Great Finds: Glass Lightning Rod Balls Found Tucked Away in the Barn

By Kevin and Joan
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The salesman’s trunk with its trove of letters and documents. 
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Original stencil on the end of the shipping crate, indicates shipment by Rodefer Glass Co. to Allentown (Pa.) Cable & Machine Co. Rodefer was among the leading American glass manufacturers of its time. Based in Bellaire, Ohio, the company was founded in 1869 at National Glass Works. It remained in operation for 105 years at the same site. 
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A white glass ball in its original packing material. 
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The original crate and its contents, including white glass balls and silvered balls. Documents found online note the existence of a “mold shop and silvering department” at Rodefer Glass Co. as early as 1885. 

We have been collecting old farm stuff most of our lives. We’re always looking for those hidden treasures someone may have missed. So, last spring when our neighbor’s barn came down, we jumped at the chance to salvage the old barn cupola. With a little work we had it looking pretty good, except we were missing the glass ball and cow from the lightning rod. I posted an ad online, hoping to find them so we could complete the project.

The search for glass lightning rod balls

We live in central Minnesota; our son and his family live in Pennsylvania. Our son posted an ad there, in the hope of helping us out. A month or so had gone by when we received an excited call from him. He had received an email from a woman who said she had some glass balls and a lightning rod for sale.

After several calls and much dickering, the deal was closed. We ended up with a couple dozen “new” silver and white lightning rod balls, many still in their original cartons. And to top that, several were still in their original shipping crate.

As it turns out, the seller had found them in an old trunk stuck away in the barn at her grandfather’s farm in Lehigh County, Pa. Apparently, a salesman occasionally rented a room from the farmer in the 1920s. The last time he did so, he left without taking his trunk. The whole package included an original shipping box, almost three dozen glass balls, and many photos, documents and postcards (as well as letters from young admirers the gentleman had met on his travels as a salesman).

Some of the original boxes had deteriorated over the decades, and a few of the metal caps show a little corrosion. However, we are very pleased to say the overall condition of the lot is wonderful. We even got a couple nice weather vane arrows out of the deal. So, keep looking. The good stuff is still out there. You just have to have a little luck! FC

For more information: Email Kevin and Joan at

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