Copyright, 1927, by
The Maqua Company
Printed in the
United States of America
I N T R O D U C T I O N
The Incandescent Electric Lamp as made and patented by Mr. Edison, is the foundation stone upon which the great electric light and power industry of today has been built. The great electric companies which were organized in the early 80's, the Edison Electric Illuminating Companies, as they were generally known, in New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago and in many other places were organized to light their territories with the Edison incandescent lamp. This was practically the only business or source of revenue that these companies had, since electric motors were not well developed and came slowly into use.
When Mr. Edison started to make a lamp factory at Menlo Park, in the fall of 1880, he started an entirely new industry. He could get no tools, machinery, or experience from other industries, therefore they all had to be created, designed, and built from experience as he went along. Lamps were still more or less of a mystery, and the simple laws relating to them were not well understood. Electrical instruments were home made, as no suitable ones could be purchased. The Harrison lamp factory was wired with bare wire, stapled on the wood beams, and no cut-outs or switches were available. An Archimedes screw pump for raising the mercury used in exhausting lamps was the only piece of machinery used in the Menlo Park lamp factory, except the blower used by the glass, blowers and in the carbonizing room.
Constant experimenting was done to determine the relative advantages of different ways of performing the various operations, and it was a long time before definite methods were settled upon. These methods were frequently changed as more experience was accumulated.
Many lamps were burned on life test from the very beginning, to determine the relative value of the various experiments. This constant experimenting and testing made the work most interesting.
During the first year or two, Mr. Edison spent a good deal of time at the factory, and had a laboratory there. His presence and leadership were a great inspiration to all, so that time meant nothing to those who were helping him to carry out his work or experiments.
As the various methods of manufacture became settled, it became possible to organize the factory operations and to adopt piece work methods; but it was a long time before any lamp making machinery enabled the substitution of unskilled labor for the skilled glass workers. It is hard for anyone who sees the modern lamp factory to realize the work done in developing the art to its present degree of perfection.
The lamp is apparently very simple, but its design, manufacture, and development require quite a broad knowledge of physics and chemistry. This has attracted many bright-minded men to the industry, who have found it a most interesting field of work.
The growth of the business, from the invention of the lamp to the present day, has all taken place during the working lives of some of the men still in the business. This history of the lamp has been written in order to portray the changes and developments which brought it to its present high state of perfection and efficiency.
JOHN W. HOWELL
March, 25, 1927.
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