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.
The Propeller Indiana’s “Philadelphia Wheel”
- Indiana's propeller was manufactured by Spang & Co. of Pittsburgh, PA, as stamped on one of the blades. This firm, a large iron manufacturing company centered in Pittsburgh, PA, was founded in 1828 and was one of the earliest and largest manufacturers of iron products in the United States.
- The hub of the propeller is cast iron; the blades are rolled iron. One of the intact blades is chipped and dented, suggesting a collision. Another blade is missing outside the yellow line, which marks where a large section broke loose, probably from hitting an object in the water. This piece struck the Indiana's sternpost, literally “shivered her timbers,” and started the leak that sank the ship. The blade broke off completely when the ship struck the lakebed and was found at the wreck site, buried in the sand under the stern post. It is reproduced here in fiberglass.
- The closest design is by Richard Loper of Philadelphia, who registered three propeller-related patents in 1844 and 1845 and licensed his ideas to shipbuilders Reany, Neafie & Co., also of Philadelphia. Contemporary accounts state that Loper’s design was the most popular in the Great Lakes region, and some Lakes propeller manufacturers even advertised his design as the “Philadelphia Wheel.”
- Date made
- possible patentee
- Loper, Richard
- Spang & Company
- ID Number
- catalog number
- accession number
- Data Source
- National Museum of American History
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