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Competition to Edison's Lamp:
Script

Bracketed information [xxx] does not appear on the label.


[xL34.1 - Section #4 introduction label - fourth Edison free-standing cut out]

Step 4:Competition


[xL34.2 - Section #4 introduction label - fourth Edison free-standing cut out]

"If you want to succeed, get some enemies." Edison, as quoted in the Ladies Home Journal, April 1898

Success produced rivals. The gas companies improved their lighting systems, and other electrical inventors came out with their own systems, many of them borrowing heavily from Edison's work. Edison himself was spurred on to make further improvements.

Some of Edison's rivals are represented in these displays of light bulbs, meters and generators.

Kreidler photograph shows Edison at 48 in 1895.


[xL35 - credit label]

Gas Light

"If I had had my wits about me when your telegram came announcing your discovery, I might have made you a clean million as it played the very devil with stocks all over the country."
George Gouraud in a letter to Edison, from London, October 1878

While Edison s initial announcement of his discovery was premature, his reputation served to cause a sharp drop in the price of gas company stocks. Edison used gas lighting as the model for his electric lighting system, and his success began a commercial rivalry between the two technologies. Notice Edison, Joseph Swan, and other electric lamp makers haunting The Dream of a Gas Manufacturer in the 1884 drawing at right. Improvements in gas quality and Carl Auer von Welsbach s gas mantle invention were two factors that kept gas lighting competitive with electricity for 30 years.

Case at left:

  1. Electric lamp fixture, about 1890, from National Park Service
  2. Lighting fixture with both gas & electric burners, about 1890 [10,175], from National Park Service
  3. Electric lamp fixtures converted from gas, about 1890, from Mt. Vernon Museum of Incandescent Lighting

Large photo at far left:
from Sigmund Bergmann & Company catalog, 1882

Large image at right, The Dream of a Gas Manufacturer is from Punch, 1884. Note Wilhelm and William Siemens (6, 7), Joseph Swan (8), Edison (12), Hiram Maxim (13), Paul Jablochkoff (18).

Webnote: 4-1


[xL36 - credit label]

Electric Light

"You are aware that a seizure was made by us of the Maxim lamp at the Paris Exposition. Suit was commenced immediately on the seizure." Report of Messrs. Puskas and Bailey to the Edison Electric Light Co. of Europe, 1882.

Competition to Edison's lamp came quickly. Some inventors, like Joseph Swan of England, were already working on the problem and soon produced their own lamps. Others, like George Westinghouse, brought existing companies into the new field. As a result, Edison often found himself in court, defending his lamp patents and filing for injunctions.

The lamps in this case show a variety of designs that appeared within about twenty years of Edison's first commercial lamp.

  1. Sawyer-Man, about 1885 [327,831], from Chicago Museum of Science & Industry
  2. Swan, 1881 [323,557]
  3. Edison, 1886 [181,804], from General Electric Company
  4. Edison, 1888 [327,785], from Chicago Museum of Science & Industry
  5. Westinghouse "stopper", about 1894 [1997.0388.80], from General Electric Lighting Co.

  6. Thomson-Houston decorative, about 1890 [1997.0388.79], from General Electric Lighting Co.
  7. Sterling, about 1900 [327,839], from the Chicago Museum of Science & Industry
  8. Fostoria, about 1900 [327,830], from the Chicago Museum of Science & Industry
  9. Brush-Swan, about 1885 [318,641], from Princeton University
  10. Maxim, 1881 [181,980], from Sarah J. Farmer

  11. New Type Edison, about 1890 [318,666], from Princeton University
  12. Westinghouse, about 1890 [311,930], from Newark College of Engineering
  13. Vitrite-Luminoid, 1890 [318,674], from Princeton University
  14. Columbia "USONA", about 1905 [320,675]
  15. United Electric Improvement Co., about 1894 [327,856], from the Chicago Museum of Science & Industry

  16. Columbia, about 1890 [327,842], from the Chicago Museum of Science & Industry
  17. Phelps "Hy-Lo", about 1895 [230,836], from General Electric Company
  18. Perkins, about 1890 [325,794], from Thompson Equipment Company
  19. Peerless, about 1890 [335,363], from Robert F. Hoke
  20. Weston, about 1887 [318,634], from Princeton University

  21. Maxim, about 1881 [320,673], from IBM (W. J. Hammer collection)
  22. Ediswan, about 1885 [327,811], from Chicago Museum of Science & Industry
  23. Elblight, about 1890 [323,559]
  24. Weston, 1882 [318,642], from Princeton University
  25. Imperial Bryan-Marsh, about 1900 [327,799], from Chicago Museum of Science & Industry

  26. Sunbeam, 1900 [327,853], from Chicago Museum of Science & Industry
  27. United Electric Improvement Co., about 1894 [327,829], from Chicago Museum of Science & Industry
  28. Shelby, about 1905 [318,607], from Princeton University
  29. Knowles, about 1895 [314,289], from C. Locklin
  30. Pond, about 1895 [314,289], from C. Locklin

  31. K&W, about 1895 [314,289], from C. Locklin
  32. McNutt, about 1895 [327,840], from Chicago Museum of Science & Industry
  33. Capital, about 1900 [327,796], from Chicago Museum of Science & Industry
  34. Independent, about 1895 [327,800], from Chicago Museum of Science & Industry
  35. Buckeye, about 1895 [327,792], from Chicago Museum of Science & Industry

  36. Ediswan socket, about 1890 [320,761], from IBM (W. J. Hammer collection)
  37. United Electric Improvement Co. socket, about 1894 [327,857], from Chicago Museum of Science & Industry
  38. Swan socket [320,763], from IBM (W. J. Hammer collection)
  39. Insulite socket for Thomson-Houston lamp, about 1895 [320,748], from IBM (W. J. Hammer collection)
  40. Perkins socket for Westinghouse lamp, about 1899 [320,746], from IBM (W. J. Hammer collection)

  41. Nernst lamp, 1902 [214,331], from Nernst Lamp Company

Webnote: 4-2


[Label sL11 - Swan]

Joseph W. Swan (1828 -1914)

Swan had a varied inventive career, with early contributions to photography. His carbon filament lamp anticipated Edison's by several months, but it had a low resistance and was unsuitable for commercial use. Swan's 1883 cellulose filament became an industry standard.


[Label sL12 - Nernst]

Walther H. Nernst (1836 -1941)

Nernst, a professor of physics at Göttingen and Berlin, received a Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1920 for work in thermodynamics. As a sidelight, in the 1890s he invented an efficient lamp in which the filament heated rare-earth salts, which then glowed. The lamp was very efficient, but too expensive to be practical.


[Label sL13 - Latimer]

Lewis H. Latimer (1848 -1928)

An African American, born in Chelsea, Mass., Latimer trained as a draftsman at a Boston patent law firm. There he made drawings for Alexander Graham Bell, among others. He joined the Maxim company in 1880 and invented a means of producing improved carbon filaments. In 1884 he moved to Edison's Lamp Works and had a distinguished career as a draftsman.


[xL43 - credit label]

Meters

These meters represent some of the many companies that competed in the electric light business.

Left:

  1. Thomson voltmeter, about 1891 [318,351], from Princeton University
  2. National Electric ammeter, [322,811], from the State University of New York, Buffalo
  3. Slattery ammeter [318,376], from Princeton University
  4. Edison ammeter [313,670], from Weston Electrical Instrument Corp.
  5. Hartmann & Braun ammeter [317,692], from Iowa State University

  6. Weston ammeter, about 1890 [319,238], from Daystrom Inc.
  7. Thomson-Houston voltmeter, about 1890 [219,027], from Potomac Electric Power Co.
  8. Thomson-Rice ammeter [318,356], from Princeton University
  9. General Electric voltmeter, about 1903 [334,396], from the American Museum of Electricity
  10. Norton voltmeter [314,968], from E. P. Custis

  11. Westinghouse ammeter [318,320], from Princeton University
  12. Gardiner "Electro Magnetic Meter", [319,443], from Mrs. Donald Bliss
  13. Stanley phase indicator [314,411], from Weston Electrical Instrument Corp.

Right:

  1. Edison General Electric ammeter, 1890 [313,286], from Weston Electrical Instrument Corp.
  2. Stanley static ground detector, about 1896 [314,459], from Weston Electrical Instrument Corp.

  3. Ft. Wayne ammeter, about 1890 [318,350], from Princeton University
  4. Ft. Wayne ammeter, about 1895 [326,483], from General Electric Company
  5. Biddle wattmeter, about 1895 [326,921], from Trinity College
  6. Weston voltmeter, about 1900 [336,453], from Donald Hoke
  7. Ft. Wayne volt-meter, about 1895 [1998.0112.01], from Vincent King

  8. Western Electric voltmeter, from the National Park Service
  9. Thomson wattmeter, about 1887 [318,301], from Princeton University
  10. Western Electric ammeter, [334,385], from the American Museum of Electricity


[Label sL14 - Shallenberger]

Oliver B. Shallenberger (1860 -1898)

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


[xL48 - credit label]

Generators

From the beginning, many of Edison s rivals used alternating current generators.

  1. Ferranti generator, 1883 [327,571], from Sebastian de Ferranti
  2. Brush generator, 1884 [315,075], from Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  3. Thomson-Houston generator, 1885 [181,720], from General Electric Company


[xL44 - information label]

The Alternating Alternative

"It will never be free from danger."
Edison in a memorandum concerning the Westinghouse AC system, 1886

"Tell your father I was wrong."
Edison to George Stanley, son of William Stanley who had invented an AC transformer for Westinghouse, 1908

In the long term, Edison was certainly wrong in assessing the problems of alternating current. But at the time, he had good reasons for sticking with direct current. The reason for using AC was that it could be easily converted to high voltage, transmitted over long distances with low losses, and then converted back to low voltage to be used by the customers. But even at low voltage, there was evidence that AC was more dangerous than DC, and there was the possibility that the transformer might break down and deliver high voltage to the home. Even a few such accidents could be very harmful to the growth of this new industry.

Although both arc and incandescent lights could use AC, existing motors (especially important for the growing street railway industry) and meters could not.

Early AC transformers were inefficient.

Electrochemical processes used DC.

Batteries could store DC during periods of low demand.

Edison also may have been influenced by the commitment he had made to his own DC system and by the difficulty of visualizing the operation of AC.

Webnote: 4-3


[Label sL15 - Tesla]

Nikola Tesla (1856 -1943)

Born of Serb parents in Croatia, Tesla was educated in Europe. He came to New York in 1884 and worked briefly for Edison. He patented a practical AC motor in 1888. Other AC patents were used in the Westinghouse generators at Niagara Falls. He is also known for high-frequency experiments and inventions in the field of radio.


[xL45 - information label]

Transformers

The first practical AC transformer was developed by Frenchman Lucien Gaulard and Englishman John Gibbs; improvements were made at the Ganz company in Budapest and, in the United States, by William Stanley who was working for George Westinghouse.

Motors

A practical AC motor was invented by Nikola Tesla in 1888 (see example in the case behind you).

Webnote: 4-4
[information about transformers]


[xL46/47 - information and credit label]

Push the button to your right for a demonstration of a transformer in action. The input is at 125 volts. The transformer steps the electric voltage down by using the principle of induction -- 125-volt alternating current in one coil induces 3-volt AC in a second coil.

    Cases below, right to left:
  1. Westinghouse transformer, 1887 [318,553], from Princeton University
  2. Ferranti transformer [327,571], from Sebastian de Ferranti
  3. Stanley transformer, reproduction, 1886 [322,808]
  4. Gaulard & Gibbs transformer, 1883 [311,853], from Westinghouse Electric Manufacturing Co.


[xL108 - information and credit label]

Watt-hour meters measure the amount of electrical energy consumed. These examples are from the 1890s.

  1. Thomson [334,376], from American Museum of Electricity
  2. Sangamo [334,416], from American Museum of Electricity
  3. Westinghouse Shallenberger, [322,183], from Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  4. Westinghouse, [334,377], from American Museum of Electricity
  5. Stanley, [334,389], from American Museum of Electricity
  6. Stanley, [334,399], from American Museum of Electricity



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