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See Also: General Electric Company

Schenectady Electrical Handbook
The General Electric Company

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[This information is from pp. 9-12 of the Schenectady Electrical Handbook by the American Institute of Electrical Engineers. (Schenectady, NY: General Electric Press, 1904). It is in the Schenectady Collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at Schdy Schdy R 621.3 A51s.]

The General Electric Company was incorporated in 1892, acquiring at its formation all the capital stock of the Edison General Electric Company, of the Thomson-Houston Electric Company, and of the Thomson-Houston International Electric Company. The previous twelve years in the history of electrical industries was an era of invention and preparation; incandescent and arc lighting and electric traction were growing arts, but were so clouded and delayed up to 1892 by the clash of divergent methods, that only a few realized their vast future utilization.

[Photo: Schenectady Works in 1886: original size (7K) | 16x enlarged (96K)]

The General Electric Company was founded by men who felt that the time was ripe to amalgamate the large existing companies and to harmonize competing patents and engineering talents into one great concern; one that should not only manufacture all appliances and develop all promising inventions, but should also advise prospective customers as to best methods and apparatus — in a word, a vast manufacturing and engineering company deserving the name General Electric.

[Photo: General Electric Company, Schenectady Works: original size (26K) | 9x enlarged (168K)]

[Plan of General Electric Company's Schenectady Works]

Never in the industrial world did organization effect a more magical change in releasing pent energy. Guided by master hands, electrical arts leaped into industrial pre-eminence; volume of manufacture of appliances, progress of invention, public confidence in electricity, and its general utilization, all took long strides forward. The development of electrical arts, not only in the United States but throughout the civilized world, became the history of the General Electric Company.

Isolated inventions and the talents of inventors reacted on each other to produce perfected systems. Among these were the high tension electric light systems of Elihu Thomson and Chas. F. Brush, which had been owned by the Thomson-Houston Company, and the low tension incandescent lamp system of Edison, which had been owned by the Edison General Electric Company. Although Sprague, whose patents had been purchased by the Edison General Electric Company, had shown that the electric street car was a practical possibility in Richmond in 1887, it was not until Van DePoele, whose patents were purchased by the Thomson-Houston Company, had, in 1889, utilized the now familiar under-running trolley, and the carbon brush for motors, in the West End Railway of Boston, that the electric street railway was assured of permanent success.

The expansion of each department of electrical engineering has been signalized by achievements utterly undreamed of when the General Electric Company was started.

Generators have grown from 200 or 300 H.P. at the largest to an ordinary standard of 5000 H.P., with a rapidly growing demand from costumers of the General Electric Company for sizes up to 10,000 H.P. In 1882 the total number of incandescent lamps manufactured in this country was about 100,000; in 1903 the Harrison Works of the General Electric Company manufactured 28,000,000. Electric railways have not only totally displaced horse cars, but have, by their growth in volume and evolution of transportion methods, opened up a field that has profoundly affected our urban and suburban life. From the early work of Sprague and Van DePoele, the great amalgamated General Electric Company has nursed and tended the electric railways of the country and of th world to a giant's growth. Power transmission by electricity has grown from a mere problem for discussion to the reaching of 50, 100 and even 150 miles with good efficiency. The flexibility and economy of electric power for driving machine tools is replacing line shafting in all modern factories; in textile mills alone, the General Electric Company has installed 70,000 H.P. in motors. In mines everywhere, electric locomotives, hoists and pumps have replaced steam and compressed air. On board ship, and especially in the navy, the use of electricity was early extended from lighting to power; in nearly every vessel of the United States Navy, General Electric apparatus is relied upon today for ordinary and searchlight illumination, for fans, hoists, turret turning, and numerous uses that it has made for itself in superseding steam. Electro-metallurgical and electro-chemical progress expressed by General Electric Company apparatus and methods, has built up along the Niagara Falls frontier a long line of factories run by Niagara Falls power. These instances are among hundreds that were totally unrealized previous to the General Electric Company era, and which that Company has fostered to a marvelous development.

The following approximate figures indicate the relative sizes of the General Electric Company's works at Schenectady, New York; Lynn, Massachusetts; and Harrison, New Jersey:

WorksSq. Ft. of Floor SpaceEmployees
Schenectady
2,519,000
10,000
Lynn
1,081,000
5,000
Harrison
345,000
2,000
 3,945,000
17,000

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See Also: General Electric Company

http://www.schenectadyhistory.org/resources/seh/ge.html updated July 30, 2009

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