Sunday, April 19, 2015

"Gas Light or Electric Light" (1878)

The following story ran on 31 October 1878 in the Watertown re-union:
The gas companies and their expert advisers declare that they are not at all afraid that there is any prospect of the substitution of electric light for gas light. Prof. Morton, a distinguished authority, has given them encouragement by publically averring that no practicable process of dividing and subdividing the force generated by the battery has yet been discovered so that the electric light can be made useful for houses and offices. In such subdivision there is not even the prospect of anything being done, says the learned Professor.
The Franklin Institute of Philadelphia, according to a speaker at last week's meeting of the American Gaslight Association, after expending money in experiments with the electric light, failed to discover in it any elements of practicability. The Permanent Exhibition at Philadelphia tried it, and it was a failure. It was either too intense or too irregular. Other speakers told similar stories of the ill adaptedness of the new light to ordinary and general uses, and the conclusion was that illuminating gas is not only good enough for all our needs, but will also continue to furnish us our artificial light for an indefinite period of time to come.
Meanwhile, however, as here in Canada, and in England, gas stocks have declined heavily, and they obstinately refuse to rebound. The public do not agree with the gas men. They believe we are going to have the electric light, that the difficulties in the way of its distribution have been or will be surmounted, and that it is destined to be the light of the future.
Mr. Edison also agrees with them and says he has already done what the advocates of gas say has not been done, and what they do not believe can be done.—That the electric light can be profitably be used for the illumination of large open spaces has been proven beyond question. It may now be seen on the Boulevard de l'Opera and at the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, and passing from the brilliant light it gives, that made by the neighboring gas lamps seems feeble in comparison.—We have also had opportunities of observing it in New York, and in London and in other parts of England it has been successfully experimented with in the streets, on the seashore, and in large buildings.
But can the electric light be distributed through the shops and dwellings of a city as gas is now distributed? Can it be furnished at a cheaper rate than gas, and can its intense glare be subdued and the light made constant and uniform—in fact, can it be substituted for gas light? To all these questions Mr. Edison answers, Yes. "The subdivision of the light," he told a reported of the Sun last week," is all right. The only thing to be accurately determined is its economy. I am already positive it will be cheaper than gas but have not determined how much cheaper."
The articles of incorporation of The Edison Electric Light Company were filed last week, and the company proposes to light the city, public buildings, and private residences with electric lights. We shall, therefore, before long have an opportunity to see for ourselves whether the gas men are right or wrong about the new light; and they will be wise to forego prophesying until the experiment has been tried.
Despite the reference to Canada in the article, Watertown is in fact in upstate New York, although very close to the Canadian border.

I think the "battery" referred to in the article is the power plant, not a portable power cell.

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