Review of past Electrical Exhibitions

[Trade Journal]

Publication: Electrical World

New York, NY, United States
vol. 27, no. 20, p. 551, col. 1-2


Electrical Expositions.


It is generally conceded that international exhibitions are indices of the world's progress in the industries, fine arts and sciences there represented, and judging electrical industries by this criterion, there is a most remarkable and interesting record. The year 1881 was the first in which the industry had reached sufficient importance to warrant a purely electrical exhibition. Only three years before, New York electricians had inspected with a great deal of interest and admiration the Brush plant at the fair of the American Institute, held in the old skating rink at Third Avenue and Sixty-first Street. One of these Brush dynamos supplied nine arc-lights in series, in a manner which seemed to indicate commercial success. Of course nine or more lights had been run in series before, but there were very few, even of those who were called electricians, who had seen it done, and most of us were much more familiar with the old Serrin lamps used in stereopticons, which were difficult to keep maintained singly, not to mention anything like a series arrangement.

Paris has ever been a leader in international exhibitions, and in 1881 gave the world the first purely electrical one. By this time American cities had become familiar with not only nine, but forty arc-lights in series supplied from a single dynamo, and more than forty where two or more dynamos were run in series. Still, these were bold advances of the time, which now seem to us as small as the nine arc-light first seen at the skating rink.

In the Operator of Oct. 15, 1881, the predecessor of THE ELECTRICAL WORLD, there is a Paris letter describing the progress of the Exposition. In this letter we find these words: "The great Edison machine which is said to run 1200 incandescent lights has just arrived, and the bed-plate is already in the building. It is expected to be in running order in a week or 10 days, and much interest is shown in the result of the experiment." Observe the cautious statement "which is said to run; "this looks stranger at the present time than it did then, but for an exactly opposite reason.

At the Paris Exposition the first electrical congress was held, and it was there that the name ampere was officially adopted for the unit of current. Before that the Weber was the unit employed, but from this time the name became an outcast, and found no resting place until after the third electrical congress, which was held in Chicago, in 1893, for there it was proposed as a name for the unit of magnet flux, and officially rejected, but since then, without official sanction, it has been adopted.

Since the Paris Exposition of 1881 there have been many electrical exhibitions, and many of a more general nature, but in all of the latter electricity has been one of the most important features. In 1882 there was held in London, at the Crystal Palace, an electrical exposition, at which many of the exhibits which appeared in Paris the year before were shown, together with some important additions. In the year 1882 there was also held another electrical exposition in Munich, and the next year one at the Aquarium in London and one in Vienna, besides a combination gas and electric light exposition at the Crystal Palace, London. In 1884 there was an electrical exposition in Philadelphia, under the auspices of the Franklin Institute, and second only to that held in Paris in 1881.

The extraordinary interest in electrical matters which is so manifest at the present time may be said to have beg un about the year 1876. In this year we had the Centennial Exposition at Philadelphia, where Bell's telephone was first shown to the public. Among those who saw and used it were some of the most eminent scientists of Europe. The exhibition buildings were lighted for the first time by electricity, the Wallace-Farmer dynamo and Wallace plate carbon lamps being used. Only two years before, the invention of Gramme had revolutionized the manufacture of dynamo machinery, and had brought the vague possibility of commercial electric lighting to a near possibility. Then a practical demonstration that there were no insuperable engine