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.
- This scale model of Thomas Edison's Pearl Street power station was made in 1927. It demonstrates the internal arrangement of generating equipment and can be operated by means of a small electric motor in the base.
- The first floor contained the boiler room and coal-handling equipment. Steam created by the boilers operated Porter-Allen horizontal steam engines on the second floor. The engines powered large Edison electrical generators nicknamed "Jumbo" after the famous elephant. Control and switching equipment were housed on the third and fourth floors.
- The site for Edison's generating station had to satisfy both engineering and business needs. Because Edison used 100 volt direct current to power his new light bulbs, customers could be no further than ½ mile from the generator. But he needed a high profile location to promote the system. Edison chose a site in the heart of New York's financial district, 255 and 257 Pearl Street. On 4 September 1882, he threw a switch in the office of one of his main investors, J. Pierpont Morgan, and initiated service to the area.
- A fire damaged the station extensively in 1890 but Edison and his men worked around the clock for 11 days to restore service. The station was taken out of service and dismantled in 1895, the building sold and later demolished. The New York Edison Company placed a commemorative plaque at the site in 1917.
- Date made
- Edison Company
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- Data Source
- National Museum of American History