Electrically Welded Specimen, Bicycle Top Tubing

This bicycle’s welded steel top tube was created using Elihu Thomson’s electric welding apparatus (see object number MC*181724). Welding samples demonstrated potential industrial applications of electric welding, and illustrations of these samples were published in journals, brochures, and advertisements. Elihu Thomson’s invention of electric welding in 1885 resulted in numerous applications including the manufacture of automobile parts, tools, screws, ball bearings, and wire lines. Thomson’s welding apparatus passed an electric current through two pieces of metal pressed together. Resistance to the current at the contact point between the metal pieces created heat and welded the metals together.
Scientist and inventor Elihu Thomson (1853-1937) played a prominent role in the industrialization and electrification of America with over 700 patents in his name. His inventions and patents helped change the nature of industry in the United States and included the “uniflow” steam engine, automobile muffler, producing fused quartz, stereoscopic x-ray pictures, electric arc lamps, lightning arrestors, and perhaps most notably—the process of electrical welding. Thomson and partner Edwin Houston established the Thomson-Houston Electric Company in 1883. In 1892 Thomson-Houston merged with the Edison Electric Company to form General Electric.
Object Name
welding sample
date made
Thomson, Elihu
Physical Description
steel (overall material)
overall: 15 in x 1 1/4 in; 38.1 cm x 3.175 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
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Work and Industry: Electricity
Industry & Manufacturing
Thomson Welding
Energy & Power
Object Project
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
from Thomson Electrical Welding Co., thru Elihu Thomson
Additional Media

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