Into this converted structure was put the most complete steam plant obtainable, together with all the mechanical and engineering adjuncts bearing upon economical and successful operation. Being in a narrow street and a congested district, the plant needed special facilities for the handling of coal and ashes, as well as for ventilation and forced draught. All of these details received Mr. Edison's personal care and consideration on the spot, in addition to the multitude of other affairs demanding his thought. Although not a steam or mechanical engineer, his quick grasp of principles and omnivorous reading had soon supplied the lack of training; nor had he forgotten the practical experience picked up as a boy on the locomotives of the Grand Trunk road. It is to be noticed as a feature of the plant, in common with many of later construction, that it was placed well away from the water's edge, and equipped with non-condensing engines; whereas the modern plant invariably seeks the bank of a river or lake for the purpose of a generous supply of water for its condensing engines or steam-turbines. These are among the refinements of practice coincidental with the advance of the art.
At the award of the John Fritz gold medal in April, 1909, to Charles T. Porter for his work in advancing the knowledge of steam-engineering, and for improvements in engine construction, Mr. Frank J. Sprague spoke on behalf of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers of the debt of electricity to the high-speed steam-engine. He recalled the fact that at the French Exposition of 1867 Mr. Porter installed two Porter-Allen engines to drive electric alternating-current generators for supplying current to primitive lighthouse apparatus. While the engines were not directly coupled to the dynamos, it was a curious fact that the piston speeds and number of revolutions were what is common to-day in isolated direct-coupled plants. In the dozen years following Mr. Porter built many engines with certain common characteristics—i.e., high piston speed and revolutions, solid engine bed, and babbitt-metal bearings; but there was no electric driving until 1880, when Mr. Porter installed a high-speed engine for Edison at his laboratory in Menlo Park. Shortly after this he was invited to construct for the Edison Pearl Street station the first of a series of engines for so-called "steam-dynamos," each independently driven by a direct-coupled engine. Mr. Sprague compared the relations thus established between electricity and the high-speed engine not to those of debtor and creditor, but rather to those of partners—an industrial marriage—one of the most important in the engineering world. Here were two machines destined to be joined together, economizing space, enhancing economy, augmenting capacity, reducing investment, and increasing dividends.
While rapid progress was being made in this and other directions, the wheels of industry were humming merrily at the Edison Tube Works, for over fifteen miles of tube conductors were required for the district, besides the boxes to connect the network at the street intersections, and the hundreds of junction boxes for taking the service conductors into each of the hundreds of buildings. In addition to the immense amount of money involved, this specialized industry required an enormous amount of experiment, as it called for the development of an entirely new art. But with Edison's inventive fertility—if ever there was a cross-fertilizer of mechanical ideas it is he—and with Mr. Kruesi's never-failing patience and perseverance applied to experiment and evolution, rapid progress was made. A franchise having been obtained from the city, the work of laying the underground conductors began in the late fall of 1881, and was pushed with almost frantic energy. It is not to be supposed, however, that the Edison tube system had then reached a finality of perfection in the eyes of its inventor. In his correspondence with Kruesi, as late as 1887, we find Edison bewailing the inadequacy of the insulation of the conductors under twelve hundred volts pressure, as for example: "Dear Kruesi,—There is nothing wrong with your present compound. It is splendid. The whole trouble is air-bubbles. The hotter it is poured the greater the amount of air-bubbles. At 212 it can be put on rods and there is no bubble. I have a man experimenting and testing all the time. Until I get at the proper method of pouring and getting rid of the air-bubbles, it will be waste of time to experiment with other asphalts. Resin oil distils off easily. It may answer, but paraffine or other similar substances must be put in to prevent brittleness, One thing is certain, and that is, everything must be poured in layers, not only the boxes, but the tubes. The tube itself should have a thin coating. The rope should also have a coating. The rods also. The whole lot, rods and rope, when ready for tube, should have another coat, and then be placed in tube and filled. This will do the business." Broad and large as a continent in his ideas, if ever there was a man of finical fussiness in attention to detail, it is Edison. A letter of seven pages of about the same date in 1887 expatiates on the vicious troubles caused by the air-bubble, and remarks with fine insight into the problems of insulation and the idea of layers of it: "Thus you have three separate coatings, and it is impossible an air-hole in one should match the other."
To a man less thorough and empirical in method than Edison, it would have been sufficient to have made his plans clear to associates or subordinates and hold them responsible for accurate results. No such vicarious treatment would suit him, ready as he has always been to share the work where he could give his trust. In fact he realized, as no one else did at this stage, the tremendous import of this novel and comprehensive scheme for giving the world light; and he would not let go, even if busy to the breaking-point. Though plunged in a veritable maelstrom of new and important business interests, and though applying for no fewer than eighty-nine patents in 1881, all of which were granted, he superintended on the spot all this laying of underground conductors for the first district. Nor did he merely stand around and give orders. Day and night he actually worked in the trenches with the laborers, amid the dirt and paving-stones and hurry-burly of traffic, helping to lay the tubes, filling up junction-boxes, and taking part in all the infinite detail. He wanted to know for himself how things went, why for some occult reason a little change was necessary, what improvement could be made in the material. His hours of work were not regulated by the clock, but lasted until he felt the need of a little rest. Then he would go off to the station building in Pearl Street, throw an overcoat on a pile of tubes, lie down and sleep for a few hours, rising to resume work with the first gang. There was a small bedroom on the third floor of the station available for him, but going to bed meant delay and consumed time. It is no wonder that such impatience, such an enthusiasm, drove the work forward at a headlong pace.
Edison says of this period: "When we put down the tubes in the lower part of New York, in the streets, we kept a big stock of them in the cellar of the station at Pearl Street. As I was on all the time, I would take a nap of an hour or so in the daytime—any time—and I used to sleep on those tubes in the cellar. I had two Germans who were testing there, and both of them died of diphtheria, caught in the cellar, which was cold and damp. It never affected me."
It is worth pausing just a moment to glance at this man taking a fitful rest on a pile of iron pipe in a dingy building. His name is on the tip of the world's tongue. Distinguished scientists from every part of Europe seek him eagerly. He has just been decorated and awarded high honors by the French Government. He is the inventor of wonderful new apparatus, and the exploiter of novel and successful arts. The magic of his achievements and the rumors of what is being done have caused a wild drop in gas securities, and a sensational rise in his own electric-light stock from $100 to $3500 a share. Yet these things do not at all affect his slumber or his democratic simplicity, for in that, as in everything else, he is attending strictly to business, "doing the thing that is next to him."
Part of the rush and feverish haste was due to the approach of frost, which, as usual in New York, suspended operations in the earth; but the laying of the conductors was resumed promptly in the spring of 1882; and meantime other work had been advanced. During the fall and winter months two more "Jumbo" dynamos were built and sent to London, after which the construction of six for New York was swiftly taken in hand. In the month of May three of these machines, each with a capacity of twelve hundred incandescent lamps, were delivered at Pearl Street and assembled on the second floor. On July 5th—owing to the better opportunity for ceaseless toil given by a public holiday—the construction of the operative part of the station was so far completed that the first of the dynamos was operated under steam; so that three days later the satisfactory experiment was made of throwing its flood of electrical energy into a bank of one thousand lamps on an upper floor. Other tests followed in due course. All was excitement. The field-regulating apparatus and the electrical-pressure indicator—first of its kind—were also tested, and in turn found satisfactory. Another vital test was made at this time—namely, of the strength of the iron structure itself on which the plant was erected. This was done by two structural experts; and not till he got their report as to ample factors of safety was Edison reassured as to this detail.
A remark of Edison, familiar to all who have worked with him, when it is reported to him that something new goes all right and is satisfactory from all points of view, is: "Well, boys, now let's find the bugs," and the hunt for the phylloxera begins with fiendish, remorseless zest. Before starting the plant for regular commercial service, he began personally a series of practical experiments and tests to ascertain in advance what difficulties would actually arise in practice, so that he could provide remedies or preventives. He had several cots placed in the adjoining building, and he and a few of his most strenuous assistants worked day and night, leaving the work only for hurried meals and a snatch of sleep. These crucial tests, aiming virtually to break the plant down if possible within predetermined conditions, lasted several weeks, and while most valuable in the information they afforded, did not hinder anything, for meantime customers' premises throughout the district were being wired and supplied with lamps and meters.
On Monday, September 4, 1882, at 3 o'clock, P.M., Edison realized the consummation of his broad and original scheme. The Pearl Street station was officially started by admitting steam to the engine of one of the "Jumbos," current was generated, turned into the network of underground conductors, and was transformed into light by the incandescent lamps that had thus far been installed. This date and event may properly be regarded as historical, for they mark the practical beginning of a new art, which in the intervening years has grown prodigiously, and is still increasing by leaps and bounds.
Everything worked satisfactorily in the main. There were a few mechanical and engineering annoyances that might naturally be expected to arise in a new and unprecedented enterprise; but nothing of sufficient moment to interfere with the steady and continuous supply of current to customers at all hours of the day and night. Indeed, once started, this station was operated uninterruptedly for eight years with only insignificant stoppage.
It will have been noted by the reader that there was nothing to indicate rashness in starting up the station, as only one dynamo was put in operation. Within a short time, however, it was deemed desirable to supply the underground network with more current, as many additional customers had been connected and the demand for the new light was increasing very rapidly. Although Edison had successfully operated several dynamos in multiple arc two years before—i.e., all feeding current together into the same circuits—there was not, at this early period of experience, any absolute certainty as to what particular results might occur upon the throwing of the current from two or more such massive dynamos into a great distributing system. The sequel showed the value of Edison's cautious method in starting the station by operating only a single unit at first.
He decided that it would be wise to make the trial operation of a second "Jumbo" on a Sunday, when business houses were closed in the district, thus obviating any danger of false impressions in the public mind in the event of any extraordinary manifestations. The circumstances attending the adding of a second dynamo are thus humorously described by Edison: "My heart was in my mouth at first, but everything worked all right.... Then we started another engine and threw them in parallel. Of all the circuses since Adam was born, we had the worst then! One engine would stop, and the other would run up to about a thousand revolutions, and then they would see-saw. The trouble was with the governors. When the circus commenced, the gang that was standing around ran out precipitately, and I guess some of them kept running for a block or two. I grabbed the throttle of one engine, and E. H. Johnson, who was the only one present to keep his wits, caught hold of the other, and we shut them off." One of the "gang" that ran, but, in this case, only to the end of the room, afterward said: "At the time it was a terrifying experience, as I didn't know what was going to happen. The engines and dynamos made a horrible racket, from loud and deep groans to a hideous shriek, and the place seemed to be filled with sparks and flames of all colors. It was as if the gates of the infernal regions had been suddenly opened."
This trouble was at once attacked by Edison in his characteristic and strenuous way. The above experiment took place between three and four o'clock on a Sunday afternoon, and within a few hours he had gathered his superintendent and men of the machine-works and had them at work on a shafting device that he thought would remedy the trouble. He says: "Of course, I discovered that what had happened was that one set was running the other as a motor. I then put up a long shaft, connecting all the governors together, and thought this would certainly cure the trouble; but it didn't. The torsion of the shaft was so great that one governor still managed to get ahead of the others. Well, it was a serious state of things, and I worried over it a lot. Finally I went down to Goerck Street and got a piece of shafting and a tube in which it fitted. I twisted the shafting one way and the tube the other as far as I could, and pinned them together. In this way, by straining the whole outfit up to its elastic limit in opposite directions, the torsion was practically eliminated, and after that the governors ran together all right."
Edison realized, however, that in commercial practice this was only a temporary expedient, and that a satisfactory permanence of results could only be attained with more perfect engines that could be depended upon for close and simple regulation. The engines that were made part of the first three "Jumbos" placed in the station were the very best that could be obtained at the time, and even then had been specially designed and built for the purpose. Once more quoting Edison on this subject: "About that time" (when he was trying to run several dynamos in parallel in the Pearl Street station) "I got hold of Gardiner C. Sims, and he undertook to build an engine to run at three hundred and fifty revolutions and give one hundred and seventy-five horse-power. He went back to Providence and set to work, and brought the engine back with him to the shop. It worked only a few minutes when it busted. That man sat around that shop and slept in it for three weeks, until he got his engine right and made it work the way he wanted it to. When he reached this period I gave orders for the engine-works to run night and day until we got enough engines, and when all was ready we started the engines. Then everything worked all right.... One of these engines that Sims built ran twenty-four hours a day, three hundred and sixty-five days in the year, for over a year before it stopped." 
[Footnote 12: We quote the following interesting notes of Mr. Charles L. Clarke on the question of see-sawing, or "hunting," as it was afterward termed:
"In the Holborn Viaduct station the difficulty of 'hunting' was not experienced. At the time the 'Jumbos' were first operated in multiple arc, April 8, 1882, one machine was driven by a Porter-Allen engine, and the other by an Armington & Sims engine, and both machines were on a solid foundation. At the station at Milan, Italy, the first 'Jumbos' operated in multiple arc were driven by Porter-Allen engines, and dash-pots were applied to the governors. These machines were also upon a solid foundation, and no trouble was experienced.
"At the Pearl Street station, however, the machines were supported upon long iron floor-beams, and at the high speed of 350 revolutions per minute, considerable vertical vibration was given to the engines. And the writer is inclined to the opinion that this vibration, acting in the same direction as the action of gravitation, which was one of the two controlling forces in the operation of the Porter-Allen governor, was the primary cause of the 'hunting.' In the Armington & Sims engine the controlling forces in the operation of the governor were the centrifugal force of revolving weights, and the opposing force of compressed springs, and neither the action of gravitation nor the vertical vibrations of the engine could have any sensible effect upon the governor."]
The Pearl Street station, as this first large plant was called, made rapid and continuous growth in its output of electric current. It started, as we have said, on September 4, 1882, supplying about four hundred lights to a comparatively small number of customers. Among those first supplied was the banking firm of Drexel, Morgan & Company, corner of Broad and Wall streets, at the outermost limits of the system. Before the end of December of the same year the light had so grown in favor that it was being supplied to over two hundred and forty customers whose buildings were wired for over five thousand lamps. By this time three more "Jumbos" had been added to the plant. The output from this time forward increased steadily up to the spring of 1884, when the demands of the station necessitated the installation of two additional "Jumbos" in the adjoining building, which, with the venous improvements that had been made in the mean time, gave the station a capacity of over eleven thousand lamps actually in service at any one time.
During the first three months of operating the Pearl Street station light was supplied to customers without charge. Edison had perfect confidence in his meters, and also in the ultimate judgment of the public as to the superiority of the incandescent electric light as against other illuminants. He realized, however, that in the beginning of the operation of an entirely novel plant there was ample opportunity for unexpected contingencies, although the greatest care had been exercised to make everything as perfect as possible. Mechanical defects or other unforeseen troubles in any part of the plant or underground system might arise and cause temporary stoppages of operation, thus giving grounds for uncertainty which would create a feeling of public distrust in the permanence of the supply of light.
As to the kind of mishap that was wont to occur, Edison tells the following story: "One afternoon, after our Pearl Street station started, a policeman rushed in and told us to send an electrician at once up to the corner of Ann and Nassau streets—some trouble. Another man and I went up. We found an immense crowd of men and boys there and in the adjoining streets—a perfect jam. There was a leak in one of our junction-boxes, and on account of the cellars extending under the street, the top soil had become insulated. Hence, by means of this leak powerful currents were passing through this thin layer of moist earth. When a horse went to pass over it he would get a very severe shock. When I arrived I saw coming along the street a ragman with a dilapidated old horse, and one of the boys told him to go over on the other side of the road—which was the place where the current leaked. When the ragman heard this he took that side at once. The moment the horse struck the electrified soil he stood straight up in the air, and then reared again; and the crowd yelled, the policeman yelled; and the horse started to run away. This continued until the crowd got so serious that the policeman had to clear it out; and we were notified to cut the current off. We got a gang of men, cut the current off for several junction-boxes, and fixed the leak. One man who had seen it came to me next day and wanted me to put in apparatus for him at a place where they sold horses. He said he could make a fortune with it, because he could get old nags in there and make them act like thoroughbreds."
So well had the work been planned and executed, however, that nothing happened to hinder the continuous working of the station and the supply of light to customers. Hence it was decided in December, 1882, to begin charging a price for the service, and, accordingly, Edison electrolytic meters were installed on the premises of each customer then connected. The first bill for lighting, based upon the reading of one of these meters, amounted to $50.40, and was collected on January 18, 1883, from the Ansonia Brass and Copper Company, 17 and 19 Cliff Street. Generally speaking, customers found that their bills compared fairly with gas bills for corresponding months where the same amount of light was used, and they paid promptly and cheerfully, with emphatic encomiums of the new light. During November, 1883, a little over one year after the station was started, bills for lighting amounting to over $9000 were collected.
An interesting story of meter experience in the first few months of operation of the Pearl Street station is told by one of the "boys" who was then in position to know the facts; "Mr. J. P. Morgan, whose firm was one of the first customers, expressed to Mr. Edison some doubt as to the accuracy of the meter. The latter, firmly convinced of its correctness, suggested a strict test by having some cards printed and hung on each fixture at Mr. Morgan's place. On these cards was to be noted the number of lamps in the fixture, and the time they were turned on and off each day for a month. At the end of that time the lamp-hours were to be added together by one of the clerks and figured on a basis of a definite amount per lamp-hour, and compared with the bill that would be rendered by the station for the corresponding period. The results of the first month's test showed an apparent overcharge by the Edison company. Mr. Morgan was exultant, while Mr. Edison was still confident and suggested a continuation of the test. Another month's trial showed somewhat similar results. Mr. Edison was a little disturbed, but insisted that there was a mistake somewhere. He went down to Drexel, Morgan & Company's office to investigate, and, after looking around, asked when the office was cleaned out. He was told it was done at night by the janitor, who was sent for, and upon being interrogated as to what light he used, said that he turned on a central fixture containing about ten lights. It came out that he had made no record of the time these lights were in use. He was told to do so in future, and another month's test was made. On comparison with the company's bill, rendered on the meter-reading, the meter came within a few cents of the amount computed from the card records, and Mr. Morgan was completely satisfied of the accuracy of the meter."
It is a strange but not extraordinary commentary on the perversity of human nature and the lack of correct observation, to note that even after the Pearl Street station had been in actual operation twenty-four hours a day for nearly three months, there should still remain an attitude of "can't be done." That such a scepticism still obtained is evidenced by the public prints of the period. Edison's electric-light system and his broad claims were freely discussed and animadverted upon at the very time he was demonstrating their successful application. To show some of the feeling at the time, we reproduce the following letter, which appeared November 29, 1882:
"To the Editor of the Sun:
"SIR,—In reading the discussions relative to the Pearl Street station of the Edison light, I have noted that while it is claimed that there is scarcely any loss from leakage of current, nothing is said about the loss due to the resistance of the long circuits. I am informed that this is the secret of the failure to produce with the power in position a sufficient amount of current to run all the lamps that have been put up, and that while six, and even seven, lights to the horse-power may be produced from an isolated plant, the resistance of the long underground wires reduces this result in the above case to less than three lights to the horse-power, thus making the cost of production greatly in excess of gas. Can the Edison company explain this? 'INVESTIGATOR'."
This was one of the many anonymous letters that had been written to the newspapers on the subject, and the following reply by the Edison company was printed December 3, 1882:
"To the Editor of the Sun:
"SIR,—'Investigator' in Wednesday's Sun, says that the Edison company is troubled at its Pearl Street station with a 'loss of current, due to the resistance of the long circuits'; also that, whereas Edison gets 'six or even seven lights to the horse-power in isolated plants, the resistance of the long underground wires reduces that result in the Pearl Street station to less than three lights to the horse-power.' Both of these statements are false. As regards loss due to resistance, there is a well-known law for determining it, based on Ohm's law. By use of that law we knew in advance, that is to say, when the original plans for the station were drawn, just what this loss would be, precisely the same as a mechanical engineer when constructing a mill with long lines of shafting can forecast the loss of power due to friction. The practical result in the Pearl Street station has fully demonstrated the correctness of our estimate thus made in advance. As regards our getting only three lights per horse-power, our station has now been running three months, without stopping a moment, day or night, and we invariably get over six lamps per horse-power, or substantially the same as we do in our isolated plants. We are now lighting one hundred and ninety-three buildings, wired for forty-four hundred lamps, of which about two-thirds are in constant use, and we are adding additional houses and lamps daily. These figures can be verified at the office of the Board of Underwriters, where certificates with full details permitting the use of our light are filed by their own inspector. To light these lamps we run from one to three dynamos, according to the lamps in use at any given time, and we shall start additional dynamos as fast as we can connect more buildings. Neither as regards the loss due to resistance, nor as regards the number of lamps per horse-power, is there the slightest trouble or disappointment on the part of our company, and your correspondent is entirely in error is assuming that there is. Let me suggest that if 'Investigator' really wishes to investigate, and is competent and willing to learn the exact facts, he can do so at this office, where there is no mystery of concealment, but, on the contrary, a strong desire to communicate facts to intelligent inquirers. Such a method of investigating must certainly be more satisfactory to one honestly seeking knowledge than that of first assuming an error as the basis of a question, and then demanding an explanation.
"Yours very truly,
"S. B. EATON, President."
Viewed from the standpoint of over twenty-seven years later, the wisdom and necessity of answering anonymous newspaper letters of this kind might be deemed questionable, but it must be remembered that, although the Pearl Street station was working successfully, and Edison's comprehensive plans were abundantly vindicated, the enterprise was absolutely new and only just stepping on the very threshold of commercial exploitation. To enter in and possess the land required the confidence of capital and the general public. Hence it was necessary to maintain a constant vigilance to defeat the insidious attacks of carping critics and others who would attempt to injure the Edison system by misleading statements.
It will be interesting to the modern electrician to note that when this pioneer station was started, and in fact for some little time afterward, there was not a single electrical instrument in the whole station—not a voltmeter or an ammeter! Nor was there a central switchboard! Each dynamo had its own individual control switch. The feeder connections were all at the front of the building, and the general voltage control apparatus was on the floor above. An automatic pressure indicator had been devised and put in connection with the main circuits. It consisted, generally speaking, of an electromagnet with relays connecting with a red and a blue lamp. When the electrical pressure was normal, neither lamp was lighted; but if the electromotive force rose above a predetermined amount by one or two volts, the red lamp lighted up, and the attendant at the hand-wheel of the field regulator inserted resistance in the field circuit, whereas, if the blue lamp lighted, resistance was cut out until the pressure was raised to normal. Later on this primitive indicator was supplanted by the "Bradley Bridge," a crude form of the "Howell" pressure indicators, which were subsequently used for many years in the Edison stations.
Much could be added to make a complete pictorial description of the historic Pearl Street station, but it is not within the scope of this narrative to enter into diffuse technical details, interesting as they may be to many persons. We cannot close this chapter, however, without mention of the fate of the Pearl Street station, which continued in successful commercial operation until January 2, 1890, when it was partially destroyed by fire. All the "Jumbos" were ruined, excepting No. 9, which is still a venerated relic in the possession of the New York Edison Company. Luckily, the boilers were unharmed. Belt-driven generators and engines were speedily installed, and the station was again in operation in a few days. The uninjured "Jumbo," No. 9, again continued to perform its duty. But in the words of Mr. Charles L. Clarke, "the glory of the old Pearl Street station, unique in bearing the impress of Mr. Edison's personality, and, as it were, constructed with his own hands, disappeared in the flame and smoke of that Thursday morning fire."
The few days' interruption of the service was the only serious one that has taken place in the history of the New York Edison Company from September 4, 1882, to the present date. The Pearl Street station was operated for some time subsequent to the fire, but increasing demands in the mean time having led to the construction of other stations, the mains of the First District were soon afterward connected to another plant, the Pearl Street station was dismantled, and the building was sold in 1895.
The prophetic insight into the magnitude of central-station lighting that Edison had when he was still experimenting on the incandescent lamp over thirty years ago is a little less than astounding, when it is so amply verified in the operations of the New York Edison Company (the successor of the Edison Electric Illuminating Company of New York) and many others. At the end of 1909 the New York Edison Company alone was operating twenty-eight stations and substations, having a total capacity of 159,500 kilowatts. Connected with its lines were approximately 85,000 customers wired for 3,813,899 incandescent lamps and nearly 225,000 horse-power through industrial electric motors connected with the underground service. A large quantity of electrical energy is also supplied for heating and cooking, charging automobiles, chemical and plating work, and various other uses.
OTHER EARLY STATIONS—THE METER
WE have now seen the Edison lighting system given a complete, convincing demonstration in Paris, London, and New York; and have noted steps taken for its introduction elsewhere on both sides of the Atlantic. The Paris plant, like that at the Crystal Palace, was a temporary exhibit. The London plant was less temporary, but not permanent, supplying before it was torn out no fewer than three thousand lamps in hotels, churches, stores, and dwellings in the vicinity of Holborn Viaduct. There Messrs. Johnson and Hammer put into practice many of the ideas now standard in the art, and secured much useful data for the work in New York, of which the story has just been told.
As a matter of fact the first Edison commercial station to be operated in this country was that at Appleton, Wisconsin, but its only serious claim to notice is that it was the initial one of the system driven by water-power. It went into service August 15, 1882, about three weeks before the Pearl Street station. It consisted of one small dynamo of a capacity of two hundred and eighty lights of 10 c.p. each, and was housed in an unpretentious wooden shed. The dynamo-electric machine, though small, was robust, for under all the varying speeds of water-power, and the vicissitudes of the plant to which it, belonged, it continued in active use until 1899—seventeen years.
Edison was from the first deeply impressed with the possibilities of water-power, and, as this incident shows, was prompt to seize such a very early opportunity. But his attention was in reality concentrated closely on the supply of great centres of population, a task which he then felt might well occupy his lifetime; and except in regard to furnishing isolated plants he did not pursue further the development of hydro-electric stations. That was left to others, and to the application of the alternating current, which has enabled engineers to harness remote powers, and, within thoroughly economical limits, transmit thousands of horse-power as much as two hundred miles at pressures of 80,000 and 100,000 volts. Owing to his insistence on low pressure, direct current for use in densely populated districts, as the only safe and truly universal, profitable way of delivering electrical energy to the consumers, Edison has been frequently spoken of as an opponent of the alternating current. This does him an injustice. At the time a measure was before the Virginia legislature, in 1890, to limit the permissible pressures of current so as to render it safe, he said: "You want to allow high pressure wherever the conditions are such that by no possible accident could that pressure get into the houses of the consumers; you want to give them all the latitude you can." In explaining this he added: "Suppose you want to take the falls down at Richmond, and want to put up a water-power? Why, if we erect a station at the falls, it is a great economy to get it up to the city. By digging a cheap trench and putting in an insulated cable, and connecting such station with the central part of Richmond, having the end of the cable come up into the station from the earth and there connected with motors, the power of the falls would be transmitted to these motors. If now the motors were made to run dynamos conveying low-pressure currents to the public, there is no possible way whereby this high-pressure current could get to the public." In other words, Edison made the sharp fundamental distinction between high pressure alternating current for transmission and low pressure direct current for distribution; and this is exactly the practice that has been adopted in all the great cities of the country to-day. There seems no good reason for believing that it will change. It might perhaps have been altogether better for Edison, from the financial standpoint, if he had not identified himself so completely with one kind of current, but that made no difference to him, as it was a matter of conviction; and Edison's convictions are granitic. Moreover, this controversy over the two currents, alternating and direct, which has become historical in the field of electricity—and is something like the "irrepressible conflict" we heard of years ago in national affairs—illustrates another aspect of Edison's character. Broad as the prairies and free in thought as the winds that sweep them, he is idiosyncratically opposed to loose and wasteful methods, to plans of empire that neglect the poor at the gate. Everything he has done has been aimed at the conservation of energy, the contraction of space, the intensification of culture. Burbank and his tribe represent in the vegetable world, Edison in the mechanical. Not only has he developed distinctly new species, but he has elucidated the intensive art of getting $1200 out of an electrical acre instead of $12—a manured market-garden inside London and a ten-bushel exhausted wheat farm outside Lawrence, Kansas, being the antipodes of productivity—yet very far short of exemplifying the difference of electrical yield between an acre of territory in Edison's "first New York district" and an acre in some small town.
Edison's lighting work furnished an excellent basis—in fact, the only one—for the development of the alternating current now so generally employed in central-station work in America; and in the McGraw Electrical Directory of April, 1909, no fewer than 4164 stations out of 5780 reported its use. When the alternating current was introduced for practical purposes it was not needed for arc lighting, the circuit for which, from a single dynamo, would often be twenty or thirty miles in length, its current having a pressure of not less than five or six thousand volts. For some years it was not found feasible to operate motors on alternating-current circuits, and that reason was often urged against it seriously. It could not be used for electroplating or deposition, nor could it charge storage batteries, all of which are easily within the ability of the direct current. But when it came to be a question of lighting a scattered suburb, a group of dwellings on the outskirts, a remote country residence or a farm-house, the alternating current, in all elements save its danger, was and is ideal. Its thin wires can be carried cheaply over vast areas, and at each local point of consumption the transformer of size exactly proportioned to its local task takes the high-voltage transmission current and lowers its potential at a ratio of 20 or 40 to 1, for use in distribution and consumption circuits. This evolution has been quite distinct, with its own inventors like Gaulard and Gibbs and Stanley, but came subsequent to the work of supplying small, dense areas of population; the art thus growing from within, and using each new gain as a means for further achievement.
Nor was the effect of such great advances as those made by Edison limited to the electrical field. Every department of mechanics was stimulated and benefited to an extraordinary degree. Copper for the circuits was more highly refined than ever before to secure the best conductivity, and purity was insisted on in every kind of insulation. Edison was intolerant of sham and shoddy, and nothing would satisfy him that could not stand cross-examination by microscope, test-tube, and galvanometer. It was, perhaps, the steam-engine on which the deepest imprint for good was made, referred to already in the remarks of Mr. F. J. Sprague in the preceding chapter, but best illustrated in the perfection of the modern high-speed engine of the Armington & Sims type. Unless he could secure an engine of smoother running and more exactly governed and regulated than those available for his dynamo and lamp, Edison realized that he would find it almost impossible to give a steady light. He did not want his customers to count the heart-beats of the engine in the flicker of the lamp. Not a single engine was even within gunshot of the standard thus set up, but the emergency called forth its man in Gardiner C. Sims, a talented draughtsman and designer who had been engaged in locomotive construction and in the engineering department of the United States Navy. He may be quoted as to what happened: "The deep interest, financial and moral, and friendly backing I received from Mr. Edison, together with valuable suggestions, enabled me to bring out the engine; as I was quite alone in the world—poor—I had found a friend who knew what he wanted and explained it clearly. Mr. Edison was a leader far ahead of the time. He compelled the design of the successful engine.
"Our first engine compelled the inventing and making of a suitable engine indicator to indicate it—the Tabor. He obtained the desired speed and load with a friction brake; also regulator of speed; but waited for an indicator to verify it. Then again there was no known way to lubricate an engine for continuous running, and Mr. Edison informed me that as a marine engine started before the ship left New York and continued running until it reached its home port, so an engine for his purposes must produce light at all times. That was a poser to me, for a five-hours' run was about all that had been required up to that time.
"A day or two later Mr. Edison inquired: 'How far is it from here to Lawrence; it is a long walk, isn't it?' 'Yes, rather.' He said: 'Of course you will understand I meant without oil.' To say I was deeply perplexed does not express my feelings. We were at the machine works, Goerck Street. I started for the oil-room, when, about entering, I saw a small funnel lying on the floor. It had been stepped on and flattened. I took it up, and it had solved the engine-oiling problem—and my walk to Lawrence like a tramp actor's was off! The eccentric strap had a round glass oil-cup with a brass base that screwed into the strap. I took it off, and making a sketch, went to Dave Cunningham, having the funnel in my hand to illustrate what I wanted made. I requested him to make a sheet-brass oil-cup and solder it to the base I had. He did so. I then had a standard made to hold another oil-cup, so as to see and regulate the drop-feed. On this combination I obtained a patent which is now universally used."
It is needless to say that in due course the engine builders of the United States developed a variety of excellent prime movers for electric-light and power plants, and were grateful to the art from which such a stimulus came to their industry; but for many years one never saw an Edison installation without expecting to find one or more Armington & Sims high-speed engines part of it. Though the type has gone out of existence, like so many other things that are useful in their day and generation, it was once a very vital part of the art, and one more illustration of that intimate manner in which the advances in different fields of progress interact and co-operate.
Edison had installed his historic first great central-station system in New York on the multiple arc system covered by his feeder and main invention, which resulted in a notable saving in the cost of conductors as against a straight two-wire system throughout of the "tree" kind. He soon foresaw that still greater economy would be necessary for commercial success not alone for the larger territory opening, but for the compact districts of large cities. Being firmly convinced that there was a way out, he pushed aside a mass of other work, and settled down to this problem, with the result that on November 20, 1882, only two months after current had been sent out from Pearl Street, he executed an application for a patent covering what is now known as the "three-wire system." It has been universally recognized as one of the most valuable inventions in the history of the lighting art.  Its use resulted in a saving of over 60 per cent. of copper in conductors, figured on the most favorable basis previously known, inclusive of those calculated under his own feeder and main system. Such economy of outlay being effected in one of the heaviest items of expense in central-station construction, it was now made possible to establish plants in towns where the large investment would otherwise have been quite prohibitive. The invention is in universal use today, alike for direct and for alternating current, and as well in the equipment of large buildings as in the distribution system of the most extensive central-station networks. One cannot imagine the art without it.
[Footnote 13: For technical description and illustration of this invention, see Appendix.]
The strong position held by the Edison system, under the strenuous competition that was already springing up, was enormously improved by the introduction of the three-wire system; and it gave an immediate impetus to incandescent lighting. Desiring to put this new system into practical use promptly, and receiving applications for licenses from all over the country, Edison selected Brockton, Massachusetts, and Sunbury, Pennsylvania, as the two towns for the trial. Of these two Brockton required the larger plant, but with the conductors placed underground. It was the first to complete its arrangements and close its contract. Mr. Henry Villard, it will be remembered, had married the daughter of Garrison, the famous abolitionist, and it was through his relationship with the Garrison family that Brockton came to have the honor of exemplifying so soon the principles of an entirely new art. Sunbury, however, was a much smaller installation, employed overhead conductors, and hence was the first to "cross the tape." It was specially suited for a trial plant also, in the early days when a yield of six or eight lamps to the horse-power was considered subject for congratulation. The town being situated in the coal region of Pennsylvania, good coal could then be obtained there at seventy-five cents a ton.
The Sunbury generating plant consisted of an Armington & Sims engine driving two small Edison dynamos having a total capacity of about four hundred lamps of 16 c.p. The indicating instruments were of the crudest construction, consisting of two voltmeters connected by "pressure wires" to the centre of electrical distribution. One ammeter, for measuring the quantity of current output, was interpolated in the "neutral bus" or third-wire return circuit to indicate when the load on the two machines was out of balance. The circuits were opened and closed by means of about half a dozen roughly made plug-switches.  The "bus-bars" to receive the current from the dynamos were made of No. 000 copper line wire, straightened out and fastened to the wooden sheathing of the station by iron staples without any presence to insulation. Commenting upon this Mr. W. S. Andrews, detailed from the central staff, says: "The interior winding of the Sunbury station, including the running of two three-wire feeders the entire length of the building from back to front, the wiring up of the dynamos and switchboard and all instruments, together with bus-bars, etc.—in fact, all labor and material used in the electrical wiring installation—amounted to the sum of $90. I received a rather sharp letter from the New York office expostulating for this EXTRAVAGANT EXPENDITURE, and stating that great economy must be observed in future!" The street conductors were of the overhead pole-line construction, and were installed by the construction company that had been organized by Edison to build and equip central stations. A special type of street pole had been devised by him for the three-wire system.
[Footnote 14: By reason of the experience gained at this station through the use of these crude plug-switches, Mr. Edison started a competition among a few of his assistants to devise something better. The result was the invention of a "breakdown" switch by Mr. W. S. Andrews, which was accepted by Mr. Edison as the best of the devices suggested, and was developed and used for a great many years afterward.]
Supplementing the story of Mr. Andrews is that of Lieut. F. J. Sprague, who also gives a curious glimpse of the glorious uncertainties and vicissitudes of that formative period. Mr. Sprague served on the jury at the Crystal Palace Exhibition with Darwin's son—the present Sir Horace—and after the tests were ended left the Navy and entered Edison's service at the suggestion of Mr. E. H. Johnson, who was Edison's shrewd recruiting sergeant in those days: "I resigned sooner than Johnson expected, and he had me on his hands. Meanwhile he had called upon me to make a report of the three-wire system, known in England as the Hopkinson, both Dr. John Hopkinson and Mr. Edison being independent inventors at practically the same time. I reported on that, left London, and landed in New York on the day of the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1883—May 24—with a year's leave of absence.
"I reported at the office of Mr. Edison on Fifth Avenue and told him I had seen Johnson. He looked me over and said: 'What did he promise you?' I replied: 'Twenty-five hundred dollars a year.' He did not say much, but looked it. About that time Mr. Andrews and I came together. On July 2d of that year we were ordered to Sunbury, and to be ready to start the station on the fourth. The electrical work had to be done in forty-eight hours! Having travelled around the world, I had cultivated an indifference to any special difficulties of that kind. Mr. Andrews and I worked in collaboration until the night of the third. I think he was perhaps more appreciative than I was of the discipline of the Edison Construction Department, and thought it would be well for us to wait until the morning of the fourth before we started up. I said we were sent over to get going, and insisted on starting up on the night of the third. We had an Armington & Sims engine with sight-feed oiler. I had never seen one, and did not know how it worked, with the result that we soon burned up the babbitt metal in the bearings and spent a good part of the night getting them in order. The next day Mr. Edison, Mr. Insull, and the chief engineer of the construction department appeared on the scene and wanted to know what had happened. They found an engine somewhat loose in the bearings, and there followed remarks which would not look well in print. Andrews skipped from under; he obeyed orders; I did not. But the plant ran, and it was the first three-wire station in this country."
Seen from yet another angle, the worries of this early work were not merely those of the men on the "firing line." Mr. Insull, in speaking of this period, says: "When it was found difficult to push the central-station business owing to the lack of confidence in its financial success, Edison decided to go into the business of promoting and constructing central-station plants, and he formed what was known as the Thomas A. Edison Construction Department, which he put me in charge of. The organization was crude, the steam-engineering talent poor, and owing to the impossibility of getting any considerable capital subscribed, the plants were put in as cheaply as possible. I believe that this construction department was unkindly named the 'Destruction Department.' It served its purpose; never made any money; and I had the unpleasant task of presiding at its obsequies."
On July 4th the Sunbury plant was put into commercial operation by Edison, and he remained a week studying its conditions and watching for any unforeseen difficulty that might arise. Nothing happened, however, to interfere with the successful running of the station, and for twenty years thereafter the same two dynamos continued to furnish light in Sunbury. They were later used as reserve machines, and finally, with the engine, retired from service as part of the "Collection of Edisonia"; but they remain in practically as good condition as when installed in 1883.
Sunbury was also provided with the first electro-chemical meters used in the United States outside New York City, so that it served also to accentuate electrical practice in a most vital respect—namely, the measurement of the electrical energy supplied to customers. At this time and long after, all arc lighting was done on a "flat rate" basis. The arc lamp installed outside a customer's premises, or in a circuit for public street lighting, burned so many hours nightly, so many nights in the month; and was paid for at that rate, subject to rebate for hours when the lamp might be out through accident. The early arc lamps were rated to require 9 to 10 amperes of current, at 45 volts pressure each, receiving which they were estimated to give 2000 c.p., which was arrived at by adding together the light found at four different positions, so that in reality the actual light was about 500 c.p. Few of these data were ever actually used, however; and it was all more or less a matter of guesswork, although the central-station manager, aiming to give good service, would naturally see that the dynamos were so operated as to maintain as steadily as possible the normal potential and current. The same loose methods applied to the early attempts to use electric motors on arc-lighting circuits, and contracts were made based on the size of the motor, the width of the connecting belt, or the amount of power the customer thought he used—never on the measurement of the electrical energy furnished him.
Here again Edison laid the foundation of standard practice. It is true that even down to the present time the flat rate is applied to a great deal of incandescent lighting, each lamp being charged for individually according to its probable consumption during each month. This may answer, perhaps, in a small place where the manager can gauge pretty closely from actual observation what each customer does; but even then there are elements of risk and waste; and obviously in a large city such a method would soon be likely to result in financial disaster to the plant. Edison held that the electricity sold must be measured just like gas or water, and he proceeded to develop a meter. There was infinite scepticism around him on the subject, and while other inventors were also giving the subject their thought, the public took it for granted that anything so utterly intangible as electricity, that could not be seen or weighed, and only gave secondary evidence of itself at the exact point of use, could not be brought to accurate registration. The general attitude of doubt was exemplified by the incident in Mr. J. P. Morgan's office, noted in the last chapter. Edison, however, had satisfied himself that there were various ways of accomplishing the task, and had determined that the current should be measured on the premises of every consumer. His electrolytic meter was very successful, and was of widespread use in America and in Europe until the perfection of mechanical meters by Elihu Thomson and others brought that type into general acceptance. Hence the Edison electrolytic meter is no longer used, despite its excellent qualities. Houston & Kennelly in their Electricity in Everyday Life sum the matter up as follows: "The Edison chemical meter is capable of giving fair measurements of the amount of current passing. By reason, however, of dissatisfaction caused from the inability of customers to read the indications of the meter, it has in later years, to a great extent, been replaced by registering meters that can be read by the customer."
The principle employed in the Edison electrolytic meter is that which exemplifies the power of electricity to decompose a chemical substance. In other words it is a deposition bath, consisting of a glass cell in which two plates of chemically pure zinc are dipped in a solution of zinc sulphate. When the lights or motors in the circuit are turned on, and a certain definite small portion of the current is diverted to flow through the meter, from the positive plate to the negative plate, the latter increases in weight by receiving a deposit of metallic zinc; the positive plate meantime losing in weight by the metal thus carried away from it. This difference in weight is a very exact measure of the quantity of electricity, or number of ampere-hours, that have, so to speak, passed through the cell, and hence of the whole consumption in the circuit. The amount thus due from the customer is ascertained by removing the cell, washing and drying the plates, and weighing them in a chemical balance. Associated with this simple form of apparatus were various ingenious details and refinements to secure regularity of operation, freedom from inaccuracy, and immunity from such tampering as would permit theft of current or damage. As the freezing of the zinc sulphate solution in cold weather would check its operation, Edison introduced, for example, into the meter an incandescent lamp and a thermostat so arranged that when the temperature fell to a certain point, or rose above another point, it was cut in or out; and in this manner the meter could be kept from freezing. The standard Edison meter practice was to remove the cells once a month to the meter-room of the central-station company for examination, another set being substituted. The meter was cheap to manufacture and install, and not at all liable to get out of order.
In December, 1888, Mr. W. J. Jenks read an interesting paper before the American Institute of Electrical Engineers on the six years of practical experience had up to that time with the meter, then more generally in use than any other. It appears from the paper that twenty-three Edison stations were then equipped with 5187 meters, which were relied upon for billing the monthly current consumption of 87,856 lamps and 350 motors of 1000 horse-power total. This represented about 75 per cent. of the entire lamp capacity of the stations. There was an average cost per lamp for meter operation of twenty-two cents a year, and each meter took care of an average of seventeen lamps. It is worthy of note, as to the promptness with which the Edison stations became paying properties, that four of the metered stations were earning upward of 15 per cent. on their capital stock; three others between 8 and 10 per cent.; eight between 5 and 8 per cent.; the others having been in operation too short a time to show definite results, although they also went quickly to a dividend basis. Reports made in the discussion at the meeting by engineers showed the simplicity and success of the meter. Mr. C. L. Edgar, of the Boston Edison system, stated that he had 800 of the meters in service cared for by two men and three boys, the latter employed in collecting the meter cells; the total cost being perhaps $2500 a year. Mr. J. W. Lieb wrote from Milan, Italy, that he had in use on the Edison system there 360 meters ranging from 350 ampere-hours per month up to 30,000.
In this connection it should be mentioned that the Association of Edison Illuminating Companies in the same year adopted resolutions unanimously to the effect that the Edison meter was accurate, and that its use was not expensive for stations above one thousand lights; and that the best financial results were invariably secured in a station selling current by meter. Before the same association, at its meeting in September, 1898, at Sault Ste. Marie, Mr. C. S. Shepard read a paper on the meter practice of the New York Edison Company, giving data as to the large number of Edison meters in use and the transition to other types, of which to-day the company has several on its circuits: "Until October, 1896, the New York Edison Company metered its current in consumer's premises exclusively by the old-style chemical meters, of which there were connected on that date 8109. It was then determined to purchase no more." Mr. Shepard went on to state that the chemical meters were gradually displaced, and that on September 1, 1898, there were on the system 5619 mechanical and 4874 chemical. The meter continued in general service during 1899, and probably up to the close of the century.
Mr. Andrews relates a rather humorous meter story of those early days: "The meter man at Sunbury was a firm and enthusiastic believer in the correctness of the Edison meter, having personally verified its reading many times by actual comparison of lamp-hours. One day, on making out a customer's bill, his confidence received a severe shock, for the meter reading showed a consumption calling for a charge of over $200, whereas he knew that the light actually used should not cost more than one-quarter of that amount. He weighed and reweighed the meter plates, and pursued every line of investigation imaginable, but all in vain. He felt he was up against it, and that perhaps another kind of a job would suit him better. Once again he went to the customer's meter to look around, when a small piece of thick wire on the floor caught his eye. The problem was solved. He suddenly remembered that after weighing the plates he went and put them in the customer's meter; but the wire attached to one of the plates was too long to go in the meter, and he had cut it off. He picked up the piece of wire, took it to the station, weighed it carefully, and found that it accounted for about $150 worth of electricity, which was the amount of the difference."
Edison himself is, however, the best repertory of stories when it comes to the difficulties of that early period, in connection with metering the current and charging for it. He may be quoted at length as follows: "When we started the station at Pearl Street, in September, 1882, we were not very commercial. We put many customers on, but did not make out many bills. We were more interested in the technical condition of the station than in the commercial part. We had meters in which there were two bottles of liquid. To prevent these electrolytes from freezing we had in each meter a strip of metal. When it got very cold the metal would contract and close a circuit, and throw a lamp into circuit inside the meter. The heat from this lamp would prevent the liquid from freezing, so that the meter could go on doing its duty. The first cold day after starting the station, people began to come in from their offices, especially down in Front Street and Water Street, saying the meter was on fire. We received numerous telephone messages about it. Some had poured water on it, and others said: 'Send a man right up to put it out.'
"After the station had been running several months and was technically a success, we began to look after the financial part. We started to collect some bills; but we found that our books were kept badly, and that the person in charge, who was no business man, had neglected that part of it. In fact, he did not know anything about the station, anyway. So I got the directors to permit me to hire a man to run the station. This was Mr. Chinnock, who was then superintendent of the Metropolitan Telephone Company of New York. I knew Chinnock to be square and of good business ability, and induced him to leave his job. I made him a personal guarantee, that if he would take hold of the station and put it on a commercial basis, and pay 5 per cent. on $600,000, I would give him $10,000 out of my own pocket. He took hold, performed the feat, and I paid him the $10,000. I might remark in this connection that years afterward I applied to the Edison Electric Light Company asking them if they would not like to pay me this money, as it was spent when I was very hard up and made the company a success, and was the foundation of their present prosperity. They said they 'were sorry'—that is, 'Wall Street sorry'—and refused to pay it. This shows what a nice, genial, generous lot of people they have over in Wall Street.
"Chinnock had a great deal of trouble getting the customers straightened out. I remember one man who had a saloon on Nassau Street. He had had his lights burning for two or three months. It was in June, and Chinnock put in a bill for $20; July for $20; August about $28; September about $35. Of course the nights were getting longer. October about $40; November about $45. Then the man called Chinnock up. He said: 'I want to see you about my electric-light bill.' Chinnock went up to see him. He said: 'Are you the manager of this electric-light plant?' Chinnock said: 'I have the honor.' 'Well,' he said, my bill has gone from $20 up to $28, $35, $45. I want you to understand, young fellow, that my limit is $60.'
"After Chinnock had had all this trouble due to the incompetency of the previous superintendent, a man came in and said to him: 'Did Mr. Blank have charge of this station?' 'Yes.' 'Did he know anything about running a station like this?' Chinnock said: 'Does he KNOW anything about running a station like this? No, sir. He doesn't even suspect anything.'
"One day Chinnock came to me and said: 'I have a new customer.' I said: 'What is it?' He said: 'I have a fellow who is going to take two hundred and fifty lights.' I said: 'What for?' 'He has a place down here in a top loft, and has got two hundred and fifty barrels of "rotgut" whiskey. He puts a light down in the barrel and lights it up, and it ages the whiskey.' I met Chinnock several weeks after, and said: 'How is the whiskey man getting along?' 'It's all right; he is paying his bill. It fixes the whiskey and takes the shudder right out of it.' Somebody went and took out a patent on this idea later.
"In the second year we put the Stock Exchange on the circuits of the station, but were very fearful that there would be a combination of heavy demand and a dark day, and that there would be an overloaded station. We had an index like a steam-gauge, called an ampere-meter, to indicate the amount of current going out. I was up at 65 Fifth Avenue one afternoon. A sudden black cloud came up, and I telephoned to Chinnock and asked him about the load. He said: 'We are up to the muzzle, and everything is running all right.' By-and-by it became so thick we could not see across the street. I telephoned again, and felt something would happen, but fortunately it did not. I said to Chinnock: 'How is it now?' He replied: 'Everything is red-hot, and the ampere-meter has made seventeen revolutions.'"
In 1883 no such fittings as "fixture insulators" were known. It was the common practice to twine the electric wires around the disused gas-fixtures, fasten them with tape or string, and connect them to lamp-sockets screwed into attachments under the gas-burners—elaborated later into what was known as the "combination fixture." As a result it was no uncommon thing to see bright sparks snapping between the chandelier and the lighting wires during a sharp thunder-storm. A startling manifestation of this kind happened at Sunbury, when the vivid display drove nervous guests of the hotel out into the street, and the providential storm led Mr. Luther Stieringer to invent the "insulating joint." This separated the two lighting systems thoroughly, went into immediate service, and is universally used to-day.
Returning to the more specific subject of pioneer plants of importance, that at Brockton must be considered for a moment, chiefly for the reason that the city was the first in the world to possess an Edison station distributing current through an underground three-wire network of conductors—the essentially modern contemporaneous practice, standard twenty-five years later. It was proposed to employ pole-line construction with overhead wires, and a party of Edison engineers drove about the town in an open barouche with a blue-print of the circuits and streets spread out on their knees, to determine how much tree-trimming would be necessary. When they came to some heavily shaded spots, the fine trees were marked "T" to indicate that the work in getting through them would be "tough." Where the trees were sparse and the foliage was thin, the same cheerful band of vandals marked the spots "E" to indicate that there it would be "easy" to run the wires. In those days public opinion was not so alive as now to the desirability of preserving shade-trees, and of enhancing the beauty of a city instead of destroying it. Brockton had a good deal of pride in its fine trees, and a strong sentiment was very soon aroused against the mutilation proposed so thoughtlessly. The investors in the enterprise were ready and anxious to meet the extra cost of putting the wires underground. Edison's own wishes were altogether for the use of the methods he had so carefully devised; and hence that bustling home of shoe manufacture was spared this infliction of more overhead wires.
The station equipment at Brockton consisted at first of three dynamos, one of which was so arranged as to supply both sides of the system during light loads by a breakdown switch connection. This arrangement interfered with correct meter registration, as the meters on one side of the system registered backward during the hours in which the combination was employed. Hence, after supplying an all-night customer whose lamps were on one side of the circuits, the company might be found to owe him some thing substantial in the morning. Soon after the station went into operation this ingenious plan was changed, and the third dynamo was replaced by two others. The Edison construction department took entire charge of the installation of the plant, and the formal opening was attended on October 1, 1883, by Mr. Edison, who then remained a week in ceaseless study and consultation over the conditions developed by this initial three-wire underground plant. Some idea of the confidence inspired by the fame of Edison at this period is shown by the fact that the first theatre ever lighted from a central station by incandescent lamps was designed this year, and opened in 1884 at Brockton with an equipment of three hundred lamps. The theatre was never piped for gas! It was also from the Brockton central station that current was first supplied to a fire-engine house—another display of remarkably early belief in the trustworthiness of the service, under conditions where continuity of lighting was vital. The building was equipped in such a manner that the striking of the fire-alarm would light every lamp in the house automatically and liberate the horses. It was at this central station that Lieutenant Sprague began his historic work on the electric motor; and here that another distinguished engineer and inventor, Mr. H. Ward Leonard, installed the meters and became meter man, in order that he might study in every intimate detail the improvements and refinements necessary in that branch of the industry.
The authors are indebted for these facts and some other data embodied in this book to Mr. W. J. Jenks, who as manager of this plant here made his debut in the Edison ranks. He had been connected with local telephone interests, but resigned to take active charge of this plant, imbibing quickly the traditional Edison spirit, working hard all day and sleeping in the station at night on a cot brought there for that purpose. It was a time of uninterrupted watchfulness. The difficulty of obtaining engineers in those days to run the high-speed engines (three hundred and fifty revolutions per minute) is well illustrated by an amusing incident in the very early history of the station. A locomotive engineer had been engaged, as it was supposed he would not be afraid of anything. One evening there came a sudden flash of fire and a spluttering, sizzling noise. There had been a short-circuit on the copper mains in the station. The fireman hid behind the boiler and the engineer jumped out of the window. Mr. Sprague realized the trouble, quickly threw off the current and stopped the engine.
Mr. Jenks relates another humorous incident in connection with this plant: "One night I heard a knock at the office door, and on opening it saw two well-dressed ladies, who asked if they might be shown through. I invited them in, taking them first to the boiler-room, where I showed them the coal-pile, explaining that this was used to generate steam in the boiler. We then went to the dynamo-room, where I pointed out the machines converting the steam-power into electricity, appearing later in the form of light in the lamps. After that they were shown the meters by which the consumption of current was measured. They appeared to be interested, and I proceeded to enter upon a comparison of coal made into gas or burned under a boiler to be converted into electricity. The ladies thanked me effusively and brought their visit to a close. As they were about to go through the door, one of them turned to me and said: 'We have enjoyed this visit very much, but there is one question we would like to ask: What is it that you make here?'"
The Brockton station was for a long time a show plant of the Edison company, and had many distinguished visitors, among them being Prof. Elihu Thomson, who was present at the opening, and Sir W. H. Preece, of London. The engineering methods pursued formed the basis of similar installations in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in November, 1883; in Fall River, Massachusetts, in December, 1883; and in Newburgh, New York, the following spring.
Another important plant of this period deserves special mention, as it was the pioneer in the lighting of large spaces by incandescent lamps. This installation of five thousand lamps on the three-wire system was made to illuminate the buildings at the Louisville, Kentucky, Exposition in 1883, and, owing to the careful surveys, calculations, and preparations of H. M. Byllesby and the late Luther Stieringer, was completed and in operation within six weeks after the placing of the order. The Jury of Awards, in presenting four medals to the Edison company, took occasion to pay a high compliment to the efficiency of the system. It has been thought by many that the magnificent success of this plant did more to stimulate the growth of the incandescent lighting business than any other event in the history of the Edison company. It was literally the beginning of the electrical illumination of American Expositions, carried later to such splendid displays as those of the Chicago World's Fair in 1893, Buffalo in 1901, and St. Louis in 1904.
Thus the art was set going in the United States under many difficulties, but with every sign of coming triumph. Reference has already been made to the work abroad in Paris and London. The first permanent Edison station in Europe was that at Milan, Italy, for which the order was given as early as May, 1882, by an enterprising syndicate. Less than a year later, March 3, 1883, the installation was ready and was put in operation, the Theatre Santa Radegonda having been pulled down and a new central-station building erected in its place—probably the first edifice constructed in Europe for the specific purpose of incandescent lighting. Here "Jumbos" were installed from time to time, until at last there were no fewer than ten of them; and current was furnished to customers with a total of nearly ten thousand lamps connected to the mains. This pioneer system was operated continuously until February 9, 1900, or for a period of about seventeen years, when the sturdy old machines, still in excellent condition, were put out of service, so that a larger plant could be installed to meet the demand. This new plant takes high-tension polyphase current from a water-power thirty or forty miles away at Paderno, on the river Adda, flowing from the Apennines; but delivers low-tension direct current for distribution to the regular Edison three-wire system throughout Milan.
About the same time that southern Europe was thus opened up to the new system, South America came into line, and the first Edison central station there was installed at Santiago, Chile, in the summer of 1883, under the supervision of Mr. W. N. Stewart. This was the result of the success obtained with small isolated plants, leading to the formation of an Edison company. It can readily be conceived that at such an extreme distance from the source of supply of apparatus the plant was subject to many peculiar difficulties from the outset, of which Mr. Stewart speaks as follows: "I made an exhibition of the 'Jumbo' in the theatre at Santiago, and on the first evening, when it was filled with the aristocracy of the city, I discovered to my horror that the binding wire around the armature was slowly stripping off and going to pieces. We had no means of boring out the field magnets, and we cut grooves in them. I think the machine is still running (1907). The station went into operation soon after with an equipment of eight Edison 'K' dynamos with certain conditions inimical to efficiency, but which have not hindered the splendid expansion of the local system. With those eight dynamos we had four belts between each engine and the dynamo. The steam pressure was limited to seventy-five pounds per square inch. We had two-wire underground feeders, sent without any plans or specifications for their installation. The station had neither voltmeter nor ammeter. The current pressure was regulated by a galvanometer. We were using coal costing $12 a ton, and were paid for our light in currency worth fifty cents on the dollar. The only thing I can be proud of in connection with the plant is the fact that I did not design it, that once in a while we made out to pay its operating expenses, and that occasionally we could run it for three months without a total breakdown."
It was not until 1885 that the first Edison station in Germany was established; but the art was still very young, and the plant represented pioneer lighting practice in the Empire. The station at Berlin comprised five boilers, and six vertical steam-engines driving by belts twelve Edison dynamos, each of about fifty-five horse-power capacity. A model of this station is preserved in the Deutschen Museum at Munich. In the bulletin of the Berlin Electricity Works for May, 1908, it is said with regard to the events that led up to the creation of the system, as noted already at the Rathenau celebration: "The year 1881 was a mile-stone in the history of the Allgemeine Elektricitaets Gesellschaft. The International Electrical Exposition at Paris was intended to place before the eyes of the civilized world the achievements of the century. Among the exhibits of that Exposition was the Edison system of incandescent lighting. IT BECAME THE BASIS OF MODERN HEAVY CURRENT TECHNICS." The last phrase is italicized as being a happy and authoritative description, as well as a tribute.
This chapter would not be complete if it failed to include some reference to a few of the earlier isolated plants of a historic character. Note has already been made of the first Edison plants afloat on the Jeannette and Columbia, and the first commercial plant in the New York lithographic establishment. The first mill plant was placed in the woollen factory of James Harrison at Newburgh, New York, about September 15, 1881. A year later, Mr. Harrison wrote with some pride: "I believe my mill was the first lighted with your electric light, and therefore may be called No. 1. Besides being job No. 1 it is a No. 1 job, and a No. 1 light, being better and cheaper than gas and absolutely safe as to fire." The first steam-yacht lighted by incandescent lamps was James Gordon Bennett's Namouna, equipped early in 1882 with a plant for one hundred and twenty lamps of eight candlepower, which remained in use there many years afterward.
The first Edison plant in a hotel was started in October, 1881, at the Blue Mountain House in the Adirondacks, and consisted of two "Z" dynamos with a complement of eight and sixteen candle lamps. The hotel is situated at an elevation of thirty-five hundred feet above the sea, and was at that time forty miles from the railroad. The machinery was taken up in pieces on the backs of mules from the foot of the mountain. The boilers were fired by wood, as the economical transportation of coal was a physical impossibility. For a six-hour run of the plant one-quarter of a cord of wood was required, at a cost of twenty-five cents per cord.
The first theatre in the United States to be lighted by an Edison isolated plant was the Bijou Theatre, Boston. The installation of boilers, engines, dynamos, wiring, switches, fixtures, three stage regulators, and six hundred and fifty lamps, was completed in eleven days after receipt of the order, and the plant was successfully operated at the opening of the theatre, on December 12, 1882.
The first plant to be placed on a United States steamship was the one consisting of an Edison "Z" dynamo and one hundred and twenty eight-candle lamps installed on the Fish Commission's steamer Albatross in 1883. The most interesting feature of this installation was the employment of special deep-sea lamps, supplied with current through a cable nine hundred and forty feet in length, for the purpose of alluring fish. By means of the brilliancy of the lamps marine animals in the lower depths were attracted and then easily ensnared.
THE ELECTRIC RAILWAY
EDISON had no sooner designed his dynamo in 1879 than he adopted the same form of machine for use as a motor. The two are shown in the Scientific American of October 18, 1879, and are alike, except that the dynamo is vertical and the motor lies in a horizontal position, the article remarking: "Its construction differs but slightly from the electric generator." This was but an evidence of his early appreciation of the importance of electricity as a motive power; but it will probably surprise many people to know that he was the inventor of an electric motor before he perfected his incandescent lamp. His interest in the subject went back to his connection with General Lefferts in the days of the evolution of the stock ticker. While Edison was carrying on his shop at Newark, New Jersey, there was considerable excitement in electrical circles over the Payne motor, in regard to the alleged performance of which Governor Cornell of New York and other wealthy capitalists were quite enthusiastic. Payne had a shop in Newark, and in one small room was the motor, weighing perhaps six hundred pounds. It was of circular form, incased in iron, with the ends of several small magnets sticking through the floor. A pulley and belt, connected to a circular saw larger than the motor, permitted large logs of oak timber to be sawed with ease with the use of two small cells of battery. Edison's friend, General Lefferts, had become excited and was determined to invest a large sum of money in the motor company, but knowing Edison's intimate familiarity with all electrical subjects he was wise enough to ask his young expert to go and see the motor with him. At an appointed hour Edison went to the office of the motor company and found there the venerable Professor Morse, Governor Cornell, General Lefferts, and many others who had been invited to witness a performance of the motor. They all proceeded to the room where the motor was at work. Payne put a wire in the binding-post of the battery, the motor started, and an assistant began sawing a heavy oak log. It worked beautifully, and so great was the power developed, apparently, from the small battery, that Morse exclaimed: "I am thankful that I have lived to see this day." But Edison kept a close watch on the motor. The results were so foreign to his experience that he knew there was a trick in it. He soon discovered it. While holding his hand on the frame of the motor he noticed a tremble coincident with the exhaust of an engine across the alleyway, and he then knew that the power came from the engine by a belt under the floor, shifted on and off by a magnet, the other magnets being a blind. He whispered to the General to put his hand on the frame of the motor, watch the exhaust, and note the coincident tremor. The General did so, and in about fifteen seconds he said: "Well, Edison, I must go now. This thing is a fraud." And thus he saved his money, although others not so shrewdly advised were easily persuaded to invest by such a demonstration.
A few years later, in 1878, Edison went to Wyoming with a group of astronomers, to test his tasimeter during an eclipse of the sun, and saw the land white to harvest. He noticed the long hauls to market or elevator that the farmers had to make with their loads of grain at great expense, and conceived the idea that as ordinary steam-railroad service was too costly, light electric railways might be constructed that could be operated automatically over simple tracks, the propelling motors being controlled at various points. Cheap to build and cheap to maintain, such roads would be a great boon to the newer farming regions of the West, where the highways were still of the crudest character, and where transportation was the gravest difficulty with which the settlers had to contend. The plan seems to have haunted him, and he had no sooner worked out a generator and motor that owing to their low internal resistance could be operated efficiently, than he turned his hand to the practical trial of such a railroad, applicable to both the haulage of freight and the transportation of passengers. Early in 1880, when the tremendous rush of work involved in the invention of the incandescent lamp intermitted a little, he began the construction of a stretch of track close to the Menlo Park laboratory, and at the same time built an electric locomotive to operate over it.
This is a fitting stage at which to review briefly what had been done in electric traction up to that date. There was absolutely no art, but there had been a number of sporadic and very interesting experiments made. The honor of the first attempt of any kind appears to rest with this country and with Thomas Davenport, a self-trained blacksmith, of Brandon, Vermont, who made a small model of a circular electric railway and cars in 1834, and exhibited it the following year in Springfield, Boston, and other cities. Of course he depended upon batteries for current, but the fundamental idea was embodied of using the track for the circuit, one rail being positive and the other negative, and the motor being placed across or between them in multiple arc to receive the current. Such are also practically the methods of to-day. The little model was in good preservation up to the year 1900, when, being shipped to the Paris Exposition, it was lost, the steamer that carried it foundering in mid-ocean. The very broad patent taken out by this simple mechanic, so far ahead of his times, was the first one issued in America for an electric motor. Davenport was also the first man to apply electric power to the printing-press, in 1840. In his traction work he had a close second in Robert Davidson, of Aberdeen, Scotland, who in 1839 operated both a lathe and a small locomotive with the motor he had invented. His was the credit of first actually carrying passengers—two at a time, over a rough plank road—while it is said that his was the first motor to be tried on real tracks, those of the Edinburgh-Glasgow road, making a speed of four miles an hour.
The curse of this work and of all that succeeded it for a score of years was the necessity of depending upon chemical batteries for current, the machine usually being self-contained and hauling the batteries along with itself, as in the case of the famous Page experiments in April, 1851, when a speed of nineteen miles an hour was attained on the line of the Washington & Baltimore road. To this unfruitful period belonged, however, the crude idea of taking the current from a stationary source of power by means of an overhead contact, which has found its practical evolution in the modern ubiquitous trolley; although the patent for this, based on his caveat of 1879, was granted several years later than that to Stephen D. Field, for the combination of an electric motor operated by means of a current from a stationary dynamo or source of electricity conducted through the rails. As a matter of fact, in 1856 and again in 1875, George F. Green, a jobbing machinist, of Kalamazoo, Michigan, built small cars and tracks to which current was fed from a distant battery, enough energy being utilized to haul one hundred pounds of freight or one passenger up and down a "road" two hundred feet long. All the work prior to the development of the dynamo as a source of current was sporadic and spasmodic, and cannot be said to have left any trace on the art, though it offered many suggestions as to operative methods.
The close of the same decade of the nineteenth century that saw the electric light brought to perfection, saw also the realization in practice of all the hopes of fifty years as to electric traction. Both utilizations depended upon the supply of current now cheaply obtainable from the dynamo. These arts were indeed twins, feeding at inexhaustible breasts. In 1879, at the Berlin Exhibition, the distinguished firm of Siemens, to whose ingenuity and enterprise electrical development owes so much, installed a road about one-third of a mile in length, over which the locomotive hauled a train of three small cars at a speed of about eight miles an hour, carrying some twenty persons every trip. Current was fed from a dynamo to the motor through a central third rail, the two outer rails being joined together as the negative or return circuit. Primitive but essentially successful, this little road made a profound impression on the minds of many inventors and engineers, and marked the real beginning of the great new era, which has already seen electricity applied to the operation of main lines of trunk railways. But it is not to be supposed that on the part of the public there was any great amount of faith then discernible; and for some years the pioneers had great difficulty, especially in this country, in raising money for their early modest experiments. Of the general conditions at this moment Frank J. Sprague says in an article in the Century Magazine of July, 1905, on the creation of the new art: "Edison was perhaps nearer the verge of great electric-railway possibilities than any other American. In the face of much adverse criticism he had developed the essentials of the low-internal-resistance dynamo with high-resistance field, and many of the essential features of multiple-arc distribution, and in 1880 he built a small road at his laboratory at Menlo Park."
On May 13th of the year named this interesting road went into operation as the result of hard and hurried work of preparation during the spring months. The first track was about a third of a mile in length, starting from the shops, following a country road, passing around a hill at the rear and curving home, in the general form of the letter "U." The rails were very light. Charles T. Hughes, who went with Edison in 1879, and was in charge of much of the work, states that they were "second" street-car rails, insulated with tar canvas paper and things of that sort—"asphalt." They were spiked down on ordinary sleepers laid upon the natural grade, and the gauge was about three feet six inches. At one point the grade dropped some sixty feet in a distance of three hundred, and the curves were of recklessly short radius. The dynamos supplying current to the road were originally two of the standard size "Z" machines then being made at the laboratory, popularly known throughout the Edison ranks as "Longwaisted Mary Anns," and the circuits from these were carried out to the rails by underground conductors. They were not large—about twelve horse-power each—generating seventy-five amperes of current at one hundred and ten volts, so that not quite twenty-five horse-power of electrical energy was available for propulsion.
The locomotive built while the roadbed was getting ready was a four-wheeled iron truck, an ordinary flat dump-car about six feet long and four feet wide, upon which was mounted a "Z" dynamo used as a motor, so that it had a capacity of about twelve horsepower. This machine was laid on its side, with the armature end coming out at the front of the locomotive, and the motive power was applied to the driving-axle by a cumbersome series of friction pulleys. Each wheel of the locomotive had a metal rim and a centre web of wood or papier-mache, and the current picked up by one set of wheels was carried through contact brushes and a brass hub to the motor; the circuit back to the track, or other rail, being closed through the other wheels in a similar manner. The motor had its field-magnet circuit in permanent connection as a shunt across the rails, protected by a crude bare copper-wire safety-catch. A switch in the armature circuit enabled the motorman to reverse the direction of travel by reversing the current flow through the armature coils.
Things went fairly well for a time on that memorable Thursday afternoon, when all the laboratory force made high holiday and scrambled for foothold on the locomotive for a trip; but the friction gearing was not equal to the sudden strain put upon it during one run and went to pieces. Some years later, also, Daft again tried friction gear in his historical experiments on the Manhattan Elevated road, but the results were attended with no greater success. The next resort of Edison was to belts, the armature shafting belted to a countershaft on the locomotive frame, and the countershaft belted to a pulley on the car-axle. The lever which threw the former friction gear into adjustment was made to operate an idler pulley for tightening the axle-belt. When the motor was started, the armature was brought up to full revolution and then the belt was tightened on the car-axle, compelling motion of the locomotive. But the belts were liable to slip a great deal in the process, and the chafing of the belts charred them badly. If that did not happen, and if the belt was made taut suddenly, the armature burned out—which it did with disconcerting frequency. The next step was to use a number of resistance-boxes in series with the armature, so that the locomotive could start with those in circuit, and then the motorman could bring it up to speed gradually by cutting one box out after the other. To stop the locomotive, the armature circuit was opened by the main switch, stopping the flow of current, and then brakes were applied by long levers. Matters generally and the motors in particular went much better, even if the locomotive was so freely festooned with resistance-boxes all of perceptible weight and occupying much of the limited space. These details show forcibly and typically the painful steps of advance that every inventor in this new field had to make in the effort to reach not alone commercial practicability, but mechanical feasibility. It was all empirical enough; but that was the only way open even to the highest talent.