The alternating current was accepted slowly into American society after some major advertising was done by Westinghouse to convince people that the alternating current was safe and better than the direct current. The inventor, Tesla, tried to get the alternating current to be used as electrical transmission over long distances as well as using it for radio and telegraphic transmissions. (1). However, it was slow to be accepted by people and it was not until after he died that people began to consider these other uses for the alternating current. It was accepted for use for lighting, power plants and hydroelectric plants, initially before expanding its usage in every conceivable way.

Ironically, the Alternating Current’s dominance in the electrical market was brought on not by Westinghouse, but their greatest competitor, General Electric. J.P. Morgan, Thomas Edison’s business partner, became increasingly frustrated with Edison’s stubborn insistence powering his appliances with alternating current and began buying stock in Edison’s General Electric. J.P. Morgan continued buying GE stock until he was the majority stockholder in the company and took over ownership. As the majority stockholder, Morgan fired Edison from his own company, freeing General electric from the burden of direct current. Morgan,  despite having no claim to the alternating current patent, knew that Westinghouse had sunk most of its assets  into acquiring the Niagara Falls Dam contract and gave Westinghouse two options; It could sell the patent for the Alternating Current to GE , or face bankruptcy fighting a patent suit. Ultimately, Westinghouse was forced to sell the patent to GE with out ever going to court.(2)

Alternating power began to be used to make bigger and better plants. It was used to generate more electricity for homes and it resolved problems that came when using direct current. It weighed less and was smaller in length. It was adapted to run electrical appliances and tools, such as adaption was the lightweight soldering gun, which used alternating current and the direct current to power it. (3).It was lighter than the tools used before it. It was used for radios to get signals(4). It was also used for locomotives. Later on in the 1940’s, the alternating current was used to create a two way generator to produce hydroelectric power from the Niagara Falls. It was used to power streetcars by being passed through iron bars with underground currents. It allowed streetcars to be used all sorts of weather conditions because the currents were underground. It was also used for light display at the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific exposition. After witnessing the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, the government created a hydroelectric plant and organized systems of street lights in Seattle, WA.(5).

1) Very Truly Yours, Nikola Tesla. Tenth. Bedford, VA: Wilder Publications, LLC, 2007.

2)”Changing The Game”. The Men Who Built America. The History Channel

3) “A Lightweight Soddering Gun Packs a Punch.” 1954.Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Apr 25, 1-f5.

4 )Brown, Sally Joy. 1943. “Nava Hospital Patient Seeks Radio in Ward.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Apr 12, 23.

5)SPRAGUE, TYLER S. “Lighted Fair Is Magic Landscape.” Pacific Northwest Quarterly 100, no. 2 (Spring2009 2009): 70-78. America: History & Life, EBSCOhost (accessed March 27, 2013)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *