Publication: Western Electrician
Chicago, IL, United States
THE RECORD AND PROMISE OF THE ELECTRICAL INDSUTRY.
Of course, no New Years review at this time, however brief, would be orthodox or complete without the introductory remark that the year now entered upon is the closing one of the century. This preliminary disposed of, it may be stated at once that the principal characteristic of 1899, from the point of view of him who is interested in electrical pursuits, was the remarkable extent and growth of electrical business, both at home and abroad. Applied electricity is now firmly engrafted on the industrial arts everywhere, and in no year has its development been so steady and widespread as in the one just closed. This is in part due to the orderly progress of the industry; in part to the great trade revival, begun as far back as the closing months of 1897 and swelling in volume in 1898 and 1899, and in part to the European awakening to the advantages of electrically transmitted power, which notably increased the demand for electrical apparatus.
VOLUME OF BUSINESS.
The causes enumerated above have augmented the volume of electrical manufacturing business in the United States about 40 per cent. over that of 1898. This is not alone due to increase in amount of business, but also to the advance in prices of raw material and labor. In the following table general estimates are given of the value of electrical and strictly allied manufactures for the years 1899 and 1898:
These estimates, prepared with considerable care from a large number of sources, are more full and undoubtedly more accurate than those obtainable a year ago, when the Western Electrician made its first effort in this direction, so that the comparison of the totals $124,000,000 and $70,000,000 is more favorable to the year 1899 than the facts warrant. The business of 1898 was actually about $88,000,000, and as the total for 1899, $124,000,000, may be accepted as approximately correct, the increase is about 40 per cent., as noted above. These figures, it is of course understood, have only to do with manufactures of new machinery and apparatus, and are entirely distinct from the service of central-station, railway, telephone, telegraph and other operating companies.
Owing to the method of classification adopted by the Treasury Department, it is difficult to approximate the actual electrical exports of the year, but they probably amount to at least $7,000,000, compared with $5,500,000 a year ago.
It will be noticed that the only line showing a considerable decrease is belting for electrical plants. Nearly all others show a large increase; a few are stationary or practically so. It is interesting to know the proportion of the increase to be credited to greater quantity of business and to higher prices. A gentleman of prominence in the wire industry, who, with many others, assisted the Western Electrician in preparing the foregoing table, made the estimate that in cables of all kinds and in bare and rubber-covered wire used in electrical work the increase should be about equally divided between advanced prices and increased quantities, while for weatherproof wire only about one-quarter of the increased volume of business is due to greater consumption, the remainder being due to advances in prices.
With the possible exception of the Nernst lamp and the Wehnelt interrupter, the year has shown no striking technical advance. Both of these inventions give some promise of value the one in electric lighting, the other in space telegraphy but neither has been put to practical use to any extent. Occasional reports of the great things to be accomplished by Szczepanik's telectroscope an instrument for the electrical transmission of light waves, to enable one to "see" at a distance have been heard during the year, but the world knows little more of the device than it did early in 1898, when it was first announced.
Considerable work has been accomplished in space telegraphy, particularly at sea, and Marconi's reports of the yacht races brought the advantages of the system forcibly to the attention of all. However, the system has drawbacks yet to be removed, and it has not come into commercial use.
Skiagraphy has grown in usefulness and has been perfected in method. X-ray outfits are now employed by all progressive surgeons. They are found, of late, to be particularly useful in dentistry.
One technical feature of 1899 that should not be overlooked is the report of the committee on standardization of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers, presented at the Boston meeting on June 26th. This document is the result of much study and research on the part of leading engineers and was perhaps the most valuable contribution to electrical literature during the year.
Electric heating has made no remarkable progress. Advance has been made in the industrial use of electric heat, but not-in car heaters.
Electric automobiles are in regular service in a large number of American and European cities. The development of the automobile is, in fact, one of the leading industrial characteristics of the year. There seems to be no longer any doubt that electric vehicles have come to stay as a feature of city life.
Copper has continued high in price, and in consequence the use of aluminum for electrical conductors has been considerably extended.
The alternating current is coming to the fore by leaps and bounds. There are no longer alternating-current and direct-current advocates. All electrical men now recognize the value of the alternating current for all forms of transmission and, for some conditions of distribution. The increase of alternating-direct systems in railway and lighting work has been especially marked during the year. In direct-current distribution it may be remarked, also, that satisfactory progress has been made in 220-volt two-wire and 440-volt three-wire systems.
Larger generating units are constantly designed and built in the shops. This state of affairs is largely due to the demand of the extensive underground, surface and elevated electric-railway systems building in London, Paris, New York, Boston and Chicago.
In telegraphy experiments with the ingenious automatic system of Pollak and Virág have been made in Europe and the United States. A high rate of speed has been attained, but telegraph men doubt the practicability of the system for commercial use. A direct cable between the United States and Germany will undoubtedly be laid this year, and it is hoped that 1900 will also see the beginning of work on a transpacific cable.
The telephone field has shown great activity during the year, both on the part of the Bell people and the Independents. The Bell companies are spending millions of money in improving and extending their service under the spur of competition, and the Independents are e