Museum of Plugs and Sockets logo, small Classic plugs and sockets
made in continental Europe,  overview
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Classic, continental European plugs and sockets are shown on seven pages. Details are given below.
> Click on the accompanying image to open a page <


At the bottom of the page you will find general information about plugs and materials used.

Many items have been donated by Reiner Hahn {RH} and Wieger Nieuwenhout {WN}.

 

Classic porcelain flat plug

Part 1

Not earthed plugs and sockets
 
Plugs have 4 mm pins and a 19 mm pin spacing.
Sockets are designed for these not earthed plugs.

Because of the large number of examples, plugs and sockets are split into two parts:
1: flat plugs (i.e. have a rectangular base), and
2: plugs that have a round base.

Most material has been made in Germany*.

Bakelite, round base plug

Part 2

Ebonite multi-plug

Multi-plugs and adapters

Not earthed plugs with 1 to 4 outlets.
Multiple outlet extension cords.
Lampholders with outlet.

Bakelite plu made in DDR, small

Plugs and sockets made in GDR

Not earthed plugs and sockets that are made in the former German Democratic Republic. The DDR existed from 1949 until 1990.
Information about DAMW quality and molding marks are included.

Bakelite not earthed plug with switch

Special plugs

Not earthed plugs ("4 mm / 19 mm") with special features as:
- build-in switch that could be used for DC and/or AC networks;

- internal fuse;

- provision for switching between 125 and 250 Volt networks.

Plug for special applications made by Kostal

Uncommon earthed and non-earthed plugs and sockets

A variety of obsolete plugs and sockets with 2 or 3 pins that were designed for special applications, including plugs for more than 10 Amp.

Classic plugs with earth clips (Schuko type) are shown separately.

Porcelain plug with right angled pins

Plugs with unusual types of pins

Two types are shown:
left: plug with pins curved at a 90 angle and
      matching socket;
right: plug and connector with concentric pins.

Plug with concentric pins, small

More classic material from France and Switzerland is shown on the corresponding standard pages.

 

About the choice for plugs with a 19 mm pin spacing

It is remarkable that from the early days of home electrification, continental European countries have used 19 mm pin spacing
for common domestic plugs. 19 mm equals inch. For industrial purposes the inch has been used in many European countries for a long period of time.

It could be that two aspects were in favour of a 19 mm pin spacing. First, it is a convenient size to construct a safe plug that is handy for domestic use. Second, choosing - initially on a voluntary basis - for a single design of pins opens a large market, which is to the benefit of manufacturers and buyers.
Therefore it might be that around 1900 plugs with 4 mm pins, 19 mm apart became the common continental European household plug by the will of installation manufacturers.

German
DIN-VDE 9400-9403, published in 1924, declared 19 mm pin spacing as the official standard for not earthed 6 and 10A - 250V plugs and sockets. Details are shown on a separate page.

Materials used for classic plugs and sockets

Timber

First material to be used for plugs. Only hard and relative durable wood is appropriate. For example Boxwood and Lignum vitae (Pockholz). Processing timber is relative easy, but its moderate durableness and hygroscopic characteristics are disadvantages. In Germany, timber was already replaced by porcelain and ebonite around 1905, but in some other countries timber plugs were still offered in the 1930s.

Porcelain

A white ceramic. It is an excellent insulator against heat and electrical tension that can be shaped in each desirable form. Porcelain has been used for plugs or critical parts of plugs for about a century.

Steatite (soapstone)

A technical ceramic. Like porcelain, grinded soapstone can be molded in forms and glazed in any colour. Dielectric and thermal properties are comparable to porcelain, but processing is easier and cheaper. From the 1920s steatite was much more often used for plugs than porcelain. The body colour of steatite is light beige, while porcelain is white.



Ebonite


Hard, black vulcanized natural rubber. A relative high sulfer content and prolonged times of vulcanizing results in a solid product. Around 1900 it became the first choice material for - at that time - small series of plugs. They were hand made out of rods or plates of ebonite. In the 1920s ebonite was superseded by Bakelite that allowed production of large quantities of complex shapes.

Bakelite

Bakelite was developed by Leo Baekeland in 1907 and patented in 1909. It is a phenol formaldehyde resin that can molded to produce large quantities of identical units. Although customized molds and molding presses were expensive, Bakelite became the preferred material for plugs as sales of electrical appliances increased dramatically from the early 1920s. Bakelite is an excellent insulator and is resistant to heat, but it may swell under prolonged humid conditions. Phenolic resins have to be reinforced with a filling agent. Sawdust was most commonly used in plugs.
From the 1960s Bakelite was gradually replaced by other thermosetting polymers.



Note on dating of plugs
Most plugs shown on the following pages had been made for many years or decades.
Given dates refer either to year or decade in which production started, or the full period of production.

Dates are based on: (i) old catalogs of manufacturers or shops that sold or imported electro-technical devices, or (ii) estimates based on technical and formal appearances of a plug

 


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