Energy & Power
The Museum's collections on energy and power illuminate the role of fire, steam, wind, water, electricity, and the atom in the nation's history. The artifacts include wood-burning stoves, water turbines, and windmills, as well as steam, gas, and diesel engines. Oil-exploration and coal-mining equipment form part of these collections, along with a computer that controlled a power plant and even bubble chambers—a tool of physicists to study protons, electrons, and other charged particles.
A special strength of the collections lies in objects related to the history of electrical power, including generators, batteries, cables, transformers, and early photovoltaic cells. A group of Thomas Edison's earliest light bulbs are a precious treasure. Hundreds of other objects represent the innumerable uses of electricity, from streetlights and railway signals to microwave ovens and satellite equipment.
- Bryant’s New Showboat was built at Point Pleasant, W. Va., in 1917. Launched in 1918, it could seat around 880 people in its theater. Most of the shows put on for Bryant’s patrons in small towns along the Kanawha, Ohio, Monongahela, Illinois, and Mississippi Rivers were vaudeville or follies productions.
- The ornate stage of Bryant’s New Showboat was home to dozens of plays like Hamlet and Little Nell of the Ozarks, and even the antics of a trained bucking mule named January. Owner Billy Bryant offered $10 to anyone who could stay on the animal’s back, but he had to retract that offer in mining towns, as the miners were strong enough to stay on.
- The vessel was sold to new owners in 1945, at the end of World War II. Movie theaters, personal automobiles and other developments had gradually ended the colorful showboat era on America’s rivers.
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- National Museum of American History