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Webnotes 1-1 to 1-9

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Webnote 1-4    |   Webnote 1-5    |   Webnote 1-6

Webnote 1-7    |   Webnote 1-8    |   Webnote 1-9


Webnote 1-1

The museum has long held significant lighting collections.  Some of the most interesting items are from William J. Hammer, who came to work at the Menlo Park laboratory in 1879 and stayed on to be responsible for many of Edison's early promotional displays (his picture appears prominently in the third section of the exhibition). A collection of his personal and professional papers is preserved in the museum's Archives Center.  Other material assembled by Hammer, most notably a large light bulb collection, are housed at the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village)

Other objects have been obtained from manufacturers and individuals over the years.  Included is a substantial number of light bulbs from GE in the early years of the twentieth century., 

At the time when preparations were being made for this exhibition, however, the museum's collections of material objects, photos, and documents related to post-World War II developments were very thin.  A major research project was therefore undertaken to learn about this period and to collect pertinent items.  The files and artifacts that were obtained are available to scholars and other interested parties in the Electrical Collections unit in the Division of Information Technology and Society at the National Museum of American History.

The basic structure of the exhibition is described in the label associated with this webnote (innovation broken down into five steps, which are then described for lighting in Edison's period and then again in the late twentieth century).  The form chosen for most of the labels is a quote from someone who participated in the inventive / innovative process, followed by a curatorial commentary.  This was done for two reasons: 1) to make the inventors and their contemporaries more intimately a part of the exhibit, and 2) to make the labels more interesting.   Paul Israel, whose biography of Edison appeared the year before the exhibit opened, was of great assistance in identifying pertinent quotes from Edison.

 
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Webnote 1-2

Credit is given to donors of individual items where those items appear in the script.

Paul Israel (primarily for the first part) and Terry McGowan (primarily for the second part) read the script and made some important suggestions for changes. They of course bear no responsibility for any errors that may appear. We hope (and expect) that readers will let us know if they feel we have made mistakes (you can contact us via the link below). Corrections to the exhibit itself are sometimes difficult and take time; but one of the advantages of a website is that they can be made easily and quickly.

Email: Electricity Collections

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Webnote 1-3

Sources of information about batteries

  • Bretton, M. G., "A Century of Lead-Acid Accumulators, " in Fisica e Technologia 5 (July-Sept 1982), pp. 191-9.
  • Dibner, Bern, Alessandro Volta and the Electric Battery (New York: Franklin Watts, Inc., 1964).
  • King, W. James, "The Development of Electrical Technology in the 19th Century: 1. The Electrochemical Cell and the Electromagnet," in Contributions from the Museum of History and Technology, United States National Museum Bulletin 228 (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1962), pp. 231-271.
  • Schallenberg, Richard H. "The Anomalous Storage Battery: An American Lag in Early Electrical Engineering," in Technology and Culture 22 (1981), pp. 725-52.
  • Schallenberg, Richard H., Bottled Energy: Electrical Engineering and the Evolution of Chemical Energy Storage (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1982).

Schallenberg's extensive notes and other material collected for his battery research were given to the Smithsonian and are available in the Archives Center of the National Museum of American History.

 
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Webnote 1-4

Sources of information about motors.

  • Alger, Phillip, and Robert Arnold, "The History of Induction Motors in America," in IEEE Proceedings 64 (1976), pp. 1380-1383.
  • Body, J. H. R., "A Note on Electro-magnetic Engines," Transactions of the Newcomen Society 14 (1933-34), pp. 103-107.  An account of early 19th-century devices.
  • King, W. James, "The Development of Electrical Technology in the 19th Century: 1. The Electrochemical Cell and the Electromagnet," in Contributions from the Museum of History and Technology, United States National Museum Bulletin 228 (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1962), pp. 231-271.
  • Michalowicz, Joseph, "Origin of the Electric Motor," in Electrical Engineering 67 (1948), pp. 1035-40.

See also biographies of Nikola Tesla, listed under the general bibliography.

 
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Webnote 1-5

Sources of information about generators.

  • King, W. James, "The Development of Electrical Technology in the 19th Century: 3. The Early Arc Light and Generator," in Contributions from the Museum of History and Technology, United States National Museum Bulletin 228 (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1962), pp. 333-407.
  • Lamme, Benjamin G., "Development of a Successful Direct-Current 2000 KW Uni-Polar Generator," in AIEE Transactions (1912).  An account of a generator developed by Lamme at Westinghouse in 1906.
  • Walker, Miles, "Dynamo-Electric Machinery, 1878-1916," in Electrician 77 (1916), pp. 817-21.

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Webnote 1-6

Sources of information about meters.

  • Brown, C. N., "Charging for Electricity in the Early Days of Electricity Supply," in  Institution of Electrical Engineers Proceedings 132 Pt. A (Dec. 1985), pp. 513-24.

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Webnote 1-7

Sources of information about electromagnets.

King, W. James, "The Development of Electrical Technology in the 19th Century: 1. The Electrochemical Cell and the Electromagnet," in Contributions from the Museum of History and Technology, United States National Museum Bulletin 228 (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1962), pp. 231-271.

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Webnote 1-8

Sources of information about arc lamps:

  • Bowers, Brian, Lengthening The Day, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998).
  • Bright, Arthur A. Jr., The Electric-Lamp Industry: Technological Change and Economic Development from 1800 to 1947, (New York: MacMillan Co., 1949).
  • Brush, Charles F., "The Arc-Light," in The Century Magazine, May 1905, V.70, #13, p.110.
  • Carlson, W. B., Innovation as a Social Process, Elihu Thompson and the Rise of General Electric, 1870 - 1900, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991).
  • Fleming, J. A., Electric Lamps and Electric Lighting, 2nd ed., (London: The Electrician Printing & Publishing Co., Ltd., 1899).
  • International Correspondence Schools, A Textbook on Electric Lighting and Railways: Electric Transmission & Electric Lighting, (Scranton, PA: International Textbook Co., 1901).
  • King, W. James, The Development of Electrical Technology in the 19th Century: 3. The Early Arc Light and Generator, United States National Museum, Bulletin 228, (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1962).
  • Schivelbusch, Wolfgang, Disenchanted Night: The Industrialization of Light in the Nineteenth Century, trans., Angela Davies, (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1988). 

Archival material.

  • Sarah J. Farmer Collection, 34,583. Electricity Collections, National Museum of American History.
  • William J. Hammer Collection. Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
  • Lighting Reference Collection. Electricity Collections, National Museum of American History.
  • Potomac Electric Power Company Collection, 40,913. Electricity Collections, National Museum of American History.
  • US Patent Office Collections, 48,865; 49,064; and 89,797. Electricity Collections, National Museum of American History.
  • William Wallace Collection, 35,164. Electricity Collections, National Museum of American History.

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Webnote 1-9

Biographical information for featured players:

  • George F. Barker (1835-1910)
    A professor of Physics at the University of Pennsylvania from 1835 to 1900, Barker was Edison's closest friend in the academic community. His interest in electric lighting was an influence on Edison in 1878.

  • Charles W. Batchelor (1845-1910)
    Batchelor was born in London and trained as a mechanic. He came to the U. S. at age 22 and soon joined Edison, becoming his closest associate. Batch went to Europe in 1881 to promote the Edison system, returning to head up the Edison Machine Works.

  • Charles F. Brush (1849-1929)
    Trained in chemistry at the University of Michigan, Brush established himself in Cleveland. There he built his first dynamo in 1875 and an arc light in 1876. His company eventually became part of General Electric.

  • Leo Daft (1843-1922)
    Born in Great Britain, Daft came to the United States in 1866. In 1879 he joined the New York Electric Light Company and transformed it into the Daft Electric Company, which became a major competitor in the street railway business.

  • Zenobe-Theophile Gramme (1826-1901)
    Gramme, a Belgian, used Pacinotti's armature design to make efficient magneto generators in the 1860s and self-excited dynamos in the 1870s.
    • Chauvois, Louis, Histoire merveilleuse de Zénobe Gramme, inventeur de la dynamo, (Paris: Librairie scientifique et technique A. Blanchard, 1963)

  • Edwin J. Houston (1847-1914)
    Houston was born in Alexandria, Va., but spent most of his life in Philadelphia teaching at Central High School. With Elihu Thomson, he designed an arc-light generator. He left the Thomson-Houston Company in 1882 to devote his time to teaching.
    • Houston, Edwin J., Electricity in Every-Day Life Three volumes, (New York: P. F. Collier & Son, 1904)

  • Paul Jablochkoff (1847-1894)
    Born in Russia, Jablochkoff spent his career in Paris. There he invented an "electric candle" arc light in 1877, which was sensational in demonstrations in theaters and opera houses.

  • Francis Jehl (1860-1941)
    Born in New York City, Jehl had little schooling. He became an assistant to Edison at Menlo Park and went to Europe in 1882 to promote the Edison System. On his return he helped reconstruct the Menlo Park laboratory at Dearborn, Michigan.
    • Jehl, Francis, Menlo Park Reminiscences Three volumes, (Kila, MT: Kessinger Publishing, 2002)
    • Simonds, William Adams, A boy with Edison, (Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday, Doran & company, inc., 1931)

  • Lewis H. Latimer (1848-1928)
    An African American, born in Chelsea, Mass., Latimer trained as a draftsman at a Boston patent law firm. There he made drawings for Alexander Graham Bell, among others. He joined the Maxim company in 1880 and invented a means of producing improved carbon filaments. In 1884 he moved to Edison's Lamp Works and had a distinguished career as a draftsman.
    • Janet M. Schneider, Bayla Singer, Blueprint for change : the life and times of Lewis H. Latimer, (Jamaica, NY: Queens Borough Public Library, c1995)
    • Turner, Glennette Tilley, Lewis Howard Latimer, (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Silver Burdett Press, c1991)
    • Rayvon Fouche, Black Inventors in the Age of Segregation: Granville T. Woods, Lewis H. Latimer, and Shelby J. Davidson, (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003)

  • Walther H. Nernst (1836-1941)
    Nernst, a professor of physics at Göttingen and Berlin, received a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1920 for work in thermodynamics. As a sidelight, in the 1890s he invented an efficient lamp in which the filament heated rare-earth salts, which then glowed. The lamp was very efficient, but too expensive to be practical.
    • Diana Kormos Barkan, Walther Nernst and the Transition to Modern Physical Science, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999)
    • Mendelssohn, K., The world of Walther Nernst; the rise and fall of German science, 1864-1941, (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1973)

  • Antonio Pacinotti (1841-1912)
    Born in Pisa, Italy, Pacinotti became professor of physics at the University of Bologna at age 23. There he developed a ring armature design that was used by Gramme in motors and generators.
    • Pacinotti, M. A. Telo, Mio padre Antonio Pacinotti : con documenti inediti, (Pisa: Sala delle stagioni di Fernando Vallerini editore, 1962)

  • Oliver B. Shallenberger (1860-1898)
    A graduate of the U. S. Naval Academy, Shallenberger left the Navy in 1884 to join the Westinghouse company. In 1888 he invented an induction meter for measuring alternating current, a critical element in the Westinghouse AC system.

  • Sydney H. Short (1858-1902)
    Short was born in Columbus, Ohio. After graduating from Ohio State University, he became professor of physics and chemistry at the University of Denver. He held over 500 patents, many in the field of streetcar railways.

  • Frank J. Sprague (1857-1934)
    A graduate of the U. S. Naval Academy, Sprague covered the Paris (1881) and London (1882) electrical exhibitions for the Navy. He worked briefly for Edison and later developed a constant-speed motor and an overhead trolley pickup device important for street railways.
    • Passer, Harold Clarence, Frank Julian Sprague, father of electric traction, 1857-1934, (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1952)
    • Sprague, Harriet Chapman Jones, Frank J. Sprague and the Edison myth, (New York: William-Frederick Press, 1947)

  • Joseph W. Swan (1828-1914)
    Swan had a varied inventive career, with early contributions to photography. His carbon filament lamp anticipated Edison's by several months, but it had a low resistance and was unsuitable for commercial use. Swan's 1883 cellulose filament became an industry standard.
    • Swan, Mary E., Sir Joseph Wilson Swan, F.R.S. : a memoir, (London: Ernest Benn, 1929)

  • Nikola Tesla (1856-1943)
    Born of Serb parents in Croatia, Tesla was educated in Europe. He came to New York in 1884 and worked briefly for Edison. He patented a practical AC motor in 1888. Other AC patents were used in the Westinghouse generators at Niagara Falls. He is also known for high-frequency experiments and inventions in the field of radio.
    • Tesla, Nikola, My inventions : the autobiography of Nikola Tesla, (Williston, Vt.: Hart Bros., 1982)
    • Tesla, Nikola, The complete patents of Nikola Tesla, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1994)
    • Hunt, Inez, Lightning in his hand; the life story of Nikola Tesla, (Denver: Sage Books, 1964)
    • Seifer, Marc J., Wizard : the life and times of Nikola Tesla : biography of a genius, (Secaucus, N.J.: Carol Pub., c1996)
    • O'Neill, John J., Prodigal genius; the life of Nikola Tesla, (New York, N.Y.: I. Washburn, Inc., 1944)

  • Francis R. Upton (1852-1921)
    As a graduate of Bowdoin, with graduate work at Princeton and in Germany, Upton was the best-educated of Edison's assistants. Nicknamed Culture by his colleagues, worked on the light bulb, the generator, and other projects.

  • Charles J. Van Depoele (1846-1892)
    A native of Belgium, Van Depoele came to the United States in 1869 and settled in Detroit. He invented an arc lamp in 1870, but is especially known for developing a form of electric railway using overhead wires.

  • Edward Weston (1850-1936)
    Weston emigrated from England to Newark, New Jersey, in 1870. He established the Weston Electric Instrument Company there in 1888. Its meters gained a reputation for accuracy and reliability.
    • Woodbury, David Oakes, A measure for greatness; a short biography of Edward Weston, (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1949)

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