Quick History of the Spark Plug

The actual evolution of the modern day spark plug came about as a solution to the problem with early flame and ignitor ignitions on internal combustion engines. There have been several materials that have evolved as insulation materials. Some materials that have been used are mica, stone and several different kinds of improved porcelain. A lot of early forms of porcelain were not designed to handle the extreme hot and cold changes that engines demanded. Some insulated materials were very porous and would absorb oils and soot easily. This would make for a short life as they would foul out quickly. Gasoline in the early days wasn’t as refined as it is today. It contained more oils and was closer to today’s kerosene.

In 1915 a major improvement in porcelain was “775” porcelain, by the Frenchtown Porcelain Co.. This new formula produced porcelain that would hold up to heat changes with less absorption of oil. Since that time improvements have continued on porcelain designs. Dr. Joseph Jeffery’s discovery of silimanite in 1933 gave spark plugs a longer life. This was a major improvement in the porcelain design.

Over the years, companies have tried to come up with unique designs to be used as selling points for their spark plugs. Some of the unique idea results were the:

  • Quick Detach – by moving a lever 1/4 of a turn, you could remove the center for quick easy cleaning without tools;
  • Double Ended Plugs – could be turned over when one end was fouled and still have a plug that worked;
  • Breathing Plugs – were designed to allow clean, cool air to be sucked in over the hot end of the porcelain, which would assist in further burning away of deposits;
  • Priming Plugs – allowed you to put a small amount of gas into the cylinder for easy starting;
  • Coil Plugs – where the coil and the plug were actually combined into a one piece unit;
  • Intensified Plugs – having a second firing gap, that was advertised as allowing the plug to “fire hotter and longer”.

32 Comments »

  • Joe Hagerman says:

    Can anyone tell me if this club is still active. I have become a new collector and could use some guidance on the collecting of plugs. Thanks Joe Hagerman, Virginia Beach, V a

  • JIM says:

    Hi all. Can anybody please tell me the application for an AC # 82-M spark plug? Thanks…..Jim

  • diane hendricks says:

    I have a miniature ac spark plug the size of a dime…was a display for dealers only when they were first introduced…anyone know what it would be worth? interested in selling possibly

  • Steve Woods says:

    hi I have found three brass spark plugs , in an insert, no porcelain , photos reveal they are 1905 motorcycle? what are they worth? thanks

  • Curt Wilson says:

    I recently bought several big boxes of NOS plugs at an estate auction. 90% of the plugs are Blue Crown in original 10 pc packs. I would be interested to learn more on the history of the company and if there is any valve in these beautiful plugs. Cheers Curt

  • Tom Lee says:

    Where can I find info regarding advertising spark plug wrenches, such as vray or tungsten and others?

  • Adriano says:

    Hi I am wondering were are these bratceks are located on the engine the pic is sort of small . Are they on the top of the engine and this will make it easier to do the rear plugs or the front plugs. If you have a better pic it would help outThank YouSteve Verge

  • Marty says:

    I’m looking for a set of Edison spark plugs for my Model T. Can anyone help? What would I expect to pay? Thanks.

  • shawna says:

    Hello,
    I have found a rock with what looks like a spark plug encased into the rock. I found it on the beach in northern California and I am curious to find out more information about the rock and spark plug.
    If anyone can help me with any info they can, I would really appreciate it. Thank you.

  • Barry Carver says:

    I just found an old spark plug buried in the ground.i have never seen anything like it. It is porcelain with a brass compression ring, has a tiny wire for the electrode and a screw on knurled cap where the wire would connect. It has no markings whatsoever. It has nothing with threads.Who would like to see a picture?

  • Carl Bomstead says:

    Does anyone have any information on a J-D Double system spark plug that was recently sold on eBay?
    Many thanks

    • lanny says:

      Carl. what do you want to know about it? sparkpluger1@gmail.com

      • Carl Bomstead says:

        The plug sold for $1400 which seems a bit much and I don’t understand how the dual system functions.
        Thanks for your reply
        Carl

        • lanny says:

          That plug is actually a series plug. The high tension current enters in one terminal, arcs across the plug points and then exits out the other terminal after which it continues to a second conventional type plug in the same cylinder. Both plugs fire at the same time, in series

  • Ron says:

    I have some cases of Packard aircraft spark plugs. What would the value be today?they are about 50 to 60years old in new condision.is this something that others would be interested in? I could sale in singles or cases of around 50 and or in some crates of around 500

  • Carl says:

    I am searching for information about a spark plug company that was located in Cedarburg WI sometime before 1935. I believe that the name of the company name was Schittdorf. I am not sure if my spelling of the name is correct or not. If you have any information about this spark plug manufacturer please let me know. My email address is: vanstunnels45@gmail.com

  • David Berthon says:

    I am looking for a set of 12 x 18mm Mica spark plugs for my 1913 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost.
    Can anyone help?

  • David Berthon says:

    Hello,

    i am looking for a set of 12 x 18mm Mica spark plugs for my 1913 Rolls-Royce Silver Ghost.
    Can anyone help?

  • Paul Louis Venne says:

    Hello Collectors. I’m looking for teens era plugs for my Excelsior motorcycles. They are 18mm and the ones I am seeking seem to have straight sides on the porcelain and fancy knurled top nuts. I would also like some mica plugs for the bikes. Names like Red Head, Vesuvius, Herz and many other seem very scarce. Any help? Any books out there that cover teens spark plugs to early twenties? Thanks and happy collecting, Paul in Long Beach, California

  • Joe Hutchinson says:

    I’m looking up 2 identical sets of 8, angle seat, “Wards Riverside” spark plugs I’ve stored for 20+ years. They are still new and in orignal blister packages, though there’s water damage to the packs, but not plugs. The construction looks very much like Champion manufacture of the mid-70’s era (which I remember pretty well). Obviously, a set for V-8 engine, with extended tip and a kinda nickel steel, rust resistant surface. Package data: “Wards Riverside 61-14699-8 Hi-Performance Spark Plugs”. Spark plug insulator data: “Wards Supreme XPP 14699”. Above the angle seat is stamped “Made in U.S.A.” The blister pack is a Viewseal CCA 73. I’d like to know what they fit or cross ref to as they are perfectly usable and not exactly collectable in the damaged packs. The net has not turned up anything yet. THANK YOU!! -Joe

  • Dave Kunz says:

    Hello,
    Can anyone tell me something about Goodyear spark plugs? I have a cardboard sign that says they will clean plugs for 5 cents.

  • Scott Humphries says:

    Hello!,
    I am from UK, have a small collection of British plugs, names such as Lodge, Oleo, KLG etc etc… have a few obscure unmarked ones also. found this site via search engine, quite interesting!

  • Don Dunlap says:

    My grandfather was J.E. Hagstrom who had a spark plug manufacturer in Lindsborg Ks in 1907-1913. He had a company named Hagstrom Brothers Specialties that had offices in Chicago, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, and New York. He later developed the vending machine that he patented that started Vendo company-I was wondering if anyone knew anything about their spark plugs or had any?

  • Michael Helms says:

    Mark, you’re welcome to send us an email with the photo as an attachment. My email address is mike@mikehelms.org

  • mark hayse says:

    hi,is there a way i can send a picture of a item i have that has spark plugs on it and maybe you can tell me more about it.thanks for your time,mark hayse

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