Home Index Site Map Up: Insulators Navigation
Up: Insulators
Babson Bros. & Surge Insulators
Home  > Insulators  > Babson Surge
First: Babson Bros. & Surge Insulators Last: Tree Insulators Prev: Tree Insulators Next: Battery Insulators Navigation
Ref: 1 of 15

Babson Bros. Co., Chicago Babson Surge Insulator CD 100 Babson Surge logo Babson Surge Insulator CD 100 Sticker for Babson Bros. SURGE Model AC electric fencer
·Price Guide
·Babson Paper

Farmer on Tractor



Babson Brothers of Chicago is known in insulator collecting circles mainly for their Surge electric fence insulators. This common insulator is shaped like a small CD 154 (e.g. Hemingray-42) and was manufactured by Hemingray in the 1940s and 50s in clear glass, with a few in light straw.

Babson Bros have been around a long time. The Brothers are Charles and F. K. Babson and they ran a musical mail-order house that was prominent from about the turn of the century into the 1920s. They were also a big Edison phonograph distributor [Babson Records sells CD or tape versions of 20s Edison cylinders].

When they made the transition to farm and dairy equipment is not known. An early farm-related product was harness and tack (such as Olde Tan Harness in this 1923 ad). Presumably they branched out from there to general farm and then more specifically dairy equipment. But what happened to the music end of the business? Did it go sour?

Google turned up this trivia: "Grangemead Lodge" is described as "the F. K. Babson wild flower and game preserve" in a geneology of Ralph J. Comstock. Anyone know more?

After the glass insulator years, Babson continued to be big in dairy equipment after that. In 1999 they were #2 in North America; bought by Westfalia Landtechnik GmbH of Germany, a new company Westfalia*Surge, Inc. was formed-- so the Surge name lives on.

Babson's other well-known product of the glass insulator era was The Surge Milker, their portable milking machine which looked a cross between a teapot and an octopus. Both the insulator and milker worked well, sold well, and are now commonly available, especially on eBay.

The glass insulator came fairly late to the game. John Schilling developed the glass insulator and wood pin system and sold it to Babson in the early 40s, convincing them of its superiority. It supplanted their original porcelain-based line, and the sales literature at the time said "We are so convinced that glass insulators are necessary to best electric fencing that we would just as soon not sell you a Surge fence unless you want to use glass insulators." The entire electric fence product line was made until 1955, with stock on hand of glass insulators until 1978. Total production is unknown but large.

Some glass insulators have a notorious embossing error, reading CHCIAGO instead of CHICAGO, and some read REQ instead of REG, oops. Americans are so used to seeing "Chicago" spelled properly that we don't easily perceive the error: hand someone a CHICAGO and a CHCIAGO and ask them if they're the same and most people will study them then say yes. The eye seems to correct the error before the brain is even involved. Get a pair and try for yourself! Even the Babson art department didn't notice: the insulator chosen to be pictured in Babson's brochures shows the REQ embossing error!

A few large-pinhole, presumably experimental versions were found in the Hemingray dump. They are very rare and desirable, please send me one. The speculation is that they were for a stronger fence gate mechanism using standard wooden telephone insulator pins with 1" diameter threads instead of the ½" diameter threads on the production fence insulator.

Less common are the other parts of the fence system. In particular, straight wood pins, the iron driver that rests on top of the pins so you can bang them in without damaging the threads, the little metal clips that held the wire to each glass insulator, and the stainless-steel corner-bracing brackets are all hard to come by. I have only one straight pin, and none of the other items.

Side pins are available, both used and occasionally in new wired-together blocks of 20. The fencer unit itself isn't common, but they do crop up since they were valuable items and saved; sometimes they are in even in fine working condition, depending on how well the seals held up. The mechanisms were well-made by Sagamo, better known for their electric meters, and last a very long time. When vying for a Surge fencer, sometimes you have to compete with the Sagamo collectors, who also desire them.