This bicycle’s welded steel rear fork was created using Elihu Thomson’s electric welding apparatus (see object number MC*181724). Welding samples demonstrated the 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 industrial applications including the manufacture of automobile parts, tools, screws, ball bearings, and wire lines. Thomson’s welding apparatus pressed two pieces of metal together while an electric current ran through the metal. 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 a variety of companies to manage his industrial interests. In 1892, his Thomson-Houston Electric Company merged with the Edison Electric Company to form General Electric.