Growth of EC&M; description of factory and products; insulators furnished by local glassworks


Publication: Daily Evening Bulletin

San Francisco, CA, United States
vol. 37, no. 120, p. 1, col. 1-2


Gratifying Growth of the Electrical Construction and Maintenance Company—Description of the Factory and its Products.

Electricity as a Medium of Communication, and as a Guard against injury from Fires or Thieves—Remarkable Showing of Human Ingenuity and Skill.

Commencing in a quiet and unostentatious manner, in the year 1871, with only three employes and a small amount of invested capital, the Electrical Construction and Maintenance Company of this city has matured into an important industry, with a capital stock of $100,000. The officers are as follows: George S. Ladd, President; James Gamble, Vice-president; and Stephen D. Field, Secretary and Electrician. The regular routine business of the company seldom brings into public notice, and yet, after careful study of its operations, the writer feels assured that all who take an interest in the progress of the city will be pleased to learn a few facts in regard to the peculiar work of this enterprise. The factory proper occupies the entire third story of the Levison Brothers' building, No. 134 Sutter Street, and comprises an office, salesroom, and workshop, covering an area 66 feet by 120. At present it furnishes regular employment to thirty-five white men. The company manufacturers every conceivable variety of telegraphic and electrical apparatus, batteries, supplies, telegraph construction material, fire-alarms, electric gongs, private line machines, etc., and a very important branch of its business is contracting for the construction and maintenance of telegraph lines, city fire-alarms, and other electrical systems.


One of the most ingenious inventions of the age is the electric burglar-alarm manufactured by this company. Its mysterious workings are calculated to surpass the understanding of any but the initiated and certainly to daze the burglar. The individual who clandestinely endeavors to gain an entrance to a building wherein one of these alarms is located is only too glad to beat a precipitate retreat before carrying into affect his infamous designs. This is certainly one of the beneficiaries of science. The arrangement of the alarm is simple, and, after explanation, easily understood. Small springs are concealed in the doors and windows of the house in such a manner as to open or close (according to the form of the alarm adopted), when the door or window is opened. Wires are carried from each spring to the bed-chamber, and attached to an electric gong and indicator in connection with a small battery placed elsewhere in the house. Upon closing the house for the night, the alarm system is switched on, after which, if any door or window in connection is opened—even an inch—the alarm gong vibrates violently, and the indicator shows the locality of the disturbance. The master of the house is, of course, aroused, and knows whether to travel with his battery. The gong can be arranged with special reference to alarming the burglar, or fixed for the benefit of the head of the house alone. There is no limit to the number of points which can be protected in this manner. The stable and other outbuildings can all be brought under the surveillance of this alarm, when desirable. The wires are put into the most stylish houses now built, without defacing the woodwork, and are entirely concealed from view. Apropos of this alarm, a very amusing anecdote is related as having occurred at the new and palatial residence of a wealthy citizen of San Francisco. Upon the advice of friends who realized by experience the practical benefits of the alarm apparatus, this gentleman had it placed in his house. The alarm worked to a charm for a few weeks, and he expressed himself as wholly pleased with it. But one night, upon switching the alarm into connection, the bell sounded the alarm for the basement section of the house. Careful search failed to discover anything wrong, but the bell kept up its incessant din, until, patience was exhausted and the alarm was switched off, in order that the family might pass the night in peace. Next morning the gentleman posted down to the office of the company in hot haste to book a complaint against the nuisance. An expert inspected the premises and found that the cellar door had been left open one quarter of an inch all night. This door was closed and, for a time, no trouble was experienced with the alarm. The next occasion of the sounding of the alarm was in the "see sma' hours ayant the twal." An immediate investigation of the cause led to the discovery of burglarious work. An experienced criminal had cut his way through a heavy iron fence and broken open the window, and fled at the sound of the gong. This household has no more complaints to lodge against the burglar-alarm. The reader can readily conceive of many uses to which an alarm like the above could be devoted. It can be made to guard both parlor and kitchen. The Cook's "cousin" is prevented from entering unnoticed for a quiet tete a tete, and the young lady of the house has no chance for elopement. And the dissipated son, who is wont to steal into the house in his stocking-feet, at an hour when respectable people are abed, finds that science has thwarted his cunning, and left reformation as his only recourse. A clock is attached to the alarm, which will turn it on at any hour desired, and will turn if off in the morning , in order that the servants may open the house without disturbing the sleeping inmates. Thus the house may be closed at any hour desirable. Again, if it is known that one member of the household will not come home until a late hour, the alarm may be disconnected from the front door (without disturbing its operation at other points), that he may enter noiselessly. The device whereby the alarm sounds in the morning for the express benefit of the servants is highly commendable on the score of domestic economy, though not particularly popular with the toilers of the kitchen. As a specimen of exquisite torture to the daughter of Hibernia who is pining for a morning nap, it has no equal. The alarm is certain to ring until she arises and turns if off. One of the most satisfactory features of the alarm, after all that has been said, is that when the alarm is turned on before retiring it will infallibly indicate whether your house is securely closed at every point, and you can rest assured that any attempt at surreptitious entrance will be announced. No need for traveling over cold canvas in bare feet, down a pair of stairs and across a hall, for the sake of satisfying a timid wife that the door is locked.


The old fashioned bell-pull annunciators are fast disappearing before the electrical annunciator, a novel and economical arrangement that is faithful and enduring. Insulated wires, running to the various rooms, are connected with the annunciator in the office of the hotel, where the number is shown to the clerk whenever a knob is pressed in any room, the work being accomplished, of course, through the medium of electricity. The electrical annunciator in the Grand Hotel of this city has now been in operation since the 30th of March, 1870. It has 857 numbers. During the first twelve months 500 calls per day, or over 180,000 in all, were transmitted, and the annunciator never failed, in a single instance, to announce the proper signal. Calls from remote rooms arrive with the same strength and unerring accuracy as from rooms nearest the office. The battery requires but a few minutes' attention once a month, and costs but a few dollars per annum for chemicals. The use of the annunciator is not confined to hotels, but extends to private residences. Indeed, its sphere of usefulness is constantly expanding, and no modern dwelling of pretension is complete without some of the infinite variety of conveniences to which electricity is now applied.

An invention, more recent in its conception than the annunciator, is the electric mining gong. Any person who is acquainted with the working of quartz mines knows the movements of the cages, in shafts, are guided by signals sounded by the jerking of a bell-rope. It will also be remembered that many fearful accidents have resulted through the disarrangements of the bell-rope or failure of the bell to sound. In deep shafts it is often a difficult job to overcome the inertia of the bell-rope, which necessarily, in a distance of 1,700 feet, has a deal of slack. The electric gong does away with the dangers attending the signaling of the cage, and, like the famous lamp brought into existence by Sir Humphrey Davy, seems destined to become the miner's friend. Insulated wires, enclosed in gas pipe, run from the hoisting works to the foot of the mine, and are tapped at each level. On each level, also, is a station signal-box. The miner presses a knob and the electric current speeds above and sounds a ten inch gong in the hoisting works. The communication is not broken at the hoisting works, but the electricity returns to the station whence it first started and strikes a small gong, whereby the miner in the level knows that the signal for the cage has been given above. By this system a gong can be sounded ten miles with accuracy; and the duplicate sound will also be secured. One of the gongs has lately been placed in the Ophir Mine and started on its mission. Should it give the satisfaction that is anticipated, Similar gongs will probably be placed in other mines on the Comstock Lode.


The electric fire-alarm consists of small electric-thermometers, placed in the ceiling of each room, from attic to basement, so constructed that they will close an electric circuit when the temperature is raised above a certain point, say 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and being connected by wire with the annunciator, will give the alarm and indicate the locality in precisely the same manner as the burglar alarm, previously mentioned. The gong will keep up its exciting din as long as the temperature of the room is above that indicated by the thermometer. The terrible loss of life and property, during the last few years, by fires in cities supplied with efficient Fire Departments, is an evidence that no community is secure from the ravages of this remorseless fiend. Hence a fire-alarm in the store or house is an invaluable safe-guard. The electric alarm arouses the people in store or house before the fire has raised the temperature twenty degrees in the room it originated, and time is thus afforded for further damage to be averted. The alarms are placed in every kind of public and private edifice, and in all parts of ships and steamers. When put into stores and other buildings in which no person sleeps, a powerful electric gong can be placed outside the building to give the alarm to policeman in case of fire. The proprietor of the Walker House, at Salt Lake City, reports that this fire-alarm saved his house from serious injury, if not utter destruction by fire, twice within one month.

The company is the manufacturing agent for the American Fire Alarm Telegraph, which is the style at present in use by this city. Negotiations for the erection of this telegraph in Portland, Or., and in Sacramento are now progressing.


The main room or working apartment of the factory, on the third floor of the building, presents an animated scent during the day, and it is well worthy a visit. The machinery is of such an intricate character as to almost baffle description after a mere inspection. But, under the manipulation of skilled workmen, it runs steadily and smoothly, and produces articles of beauty and utility. At the inception of the enterprise the company imported its raw stock from the East, but it has gradually cut off the importation until, at the present time, it depends almost entirely upon home protection. Magnetic wire, made from copper 98 per cent, fine, is covered with California silk. Formerly this wire was imported from the East at a cost of $5 per pound. All of the trade sizes of this wire are furnished by the factory. The process of covering the wire is beautiful to witness. The insulated brackets and pins used on the Pacific Coast either for public or private lines, are turned out at this factory, the insulators being furnished by the local glass works to the order of the company, at the rate of 50,000 per year. At present large orders from Mexico and South America for insulators and brackets are receiving the attention of the workmen engaged in this branch of the business. The work in woods and the casting of zincs, etc. are attended to in the spacious basement of the building, where may be seen the twenty horse-power engine that gives the motion to the mile or two of shafting in the building.


Another beautiful an useful application of electricity is the electrical-clock system, which, in its present perfected state, is meeting with great favor in Europe and the United States. One large regulator clock, will control any number of electric-dials, placed throughout a building, or, for the matter of, it will control them at a distance of miles away, and with unerring accuracy. In London all the banks are furnished with uniform time from one regulator clock, and it is in contemplation to introduce the same system into New York.


The manufacturing agency for blasting apparatus of a superior character is also held by the company. The patent machine that has been used with splendid success by the United States Engineers, in their submarine work in Boston harbor, and was also used in the Hoosac Tunnel, The method of operation is as follows: Suppose one, ore a dozen, or even fifty blasts are to be exploded. The electric fuse is tamped into the blast holes, or inserted into the kegs of powder, according as the blast is in rock or earth; two insulated wires are connected with the fuse wires, carried back to a safe distance, and connected with the machine. The crank is then turned ten times for the first cartridge, and once for each additional cartridge, and then reversed, when all the blasts will be simultaneously exploded. The apparatus is contained in a box thirteen inches square and five inches deep, weighs about fifteen pounds, and can be handled or carried without risk of injury. The beneficial effects of the simultaneous explosion of a number of blasts in rock or earth, are illustrated in a marked degree in the Blue Gravel claims, at Smartsville, Yuba County, where electrical blasting has superceded the old method entirely. Electric fuses are inserted throughout the immense blasts, and the result is, that the powder is ignited at twenty or more points simultaneously, and every ounce of it is burned.

The electrical gas-lighting apparatus, turned out by the Construction Company, is used at the California Theatre, in this city, in the Senate Chamber, at Washington, and at Booth's Theatre, New York.

The most popular instrument for small telegraph lines is the magnet dial. These are visual machines; that is to say, messages are read by following the movements of the magnetic needle, which points out in rapid succession the letters which are being transmitted. Over forty of these machines are in use in the city.


Keywords:Electrical Construction & Maintenance Company : San Francisco and Pacific Glass Works
Researcher notes:It is very likely the local glassworks mentioned supplying insulators is that of the San Francisco and Pacific Glass Works.
Supplemental information:Article: 8454
Researcher:Bob Stahr
Date completed:October 11, 2009 by: Bob Berry;