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1890s General Electric

March 2024
1min read

MODERN POWER

When Thomas Edison invented the light bulb, in 1879, it could not stand alone. It needed outside support in the form of a reliable supply of electric current, which he provided for the first time with his Pearl Street generating station in lower Manhattan.

Its success helped lead Edison into large-scale manufacturing, which he began in upstate New York. In 1892 J. P. Morgan merged his Edison General Electric and another company to form a new firm, General Electric.

Edison had used directcurrent generators at Pearl Street, but his rival George Westinghouse was offering alternating current, which could be stepped up to high voltages for longdistance transmission, a huge advantage. Edison didn’t like AC because he hadn’t invented it, but in time he had to acknowledge its merits.

Power from the big new units the company then began offering could travel many miles. The electrification of America and of its industries sped forward.

—T.A.H.

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