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                                                   THE TELEGRAPHS OF WESTERN CANADA 

Beginning in the 1970's there was a great deal of interest in the Dominion Telegraph line and the Collins Overland route

( Western Union ).

Ren Settle's discovery of the insulator nicknamed the "Baby Battleford" CD 734.8 (Canadian Insulator Collector Vol. 6 #1 -1997 ) highlighted this insulator.
This insulator actually has its origins dating back to a proposed  telegraph line by Edward William Watkins involving the Hudsons Bay Company.

Here lies the beginning of the history for the CD 734.8
This is a study and during a complex time period before Confederation ( 1867 ) when what became Canada was made up of Canada East ( Quebec) Canada West ( Ontario ) , Rupert's Land owned by the Hudsons Bay Company of London, England

( a Fur Trading Company ) and British Columbia ( under British rule ) as well as New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.
We will attempt to put  in chronological order  the events with overviews and pertinent facts added to give a fuller understanding of this time period.

Our purpose in this post is primarily to establish where the production of the insulators were used on these lines.
As it turns out we are left with 2 possibilities of glass works for their production.
This will be shown and put forward each as a possibility at the end of the article.

1863 - 1869-70
In order to give specific and  concise information about the insulator , a very brief history will be given of the surrounding circumstances.
(the following taken from books "Canada and the States - Edward William Watkins by Sir E. W. Watkin, Bart.,M.P. 
and " Edward Watkin and the Pacific Telegraph 1861- 1865 by Andrew Robb "

As early as 1862  Edward William Watkins ( a politician and also put in charge of reorganizing the Grand Trunk Railway) starts making arrangements for a telegraph line to the Pacific .

Through C. Brydges the manager of the Grand Trunk Railway he contacts Orrin Squire Wood ,Superintendent of the Montreal Telegraph Company on September 19, 1862.

O. S. Wood " saw no major difficulties in the actual construction of the line" 
A year later in August of 1863 are two agreements which showcase E. W. Watkins plans for a  proposed telegraph line and his arrangements with O. S. Wood.

battleford cd 734.8 insulator
battleford cd 734.8 insulator
battleford insulator 734.8
battleford cd 734.8 insulator


The Canadian Government did not want to subsidize the project (February 1864 ) and more importantly the Hudsons Bay Company objected to the speed taken by Watkins for arrangements without FIRST passing it before them.

Also the Hudsons Bay Company was being reorganized.

Edward W. Watkins eventually abandoned his official connection to the plan but before leaving said he hoped the Hudsons Bay Company would honor the agreement made with O. S. Wood.

In the fall of 1863, O. S. Wood did go to Fort Garry and traveled  by way of Minnesota

( letter to Edward Watkin from O. S. Wood September 19, 1863 )
He gives estimates at this  time for shipping costs and distances etc. for telegraph materials.

In an October 16, 1863 letter to E. W. Watkins  from Governor Dallas he  mentions he has written to the board about sending materials to Fort Garry in early 1864 and having a survey done for the telegraph line.

It is in the spring of 1864 when the subject of a telegraph line comes back to the forefront.
The HBCo's Board and Committee has decided to go forward with a telegraph line. 
They engaged Dr. John Rae to survey the land for the line.

( Dr. John Rae's Telegraph Survey, St Paul, Minnesota to Quesnel, British Columbia, 1864 by William Barr 1999-2000 )

The Hudsons Bay Company's  Overland Telegraph line was to be from Fort Garry ( Winnipeg) to Victoria, British Columbia.

It was to be approximately 1,300 miles.

In a letter on May 3,1864  Edmund Head the of the Board and Committee of The Hudsons Bay Company formally asks

O. S. Wood to become Superintendent of the construction of the line. 

The agreements from 1863 involving the Montreal Telegraph Company are no longer as E. W. Watkins original  telegraph plan has been altered. 
O. S. Wood refused the position of Superintendent for the Hudson Bay Company telegraph line but was willing to help with advise on what would be needed for the construction  as well as the materials needed including wire and insulators.

Edward William Watkins offers the Company free shipping of the telegraph materials by the Grand Trunk Railway which they accept.


Eight months have passed since O. S Wood and E. W. Watkins made their original agreements on August 10, 1863.   
On that date the following memo had also been drawn up.

battleford cd 734.8 insulator
battleford insulator cd 734.8

This memo is included here as it mentions insulators.
O. S. Wood was to concern himself with the type of insulator to be used on this line and going to New York to do so.
He will also wait until the arrangements have been finalized to order the amount needed.

Even though he will not be Superintendent of the Hudsons Bay Company telegraph line, it will be shown through the following correspondence his involvement to advise about the insulators, wire and other materials needed.


The following correspondence is from the Manitoba Archives.

It consists of Inward and Outward Correspondence to and from the Montreal office of the Hudsons Bay Company.

Edward Hopkins and J. Clouston  are the two men involved in the Montreal office.

Thomas Fraser is the Secretary of the Committee of the Hudson's Bay Company in London, England.

It is important to note the Board always wants full control of every situation and wants to be consulted on every action .

This is a problem  when  decisions need to be made quickly and since letters take about two weeks to be delivered from London, England to Montreal, Canada East and vice versa.


Four days after Edmund Head's letter  to Orrin S. Wood is the first reference found concerning the matter of insulators. 
May 7 1864 -  2 letters from T. Fraser to Edward Hopkins in Montreal.
The first is a short note requesting E. Hopkins to forward a letter to Mr. Wood and also to please have him inform the Board as to the type of insulators needed for the telegraph line and to have a pattern sent by the next steamer.

The second is a formal letter from the Board and Committee of the Hudsons Bay Company to O. S. Wood
The Board is anxious to be informed on what type of insulators are used on the lines in Canada.
They are asking O. S. Wood to please send " half a dozen examples" of the insulators patterns to them as they want to ship them to the west coast of North America.
The Board also inquires about " Wade" insulators as they have been told this type was used in Canada.
If this is so then they would not be able to be acquired and sent to London  in time as they intend to send them along with wire in August ( 1864) to Vancouver Island.

"What is wanted is the pattern of an insulator which will stand the frost of the Rocky Mountains to be manufactured in this country

( England ) so as to be sent to British Columbia  in August along with the wire. 
NOTE- This idea of having them made in England is quickly ruled out in following May correspondence.


May 12, 1864 -T. Fraser to E. Hopkins
This is a formal communication from the Governor and Committee Board to E. Hopkins about information pertaining to the telegraph line.

They give permission to E. Hopkins and the Montreal office to communicate with Mr. Wood and forward any information to Dr. Rae ( about poles ) and Chief Factor William MacTavish at Fort Garry.

T. Fraser also mentions he has written to Mr. Wood about the insulators.
The Board is of the understanding the type of insulator required to handle the cold climate and high altitudes of the mountains can be obtained in Canada.

They would like E. Hopkins to communicate with Mr. Wood and have this type of insulator " be got ready"  for shipment to Mr. Kittson in St Paul, Minnesota " in the course of the approaching autumn preparatory to being to their being forwarded to Red River in the spring".

All decisions concerning the insulators should be asked of Mr. Wood and they would like 10% more than needed in case of breakage accidents. 
The Board has ordered telegraph wire to be made in London and then to be shipped out by the Company's ships to York Factory and another portion of wire will be sent to Canada ( Montreal ) to be sent  via Lake Superior to St Cloud in the winter and then to Fort Garry in the spring. 
On a closing note T. Fraser says to give to Mr. Wood the orders about the insulators as in Mr. Wood's opinion could be procured in Canada.
NOTE - This letter dated May 12 that left the board with the understanding that they would be procured in Canada  is ruled out in the response letter dated May 23, 1864  )

May 16, 1864 - T. Fraser to Chief Factor William Frazer Tolmie in Victoria, British Columbia
T. Fraser is informing the post in Victoria of Hudsons Bay Company's intent to construct a telegraph line across their territory to British Columbia.
In course of the season 1864 he will send out " telegraphic wire and other material" to British Columbia.
It is for the 1865 season for the line from New WestMinister to the Rocky Mountains as this line will be built simultaneously with the line on the east side of the mountains to Fort Garry.
He is also asking W. F. Tolmie to speak to Governor Seymour  ( head of British Columbia ) and inform him of their intention for the telegraph line so exclusive rights or privileges will not be given to other telegraph companies only.

May 20, 1864 - E. Hopkins to T. Fraser is written before 
E. Hopkins has received  Fraser's letter from May 7 this morning.

He has enclosed the reply from O. S. Wood and he has sent insulator samples to E. Hopkins who has express posted them to

T. Fraser.

May 12, 1864 - letter explained
NOTE - The letter dated May 12 that left the board with the understanding that the insulators would be procured in Canada yet this is ruled out in this response letter )

May 23. 1864 - E. Hopkins to T. Fraser ( replies to letter of May 12, 1864 )
Dr. John Rae has met with Mr. Wood and received the necessary information concerning constructing a telegraph line.

He will write T. Fraser to inform him of what he has learned.
With reference to the insulator E. Hopkins tells T. Fraser that Mr. Wood told him the type of insulator he recommends  could not be obtained in Canada. 
The type of insulator used by the Montreal Telegraph Company was being obtained from New York. 
E. Hopkins says he has requested Mr. Wood to apply to the manufacturer there for the price and time frame for acquiring about 36,000 insulators which would be sufficient for 1,500 miles actual estimate is 1,300 miles.

The type of insulator being used by the MTCo in Canada would not have been a tiny CD 734.8 
O. S. Wood  designed these tiny CD 734.8 for the Hudsons Bay Company proposed telegraph line.


NOTE -This is May of 1864 - E. Dupont ( Canada Glass Works, St Johns CE ) was not filling the orders for the MTCo.

The Canada Glass Company in Hudson, Canada East had not yet opened ( fall of 1864 ) so did not have the MTCo contract at that time. 
While in Hamilton  ( Gatchell, Moore & Co ) was being organized  in March 1864 ( co partnership signed ).

A theory on this  paragraph below will be put forward on this in the second possible manufacturer of these insulators at the bottom of this article.

It could not have been a weight factor that determined this choice of size of insulator as there were hundreds of tons of wire to be transported and only about seven tons of insulators.

In looking at the Chester sleeve type insulators (CD 724.3 ) I believe that it is very possible that in his first years as an agent

J. B. Bartlett (1862) dealt with the Lancaster Glass Works ( James, Gatchell & CO. )
The 724.3 was being made and used primarily on the south eastern section of Canada West ( Ontario ).
When O. S .Wood was asked to make an insulator being used by the MTCo , and with all the questions from the HBCo on the

" Wade " insulator as a possibility he decided to create a similar insulator to the 724.3 .

By removing the wood and tin and making a new form to replace the sleeve ending up with  the CD 734.8 blackglass item made for the HBCo telegraph route. 


The next few letters and telegrams deal specifically with the size of the insulator to be made for the Hudsons Bay Company telegraph line.
It will be shown  that O. S. Wood designed the insulator style and ordered them through the Glass agent John B. Bartlett of New York city. 

 Before we show the letters , we describe the three moulds of the CD 734.8  " Baby Battleford" in Blackglass.
These would have been the sloped shoulder at about 6oz with the square shoulder heavier type being the second and third mould at 8 oz.
The final out come will be an insulator which weighs about 8 oz. 

While the original 3,000 ( sloped shoulders ) were made 30%  too small they came from a single mould with no  button on the dome.
Two new moulds were made, ( square shouldered ) one with a button on the dome.
This button would have been used to make sure that the mould halves were matched for each mould ( with or without button ).
This change to the moulds  gives more strength at the wire groove and produces a 30% heavier insulator.
The one with the button on the dome is even slightly heavier on the shoulder making it the strongest.

NOTE - Aqua ( CD 734.8 ) moulds dealt with in the 1876 - 78  time frame later in article.

May 26, 1864 -Two telegrams show how O. S.  Wood had arranged with J. B. Bartlett earlier for insulators. 
They had started producing and had 3,000 smaller versions made and 15,000 more larger ones could be made by July 1st 1864. 
If they wanted them all for the full total and by July 1, 1864, they had to ORDER OFFICIALLY as the glass works closed for the summer ( July- August ). The price is 9 cents each United States currency .

NOTE - as seen in the dig by Ren Settle, he found both types showing the first 3,000 sloped shouldered 6 oz. were shipped along with the square shouldered ones certainly without the Hudsons Bay Company knowing. 

                                                                     Below are pictures of the CD 734.8

The  pic on the left is an example of the sloped shoulder and

                                                on the right is an example of one of the heavier square shouldered style without the dot on dome

battleford insulator 734.8
battleford insulator 734.8

May 27, 1864 - There are two letters for this date.
The first is from  J. Couston to J. B. Bartlett Glass Agent in New York City.
Mr. Clouston is officially ordering 36,000 insulators for July 1, 1864.
He refers to Mr. Wood's arrangement with J.B. Bartlett and has read the telegrams to Mr. Wood. 
He agrees to the price and the pattern for  the new  heavier moulds will be sent.
In a separate letter to T. Fraser , Mr. Clouston tells him he has ordered the insulators.
Each insulator will weigh 7 - 8oz and he has asked that they be packed in boxes of 200 insulators.
The weight will be 100-112 pounds gross per package.
There should be no problem to have them shipped to Red River this fall. 

May 30, 1864 - Mr. Clouston to W. Mactavish, Fort Garry
Sends copies of letters of May 27 and informs the Chief Factor at Fort Garry to expect shipment of wire and insulators in the fall.

June 8, 1864 - T. Fraser to E. Hopkins
The insulator specimens sent on May 20, 1864  and letter from May 23, have arrived in London, England.
Fraser says will respond soon to this new information.

A few days later on June 10, 1864, T. Fraser responds to E. Hopkins. 
The Governor and Committee believe the quantity of insulators ordered ( 36,000 ) " is considerably larger than will be required". They would like E. Hopkins to telegraph J. B. Bartlett and delay the manufacture of a portion of the insulators for a few days until they can discuss the amount needed.   
They would also like Mr Bartlett to not ship them from their place of manufacture until SPECIFIC instructions have been given him. In next week's mail you will receive further instructions.  
( since this letter is only received on June 25, 1864 , almost a month has gone by since the official order was placed )

June 16, 1864 - letter T. Fraser to E. Hopkins ( received on July 1, 1864 - note the day the insulator order was to be completed  )
This next letter instead of giving instructions states the Board has more questions about the insulators.
They had seen the specimens sent by Mr. Wood - ( we do not know which types ) - and they are uncertain as to which was the type finally decided upon.  
Below we have included the questions asked.

battleford insulator cd 734.8

In the meantime a letter  dated June 19, 1864 from E. Hopkins to W. MacTavish at Fort Garry
O. S. Wood has given instructions  for the amount of cedar or oak needed for the making of the pegs for the insulators.

They will be made in Fort Garry next spring ( 1865 ) when the wood is dry.


Below is a response to letter from June 10, 1864. 
It is once again important to note it takes awhile for the correspondence to cross the ocean. 

June 25, 1864 -  letter from E. Hopkins to William Macnaughtan, a Commission Merchant in New York City who does business with the Hudsons Bay Company and is now acting as go between for them and J. B. Bartlett.
E. Hopkins is asking him to get in touch with J. B. Bartlett because the Board wants to postpone the amount of insulators being made as they believe it is too many. 
NOTE - the original order asked for them all to be ready for July 1, 1864 .

June 27, 1864 is a letter of response to the letter of June 25, from J. B. Bartlett in New York City to E. Hopkins 
J. B. Bartlett says he believes the order is complete and he had asked the manufacturer to put off other work in order to fulfill their agreement and deadline of July 1, 1864. He will get back to E. Hopkins in a few days.

                                           Below is the logo on J. B. Bartlett's letter head.

john b bartlett glass

On the same day William Macnaughtan also writes to say Mr. Bartlett believes insulators are already made but will telegraph the factory to stop work and will write in a few days.

June 28, 1864 - E. Hopkins is informing and confirming with  W. MacTavish at Fort Garry that the insulator pegs will be made there and to prepare the wood needed.
He also says that the order of insulators is on hold and the shipping of wire is being discussed by the Governor and Committee.

June 29, 1864 - letter from T. Fraser to E. Hopkins
This letter is an offer by the Grand Trunk Railway company to transport for the Hudsons Bay Co. the wire or other materials to Sarnia by rail for free.
From there to St Paul or other destinations by screw steamer by the Great lakes at cost price.

July 2, 1864 - letter from T. Fraser to E. Hopkins
The Board agrees to the offer of the Grand Trunk Railway of free shipping by them to Sarnia by rail and then to Superior city by propeller ( boats ) at cost.

July 2, 1864 - J. Clouston is writing to T. Fraser 
He is answering the questions asked about the type of insulators being made. ( see clip from letter on June 16, 1864 above )
J. Clouston responds by first commenting once again that they are glass with no wood cover and will weigh 7-8oz each.

He has sent them today a wooden pattern of the insulator - " one of three made by Mr. Wood with the most perfect one having been sent to Mr Bartlett in New York city." 
J. Clouston also states he has communicated with Mr Bartlett about suspending the manufacturer of the insulators.
Mr Bartlett will write as soon as he has spoken to the manufacturer which is  " some distance from New York ".
If the order is completed and packed he will wait for shipping instructions from the Board and will invoice them at that time.

July 11, 1864 - letter from J. Clouston to T. Fraser
He has asked Mr Kittson in St Paul, Minnesota which is the best route to send the wire - to Superior City or St Paul.
He needs the instructions from the Board as to whether the insulators should be shipped in the same way.

July 12, 1864 - telegram from Mr. Bartlett to E. Hopkins 
He is asking for shipping directions for the insulators and also wondering if they wanted the ones originally ordered by Mr Wood

( weighing 6 oz ).


July 12, 1864 is another telegram asking for instructions from Mr. Wood and Mr. Clouston on shipping the Hudsons Bay Company insulators.

July 13, 1864 - J. Clouston letter to William Macnaughtan in New York
Only the second type is wanted ( 8oz ) at the price agreed 9 cents U.S.
He wants to know if Mr. Bartlett will store them for 3 to 4 weeks and  he will send a payment draft to Mr. Macnaughtan for 35,000 insulators. He also wants to make sure they are well packed.

July 14, 1864 - letter from W. Macnaughtan  to J. Clouston
He has paid Mr. Bartlett $ 3,200. U.S. 
The boxes are strong and strapped with iron bands.
Mr. Bartlett will ship when he receives instructions with no charge for shipping.

July 18, 1864 - letter from J. Clouston to T. Fraser
He is informing him the insulators have been paid for through W. Macnaughtan. 
The final tally is for $ 3,186.20 U. S. currency  and for 34,980 insulators.
They are packed in 159 boxes.

Mr. Bartlett has agreed to store and insure them free of charge until approx about August 11th.
He will then ship also free of charge when instructions are sent.

July 21, 1864 - letter from T. Fraser to E. Hopkins
He has given shipping directions.
The insulators are to be sent to St Paul, Minnesota to Mr. Kittson to be forwarded to Red River ( Fort Garry) this season if opportunity exists.
The boxes should weigh no more than 90 pounds each so as to be carried on the backs of horses.

August 6, and 10th 1864 - letters between J. Clouston and W. Macnaughtan ( acting for J. B. Bartlett )
Instructions from J. Clouston asks W. Macnaughtan to please ship insulators to St. Paul by " the usual way".
He asks the boxes all be marked  " OT /1864 " ( Overland Telegraph )

On the Aug. 10th, W. Macnaughtan confirms they have been shipped.

August 9, 1864 - J. Clouston to N. Kittson
Shipping instructions were given August 6, 1864 now by August 9th the bill is received for shipping by the Grand Trunk Railway.

August 26, 1864 - N. Kittson receives bill of lading at St. Paul from W. Macnaughtan.

September 8, 1864, W. MacTavish in Fort Garry tells J. Clouston  the insulators have not yet arrived in St Paul, Minnesota.

September 20, 1864 N. Kittson in St Paul has received the 159 boxes of insulators.

He will make arrangements to have them forwarded to Georgetown. It is from there W. MacTavish will send for them over winter.


Along with the insulators , telegraph wire was also shipped to St. Paul, Minnesota  to be forwarded to Fort Garry.

Many letters between T. Frazer and E. Hopkins / J. Clouston and N. Kittson during the time period May 1864 to September 1864 make arrangements for the wire to be shipped. The Grand Trunk had offered to ship to Sarnia for free.

As can be seen from the following news clips the wire  and insulators did arrive by the spring of 1865 at Fort Garry.

Note in the May clip only 15 boxes of insulators arrived on the boat at this time- could be only this amount of boxes on this boat or could be typo as we know in later documents the total at Fort Garry was 159 boxes.

                            September 1, 1864 -            The Nor'-wester newspaper -           and May 13, 1865

battleford insulator cd 734.8
battleford insulator 734.8

All the insulators were shipped to Fort Garry.

Wire was also shipped there and another batch of wire was shipped to York Factory.
On June 25, 1864 - In London wire has been ordered and a "considerable portion of it has been already manufactured and has been shipped via the Ocean Nymph to York Factory where it will remain till orders be sent from Red River for its removal to the interior. " _ Letter from Thomas Fraser to Edward Hopkins
( letter dated may 12, 1864 from Fraser to Hopkins says intention was to send the York Factory wire to Norway House)

September 11 or 14, 1864  - William Anderson at York Factory writes to Thomas Frazer
Tells him of arrival of telegraph wire on Ocean Nymph and Prince of Wales- wire has been stored in depot and all your directions in your log on board each ship will be respected as to the shipment into the interior will be met in ever way and meet with the greatest attention. 

However, this wire remained at York Factory.

The Hudsons Bay Company's telegraph line planned from Fort Garry to British Columbia was never constructed.

Dr John Rae's survey was completed in 1864. Then  John MacKay's survey  in British Columbia was completed by July 1865.

Yet were never used for a telegraph line by the HUdsons Bay Company.

By April 18,1865 the Collins Overland route had reached New Westminister British Columbia and by September 14, 1865 was at Quesnel, BC. The link from New Westminister to Victoria was completed by April 25, 1866.

In 1866 the Atlantic Cable was completed but the Hudsons Bay Company line never progressed past the planning stage.

The wire and insulators remained at York Factory and Fort Garry. 

This telegraph material was part of the sale by The Hudsons Bay Company of their land  which was purchased by the Canadian Government. This deal was started in 1868 and finalized by 1870.
( Rupert's Land and North-Western Territory - Enactment No. 3 Order of Her Majesty in Council admitting Rupert's Land and the North-Western Territory into the union, dated the 23rd day of June 1870 ) 

                                      The following is the clip refers to the telegraph material.

battleford insulator cd 734.8

In late 1869 William McDougall, the Commissioner of Public Works has been in communication with O. S. Wood one of the Directors of the North Western Telegraph Company.

 He mentions to Mr. Wood that the Canadian Government will soon be in possession of telegraph material from the Hudsons Bay Company.
He also  inquires of Mr. Wood if the North Western Telegraph Company lines would soon extend to Red River.
( letters from W. McDoughall to the North Western Telelegraph Company President Z. G. Simmons - Oct. Nov. 1869 )

This leads to a proposal by the North Western Telegraph Company to the Canadian Government to construct a telegraph line from Fort Garry to Breckenridge, Minnesotia.


1870 - 1872-3
Negotiations follow and a single line wire was to be built before September 1, 1871 connecting Fort Garry to the Company's lines.

                      On August 17, 1870 the Canadian Government agrees to the following.
                                  ( Memorandum- Public Works - Charles Tupper May 25, 1871 )

battleford insulator cd 734.8
battleford insulator cd 734.8

S. Robertson was the Superintendent of the North Western Telegraph Company at this time and in charge of erecting the line.

The wire and insulators which the Canadian Government had agreed to give for the line were stored at Fort Garry.

              In a later  memo dated May 3, 1871 states the exact amount of insulators and wire at Fort Garry.

 (The Pioneer Telegraph in Western Canada by Neil Edgar Allen Ronaghan.

battleford insulator cd 734.8

Of the total insulators made 34,980 - the North Western line to the U.S. in 1870-71  was given 300 miles of the total.
This means 300 miles at 30 per mile  equals ( approx 9-10 thousand insulators )

This line from Fort Garry  through to Breckenridge ran on the west side of the Red River as far as Grand Forks, North Dakota and crosses into Minnesota to Breckenridge so there would be 9,000 plus blackglass CD 734.8  insulators on that U.S. route .
It is most likely Grand Forks would have been a telegraph station along with their post office.

The following is a map showing the route of this telegraph line from the book The Pioneer Telegraph in Western Canada by Neil Edgar Allen Ronaghan.

battleford  insulator 734.8

                                                                                1874 - 1876 

If it took 9-10,000 insulators to Breckenridge it leaves 25,000.  approx left at Fort Garry.

In 1874, four contracts were give out by the Public Works Department of the Canadian Government.

This 1877 map for the Canadian Pacific Railway is the planned route along which the  Dominion Telegraph Company lines were. 

battleford insulator cd 734.8
battleford cd 734.8 insulator

It is the contracts  # 1,  # 2, # 3 in which we are interested as they are the ones that would have used insulators and wire from the original Hudsons Bay Company's materials.
So at 3,000 insulators per hundred miles for 800 miles of total Canadian contracts it would be 24,000 insulators thus using up the entire 34, 980 that were originally stored at Fort Garry.

Contract # 1 was awarded to J. W. Sifton and David Glass ( Sifton, Glass & Co. )
This telegraph line was to be approx. 250 miles long. It was to run  from Fort Garry to Fort Pelly ( Livingston )

Construction was to start on October 17, 1874.  The line was in operation by July 22,1876.

They used the original  HBCo materials bought by the Canadian Government.

Another line was put in heading east from Selkirk to Lake of the Woods by Oliver, Davidson & Co. 
This line was sub contracted for maintenance by Sifton, Glass and maintained by James Colcleugh.
It does not seem that this line used any of the original Hudsons Bay Insulators but it may have.

Telegraph Stations on the Sifton, Glass line.
James Colcleugh maintained this line. 
While there should have been stations every 50 miles, there would be only Selkirk, Livingston and one is shown to be at the Narrows where Sifton's wife is running the telegraph station and he runs a store.

Contract # 2 -3 was awarded to Richard Fuller of Hamilton, Ontario
It ran from Livingston to 30 miles west of Battleford -  for approx. 250 miles total. 
Extended contract (#3) for Richard  Fuller is 300 miles beyond Battleford to Buffalo Coulee near Edmonton.

( 550 total miles for both # 2 and # 3 )

October 30, 1874 is the start date for this contract. 
Contract part # 2 from  Livingston ( Swan River ) to Leduc just west of battleford completed in 1875.
The rest of the contract was completed by November 1876.

The line west of Battleford was not used until 1877 .
In this year  R. Fuller hired James McKernan to maintain  the line from 30 miles west of Battleford to it's western terminus.

( Buffalo Coulee ) His headquartes were at Grizzly Bear Coulee about half way between Battleford and Edmonton.

There were three stations between Battleford (Telegraph Flats ) and Fort Pelly (Livingstone ).
The stations east of Battleford were completed by February 1876.
They were at Clarke's Crossing ( South Branch ) - , Rainy Hills- (Humboldt ) , and Poplar Plains with a good supply of water. 
West of Battleford there were two more stations on Fuller's line.
Grizzly Bear ( 100 miles west of Battleford ) was completed by July 1876.
Then Hay Lakes ( on trail to Edmonton )was in existence by August 1876.

In 1878, the people of the small post of Edmonton petitioned the Government to extend the telegraph line from it's terminus  to Edmonton.
Mr. Richard Fuller was the contractor and said he would provide the wire and other materials for the line.
The offer was accepted and the line completed January 18, 1879.

This would have likely been when he would have needed insulators purchased by him rather than the original blackglass CD 734.8 from the Hudsons Bay materials.

The new insulators would have been the AQUA versions ( of the what is now considered as the CD 734.8 ) to be used on this line and replacements for the original contract line.

These though were not part of the original Hudsons Bay Company 's material.

They are a later generation made at Hamilton Glass Works.
Fuller maintained the lines he had contracts for until 1881 .


In the report below F. N. GISBOURNE states the insulators from Edmonton to Battleford were "small and poor quality."
( Ottawa November 8 1883 report by Annual Report of the Minister of Public Works for the Fiscal Year 1882-83 on the Works under His Control. [1883] Pages 251-258 )

Above we have dealt with the ordering production and delivery of the blackglass 734.8 Battlefords made originally for the Hudsons Bay Company in 1864.

Now we will discuss the later versions of the small insulators used in western Canada.

AQUA CD 734  - 1875 Beginning with the CD 734 McMicking

Now to begin this portion we will first look at an insulator made for the F.J. Barnard contact of the Western section from the west coast to Fort Edmonton.

McMicking CD 734 -

R. B.  McMicking had a patent - June 10, 1875 at Victoria B.C. It was for a way to fasten the insulator to the peg.

mcmicking insulator cd 734

The insulator CD 734 was produced at Hamilton, Ontario as seen from the shipping in 1875. in this clip to F. J. Barnard in B.C

Note in the clips below the moulds were shipped to British Columbia ( to R. B.  McMicking )
Note also in the second clip below the number of insulators is listed as 16,000.

mcmicking insulator cd 734
shipping mcmiking.jpg
mcmicking insulator cd 734

This CD 734 is a cleanly machined insulator.   There are two moulds with different period placements.

mcmicking insulator cd 734

The AQUA CD 734.8 -

We now move forward to the aqua specimens found in the western section of R. Fuller's contract # 3 and the Edmonton area. 
The insulators we now deal with  are classed as CD 734.8.
These are the ones which are mentioned above as being replacements and materials needed for the private line to Fort Edmonton by Richard Fuller in 1878.
Note these are also well machined and bear a resemblance to the McMicking insulators.
These aqua ones were also made at Hamilton Glass Works as seen by design and glass color.
Several of these have surfaced in Southern Ontario close to Hamilton.
They though are more in the size range of the earlier blackglass style.
There are two variants-  one has a small button on the dome and one without, this helps matching the moulds when entering into the press.

cd 734.8 insulator
cd 734.8 insulator




The first possible maker is a very short and simple solution to the question.
The Thames Glass Works in New London, Connecticut.

In 1864, John B. Bartlett of New York who ordered the insulators for O. S. Wood was at that time listed in Trow's New York City Directory simply as a glass agent in New York City ( since 1862 ).
He had a close connection to the Squire's fruit jar which was patented October 1864 a few months later than the insulators were produced. He became the sole agent for this fruit jar.
This shows a possible connection to the Thames Glass Works in New London , Connecticut during the period the insulators were made.
It is known that the Thames Glass Works made CD 718 in olive amber blackglass, where as the battleford 734.8's come in olive green blackglass.
A chemical analysis of the glass of the CD 718 with the smallest sample and one from the CD 734.8 blackglass battleford would possibly tell if the minerals used in the glass came from the same mineral deposit.

By 1865 J. B Bartlett was an Agent for Ellenville and Willington glass works in Wilson's Directory of New York City.
In this directory for 1866, he is also agent for Fort Trumbull Glass Co. They had acquired the Thames Glass Works in 1865.


OUR SECOND  POSSIBILITY for the production of these blackglass 734.8's is Gatchell, Moore & Co , Hamilton Canada West

The possibility which I feel most likely to have happened is that Gatchell was hired by J.B. Bartlett to set up in Hamilton and the CD  724.3's  from the Lancaster Works were changed by O. S. Wood to become the 734.8's and produced in Hamilton.

( again a mineral analysis of the 734.8's,  and the 734.5's and the 724.3's (from Lancaster)  would determine the outcome)

The initial research in the late 1970's on the insulators used by the HBCo was the possibility they were the Chester, NY CD 735.

It had been assumed that the Battlefords were made later for the R. Fuller Contract in the 1875 era.

Another theory mentioned above in the HBCo letters was put forward and we repeat it here.

It could not have been a weight factor that determined this choice of size as there were hundreds of tons of wire to be transported and only about seven tons of insulators.

In looking at the Chester sleeve type insulators (CD 724.3 ) I believe that it is very possible that in his first years as an agent

J. B. Bartlett (1862) dealt with the Lancaster Glass Works ( James, Gatchell & CO. )
The 724.3 was being made and used primarily on the south eastern section of Canada West ( Ontario ).
When O. S .Wood was asked to make an insulator being used by the MTCo , and with all the questions from the HBCo on the

" Wade " insulator as a possibility, he decided to create a similar insulator to the 724.3 .

By removing the wood and tin and making a new form to replace the sleeve ending up with  the CD 734.8 blackglass item made for the HBCo telegraph route. 

Some thought that these Chesters CD 735 's  were purchased from the HBC by the Western Union in 1865

This Chester idea came because they were used on the Collins line from Quesnel to Fort Frazer.
.This has been shown to be incorrect as that would have made the Chesters the insulator used on the first section from Fort Garry to Livingston (still waiting for info from the HBCo. archives - will be corrected when info is acquired )
What I felt may have happened is that J. B. Bartlett had arranged with James & Gatchell of Lancaster Glass works to make the Cd 735 Chesters for the Western Union and the Cd 734.8's (Battlefords) were made by Nathan B. Gatchell when he crossed the border into Hamilton Canada West for a second contract with J. B. Bartlett.
It is mentioned in the HBCo's records that  insulators could be procured in Canada also, and that they were being produced a long distance away from New York City.
This shows that while they were ordered through J. B. Bartlett in New York the production was elsewhere.
We will start with a little info on the Lancaster Glass Works in Erie County, New York.
This firm became James, Gatchell & Co. in 1862-63.
According to tax records this firm name was still listed in March 1864, however a few months later by August 1864 they were listed as James & Gatchell. 
They had bought the other partners shares by this time.
They became a major producer of insulators.
It is important to note the Western Union's demand for insulators for the Collins line was very high at this time.

lancaster glass works

The pics below an example of the tin jacket and the internal glass sleeve of the CD 724.3  Note how the colour on this insulator matches the "Baby Battleford" insulator CD 734.8

insulator cd 724.3
 cd 724.3 sleeve insulator

According to a newspaper article in the Hamilton Evening Times on March 1, 1864,  a co-partnership for the firm Gatchell, Moore & Co in Hamilton, Canda West  for the manufacture of Glassware, Bottles, ETC was announced.

Hamilton glass co

Although a large building was finished with an official opening in September 1864, the property on which it was built belonged to ( William ) Moore & Davis a mortgage broker and rental property business.
William Moore was the brother of Lyman Moore.
He and his partner R. Davis had acquired this piece of land in April of 1863.
It is possible there was a small building that could have been used as a means to fulfill the HBCo. insulator contract  and was enlarged in March 1864 with the signing of a co-partnership.

In November of 1864, Nathan B. Gatchell was no longer part of the glass works in Hamilton as his shares were bought out by George E. Tuckett .
The firm name changed to G.E Tuckett & Co at this time and was mortgaged in November 1864 with the owners of the property Moore & Davis who did not sell the property until August 17, 1865.
The firm was changed at this time to Rutherford & Co.

(Glass Facts-Vol.15 ,Issue 1 2020 )-  ( Lancaster Glass Works )- ( )

Looking at the Lancaster / Gatchell/ Hamilton connection as well as the little 734.5's for the Perth - Lanark telegraph line  and the  Brockville - Smith Falls railway line that would surely have been  made in the 1869-70 era this leaves a very open possibility these were made at Hamilton.

CD 734.5's
The second thought being put forward is that Hamilton must have produced tiny blackglass insulators shortly after 1864 when the HBCo 734.8's were made.
These Cd 734.5 insulators would have been made for both of the lines mentioned above, likely in  very small batchs under 1,000.
As noted below some of these insulators for the Perth to Lanark line which was established in 1870.
Therefore the insulators would have been made approx in the 1866-69 era.
More 734.5 insulators were found on the railroad between Brockville to Smith Falls. 
This section of line seemed to go in 1865-69.

The telegraph and telephone are conveniences introduced into Lanark within the past 36 years ; indeed it was in 1870 that the telegraph line first strung its mystic wires and the village was able to tick its news to the outside world and receive the tingling swift messages in return. But the telephone did not reach us until 8 years ago if we may except the private Caldwell line. How we could get along without these things is a question often presenting itself to our busy merchants when they think of the quickness they are now enabled to exercise in communicating business needs and demands all over the system.

cd 734.5 insulator


While this part continues the possibility of Hamilton area as the producer of this glass , we put forward a thought process that revolves around speculation on a scenario  that could have happened in 1869-70.

The mystery BATTERY REST - CD 61??????
In the original contract offered by O.S. Wood the telegraph instruments were to be included.
Part of these were four main batteries and fifty small local batteries, yet none of these items were found to be shipped to Fort Garry with the insulators and wire.
It though is possible that fifty small local ones ended up in the shipment .
Could these have been the MTCo CD 61 ?

This connection can only be seen if we accept that the only time MTCo had a relationship with Gatchel, Moore & CO.  later Hamilton Glass Works  was when O.S. Wood designed the insulators and had the contract with the HBCo in 1864. 
From here we move to 1869  when  S. Roberertson the Superintentent of the NorthWestern Telegraph was in charge of the materials at Fort Garry.
This was for the making of the line for the Canadian Government from Fort Garry to Breckenridge Minnesota to the East coast and Ottawa etc.
His son Orris W. Robertson is listed in 1864 as a livery stables (transport hauler).

By 1870 he would have gone with his father to bring back the wire and insulators.
Could he have seen an MTCo battery rest in the materials stored at Fort Garry and copied its form?

By July 12, 1870  O.W. Robertson  has a patent for a battery insulator ( rest ) in Wisconsin under Patent # 105,252 - ( CD 60 )
This rest was an old style circa 1864 and even though we believed that the batteries and instruments had never been made and shipped  these little MTCo battery rests (approx 50 ) could have been packaged with the insulators.
O. S. Wood could have designed and had embossed MTCo on this battery rest as in the 1863 agreement with E. W. Watkins he was to arrange for telegraph materials and manage the entire line.

The MTCc. was to have been involved with the telegraph line planned.
The MTCo mould could have remained with the glass works that made it ( possibly Gatchell, Moore & Co. )
It is possible that there are MTCo battery rests on the abandonned stations in the Fort Garry to Breckenridge area.
Wades used as a battery rest shows time frame of early "Robertson style"

The book below shows how in the 1859-60 era Wade insulators were being used as battery rests
From the >>> Telegraphic manual 1859  >>>>>>

There are many contrivances having in view the insulation of the battery, to prevent local action, and cross currents from one cell to the other, generating various circuits of quantity electricity. I have seen the batteries, set upon tables covered with a sheet of gutta-percha, at 0ther times I have seen the cells placed on the flat surface of glass, or on the edges of strips, cut an inch wide, and fastened in saw grooves. The glass strips were placed an inch apart and it was quite an effective insulation. 
The best arrangement for insulating the cells, one from the other, has been gotten up by Mr. J. H. Wade, of the Western Union lines. The Wade insulator is squared flat at the top, and it is set on wooden pins, coated with gum lac, and fixed in the table. With this application there can be no cross currents, and the full voltaic force of intensity can be thrown over the lines for the uses of telegraphing....

The first three pics are of battery rests produced for O. W. Robertson, with that is an ad including his battery rest from 1873 from The Telegrapher.

robertson battery rest
robertson battery rest
robertson battery rest
robertson battery rest

The Telegrapher ad below shows that by 1874 the battery rest had been modernized and was being used by the major telegraph companies.

patent battery rest

Many years later in the 1870's Hamilton Glass Works must of had the mould of the original MTCo as some of the CD 61's have been found without the MTCo embossing.
A green one was found on the Hamilton glass works site and others were found near the southern Ontario telegraph lines.

This shows again the possibility between the Hamilton area and the original HBCo contract.

While all of this is speculation we put it forward because it seems to be a possibility.           


Thanks to any unknown or donated pictures that have helped to bring a glimpse into this part of this telegraph history.

M T CO battery rest cd 61
M T CO battery rest cd 61
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