburg, Virginia.  Noncompetitive display by John Hunsaker and Kevin Lawless with informational assistance and loans from Charlie Allmon, Dwayne Anthony, Pete Bishop, Chris Hedges, Mark Lauckner, Doug MacGillvary, John & Carol McDougald, Bob Moss, Fred Padgett, Bill Scandariato, Jerry Turner, Larry & Mary Beth Veneziano, Dennis Weber, and Don Wentzel.

1997 National Insulator Association Convention, Show & Sale, Chicago, Illinois.  Noncompetitive display.

1991 National Insulator Association Convention, Show & Sale, Cedar Rapids, Iowa.  Paul Ickes display.


Alumbaugh, Dick.  "Commemorative Porcelain Insulator."  4.3 (Spring 1977): 8.

"Commemoratives."  Drip Points Newsletter 2.3 (June 1975): 3.

Hunsaker, John, and Kevin Lawless.  "Commemorative and Private Issue Insulators."  Display handout.  1998 National Insulator Association Convention Show and Sale.  Williamsburg, Virginia.

McDougald, John.  "President's Page." Drip Points 5.3 (Spring 1978): 3.

This page created January 2001
Updated April 12, 2001
Updated April 22, 2001
Updated December 16, 2003