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Electrical Machinery And Apparatus

( Originally Published 1918 )



A new set of industries. This set of industries is almost too new to have a history, and there is about it so much of the technical that any adequate description is likely to be far from simple. But a survey of typical American industries that left this group out would be incomplete, and so we are including a brief chapter upon it. In general, this group includes the manufacture of the necessary machinery and all the appliances used in the generation, transmission, and utilization of electrical energy, but it does not take in the production of such things as poles (of wood or metal), glass or porcelain, or bare iron or copper wire.

Rapid development. This electrical industry was for the first time reported as a separate one in the Census of 1879, when it supported less than 1300 employees and produced an annual product worth less than $3,000,000. Then came the growth period, so that from 1879 to 1914 the number of establishments increased from 76 to 1030, the number of employees from the above-quoted figure to 118,000, the capital invested from $1,500,000 to over $355,000,000, and the annual value of product to over $330,000,000. Here is evidently a very rapid advance ; and while this business cannot compare in size with some others which we have described, it is so intimately bound up with the industrial and social life of twentieth-century America, and promises so much for the future, that it demands some space here.

Advance by a succession of rushes. In a way the advance of this set of industries has been by a succession of rushes ; concerning the telephone a writer in the Tenth Census says that statistics are really misleading where change is so rapid and violent — that at the beginning of 1879–188o this business amounted to little or nothing, while at the end of the year it represented one of the great interests of the country. This statement is taken up by a writer in the Twelfth Census, who says that it applies all along the line in electrical industries and applications : in 185o concerning the telegraph ; in 186o concerning the beginnings of dynamo construction ; in 1870 concerning the stock-ticker and similar electric conveniences now familiar; in 188o concerning electric lighting as well as the telephone ; in 1890 concerning the vast exploitation of the electric railway ; in 1900 concerning the adoption of the electric motor for power transmission and for factories, as well as for the automobile.

Dynamos. Dynamos form perhaps the most important single class of electrical apparatus, for they are necessary to generate the energy which other electrical machines and apparatus distribute and utilize. These machines have become much larger and more powerful since they were adopted, in connection with electric lighting, in 1870 ; and since 1885 the alternating current has been employed. In 1900 there were 9182 direct-current dynamos made as against 1345 using the alternating current, but the value of the former was only about $6,000,000, as against $4,000,000 for the latter. The average size of the latter variety was 254 horse power ; of the former, 47 horse power. The direct-current machine is adapted to isolated plants, the alternating to comprehensive central stations ; again, small-capacity dynamos are adapted to electroplating, to the charging of batteries, and so on. In general, with the great increase in number of dynamos since 1900, it is the alternating-current machines that have shown great increase in capacity ; the other kind have decreased. Dynamos of direct current and small size have come into demand for household use and especially in connection with the automobile.

Motors. Electric motors have been known for nearly a century, but it was not until lately that they assumed any importance in the industrial world. Since 1890 they have shown a marked development ; the census figures show that in 1890 New York City was using 360 motors in isolated plants—the horse power of them all amounting to only 310 — and that in the whole of the state outside New York City only 99 motors were in use. The rapidity of development since that time has been so great that the annual value of motors produced now is about $45,000,000. They have been applied to the operation of stationary machinery, for which small capacity was needed ; these are the so-called " industrial motors."

Storage batteries. To go into the construction of devices like the transformer is impossible here, but we may say that 36,000 transformers were being made annually by 1900, with a value of $3,000,000, while at present these figures have risen to 115,000 and $13,000,000 respectively. Then there is the storage battery. As early as 1900 it was reported by the census that we had $1 1,000,000 invested in storage batteries for use in central stations for light and power, for street-railway power houses, and for isolated lighting plants. Since the opening of the century the value of batteries produced annually has increased from less than $4,000,000 to nearly $25,000,000, and in the first fourteen years of the century the number of dry primary batteries had risen from less than 2,000,000 to over 71,000,000 — this astonishing increase being explained by the rapidly growing demand for such products on the part of the automobile and the power boat. During the same period the value of storage batteries increased from about $2,500,000 to over $13,000,000, their most extensive use being in central lighting plants and in the electric-railway industry.

Electric lighting. The manufacture of electric lamps and lighting fixtures is an important branch of the electrical industry. In the arc lamp the current forms a brilliant arc of light between two slightly separated carbon points, while in the incandescent Iamp the current heats to a glow a nonconsuming filament sealed in a vacuum bulb. The former has been used most successfully for out-of-door illumination, the latter for ordinary lighting, replacing oil lamps and gas. The incandescent lamp is everywhere replacing the arc, the latter showing, since the opening of the twentieth century, an actual decrease. The manufacture of incandescent lamps is now one of the largest specialized departments in the electrical industry ; especially are the tungstens on the increase, as a consequence of improvements rendering them durable and economical. From 1909 to 1914 the annual production of tungstens rose from less than 12,000,000 to nearly 75,000,000, while the incandescents with simple carbon filament were decreasing from 5 5,000,000 to 14,000,000.

The telephone. Telephone apparatus is manufactured in this country to the value of $23,000,000 annually, a figure more than twice as large as that for 1900. Formerly there was a very much centralized control over the production of telephone apparatus, resting on patents surrounding the system ; but with the lapse of the patents a great deal of competition sprang up, resulting in further development for the telephone industry and transformation in the character of the apparatus. Telephone apparatus proper does not. include dynamos and motors, but such articles as transmitters, receivers, central switchboards, private-exchange boards, and telephone parts and supplies.

Electric heating. During the past decade there has been a good development in the use of electric-heating apparatus, the value of such manufactures — including electric irons, cooking devices, stoves, and ranges —having risen from $400,000 in 1904 to over $4,000,000 at present.

Development of electric power. Considerable interest is being manifested here in the subject of electric-power development, whereby the water power which we have may be transformed into electric energy and carried long distances to points of demand.

The conservation movement has a hand in this matter, for it has turned attention to the exhaustibility of other sources of power. It is estimated that our potential water power is somewhere between a minimum of 20,000,000, and a maximum of 54,000,000, horse power. We have seen that the great bulk of the country's water power is located very far from the industrial centers. Power can be transmitted over a radius of several hundred miles and will, no doubt, extend its range as time goes on ; but, making due allowance for the progress of science, it would appear that the great bulk of our water power is not within striking distance of our great industrial centers.

Location of the industry. Establishments engaged in manufacturing electrical machinery, apparatus, and supplies are to be found in nearly all of our states, but the industry is highly developed and centralized in the following six : New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Illinois, and Ohio.

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