I'm writing a story set in California in the late 1880's. A scientist is making, er, something and is using copper wire (and electricity).
My strange question -- what did people use to coat copper wires and the like before plastics came out?
I've trolled around the 'net like mad (using terms like "insulation, wire, history, material" etc), but have not found anything that addresses that particular subject. Either I hear about old conductors or else the contemporary uses of plastics over wires to insulate them.
I swear people used to use fabric around wires -- having seen old wires in old buildings -- but maybe this is my imagination because it seems a tad unsafe to me. Anyone know the answer or what might reveal the answer? Thanks!