Milestone-Proposal:Folsom Powerhouse, 1895

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Docket #:

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 Powerhouse was the first generation plant in the United States to use 3-phase 60 cycles per second alternating current, today known as hertz. It sent power 22 miles to Sacramento on July 13, 1895. General Electric built the Folsom generators and the earlier 3-Phase, 50 hertz generators installed at Mill Creek in Southern California at their Schenectady, New York plant.

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, Region 6
Senior Officer Name: B. Preetham Kumar

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) arranging the dedication ceremony:

Unit: IEEE Sacramento Valley Section, Region 6
Senior Officer Name: Preetham Kumar

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

IEEE Section: IEEE Sacramento Valley Section, Region 6
IEEE Section Chair name: Suresh Vadhva

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

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 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)?

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. 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). 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?

The Folsom Powerhouse was the first to create 3-phase 60Hz AC that became the standard form of electricity in the United States grid.

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.

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.

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).