Milestone-Proposal talk:Folsom Powerhouse, 1895
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Below please find the first review of the Folsom Powerhouse proposal, by Dr, Julie Cohn (Research Historian, Center for Public History, University of Houston, and author of _The Grid: Biography of an American Technology_)
1) Is the suggested wording of the Plaque Citation (as set out on the above website) accurate?
I believe the wording of the proposed Plaque Citation is accurate, but slightly misleading. IEEE Milestone "Mill Creek No. 1 Hydroelectric Plant, 1893" identifies that plant as the first to use 3-phase alternating current power for commercial application. (https://ethw.org/Milestones:Mill_Creek_No._1_Hydroelectric_Plant,_1893).
In addition, IEEE milestones acknowledge two other hydroelectric plants that began operation in 1895 with multi-phase alternating current (https://ethw.org/Milestones:Adams_Hydroelectric_Generating_Plant,_1895, https://ethw.org/Milestones:Krka-%C5%A0ibenik_Electric_Power_System,_1895).
It might be more appropriate to identify this as one of the earliest plants to use 3-phase current, and the first to generate power at 60 cycles (hZ), the speed eventually adopted as standard across the industry. The other achievement of note is the distance over which ac power traveled and this is correctly mentioned in the Plaque Citation.
2) Is the evidence presented in the proposal of sufficient substance and accuracy to support the Citation?
I believe the evidence presented in the proposal is of sufficient substance to support the Citation. I would encourage the proposer to consider a few modifications:
Mid-way through the historical significance statement, this sentence appears: "By 1893, J.P. Morgan had merged Edison General Electric and Thomson-Houston into one alternating current (AC) company to be called General Electric (GE)."
While J.P. Morgan’s financial firm, Drexel, Morgan & Co., was instrumental in effecting the merger, it is not correct to attribute the merger exclusively to Mr. Morgan. In addition, the merger was completed in 1892, not 1893.
In addition, the proposer might want to offer a little more about the context in which this achievement took place. The first demonstration of long-distance transmission of alternating current took place in Germany, at the 1891 International Electro Technical Exhibition. The transmission line ran 109 miles from Lauffen to Frankfort. In 1893, the Westinghouse Company demonstrated the efficacy of using alternating current for multiple purposes at once (lighting, motors, and transportation) at the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. As a result, the Cataract Company selected Westinghouse to build a giant alternating current power station at Niagara Falls (this went into operation at almost the same time as the Folsom plant - 5,000 hp, 2-phase, 25 hZ, 4-wire generators). All this took place in the wake of the infamous “Battle of the Currents” and marked an industry-wide turn away from direct current. These events underscore the importance of the Folsom Power Plant. The Livermore brothers took a visionary step by investing in a relatively new technology for an essential service.
The proposer might consider adding two sources to the supporting texts and citations: Hughes, Thomas Parke. Networks of Power: Electrification in Western Society, 1880-1930. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983. Jonnes, Jill. Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Electrify the World. 1st ed. New York: Random House, 2003.
Both provide additional background and context for the battle of the currents, the merger of Thompson-Houston and Edison, and the development of the Folsom Power Plant.
3) Does the proposed milestone represent a significant technical achievement?
Yes, it marks an important step toward standardization within the power industry in the United States, as well as extension of emerging technologies (three-phase alternating current and long-distance transmission) to practical applications.