Milestone-Proposal:Folsom Powerhouse, 1895

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Docket #:2019-04

This Proposal has been approved, and is now a Milestone

To the proposer’s knowledge, is this achievement subject to litigation? No

Is the achievement you are proposing more than 25 years old? Yes

Is the achievement you are proposing within IEEE’s designated fields as defined by IEEE Bylaw I-104.11, namely: Engineering, Computer Sciences and Information Technology, Physical Sciences, Biological and Medical Sciences, Mathematics, Technical Communications, Education, Management, and Law and Policy. Yes

Did the achievement provide a meaningful benefit for humanity? Yes

Was it of at least regional importance? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to pay for the milestone plaque(s)? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to arrange the dedication ceremony? Yes

Has the IEEE Section in which the milestone is located agreed to take responsibility for the plaque after it is dedicated? Yes

Has the owner of the site agreed to have it designated as an IEEE Milestone? Yes

Year or range of years in which the achievement occurred:


Title of the proposed milestone:

Folsom Powerhouse, 1895

Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:

Folsom was one of the earliest electrical plants to generate three-phase alternating current, and the first using three-phase 60 hertz. On 13 July 1895, General Electric generators began transmitting electricity 22 miles to Sacramento at 11000 volts, powering businesses, streetcars, and California's capitol. The plant demonstrated advantages of three-phase, 60 hertz long-distance transmission, which became standard, and promoted nationwide development of affordable hydropower.

200-250 word abstract describing the significance of the technical achievement being proposed, the person(s) involved, historical context, humanitarian and social impact, as well as any possible controversies the advocate might need to review.

IEEE technical societies and technical councils within whose fields of interest the Milestone proposal resides.

In what IEEE section(s) does it reside?

IEEE Sacramento Valley Section, Region 6

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) which have agreed to sponsor the Milestone:

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) paying for milestone plaque(s):

Unit: IEEE Sacramento Valley Section
Senior Officer Name: Mahyar Zarghami

Unit: IEEE Sacramento Valley Section
Senior Officer Name: Preetham Kumar

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) arranging the dedication ceremony:

Unit: IEEE Sacramento Valley Section
Senior Officer Name: Mahyar Zarghami

Unit: IEEE Sacramento Valley Section
Senior Officer Name: Preetham Kumar

IEEE section(s) monitoring the plaque(s):

IEEE Section: IEEE Sacramento Valley Section
IEEE Section Chair name: Mahyar Zarghami

Milestone proposer(s):

Proposer name: John Borland
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Proposer name: Preetham Kumar
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Proposer name: Mahyar Zarghami
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Proposer name: Scott Hayes
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Proposer name: Richard Preston
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Proposer name: Daniel Winkelman
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Proposer name: Suresh Vadhva
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Proposer name: Atousa Yazdani
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Proposer name: {{{Proposer name}}}
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Please note: your email address and contact information will be masked on the website for privacy reasons. Only IEEE History Center Staff will be able to view the email address.

Street address(es) and GPS coordinates in decimal form of the intended milestone plaque site(s):

9980 Greenback Lane, Folsom California (Latitude: 38.5642041, Longitude: -121.7366333)

Describe briefly the intended site(s) of the milestone plaque(s). The intended site(s) must have a direct connection with the achievement (e.g. where developed, invented, tested, demonstrated, installed, or operated, etc.). A museum where a device or example of the technology is displayed, or the university where the inventor studied, are not, in themselves, sufficient connection for a milestone plaque.

Please give the address(es) of the plaque site(s) (GPS coordinates if you have them). Also please give the details of the mounting, i.e. on the outside of the building, in the ground floor entrance hall, on a plinth on the grounds, etc. If visitors to the plaque site will need to go through security, or make an appointment, please give the contact information visitors will need. On the historic site, other commemorative plaques exist

Are the original buildings extant?


Details of the plaque mounting:

IEEE Milestone Plaque maybe located on a new or existing granite boulder adjacent to current commemorative plaques in the park

How is the site protected/secured, and in what ways is it accessible to the public?

1. Folsom Powerhouse and Visitor Center are open for tours Wednesday through Sunday, Noon to 4pm. The grounds where the plaque will be located are open every day 6 am – 9 pm in the summer and 7 am – 6 pm in the winter. The gates to the park grounds are closed and locked nightly.

Who is the present owner of the site(s)?

Department of Parks and Recreation, State of California

What is the historical significance of the work (its technological, scientific, or social importance)? If personal names are included in citation, include justification here. (see section 6 of Milestone Guidelines)

In 1850 Horatio Gates Livermore left his family in Maine and came to California seeking business opportunities. By 1861 he was joined by his sons Horatio Putnam and Charles to establish control of the Natoma Water and Mining Company. Livermore’s vision of a Folsom sawmill would require construction of a dam and canal on the American River to float logs into the mill. In exchange for convict labor, Livermore gave the state land for what is now Folsom Prison. After their father died, the Livermore brothers completed the dam and canal project in 1893. By this time the opportunity to use elevated water from the Folsom canal to create hydroelectricity for Sacramento became feasible. Thomson-Houston and Capital Gas Companies sold electricity in Sacramento starting in 1884. They used small coal-burning steam engines to produce limited amounts of costly electricity. J.P. Morgan’s financial firm, Drexel, Morgan & Co., was instrumental in merging Edison General Electric and Thomson-Houston into one alternating current (AC) company in 1892 to be called General Electric (GE). H.P. Livermore received power system designs from Westinghouse and GE for the Folsom site. GE was chosen for its superior use of three phase current that would efficiently power AC motors in Sacramento. This was the second use of three phase current in the United States and would become the standard for electricity in use today. At the GE plant in Schenectady, New York, Elihu Thomson, Charles Steinmetz, and Dr. Louis Bell created four three phase 60 cycle AC generators for the Folsom Powerhouse that became the standard type of electricity used in the United States. Stanley transformers increased the voltage from the powerhouse to 11,000 volts. That high voltage was enough to send current 22 miles to Sacramento without significant loss on a powerline system designed by Dr. Louis Bell. In 1895, Folsom had the most powerful powerhouse in the world producing three megawatts. This inexpensive hydropower was a boon to Sacramento. The Livermore brothers partnered with Albert Gallatin of Huntington-Hopkins Hardware to create the Sacramento Electric Light and Power Company in 1892. The company sold Folsom Powerhouse electricity for the Central Pacific Shops, streetcars, street lights, the Phoenix Gristmill, the Buffalo Brewery, and the California State Capitol. Home use of electricity was limited at the time; later, bare light bulbs hung from the ceilings of most buildings.

What obstacles (technical, political, geographic) needed to be overcome?

Explained above

What features set this work apart from similar achievements?

In the middle of the infamous “Battle of the Currents”, the Livermore brothers took a visionary step by investing in a relatively new technology to demonstrate long distance transmission at high voltage, which powered Sacramento city as the first American city to utilize 3-phase 60 Hz AC. The Folsom Powerhouse has been (with a high degree of confidence) the first to create 3-phase 60Hz AC that became the standard form of electricity in the United States grid. 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, which went into operation at almost the same time as the Folsom plant, providing 5000 hp through 2-phase, 25 HZ, 4-wire generators.

Supporting texts and citations to establish the dates, location, and importance of the achievement: Minimum of five (5), but as many as needed to support the milestone, such as patents, contemporary newspaper articles, journal articles, or chapters in scholarly books. 'Scholarly' is defined as peer-reviewed, with references, and published. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. At least one of the references must be from a scholarly book or journal article. All supporting materials must be in English, or accompanied by an English translation.

1- Engineering News Journal, Vol XXXIII, No. 15, Apr 11 1895. 2- The Folsom Powerhouse No.1, 1895, National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark, The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, Sep. 12, 1976. 3- Men and Volts, The Story of General Electric Company, 1941, Pages 250-1. 4- Charles Coleman, PG&E of California, The Centennial Story of PG&E 1852-1952, McGrawHill Inc. 1952, 385 pp Chapter II 5- The Folsom-Sacramento Power Transmission, The Journal of Electricity, Vol. I., No. 3, Sep. 1895. 6- Electricity in Railroad Shops, How Power Is Used by the Southern Pacific at Sacramento, PG&E Magazine, Vol. II, No. 4, Sep. 1919. 7- High-Tension Network of a Power System, PG&E Magazine, Vol. II, No. 1, June 1919 Page 14. 8- The History of Folsom Power Plant, PG&E Magazine, pp. 180-90, Vol. 1, No. 5, Oct. 1909. 9- Hughes, Thomas Parke. Networks of Power: Electrification in Western Society, 1880-1930. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983. 10- Jonnes, Jill. Empires of Light: Edison, Tesla, Westinghouse, and the Race to Electrify the World. 1st ed. New York: Random House, 2003.

The full texts of these are on file at the History Center. (13 December 2019)

Supporting materials (supported formats: GIF, JPEG, PNG, PDF, DOC): All supporting materials must be in English, or if not in English, accompanied by an English translation. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. For documents that are copyright-encumbered, or which you do not have rights to post, email the documents themselves to Please see the Milestone Program Guidelines for more information.

1- A photo image of the cover page of Engineering News Record from 1999. This issue lists the top 125 projects over the last 125 years. It features the Folsom PH in a callout box on the front page. 2- Edison Tech Center website, at 3- Explore APA Heritage, Chinese Heritage Sites of the American West, at

Please email a jpeg or PDF a letter in English, or with English translation, from the site owner(s) giving permission to place IEEE milestone plaque on the property, and a letter (or forwarded email) from the appropriate Section Chair supporting the Milestone application to with the subject line "Attention: Milestone Administrator." Note that there are multiple texts of the letter depending on whether an IEEE organizational unit other than the section will be paying for the plaque(s).

Please recommend reviewers by emailing their names and email addresses to Please include the docket number and brief title of your proposal in the subject line of all emails.