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The World's First Insulator Collector

In early September 2004, Insulator Collectors on the Net (ICON) discussed who was the first insulator collector in the world.  Based on this discussion, the following are strong candidates:

The Telegraphic Historical Society donated an insulator to the Smithsonian Institution in 1897.   Information on this donation can be found on the National Insulator Associations web site.

W. Keith Neal of the United Kingdom was born in 1905, and began collecting insulators around 1912, at the age of 7.  In 1982 he wrote a book titled "Searching for Railway Telegraph Insulators" where he recounted his collecting experiences.  In 1987 he wrote a second book titled "Railway and Other Rare Insulators."  Neal might also be a candidate for the person who collected the longest. More about Mr. Neal can be found in an article by John Windsor written for The Independent and published October 29, 1995.

In Neal's first book, he refers to a meeting that the Society of Telegraph Engineers held around 1877, where they discussed having a standardized type of insulator (which later led to the Cordeaux type), and in that very meeting someone proposed that specimens of the old patterns of insulators should be saved for the future. It is not known if they actually saved any.  The Post Office museum in Britain possessed quite a large collection of old insulators, but the whole collection was damaged during German bombing in WW2.


Neal, W. Keith.  (1982).  Searching for Railway Telegraph Insulators .  La Terre Norgiot, St. Saviors, Guernsey: The Signal Box Press.

Neal, W. Keith.  (1987).  Railway and Other Rare Insulators .  La Terre Norgiot, St. Saviors, Guernsey: The Signal Box Press.

Windsor, John. "Crown Jewels of the Wire." Arts & Entertainment section. The Independent . The, 29 Oct. 1995. Web. 12 Apr. 2011. <>.

This page created September 8, 2004.
Updated April 12, 2011