Document 9: "Notes on Progress of the Use of Electricity in the Industrial and Domestic Field" 1921

P. H. ADAMS, "Notes on Progress of the Use of Electricity in the Industrial and Domestic Field," Journal of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers 40 (1921): pp 118-119, Public Service Electric Co., Newark, N. J.

(The text of this document is reprinted in Verdana font in the light gray-shaded box below.)

A lucky find for me, this document presents very dramatic evidence about the astonishing rapidity of electrification and the equally astonishing impact of the development, production and distribution of the fractional horse-power inductive motor. Just for fun, I counted the number of electric motors in my personal workshop. In stationary tools, know its over 15 -- one unit, a combo power tool, contains 3 electric motors, while each of the numerous portable tools, including cordless -- drills, sanders, biscuit joiner, several saws, grinder -- all, taken together, help argue that, for the woodworker, the fractional horse-power motor has had a major impact.

The decade, 1921-1930, is pivotal to amateur woodworking, because -- following closely the introduction of a marketable electric motor -- it is in that decade that the early models of scaled-down woodworking power tools first were brought into the marketplace.

For the woodworking cognescenti, Baldor Motors -- perhaps the most famous name in electric motors -- was founded in 1920 . I'll be touching on more of such details in the narrative chapters. Also check out

Document 9: "Notes on Progress of the Use of Electricity in the Industrial and Domestic Field," Journal of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers 40 (1921): pp 118-119.


"Notes on Progress of the Use of Electricity in the Industrial

and Domestic Field,"

Journal of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers 40 (1921)

pages 118-119.


Public Service Electric Co., Newark, N. J.

The use of electricity for industrial and domestic power purposes on a commercial scale began after the middle of the nineteenth century. In both of these fields it was first used for illumination, and several years passed before any other use was made of it. The development which followed the introduction of the electric light was such that it seems best to treat: the two fields separately.


Gramme discovered in 1873. that one of his ring-wound generators would revolve when electrically connected to a similar machine operating as a generator. Little practical use was made of this knowledge until after 1880, when many improvements in motor design were made.

The first motors used were connected to series lighting circuits as well as to multiple circuits and were of small size. In one instance 18 motors in series were operated with the power required for one are lamp. Motor drive for industrial sowing machines was one of the first applications to industry. Printing presses were also among the early motor-driven machines. The New York Gold & Stock Exchange used a three or four-horse power motor to drive about fifty tickers. This application was very satisfactory.

It is estimated that in 1886, there were about five thousand small motors in use in the United States.

The first Edison central station, that of the Edison Illuminating Co, of New York, was put into service in 1882, but there is no record of any motor load for industrial purposes on this station until the Edison motor was introduced in 1888. Four hundred and seventy horse power in industrial motors were supplied with power from this station in 1889. The first of these motors were used to drive printing presses. One of the motors put in service at this time was still in operation in 1912 and had cost only $25.00 for repairs during 22 years of service.

The growth of the use of electric power for industrial purposes was slow during this first decade, mainly because the art was in its infancy and discoveries and inventions, making the application possible, were just being made. The estimated total horse power of electric motors in service at the close of 1890 is placed at about 25,000 in the records of the National Electric Light Association.

Nikola Tesla and others introduced the polyphase generator and motor, making their first exhibition at the Frankfort Electrical Exposition in 1891. After a short period of development this type of equipment became the greatest factor in promoting the use of electric power in industry.

The development of the direct-current motor also advanced rapidly during this last decade of the nineteenth century and at its close the estimated aggregate horse power of electric motors in service is estimated at 495,000, an increase of about 1900 per cent in ten years.

This figure grew to more than 4,800,000 horse power by 1909, and the next five years saw another increase of over 80 per cent making a total of approximately 9,000,000 horse power in 1914. The estimated total as of January 1, 1920 exceeds 15,000,000 horse power, an increase of 3,000 per cent in 19 years.

The correction of the power factor of industrial loads has become of prime importance to the central station, and the static condenser, a commercial pro-duct of recent years, has come into wide use for this purpose. In this connection, the increased use of the synchronous motor for industrial drive is an interesting development. The rubber industry and many others are now using synchronous motors on a large scale.

Another new development is the electric shovel. his development provides a power shovel which can be used in almost any location. Electricity is now used in almost every phase of the steel industry. The fractional horse power motor has attained a wide application in the industrial field. Labor saving devices for almost every conceivable purpose are now available, which do more and better work than band labor ever accomplished.

Electricity is used to a greater or, less extent in every part of the industrial field and its popularity, because of its economy, cleanliness and simplicity of application, is so great that the demand for motors and all other equipment now exceeds the combined output of all the manufacturers of electrical apparatus.


Benjamin Franklin, in 1749, demonstrated the fact that cooking could be done with electricity but almost a century and a half passed before practical use was made of this knowledge.

The electric fan was the first motor-driven device for the household and was used in the early eighties.

Heating devices came next, and in 1890 and '91, several companies began to produce heating and cooking devices of various kinds. Little, however, was accomplished in the commercial way until 1901 or 1902.

The advent of the efficient fractional horse power motor of today has caused the development of innumerable labor-saving devices for the modern home.

The second decade of the twentieth century has brought marked improvement in all household appliances and many new ones.

A partial list of the appliances obtainable today follows:

Motor-Driven. Washing machines, ironing machines vacuum cleaners, grinders, polishing machines, pianos, ice cream freezers, sewing machines, refrigerating machines, talking machines, dish washers, ventilating devices, and many others.

Stationary Devices. Ranges, heaters, toasters, fireless cookers, toilet devices, medical appliances, and others too numerous to mention.

The number of fractional horse power motors required for washing machines in 1920, by one large manufacturer, is over 500,000. This gives an idea of the extent to which the use of household devices has grown.

(See the first two chapters of the historical account of Baldor Electric Co., written in 1992 by George A Schock.)  

The total business in strictly domestic electrical appliance merchandise for 1920 may be conservatively estimated at five hundred million dollars.

The demand for fractional horse power motors is so great that delivery one year from the receipt of order is about the best that can be obtained. A similar condition exists in other lines of domestic appliances.