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The first thing I ever really started seriously collecting!  I keep adding to the pile.  Recently acquired a few from an old time flea marketer who had "retired."  Added a few nice ones.   Rainy day here so I decided to clean up and re-arrange a few of them.

Terry

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Never too late to start. There are loads on ebay, not all expensive either. A few nice ones make a nice collection and are always better than dozens of old rusty ones.

Terry

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Those in their original counter-top display boxes are cool.  I remember when the full warehouse load of those Westric plugs first started showing up.  Crates of them were unveiled at an early Carlisle swap meet and they sold like crazy to dealers, collectors, even people who wanted to run them in old cars.  Countertop displays and traveling salesman's sample cases are really neat.  Here are a few from my collection-986109001_Plugdisplaykits.jpg.17d8abfd1f1a1c04b1996aae733e4213.jpg

Red Head salesmans kit.jpg

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Great plug and an interesting history.  Here's what I've put together from a variety of sources including early advertising, automotive periodicals and info on some PA and industrial history websites.

 

Bethlehem plugs were produced by the  Silvex Company in Bethlehem PA.   The Silvex Company was founded in Bethlehem in 1912 with E H Schwab president. Reorganization took place in 1917 with the addition of a new million-dollar factory.   Wartime production gave the already successful company a real boost.  Silvex became the Bethlehem Spark Plug Company in 1920. Then, in 1924, the company acquired Splitdorf becoming the Splitdorf-Bethlehem Electrical Company. A merger with Bethlehem Steel in 1928 created Edison-Splitdorf and ended Splitdorf-Bethlehem.  Edison-Splitdorf was eventually sold to Champion.

 

The company was successful becoming the third largest producer of spark plugs. I believe that Ford and Packard used Bethlehem spark plugs in new cars and tractors in 1921-1922, although for Ford, Champion was the primary supplier.  In addition to their own regularly branded Bethlehem plugs,  and the Bethlehem Aviation spark plug, they also made spark plugs for the Aircraft & Motor Supply company for a short time in 1919 under the “Aero-Auto” or “A-A” brand.

 

Terry

 

 

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Most people don't realize they have a collection.  Just like you, people tend to pick them up when they find them.  There might be something unusual about it, perhaps a name they've never heard of before, or something odd about the firing points.  Next thing you know, it's a collection.  One my rules - three is a collection!   My collection started with a cigar box under the seat in my Model A ford purchased in 1966.  I think there were about six or seven plugs in that box, a couple of Champions of course, but I distinctly remember an Edison and a couple of Splitdorfs.  It didn't seem like a collection until I was asked one day what I collected.  Couldn't think of anything else at the moment.  Look where its led!

 

Here is a photo of the 1912 style Bethlehem spark plug I mentioned earlier.

Terry

Bethlehem 1912 type.jpg

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Here are a few more really unusual plugs from my collection.  The De-Lux is really odd.  Lift the lever and the electrode points can be used to scrape carbon away from the base of the insulator.  Although the idea of keeping carbon deposits from shorting out a plug is a good one, I have to wonder were all that carbon trash ended up?  I don't think this plug sold for any great length of time and probably didn't work too well.   The "Double-Head" plug is a reversible spark plug.  When one end fouled, just unscrew it, screw the other end in the cylinder, replace the little clip and you've got a second plug.  There were several different types of these many by other companies.  The E.Z. plug is known as a "quick detachable" style of plug.  Just a slight twist and the entire center electrode comes out, leaving the base still screwed into the cylinder.  You could easily clean the plug, or drop a little gas into the cylinder to prime the engine for easier cold weather starts.  There were several brands of these plugs that came with a tire pump that could be inserted so you could use compression to put air into your tires.  The last plug is one of several different types that have a little fan built into the base.  Theoretically,. the spinning fan "throws off" oil and soot.  Wonder what happened when the little fan broke off!  Last one is called an Automat and it's a breather style of plug.  Fresh air is drawn into the cylinder on the intake stroke via a spring loaded check-valve  Interesting idea that actually appeared in several different brands of plugs, some through the top like this one, others through a little check-valve in the side of the plug. 

Any ideas for improvement in spark plugs has been tried before - sometimes more than once.

Terry

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  • 3 weeks later...

Hi Barry, we've emailed and I recommend you join SPCOA. Spark Plug Collectors of America.  You should be able to easily find them online.  Their newsletter has lots of info on a fun hobby. I will also connect you with a member who has just had two books printed with loads of early plug ads. 

I'll post a few more pics iof some favorites  later.

Terry

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I've received great reviews on these two books.  I'd argue this is the best way to get a handle on what was produced and when.  These books contain advertisements, year-by-year, that were taken from the major automotive periodicals of the day.  The first book covers 1895-1915 and the second book covers 1916-1929.  If you are a beginner collector it can be very overwhelming figuring out where to start and how to identify your plugs.  These books are a great reference guide to get you started.  The books are print on-demand, so once I receive your order, I will place the order with the printer. The printer states that the turnaround time is 5-7 business days (during normal times). That being said, it was four weeks before I received my proof copies due to COVID delays, so bear that mind when you place your order. I will update you once I receive the book from the printer and before I ship to you.
Volume 1: The Brass Era, hardcover, color printing, 322 pages
Volume 2: The Nickel Era, hardcover, color printing, 328 pages
I have tried to minimize shipping costs, but the post office has an interesting pricing scheme.
One book shipped in a bubble envelope via Media mail (5-7 days) - $68.25
One book shipped in a box via Priority mail (2 business days) - $76.50
Both volumes shipped in a box via Priority mail (2 business days) - $137.25
For International shipping, I will need to get a quote, so please send me an email with your information.
You can pay via Paypal to rpc9@cornell.edu , or you can send payment through snail mail to:
Rick Cicciarelli
308 Neimi Road
Ithaca, NY 14850
Thank you.
Best,
Rick
 

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I can highly recommend these. Rick has done some great research. These past several years,as prices of some plugs go up, we are starting to see more fakes appear on ebay and other auction sites. There have been a lot of priming plugs made by switching the insulators around with more common Champion plugs. 

These original ads will help to determine when those plugs turn up. Being an educated collector will.help you build a quality collection of authentic plugs.

This post will probably be moved to the For Sale area, but if you like early plugs, get these books!

Terry

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  • 2 weeks later...

Interesting history - I really enjoy objects in my collection(s) that have interesting stories behind them. Plugs are no exception, and I'll add a few posts with interesting info over the next few months.  Included will be a few historic plugs with racing heritage, etc.

This plug (the big brass one in the center) is a MACO Model A 1.  It was supplied as original equipment to an 1899 Marshall automobile. (MACO - Marshall Automobile Company). The car was owned by the late Tom Potter, a well known collector of very early cars and motorcycles in England. Tom lived in a small village in Yorkshire and the old family business was still a thriving local garage when I visited back in then 1970s. The 1899 Marshall was proudly displayed in the front window of the small showroom out front. The whole place was an "Alladin's Cave" of early automobiles, motorcycles, and pieces from the turn of the century.  Tom was a wonderful host giving me a thorough tour, even through the attached home which was absolutely stuffed with early 1900s motorcycles.  In a workshop area of the garage was an old oak countertop showcase, filled with spark plugs like Id never seen before-all covered with dust and cobwebs.  I always carried plugs with me to trade and Tom was eager to acquire some odd-ball American made plugs he'd never seen before.  We spent a good three hours going through plugs and each of us came away happy. As we prepared to depart, Tom told me there was one more plug that belonged in my collection and handed this one to me, explaining what it was.  Despite my best efforts to refuse such a rare and important item, he insisted it belonged in a collection rather than a pile.  He said when he had passed away and the cars were gone, nobody would know what it was anyway.  I believe there is only one other like this existing among plug collectors.  The Marshall still takes part in the London to Brighton Run,  and I share the history of this in Tom's memory.  It's a prize in my collection.

Terry

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Terry  my friend , what an absolutely wonderful story . Magical things happen in England for some reason. I have made many trips there and for some reason if you are an old car guy and so are the people that you know "stuff happens". It did for an early R-R hubcap for me as well as a wood fair ground ride ( ie carousel) motorcycle . The R-R hubcap was easier to get home then the very very heavy and awkward fair ground ride wood motorcycle. thanks for sharing this with all of us.

Walt

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There is always more to the story than you think. This is a photo of one of only a few spark plugs ever made in Scotland. It was manufactured in the early 1900s by a Scottish engineer, William Peck.  He was also founder of one of Scotland's early automobile manufacturing companies.

The Madelvic Motor Carriage Company of Granton, Scotland was founded by Peck, who was also Edinburgh's official City Astronomer.  He also helped to develop the emerging technology of electricity.  The Madelvic Company produced an electric brougham at their factory in Granton, north Edinburgh between 1898 and 1900. The vehicle was driven by a three-wheeled front axle unit, comprising motor, batteries and a small central wheel, set behind the axle, which propelled the car. This unit was mounted to the front of a chassis, creating a five-wheeled vehicle, but could also be attached to a horse-drawn carriage. Peck offered public transport using the car, between Granton and Leith as publicity. A more conventional front wheel drive electric vehicle was also briefly produced. However, electric cars were not to be the future, and Madelvic went bankrupt, being taken over by the Kingsburgh Motor Company in 1900.  Peck continued to concentrate on electricity and maintained his involvement with the automobile industry for many years.

The original factory building still stands in Granton, and is being renovated for residential and office use. It is the oldest surviving car factory in Britain. Pictures below show the Madelvic Electric Brougham and the entrance to the factory building as it is today.

 

Peck's spark plug enterprise was short lived and this example is a prize in my collection. Although we lived in Scotland for nearly 8 years, my search for one of these plugs produced nothing. It was only recently when a major plug collection was sold off in England that I was finally able to obtain one, after 40 years of searching. I know of only three other examples in the hands of collectors, and believe this one has never been used.  The spark gap is adjustable with an external screw in the base.

 

If you plan to attend the 2021 AACA Annual Convention in Philadelphia in February I plan to present a seminar on the cars that were made in Scotland. Guaranteed you will learn about cars you've never heard of before. Bring your own Scotch!

Terry

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Edited by Terry Bond (see edit history)
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That is a nice assortment of plugs - you've got a couple of particularly scarce items there - the little plug with the name made into the porcelain is a Norwalk, and it's not commonly seen.  The other one that is scarce is the Bulls Eye.  I believe the big mica insulator plug on the far right in pic 1 is a Bethleham.  The Blue Jacket looks NOS and is another plug that's not easily found by collectors.  One of my favorites is the King Bee.  It's made in St.Louis and comes in several variations including one with no bees illustrated on it, and another with a light green insulator. 

 

I've known so many collectors who have "just a few" and don't really consider themselves as collectors, but I've observed that even small collections usually contain a few great items that most have never seen before.

 

Keep up the good work!   Hope to see you at Hershey 2021.  Do you belong to the Spark Plug Collectors of America?

Terry

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 Thank you identifying the plugs.  These are the only one's I have and probably should clean them up for a better display.  I do have a fairly good amount of empty spark plug boxes around here somewhere. When I find them I will post a picture. They  should really be in a display on the wall.  No I do not belong to the Spark Plug Collectors.

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think you'd enjoy the newsletter - The Ignitor.  It's well worth the cost of membership.  http://www.spcoa.net/members-info.html

Here are a few plugs I've cleaned recently to put on display.

Terry

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Edited by Terry Bond (see edit history)
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  • 5 weeks later...

The earliest Champion spark plugs.

The history of the Champion spark plug is interesting.  It's pretty well known that Albert Champion, the French bicycle racer worked with Neiuport helping with their early spark plugs.  His original trip to the United States was partly to help with the sale of imported Neiuport spark plugs.  His involvement with the Stranahans helped with eventual development of a plug branded with his name on it, sold by the Stranahans and their new Champion Ignition Company.  Later of course, Albert Champion left to work for William Durant, producing Champion spark plugs.  However, a law-suit was soon filed and ended up with Champion not being allowed to use his own name on plugs he produced.  That "Champion" name was retained by the Stranahans and their Champion Ignition Company, while Albert Champion continued to produce plugs labeled with just his initials - AC.

 

I thought everyone might enjoy looking at a couple of those earliest plugs. 

 

In the first photo, there are early Neiuport and Champion spark pugs from my collection.  There is an additional plug called "Anti-Soot" which is very similar to the early Neiuport/Champion plugs.  The plug on the far left in that first photo is one of the early Champion spark plugs produced by Albert Champion following his departure from the Stranahan led Champion Ignition Company.  In the second photo, you see the earliest Champion branded plug along with another photo showing its unusual base design.  In 1916 a significant change occurred when Champion bought the Jeffery Dewitt Spark Plug Company in New Jersey.  They made plugs labeled J-D and Reliance.  That purchase gave Champion the rights to deposits of Siliminite, a mineral used to produce the porcelain insulator material.  At that time, Champion also began using the brass top (known as a "brass hat").   For just a brief time, Champion plugs carried both the Reliance and Champion names.  These plugs are quire scarce.  The last photo shows a Reliance spark plug, produced just before Champion acquired the Jeffrey Dewitt Company.

 

I'll show a selection of early AC spark plugs separately.

Terry

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Champion, earliest type base.jpg

Champion Reliance.jpg

Reliance 3.jpg

Edited by Terry Bond (see edit history)
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  • 3 weeks later...

Here are a couple of photos showing the earliest AC branded plugs. These are circa 1911-14 and were manufactured by the Champion Ignition Company following Champions spit with the Stranahans. Before this, the plugs were branded as Champion.

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One  of my favorites, Franks Window plug made in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  It has a window so you can see the spark. 

Terry

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  • 2 weeks later...

Here is a very recent addition to my collection.  It came to me from a friend in England.  It was a very well-used plug but cleaned up pretty nicely.  I think it'll be a great addition to my display.  The brand name is Electra and it was made in France.  These plugs were often specially branded in gold lettering on the blue porcelain with the name of the supplier that actually sold them, usually early auto accessory suppliers.  This one is branded for George & Jobling, who I believe was an early parts supply company in London. 

Terry

Electra George & Jobling.jpg

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On 7/20/2020 at 10:35 PM, Terry Bond said:

I can highly recommend these. Rick has done some great research. These past several years,as prices of some plugs go up, we are starting to see more fakes appear on ebay and other auction sites. There have been a lot of priming plugs made by switching the insulators around with more common Champion plugs. 

These original ads will help to determine when those plugs turn up. Being an educated collector will.help you build a quality collection of authentic plugs.

This post will probably be moved to the For Sale area, but if you like early plugs, get these books!

Terry

 

 

FAKE plugs???? Wow......I would have never guessed. I would like to get to learn more about plugs......is there a good book to start an education?

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Ed, I'd certainly recommend joining the Spark Plug Collectors of America (SPCOA).  The publication "The Ignitor" contains great articles, early advertising, and announcements. Rick's books provide copies of period advertising, in date order, so you can see some of the different plugs made over the years, starting with the turn of the century.  Plug collecting has been a popular hobby for a long time, but it's a small but enthusiastic group that is visibly active.  There are countless other collectors who don't recognize themselves as "collectors" though.  I call them "shoe box collectors" as they tend to just have a few in a box they've saved because there was something interesting or unusual about them.   Many workbenches have a box or tin can filled with plugs, and among them are the gems that us collectors covet.   Just recently, someone who did not collect plugs attended a farm sale and bought a cigar box with about a dozen old plug in it.  Among those were four very nice early plugs that any serious collector would love to have, so there are plenty out there yet to be discovered.  Networking among collectors is one of the ways to find some of those treasures.  Ebay (or "evil-bay" as I call it) has also been a source, but there are people selling plugs who have absolutely no idea what they are selling.  They are often opportunists who are trying to make a fortune from some junk plug that no collector would even look twice at.  Occasionally however, a gem surfaces and "auction fever" sets in among collectors. Unfortunately however, the public gets to witness the silliness and then believes any old plug is made of gold.  It takes years of collecting and networking among other collectors to gain some insight as to rarity and value.  


Yes, fake plugs abound!   Many a bare porcelain insulator has been converted into a complete spark plug.  That's where Rick's books come in handy.  Those early ads will help you decide what a correct plug should look like.   Priming plugs (with priming valves attached to them) have long been sought by collectors, and many of those porcelain insulators have been placed into commonly found Champion priming plugs to create something that never existed to begin with.  Not all plug manufacturers ever produced a priming plug.  Buyer beware!  I think the best thing a collector can do is network with others and share information.  That's the best way to avoid being "stung" by someone trying to sell a home-made plug. 

 

I'm planning to present a seminar at the upcoming (2021) AACA Annual Convention in Philadelphia on the history of the spark plug.  That may result in an article for future publication. 

 

Is your interest in beginning a collection of select plugs or in knowing more about the history of this obscure topic?

Terry

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Terry, I’m Intrested in restoring cars and showing them with the correct NOS plug issued in the engine by the factory. So the plugs I am Intrested in are not collector plugs.......from the standpoint of unusual or rare. It’s just the perfect finishing detail when on the show field at Pebble.

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For most cars, the more common brand names were used - Champion, AC, and a few others.  Those are commonly found, once you ID what you need.  You won't be competing with spark plug collectors for rare items in most cases.  It's only when you get to the very early cars that you might have more difficulty.  For example, finding the correct plug for a 1903 Knox may be a little more difficult (photo below).  But, even the correct plug for an early 1900s De Dion Bouton turns up occasionally-with plenty of collectors waiting for the opportunity to add one to their collection.   Like a lot of collectors, I have some limited pieces of literature and a few conversion charts.  In that case, someone in the club might be helpful in determining what you need for a particular vehicle.  Always willing to try and help with questions so don't hesitate to post under parts wanted or send me a PM if necessary.

Terry

Knox.jpg

De Dion Bouton yellow with tube.jpg

Edited by Terry Bond (see edit history)
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Terry: Thanks for "plugging" the club on this forum. The Spark Plug Collectors of America always welcome new members. Please check out our website at SPCOA.org.

 

Annual dues (US and Canada) are $25.00. 

New members can sign upon the web or at:

Spark Plug Collectors of America

9 Heritage Lane

Simsbury, CT 06070

spcoarn@yahoo.com

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  • 3 weeks later...

Here is a great addition to my collection.  It's a very difficult to find W.B. Hand-E spark plug.  The two "handles" are designed so you can quickly unlock the collar to remove the porcelain and electrode assembly.  This would enable quick cleaning or priming for cold weather starts.  These plugs are known among collectors as "quick-detachable" and they are one of the more unusual and sought-after types of plugs around.  This one came from a small-town auction and I was fortunate enough to get the chance to acquire it.  It shows very little signs of usage-just a little soot inside the base.  Otherwise, it's as good as new.  

Terry 

W..B. Hand-E QD type.jpg

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Another bit of motoring history as told through the spark plug collection - These three plugs are quite fascinating and represent a lot of history.

 

Selwyn Francis Edge was a pioneer motorist at the turn of the century.  In 1899, he went into partnership with another early motorist,  Charles Jarrott,  to help with the founding of De Dion-Bouton British and Colonial Ltd as importers of French built cars. He had become friends with Montague Napier (of Napier & Son), and in 1898 asked Napier to make some improvements to his own personal Panhard.  In 1899, Edge helped to form the Motor Vehicle Company Ltd to sell these improved cars, made by Napier and largely using components of their own design and manufacture.

 

Edge was a competent racer having started with bicycles before automobiles.  For the 1902 Gordon Bennett race in Austria, Edge's Napier was the sole British entrant; with his cousin, Cecil Edge, as riding mechanic.  He won, at an average 31.8 mph The preparation of the car was rushed with some parts being installed on the train to Paris.

 

Winning the Gordon Bennet race in 1902 meant that Great Britain had the rights to host the event the following year.  Existing British laws however prohibited racing on public roads, so the event was held in Ireland.   Each race team adopted a "team color" and that year, the British entry used the color of the Irish Shamrock, which forever after became known as "British Racing Green."  

 

Edge continued to work with Napier as a business manager helping build a thriving company that manufactured and imported parts and accessories.  In 1912, he sold his company to Napier.   He later became involved with AC automobiles and in 1927 purchased the company.  When that company folded in 1929, Edge left the automobile industry entirely

 

The plugs shown are (left to right), a pre 1912 Edge plug, most likely imported from France.  Next is an almost identical plug branded "Napier" and probably manufactured shortly after 1912, when Edge sold his company to Napier.   The third plug, on the right, is a plug manufactured in Great Britain and most likely post WWI.  Although they built successful aircraft and boat engines, Napier ceased automobile production in 1924.

Hope you enjoy the plug and what they represent.

Terry

Napier and Edge.jpg

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Hello, New member of the forum here, although an AACA member for almost 50 years. I've also been in the hobby for 60+ years. It was inevitable that I began accumulating memorabilia in my youth when I was far too young to even imagine car ownership. I enjoy spark plugs, among many other things, and like Terry and Rich, highly recommend the Spark Plug Collectors of America. It is a fine organization with great people, and a top-notch quarterly magazine. Further, it

is the number 1 source of information on a surprisingly diverse topic, spark plugs, in their seemingly endless variety. Terry has shown a very nice cross-section of collector plugs here. I'll just add an additional one from my collection to further illustrate the possibilities.

This is a RAWA primer plug. It's an early German plug and rather uncommon.

Enjoy,  Bob

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Hi Dodge 1934,

The plugs that have survived with their boxes are indeed special. Now, more than ever before, plug collectors are displaying boxes as well as the plugs themselves. In my case, I’ve taken the plug boxes that actually show the plug itself, and given them their own display case. The graphics are just too good not to share!

Bob

 

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Edited by Bob Barrett (see edit history)
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In a previous post, Terry gave a great example of how plugs can illustrate a progression in automotive history. Now, here’s a plug that illustrates world history.

At the conclusion of the Franco-Prussian War in the 19th century, France lost control of the province of Alsace and about a third of the province of Lorraine to Germany. Years later, France regained control of them at the end of World War 1. When this happened, the Eyquem Spark Plug Co. (a major plug company in France) issued a special celebratory spark plug to mark the historic event. The plug was called the Eyquem Nationale. It featured the likeness of 2 women dressed in the native costumes of Alsace and Lorraine, and 3 bands of color ( red, white, and blue, the colors of the French flag ). Interestingly by today’s production standards, all of the artwork was done by hand at the factory; although not unusual at that time.

The resulting plug was both historically and aesthetically significant.

Bob

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