portion of the online exhibit focuses on the generation of hydroelectric
power at the turn of the century and the resulting development of electrochemical
industry along the Niagara River. One of the widest misconceptions in
"exposition circles" is the belief that the development of hydroelectric
power at Niagara Falls was catalyzed by the incredible display of incandescent
illumination at the Pan-American Exposition. While the "City of Light"
undeniably turned the general public and commercial entrepreneurs on to
the idea that electricity could be effectively utilized in the domestic
arena, it was industry that spurred development of power plants at the
Falls. As Jack Foran points out in his essay
introducing Niagara Falls and electricity, the harnessing of the Falls
required the identification of a market for such vast amounts of electrical
power. "[That] market was to be Buffalo industry," and thus
power plants were built and expanded. Indeed, because alternating current
generators, transformers and transmission lines were already in place
25 miles away at the Falls, the planners of the 1901 Exposition in Buffalo
could build electric trolleys and elevators and illuminate the fairgrounds
on a much wider scale than any of their predecessors.
One can assume that Buffalo would have become that market for Falls-generated
power regardless of whether or not she had hosted the 1901 Pan-American
Exposition. The industrial development in the Buffalo-Niagara region during
the early 20th century provides plenty of evidence to support such a claim.
However, the Exposition provided such a memorable and visually inspiring
exhibit that it may very well have enlightened visitors and participants
to the potential for the use of electricity for more than simply powering
furnaces and catalyzing the separation of chemical compounds. Electricity
could provide light and after all, everyone needed light. But the panorama
of glowing architecture that was the Exposition at night, proved that
light could be utilized in a most beautiful way.
The pages that follow will provide information on:
"The Birth of Power"
and its Development
This section looks at the development of power generation--direct and
alternating current--at Niagara Falls. It features information on Nicola
Tesla as well as the two major hydroelectric power generators of the
period, the Niagara Falls Power Company and the Niagara Falls Hydroelectric
Power and Manufacturing Company.
Electrochemical Industry and Niagara Falls
Electrochemical industry grew in and around Niagara Falls because of
the relatively cheap supply of abundant power available. This section
describes the major companies utilizing this power.
Technologies at the Turn of the Century
The Pan-American Exposition served in part as the 1901 equivalent of
the modern trade show, where companies could exhibit and advertise new
inventions and technologies. This section highlights some of 1901's