History of Electric Induction Heating

Table of Contents

This Chapter

By James Farol Metcalf

Antonio Pacinotti's article in "Nuovo Cimento" of May 3, 1865 announced that in 1863 he had produced a dynamo with a ring wound armature that could produce electricity and also run as a motor. This was the forerunner of the Gramme dynamo in 1871. In earlier work (1860) he announced the production of high voltage and high frequency using a transformer, arc, capacitor and coil. This was the forerunner of the Tesla coil in 1891.

Werner Von Siemens patented a dynamo machine in 1866. With the dynamo electrical energy could be generated in larger amounts.

By this time several people had concluded that a stronger magnet was needed to produce larger generators. The level of understanding was that it was not the magnet but the magnetic field that allowed motion energy to become electricity.

The idea that magnetic the magnetic field produced in the windings of the generator could be used to magnetize the iron for the magnetic field was slow in coming. Wheatstone, Alfred Varley and the Siemens built small devices that were "self exciting" during this period.

The Czar of Russia needed money fast and sold land that was of no value to him at the time. On June 20, 1867 a treaty was ratified and exchanged between the United Stated and Russia that gave land and islands with the eastern limit the line of demarcation between the Russian and the British possessions in North America. For seven million two hundred thousand dollars in gold all of Alaska was owned by the Federal government except private property. Churches built by the Russian government became the property of members of the Greek Oriental Church resident in the territory. The inhabitants of the territory were allowed return to Russia within three years or remain as citizens. The uncivilized tribes were allowed to remain subject to laws and regulations of aboriginal tribes.

In 1868 Leclanche introduced a battery with a carbon rod as the center positive pole. This battery was used widely for telegraphs and for other primary cells.

The builders of the Union Pacific Railroad from Nebraska met the builders of the Central Pacific from California at Promontory Point on the shore of the Great Salt Lake in Utah and drove a golden spike that completed the railroad and made a continuous line from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean in May 1869. Railways brought tourist from all over the world to see the big attraction of the waterfall at Niagara. Private ownership meant that no one could see this place without paying a fee. The Falls were visible at night when expensive calcium flares were fired.

George Westinghouse noted how difficult it was stop trains by manually operated brakes. He found a need and filled it by utilizing an air cylinder to operate the brake. He opened the Westinghouse Air Brake Company for business in 1869.

A Russian chemist, Mendeleev, and Lothar Meyer, a German chemist, completed the periodical tables of the elements in 1870. The Mendeleev table predicted elements that had not yet been found.

In 1871 Zenobe Theophile Gramme (Belgium) patented the uniformly wound ring-armature dynamo. In the patent he recognized the work of Antonio Pacinotti. The first machine used a Jamin's magnet with a foot pedal drive to produce 2 volts for laboratory use.

Germany consolidated power under Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck while awaiting a war with France that began in 1871. German troops won one battle after another in hard fighting along the frontier until they forced France to surrender. William I was proclaimed emperor of a united nation at the military headquarters in Versailles. The governments below the River Main joined the North German Confederation to form a powerful new Reich. In a single generation central Europe had completed the transition from warring division to strong nationalism and from serfdom to industrialization. After centuries under the control of the Holy Roman Empire it was now the beginning of the German Empire.

By 1872 Gramme and Brequet constructed a dynamo using an iron core with battery current producing the electromagnet. It was sold to the Galvanoplastic Institute in Paris. Attached is a photograph of a larger hand cranked dynamo that was used to study electricity.

At the age of 21, Elihu Thomson, the son of Scottish immigrants was elected to the Franklin Institute in 1874. His first meeting was to hear a report on the new Gramme dynamo recently imported from France. Thompson studied natural philosophy in high school where Edwin Houston was his teacher. As the result of his studies he built static electric machines. He wrote as a student, "There is scarcely a day passing on which some new use for electricity is not discovered. It seems destined to become at some future time the means of obtaining light, heat, and mechanical force."

During his fifty year career Thomson was granted 696 U.S. patents on inventions including arc lights, generators, electric welding machines, and x-ray tubes. His recording wattmeter was the first practical method of measuring the amount of electricity used by a home or business.

In 1874 Hermann J.P. Sprengel introduced a better vacuum pump and McLeod introduced a much better way to measure vacuum. The pump used mercury as a seal and the gauge used a precision column of mercury to measure the vacuum. Scientists could use this system for experiments where more than 99.999 percent of the gas was removed.

In 1874 Siemens installed a telegraph cable from Ireland to the U.S.A. The Siemens cable ship "Faraday" laid six transatlantic telegraph cables in the next ten years.

The sheer size of the falls at Niagara captured the imaginations of engineers and industrialists. The enclosed photograph is of the Falls when it was a tourist attraction in 1867. A small portion of the water falling 325 feet could supply the needs of much of industrial America and at a cost much lower than coal-fired steam. In 1875 wheels began turning with water fed from a canal from the Niagara River that provided an 85-foot head.

In 1876 a Russian in Paris invented a simple electric carbon arc lamp. Paul Jablochkoff's "electric candle" was two carbon rods separated by a thin layer of plaster of Paris with the lower end of the rods fixed in a short brass tube for electrical connection. A thin piece of carbon was placed on the top of the rods that vaporized and established an arc when current was switched on.

This was the shot in the arm the electrical industry needed. New orders for larger dynamos caused Gramme, Siemens and many others to find cheaper and more efficient ways to generate electricity.

The carbon industry also got a shot in the arm. Charles F. Brush became aware that Standard Oil Company was burning petroleum coke and tars they produced while extracting oil from coal just to get rid of it. He used this material to make material for the arc lamp. He also improved the petroleum coke by heating it in ovens before it was ground into powder and mixed with tar. He invented a hydraulic press to make the materials dense while extruding it into rods.

Brush became the leading producer of carbon products in America and that time. The same, but much larger, process is used today. In 1962 I sold Union Carbide the equipment to produce 80-inch round graphite electrodes for a special project for NASA.

The first research university in the United States was established in 1876 by an endowment by the Baltimore merchant John Hopkins. Henry Augustus Rowland accepted the Chair of Physics in the newly founded Johns Hopkins University. Rowland wrote a motor patent application in 1868.


Paris was the first to use the electric arc lamp when they lit the Avenue de l'Opera with 46 lamp columns in 1877. Each column had sixteen candles powered by steam driving a Gramme dynamo. Jablochkoff's design used alternating current with a transformer wired in series for each lamp. His transformers had the same number of turns on the primary and secondary and were not efficient so this was the last time he used the system. Elihu Thomson observed the Jablochkoff system and another system using alternating current with a regulator on each lamp designed by DieudonnŽ Franois Lontin during a visit to Paris.

The lights in Paris lit fires under those who would make light. About the end of 1877 Edison became interested in lighting when he visited William Wallace's electric factory in Connecticut. Wallace had just entered the arc lamp business and was building a small dynamo.

Thomson sought the help of his science teacher, Edwin Houston to design a new arc lighting system that would use alternating current from a dynamo designed by Thompson. The new system used a vibrating arc and induction coil that was demonstrated the Franklin Institute in December 1878 shortly after patent applications were filed. The US patent office rejected the patent application stating that Charles G. Page and S.A. Varley had done this work previously. They did not have enough money to rewrite and fight the patent office. Page held an important position in the US patent office until his death in 1868.

The new mercury vacuum pump solved the remaining problem in the production of the carbon filament electric lamp for Joseph Swan. He started to work and by early 1879 he demonstrated the carbon element electric light. Others that built filament lamps included Hiram S. Maxim, Moses Farmer, St George-Lane Fox, and William E. Sawyer.

Sawyer's work included a carbon deposition process to improve his filament. He heated the product in the presence of hydrocarbon gas in a process he called "flashing". This process was to become very important in the production of carbon-carbon for aircraft brakes for the Concorde and the F-16 by 1979.

In 1878 Siemens obtained patents for high temperature furnaces that were heated using carbon rods connected to an electrical supply.

In 1972 Robert Klingerman and I obtained a patent for carbon elements that were heated without a direct connection. (Induction). The sale of this type equipment to the Russians in 1983 was the technology that ABC News thought was so important.

Brush Electric in the USA and Crompton in England led the way to improve the arc lamp. The first football (soccer) game under the lights was in Sheffield, England on October 14, 1878. Two Siemens generators provided the power for 8,000-candle power.

In October 1878 Edison established the Edison Electric Light Company. In an interview with the New York Tribune on October 28, 1878 Edison said:

"I have let the other inventors get the start of me in this matter, somewhat, because I have not given much attention to electric lights; but I believe I can catch up to them now. I have an idea that I can make the electric light available for all common uses, and supply it at a trifling cost, compared with that of gas. There is no difficulty about dividing up the electric currents and using small quantities at different points. The trouble is in finding a candle that will give a pleasant light, not too intense, which can be turned on or off as easily as gas. Such a candle cannot be made from carbon points, which waste away and must be readjusted constantly while they do last. Some composition must be discovered which will be luminous when charged with electricity, and that will not waste away. A platinum wire gives a good light when a certain quantity of electricity is passed through it. If the current is made too strong, however, the wire will melt. I want to get something better."

When the reporter suggested that he might easily make a great fortune, Edison replied 'I don't care so much for fortune as I do for getting ahead of the other fellows'.

Edison's plan was to build the complete system from the generator to the lamp. He studied the existing generator designs and decided to use a longer core magnet, nicknamed "long legged Mary Ann".

He first tried carbon elements but failed. In the spring of 1879 Edison built lamps using platinum wire but this also did not work. In the fall of 1879 he again returned to carbon and made his first successful lamp using a carbonized carbon thread on October 19, 1879. It lasted two days and was very brittle. He again tried paper but this time he used a smooth heavy type and from this began commercial production of lamps in 1880.

Further tests led him to a carbonized fiber of bamboo that was grown in Japan especially for Edison Electric. This was to be standard filament in the US until 1894.

During the work on the lamp Edison discovered that the heat on the filament in the vacuum environment was releasing electrons and depositing a black coating on the inside of the glass. This was named the "Edison Effect" and this would become important in the field of electronics.

In early 1879 Thomson and Houston entered into a partnership with a businessman that also was the sales agent for Brush lighting systems. Brush had just completed the first system sold to a city by lighting Monumental Park in Cleveland with twelve arc lamps mounted on high towers.

The new investors required Thomson to design a system using direct current rather than the unproven idea of alternating current. In less than six months Thomson built an improved dynamo and tested six lights at Fuller's Bakery. It was hard to find customers in Philadelphia but Thomson was able to survive using his teacher's salary.

Siemens demonstrated the first arc furnace in 1879 at the Paris Exposition by melting iron in a crucible. Carbon electrodes produced an electric arc above the container of metal.

The quality and size of carbon rods limited the use of this furnace. My first use of this equipment was in 1955 at General Motors Research where alloys were melted in a "Detroit Rocker" single-phase arc furnace.

The trial run of an electric streetcar in America was in May 1880 Edison sat in the front of the small engine and gave the cry "all aboard!" and followed with "fire her up!" The car made it to end of the short line. When it was time to reverse the motor it broke down and the crew had to push the little train back. After Edison abandoned the railroad laboratory site the tracks were removed but the railroad cars and engines were left as reminders of one of Edison's great but not too successful adventures.

In 1880 Francis J Clamer, a scrap dealer in Philadelphia, opened a company to produce a new lead bearing bronze that had been developed in Europe. This material was needed for better bearings for the faster trains and larger machines of the time. He named it the Ajax Metals Company.

This Company would grow and later hire Northrup in 1920 to run the Ajax Electrothermic Corporation for the manufacture of electric induction metal melting equipment. Henry Rowan would learn his trade there in the late 1940's. In 1961 I started work for Ajax as a salesman.

In 1880 the Thomson's business was in trouble and was sold to the American Electric Company in New Britain, Conn.

In 1881 Siemens demonstrated an electric driven elevator and an electric streetcar during an exposition in Paris. Later that year the first public electric tramway was a two mile system built by Siemens and Halske in Lichterfelde, Germany.

In January 1881 R.E.B. Crompton accepted a contract to light the market place and Main Street of Norwich, England with his electric arc lamps. By March 1982 he had added Swan incandescent lamps for individual customers.

The first steam powered generating station for the public was in London in January 1881 where Edison entered into a contract to supply lighting for a three month test period. Swan Electric Light Company was established on February 7, 1881 with Crompton as chief engineer. Edison filed suit in British courts for patent infringement.

In 1881, Charles Brush demonstrated 16 electric carbon arc lights and a generator to illuminate the Falls. One year later a Brush DC system was installed in a powerhouse at the end of the canal at Niagara.

In September of 1882 Edison used a steam engine to drive his dynamo to generate direct current electric power for a central power generating station on Pearl Street in New York City. It had 85 customers and 400 lamps. The following year Edison's operation began to sell DC power systems across in America and Europe.

In 1882 Gaulard and Gibbs (Paris) constructed a straight iron core using steel cables in a bundle. On this core they placed thin copper sheet rings insulated from each other with varnish for the primary windings. The secondary windings were made in the same way but there were more of them. The voltage in the secondary was in direct relationship to the number of turns. They named this device "a secondary generator". US patent officials issued a patent for the means of connection of these transformers.

This transformer was only about 60% efficient. The dynamos of that time were about 70% efficient which meant only about 42% of the energy consumed to produce electricity was used by the light.

In 1882 John Hopkinson, British engineer and physicist, patented the three-wire system (three-phase) for electricity generation and distribution. He also defined the principle of the synchronous motor.

Thomson continued his electric design with major improvements in the dynamo but orders remained scarce. In 1882 a group bought controlling interest in American Electric Company and moved it to Lynn, Mass.

At this time there were several American controlled companies in the electrical light business. The following is a list of company names and capital:

In 1883 American Electric was renamed the Thomson-Houston Electric Company. Thomson agreed to a five-year contract to continue his research in the "Model Room" with a salary of $3,000. Charles A. Coffin took over the day to day operation and sales of the company. Edwin Wilbur Rice was put in charge of manufacturing.

In 1883 Gaulard and Gibbs built transformers for the first alternating current demonstration for Grosvenor Gallery on New Bond Street, London. The Siemens generators had an output of 2,000 volts at 10 amperes. The primary of the transformers was in series and individual arc lights were connected to the secondary.

The gauntlet had been laid down and the war of the systems was about to begin.

In 1883 Siemens used a generator to produce about one-half ton of copper per day by electrolysis at his mine.

Copper sulfate or copper chloride easily dissolves in acids. When direct current is passed through the solution copper deposits on the electrode. My only direct experience with electrolysis was in 1964 at Bessemer City, North Carolina. Beryllium ore mined from Kings Mountain was converted to Beryllium chloride before being plated out as pure metal. The use of Beryllium was as a nose cone for the Polaris Missile but was abandoned.

In October 1883 the Edison & Swan United Electric Light Company was formed. (Swan owned a larger share of the stock but agreed to the alphabetical listing.) The lamps produced were the Swan design that used filaments made from treated and carbonized cotton. Edison and Swan had to sue others for patent infringement and the testimony of Swan was critical. They won and held a monopoly in Europe for the carbon filament lamp.

Edison was known to have a trigger finger and be sloppy when it came to patents. The relevant claim in Edison's lamp patent was: "The combination of a carbon filament within a receiver made entirely of glass, through which the leading wire pass and from which the air is exhausted, for the purposes set forth."

Later when it no longer mattered because of the merger The Lord Justices decided, by a majority, that whatever the conductor was in Swan's lamp it was not a filament.

Swan made another contribution to electric lighting when he treated cellulose with nitric acid to produce nitrocellulose. This material was dissolved in acetic acid to make a liquid and when squirted into alcohol it produced a long uniform fiber. After thermal treatment this produced a carbon fiber that was much better than any filament used to that time.

Edison Swan did not use this new material because they had a monopoly and did not want to spend the money to develop the process. In 1886 the Anglo-American Brush Electric Lighting Corporation first started using the process. Carbon filaments continued in use until 1920 when they were replaced by the tungsten wire.

A Dutch firm, Eenste Nederlandsche Kunstzijdefabrik in Arnheim, (Enka) later modified the Swan chemical process and began the production of rayon textile fibers.(artificial silk) This firm started the first rayon processing plant in America near Asheville, NC in 1929. My father worked as a laborer on the construction crew. In 1945 he was employed as the cashier for the cafeteria where he worked until he retired. My first job was with the nylon department of this firm in 1954.

The simple process of converting rayon to carbon and impregnating it with pitch became the technology known as carbon-carbon in the 1970's.

In 1883 state legislature of New York created a state reservation around Niagara Falls. The owners of the water wheels and mills in the area were partially compensated when their property was appropriated by eminent domain. In a speech supporting the legislation New York Governor Lucius Robinson said it was "well known, and a matter of universal complaint, that the most favorable points of observation around the Falls are appropriated for the purposes of private profit, while the shores swarm with sharpers, hucksters, and peddlers who perpetually harass all visitors."

This was the first acquisition by a state government of property for preservation of the natural environment. The first national park had been created at Yellowstone in 1872. The second national park was created at Yosemite, California, in 1890. The use and misuse of state and federal laws for parks and reserves in the years to come fill volumes in the law libraries.

In 1884 J. A. Fleming (England) studied the force between conductors carrying alternating currents. A copper ring suspended in a coil carrying alternating current tended to twist so as to be edge on to the magnetic field. He also demonstrated that a copper or aluminum ring was thrown off an iron bar in a coil when alternating current was applied.

He did not recognize the linear possibilities of this force but did discuss his findings with Elihu Thompson who was able to use these forces in a rotary motor. Fleming continued his search for uses of electricity and in 1904 constructed a vacuum tube rectifier that became a major tool for wireless communications. Many historians consider that he was the grandfather of the radio tube that first used the Edison effect. (The emission of electrons by a heated element).

Sir Charles Algernon Parsons constructed the first practical steam turbine in 1884. This turbine spun at 18,000 revolutions per minute and when connected to a dynamo produced 75 amperes at 100 volts at 300-cycles before conversion to direct current.

All mechanical devices that produce electricity from a rotating magnetic field or from conductors rotating past the north/south poles of fixed magnetic fields produce alternating current. The frequency of current (cycles per second) is the speed of rotation (rpm) times the number of poles divided by sixty.

The Ganz Works in Budapest Hungary demonstrated their alternating current system at the National Exhibition in Budapest in 1885. The primary was 1,350 volts single phase at 70 cycles with a lower voltage secondary split up using seventy five small transformers feeding more than one thousand filament lamps.

In 1885 Galileo Ferraris demonstrated in public that he had produced polyphase alternating current using a rotary magnetic device. That same year a line was constructed by the Ganz group in Cerchi, Italy to Rome that became the first system to transmit 150 horsepower at 2,000 volts of alternating current over a distance of seventeen miles.

A search of the Internet will locate a museum where four different Ferraris models are shown. He did not officially publish results until about one month before Tesla obtained his induction motor patents. Photos of the early large Tesla motors at the Hagley Museum and Library are remarkably similar to the Ferraris models.

Before opening his electric factory George Westinghouse purchased the rights in the United States for the use of the Gaulard and Gibbs transformer patents. He hired William Stanley, Jr. as chief engineer for the planned transformer operation. Stanley improved the efficiency and methods of construction by using sheet steel clamped together in a rectangular form. On two sides of the rectangle he wound copper bar induction coils with one coil having five times more turns than the other. The completed transformer had a 500 volt primary and a 100 volt secondary. Stanley was issued US method of construction patent No. 349,611.

In 1886 Stanley moved to Great Barrington, Massachusetts where he rented a deserted rubber mill to set up the first demonstration of alternating current in the USA. He purchased a 25 horsepower boiler and steam engine to connect the Siemens alternator Westinghouse imported from England. In this facility he constructed 26 transformers and used four of these to set up lights in Great Barrington. In the village he lit 13 stores, 2 hotels, 2 doctors' offices, 1 barbershop, and the telephone and post offices. The distance from the generator to the center of town was about 4000 feet. Ten transformers were sent to Pittsburgh to demonstrate a system about two miles long.

In a rented plant in Pittsburgh's Garrison Alley the Westinghouse Electric Company was born in 1886. Using the financial success of his air brake operation George Westinghouse and his engineers started the design and building of electrical equipment that used alternating current.

In 1886 the Niagara River Hydraulic Tunnel Power & Sewer Company secured a charter in to divert water from the upper Niagara River that would use a tunnel under the Falls to feed 38 vertical shafts containing turbines to provide 200,000 horsepower to provide power to factories above. The company could not attract enough money to finance this project and construction was stalled.

The United States had fifteen manufactures of electric motors by 1887 and more than 10,000 units had been produced. The most important of these was the Curtis, Crocker, Wheeler Company that produced 6 volt and 100 volt DC motors for sewing machines and other small devices. The Sprague Electric Railway and Motor Company, Frank Julian Sprague, was manufacturing the best medium sized DC motor of the time.

By 1887 Westinghouse had installed their AC incandescent lighting system on the Brush facility at Niagara Falls and groups in England and Europe were already supplying AC systems. The management of Thomson Houston realized that alternating current would be the way of the future and pressed Thomson to provide the technical solutions. He had been working on the problem since 1885 but was blocked by the series connection patented by Gibbs and Gaulard. His efforts were to make self regulating transformers connected in parallel. An AC generator was installed in the Thomson Houston factory in Lynn to provide incandescent lighting and to test the system.

This photo is from the MIT archives:

Conflicting patents plagued the companies entering the AC electric market. Thomson met with Frank L. Pope, Westinghouse consultant, and an agreement was signed in August 1887 that allowed Westinghouse to sell Thomson Houston arc lighting equipment and in return allowed Thomson Houston the rights to manufacture AC equipment without fear of infringing Westinghouse patents. This agreement was no longer useful in 1889 when the courts ruled that the Westinghouse patent was invalid.

Thomson moved quickly with his developments for the AC market and was the first to use oil as an insulator in transformers. During this period he did the foundation work for the upcoming arc welding technology.

Running motors using alternating current was a problem because the torque was reduced and speed control required an expensive regulator. Thomson used a DC motor connected in a way that allowed changing the position of the carbon brushes for speed control. The patent issued was for a "Repulsion Motor" that could be used for alternating current systems. This motor was an induction-repulsion motor and one of the main items to come from it was Thomson's recording wattmeter some time later.

By the end of 1887 Thomson Houston has installed 22 alternating current systems. That same year in London Sebastian Ziani de Ferranti completed plans to build a steam powered alternating current generating station on the River Thames just outside London. The generators were 10,000 horsepower, three phase, 50 cycles. Twelve generators were planned. The trio of Zipernowsky, Blathy, and Deri of ZBD in Hungary were offering AC systems all over Europe.

In 1887 the Tesla Electric Company was a small operation run by, Nikola Tesla, a recent immigrant from Serbia. His experience with electricity included two years in Europe troubleshooting DC power systems and a short time with Edison before quitting in a salary dispute. Tesla did not have a large laboratory so much of the experience for his induction motor patents was in his mind.

In the patent illustrations Tesla shows a motor with four or six poles connected to four or six slip rings on the output shaft of a generator. The connection is arranged so the poles in the motor are progressively shifted as the generator rotates. In a series of four patents his patent writer covered all the bases for the Induction Motor.

The Tesla patents were issued on May 1, 1888 and claim: "The combination, with a motor containing separate or independent circuits on the armature or field-magnet, or both, of an alternating current containing induced circuits connected independently to corresponding circuits in the motor, whereby a rotation of the generator produces a progressive shifting of the poles of the motor, as herein described."

Without any mention of frequency or number of phases the examiner gave Tesla patents for any combination of induction motor at any frequency. What was not asked for or given was the polyphase generation or the three wire connection used today.

The use of a moving magnetic field to cause rotation had been known since the 1820's and interference claims were filed against Tesla. He did not have enough funds to fight through the courts or to build his motor for the market.

At some point George Westinghouse entered into an agreement for the rights to Tesla's patents. The exact terms and conditions of the agreement are not in the historical records. The most credible record was that he was paid $60,000 with 90% being in Westinghouse stock and a royalty of $2.50 per installed kW. Today the history of Westinghouse records that the Tesla designs were flawed and were completely redesigned. He was not very diplomatic and by his own admission did not put his ideas in writing or sketches. This was more than the engineers in Pittsburgh could handle as they were under the gun to get projects completed. The main problem that plagued the Tesla design was starting the motor under load in small stations.

The first city to use Westinghouse alternating current lights in the USA was Greensburg, Pennsylvania in 1888. The money men of the time did not like the cutthroat tactics of the electric companies. It was agreed that Thomson Houston would not bid on the Richmond tramway project if Sprague would not bid on the system for Washington, DC. This allowed Sprague to build the first practical electric tramway system in Richmond, Virginia in 1888. The forty cars operated over 15 miles of streets using direct current from overhead wires.

Sprague's next project was in Asheville, North Carolina. Lack of profits and increased competition from Thomson Houston forced him to join Edison in 1889. He did not stay long before again establishing a business to build elevators and this company later became Otis Elevator.

Lester A. Pelton founded the Pelton Water Wheel Company in 1888. His wheel used the momentum of a water jet impinging on buckets attached to the periphery of a wheel to produce power. This mechanical improvement in water turbines was equally as important as the rotating field in the progress of electric power. Pelton was the first to use Bernoulli's principles of hydrodynamics written in the 1700's. This early work also revealed the foundation for jet propulsion.

In 1972 I handled the purchase of the control department of the Pelton Water Wheel Company. It was the time when the environmentalist found reasons to stop building dams and the movie "Deliverance" was popular.

In October 1888 Vladimir Ilyich Lenin was released from Siberian exile and secretly became a member of a Marxist society that taught the revolutionary ideas of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Anti-Semitic campaigns intensified after Alexander III miraculously survived a railway accident in 1888. The divide between the rich and poor grew larger and the fight for political reforms gained in strength in Russia. The Czar and others blamed the Jews for social unrest. They were fired from jobs in the civil service and forbidden to trade on Sundays and Christian holidays. Jews were no longer allowed to live in villages or rent property outside their approved residence. Many Jews fled from greater Russia into Germany with many of them immigrating to America.

In 1889 the Niagara River Hydraulic Tunnel Power & Sewer Company was re-organized and became the Niagara Falls Power Company with a New York financier, Edward Dean Adams, as the president. The Niagara Falls area could not use all the power that would be generated and there was still no economical method to deliver electricity long distances. The Cataract Construction Corporation was incorporated as a subsidiary company, but really the holding company of Niagara Power, with J.P. Morgan, John Astor, William Vanderbilt and Edward Dean Adams providing the funds.

Adams sold his shares and resigned his directorship in Edison to eliminate a conflict of interest in selecting a supplier. He visited England, France, and Germany to see their electrical systems and to Switzerland where hydropower development was the most advanced. Cataract started construction on a shortened version (50,000 horsepower) of the Evershed tunnel soon after Adams returned from Europe. The 38-shaft plan was replaced with a single point of generation at a reduced cost.

The silver recession of the late 80's slowed down economies in the USA and Europe and this coupled with skyrocketing increases in the price of copper sent shock waves through the electrical industry. The high costs of patent litigation and price competition caused the money boys to rethink their strategy. Edison's companies were consolidated and placed under the control of professional managers. The banks called their Westinghouse loans and it appeared that he would go out of business.

The issue of safety was the battleground for the "battle of the systems". It really heated up when AC was first used in 1890 when it was first used for an electrocution in Sing Sing prison. William Kemmler was electrocuted on August 6, 1890 in Auburn Prison in New York. "The chair was fitted with two metal disks sandwiched between a rubber holder and a damp sponge. A current of about 700 volts was delivered for seventeen seconds and witnesses reported smelling charred flesh. The second charge was 1030 volts for two minutes and this caused smoke to rise from Kemmler's head."

Thomson stood by the side as Westinghouse and Edison fought the battle. When asked by his management to defend the safety of AC, he wrote, "I have no panacea - for all the ills which may follow the use of high potential currents under conditions usually found in large cities. I can no more say how to make electricity safe in such cases than I can say how to make railroad travel safe, or how to make steamship travel safe, or how to make the use of illuminating gas safe, nor the use of steam boilers safe. No improvement of our modern civilization has ever been introduced but that involved considerable risk."

Edison studied the use of AC and finally concluded: "The use of the alternating current is unworthy of practical men".

Westinghouse countered by asking lawmakers to make laws limiting the voltage in homes to less than 100 volts.

This early battle became the basis for 110 volts in the USA while most of the rest of the world uses 220 volts in households and offices.

Lower courts found that other patents made the Edison patents invalid and this allowed over 100 small companies to manufacture the lamp. Edison's lawyers instituted legal proceedings against those who infringed. On July 1891a federal court found that Edison had invented the first incandescent lamp with a high-resistance carbon filament. Thomson welcomed the fact that they could negotiate with Edison and eliminate the smaller competitors.

Westinghouse already had a way around the patent with a lamp that did not infringe on Edison's patent.

It is not clear where he obtained the money but Tesla continued to apply for electric motor patent during this period when he was consumed with the idea of producing high voltage and high frequency using an arc, capacitor, and induction coil. It is clear that Westinghouse did not directly fund this idea. On November 30, 1891 he was issued patent number 462,418 as the basis of the Tesla coil.

From the patent:

"This invention is an improvement in methods of and apparatus for electrical conversion, designed for the better and more economical distribution and application of electrical energy for general useful purposes.

My invention is based on certain electrical phenomena which have been observed by eminent scientist which have been in a measure demonstrated, but which, so far as I am aware, have not hitherto been utilized or applied with any practical useful result".

Later the attempt to achieve too much including control of the weather and transmission of power without wires would be the downfall of Tesla. "The idea presented itself to me that it might be possible, under observance of proper conditions of resonance, to transmit electric energy through the earth, thus dispensing with all artificial conductors."


In 1937 he sold his "Death Beam" to the Soviet Union. http://www.ioa.com/~zero/434d-DeathBeam.htm

In 1891 Oskar von Miller working with Charles Eugene Lancelot Brown, head of the Oerlikon companies electrical department, and Michael Dolivo-Dobrowolski demonstrated a 20,000-volt alternating current power transmission line from Lauffen to Frankfurt at the International Electrical Engineering Exhibition in Frankfurt am Main. That year Brown teamed up with Walter Boveri to form Brown, Boveri @ Cie. Sigmund Schuckert demonstrated his alternating current synchronous electric motor at this exposition and Westinghouse copied the design for the American market.

In 1891 Westinghouse installed a single-phase generator with an output of 3,000 volts and a frequency of 133-cycles. This unit was driven by a Pelton waterwheel with a 320 foot head. The power was transmitted 2.6 miles to Gold King Mine to operate a motor for an ore crusher. To start this motor Westinghouse used, for the first time, a 10 horsepower Tesla induction motor. If the $2.50 per kW was true then Tesla had earned $25 for the first time.

A solar powered steam engine was built in the early 1890's in Pasadena California by a farmer to pump water for his farm. He used mirrors focused on a boiler to provide steam to pump 1,400 gallons of water per minute.

In 1892 E.G. Acheson developed the abrasive he called "Carborundum" using carbon element electric furnaces patented by Siemens fourteen years earlier. Rudolf Christian Karl Diesel patented the internal-combustion.

William T. Love started the project to dig a seven-mile canal at Niagara but stopped after one mile.

Elihu Thomson at Thomson-Houston completed tests on a three-phase AC generator to run motors and lights.

A powerhouse was built in 1892 just above the Horseshoe Falls and provided direct electrical current for the Niagara Falls Park & River Railway. The three 1000 horsepower turbines were built by W. Kennedy & Sons of Owen Sound, Ontario and spun at 200 revolutions per minute.

J.P. Morgan had a mayor stake in Edison and was planning to take over Thomson Houston in addition to controlling all the generation of power in the United States.

Equipment for central power station had become sales strategy for the electrical companies. By 1992 the following was the share: Thomson Houston (666), Westinghouse (323), Edison (202), Brush (144), American (67), Western Electric (53), United States (51), Schuler (49), Heisler (49), Waterhouse (41), Ball (31), Van Depoele (31), Excelisor (25), Sperry (24), National (16), Remington (4), and others 11.

Thompson Houston purchased Van Depoele, Brush, Schuler, and Excelisor before Morgan made his offer to merge his Edison holdings. Without letting Thomas Alva Edison in on the deal the merger was completed in 1892. The crowning blow was that the name Edison was dropped and the new company became General Electric. Top management of the new group came from Thomson Houston. Thomson received an increase in pay and remained in the model room in Lynn. The engineering group where Steinmetz worked was part of the deal and he was moved to Schenectady, New York to head up the Calculating Department. At this point Edison was effectively out of the electrical business. He never attended a board meeting of General Electric because he vowed that he would never set on a board he did not control.


Cataract Construction Company hired Professor George Forbes in April 1892 as a consultant. Forbes had some experience with hydropower in Scotland and was the first to introduce the use carbon to replace copper based alloys as brushes for motors and generators.

Forbes offered a design using three-phase alternating current at 8 cycles. His reasoning was that this would allow a single set of poles per phase rotating at 500 rpm. He also did not think it was proper to use AC directly but rather convert it to DC using motor generators at the place where it would be used. Cataract asked Professor Henry Rowland to review proposal and he wrote a scathing attack on Forbes recommendations.

The new General Electric installed the first US three-phase alternating current system in Redlands, California that transmitted power twenty-one miles at 10,000 volts in 1893.

I have not located the US patent for the three phases that GE controlled at the time.

After the courts denied the transformer patent that protected the AC market for Westinghouse and Thomson Houston and the formation of the new GE the Tesla patents became very important. He rushed to complete the building of a demonstration model of the system he was offering for the Niagara Falls project.

Rowland later reviewed bids from Westinghouse, General, Electric, Brown Boveri and Oerikon. The total report was reasonable but he showed preference while describing the Westinghouse proposal. "Attractive from its artistic beauty. Its sterling qualities grow upon one the more it is studied".

Rowland report states that the use of two or three phase generation is free of patents with GE holding the three wire patent and a German firm holding a special form of the three phase transformer. He concluded that the Tesla induction motor patent did not preclude the use of the Elihu Thomson repulsion-induction motor. His bottom line conclusion was that Tesla's patents for starting AC motors would probably hold but felt the method was defective and recommended the use of small DC motors to start any larger AC motor.


After Forbes and Rowland both recommended AC, Edison said: "I should like to see about a dozen professors set down to a banquet of boiled crow."

On May 1, 1893 Westinghouse demonstrated the two-phase alternating-current power system at the World's Colombian Exposition in Chicago. This event was to celebrate the four hundredth anniversary of the discovery of America. A large sign at the fair proclaimed the "Tesla Polyphase System". In addition to the induction motor Tesla showed off his coil and generating system that produced very high voltage that was all bark but no bite. He was able to light neon lights without wires and appear to be aglow as he bathed himself in electricity. Tesla was what people came to see and was the star salesman.

In 1893 Henry Ford completed the construction of his first automobile that he built as a hobby during his free time. Five years before finishing his private transportation device he was a mechanical engineer, and later chief engineer, with the Edison Illuminating Company.

Henri Moissan hoping to produce diamonds in 1893 put a mixture of lime and carbon in a container heated to 2,000 C by electricity and produced the first known calcium carbide.

When calcium carbide is mixed with water it produces acetylene. For a brief period in time this gas was used to produce light that made an arc light and the Edison lamp look dark.

Acetylene is the Creators secret weapon. Two parts carbon and two parts hydrogen this gas, which is just lighter than air, is about 92% carbon became the backbone of the petrochemical with one of the first products from acetylene being PVC.

Czar Alexander III died in 1894 during a holiday in Yalta just weeks after he ordered the Jews expelled from the city as a precautionary measure. The new Czar, Nicholas II, made it clear from the start that he would guard the monarchy with the same strictness as his father.

In 1895 Popoff, a Russian, constructed a receiver for natural electrical waves with the aim to detect thunderstorms. His receiver beat Guglielmo Marconi by more than a year. The same year Wilhelm Roentgen discovered X rays and a year later Antoine Becquerel detected radioactive rays. This was followed by J.J. Thomson's detection of electrons.

Rowland and others began studies and experiments to measure the skin effect of alternating current.

In 1894 the Niagara Falls Power Company began placing contracts for Edward Dean Adams power station #1.

Pelton Waterwheel Company furnished the five and one-half foot water turbines mounted 140 foot below the water inlet that provided about 145,000 gallons per minute. A "fly-ball" governor controlled the correct amount of water to maintain the speed of the vertical shaft.

Westinghouse furnished the 5000 horsepower generators that connected to the turbine. Twelve, 2800 pound, electromagnets plus the drive shaft provided a 25-ton flywheel that spun as an outer structure (umbrella type) around the windings that were arranged as two sets of poles at 180 degrees to produce two phase and 2,300 volts. Six poles rotating at 250 revolutions per minute produced 25- cycles. This output was connected by four wires to a control panel.

5,000 horsepower is about 3,800 kW or 3,800,000 watts. Amperes equals watts divided by volts so each phase was capable of carrying 826 amperes.

A portion of the power from each phase of the first generator was connected to two transformers that stepped the voltage down to 440 volts to operate a two-phase Tesla induction motordriving a DC generator that produced 585-volts to power the existing Niagara Falls trolley system.

In the early morning hours of March 13, 1895 a fire broke out and burned everything in the Tesla laboratory.

On August 26, 1895 the first power was produced from the Niagara Falls generators. Tesla did not attend the opening.

On November 15th 1896, the City of Buffalo joined the power grid being generated from Niagara Falls. General Electric supplied a three phase generator driven by two-phase motor with step up transformers to 11,000 volts so smaller wires could be used over the 26 miles. The 1,000 kW delivered to Buffalo was converted to DC for the electric rail system.

It appeared that Tesla would collect a large royalty check from Westinghouse but for some reason accepted a lump sum.

After a considerable amount of reading I have come to the conclusion that Tesla was a very clever and complex person. He was a dreamer, showman and constant grumbler. With or without the Tesla patents poly-phase alternating current would have been installed at Niagara. The rotating field motor became an important system in later years.


The first big customer for electricity at Niagara was the Pittsburgh Reduction Company that would later become the Aluminum Company of America. The Martin Hall process to produce aluminum needed very large quantities of direct current electricity.

The next customer in Niagara was Carborundum and three years later their founder started to use electricity to produce graphite from carbon as the Acheson Graphite Company. In June 1897 the first furnace full (2,300 pounds) of carbon rods was heated to a temperature in excess of 2500 degrees C to convert the carbon to graphite.

This type equipment was built by many countries including some backward ones during the next 88 years. In 1985 the Pentagon listed this process as critical to our national security and this led to an embargo of an order for heating furnaces my company had with the Soviet Union. Two years later Peter Jennings would report on ABC that this was the worst loss of technology we ever had.

Reciprocating steam engines with multipole disc generators that were built by Crompton drove most of the generators built in England during this period. They could not be used to produce three phase that were widely used in Europe after the turn of the century when steam turbines turned generators at higher speeds.

In 1897 Marconi set up the first transmitter on the Isle of Wright and sent a signal to the English coast fifteen miles away. A year later the first newspaper message was sent from a ship to the Daily Express with the results of a sailing contest.

The Curies and Andrea Debierne isolated radium metal in 1898 in Paris. Other metals discovered at that time were Polonium and Actinium.

Out of these studies came the atomic bomb and many other things.

America declared war on Spain in 1898 and liberated Cuba and the Philippines. Russia occupied Manchuria and rushed to complete the Siberian railway to the Pacific Ocean.

In 1899 General Electric received an order from the Canadian power station at Niagara for three-phase generators but still at 25-cycles. The Ganz Works in Budapest built the first three-phase electric motor using the Tesla principle. Parsons licensed the right to build his new radial flow steam turbine Westinghouse in the USA and Brown, Boveri in Europe.

Frequency determines the speed of rotation of motors and the US selected 3600 revolutions per minute while Europe selected 3000 revolutions. This led to 60-cycle standard in the US and 50-cycle in Europe.

By the end of the 1800's General Electric was the largest electrical supplier in the USA and Siemens was the largest worldwide.

Lenin departed Russia for Europe to avoid arrest.

Many engineers of the time thought that all modern things had already been invented and nothing new would come in the next century because we could not utilize all the things that had been invented in the previous fifty years. Life expectancy was 47 years and many new medicines had been patented. It was time to relax and live a little. A few prepared for the end of time as 1899 closed.