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Pan-American Exposition of 1901

"Edison at the Pan-American Exposition"

[An Interview with a Representative of the Western Electrician.]

[Note: This article w/ images, originally appeared in Western Electrician, v. 29, no. 7 (Aug. 17, 1901) p.103. It is reproduced here in full.]

Thumbnail images - Fig. 1. Edison at the Pan-American Exposition

Edison at the Pan-American Exposition - Fig.1. Photo credit: n/a. Source: Western Electrician, v. 29, no. 7 (Aug. 17, 1901) p. 103.

Thomas A. Edison visited the Pan-American Exposition at Buffalo during the latter part of July and early part of August. He made his stopping place at Chautauqua, running up to the exposition at his pleasure. Accompanied by Mrs. Edison, these jaunts were replete with pleasure, and while in Buffalo Mr. Luther Stieringer and many others paid the visitors much attention. Generally speaking, Mr. Edison was delighted with the Pan-American. He found much there to interest him, and also many who were interested in him and his life's work.

On the evening of Tuesday, August 6th, he sailed from Buffalo on the steamer North Land for a trip up the lakes, his intention being to visit the "Soo" and points in Canada, partly on pleasure and partly on business. Just previous to his departure from the Pan-American it was the pleasure of a Western Electrician representative to meet him and be accorded an interesting interview. The interview took place in the space of the Edison Manufacturing company in the Electricity building. Standing all about outside the railing of the enclosure were many people, all intent on seeing the new Edison storage battery or listening to the phonograph selections, few of them being aware that their presence simultaneously with that of Mr. Edison was in the nature of a compliment to the great inventor.

"What are the main features of your new storage battery, Mr. Edison ?" was asked.

"No deterioration, and it is only half the weight of other storage batteries," replied Mr. Edison.

"It has been predicted that the time would come when the power of Niagara would be shipped by the carload in storage batteries. Do you think it will ?"

"Don't know. It is doubtful. There is nothing in it commercially. But a large proportion of the Niagara power transmitted to distances and used only in the daytime could be utilized by storing it in batteries at night. You see, the cost of the generating installation is the same whether the power is used for 10 or 24 hours, and to get the double efficiency, the only extra expense would be the cost of the batteries."

"Will tidal power be stored to any great extent in batteries ?"

"Yes; there will be a lot of it. As it is, tidal power is available only about two or 2 ½ hours, but with the service of the storage battery it will be available continuously."

"I believe your new battery is destined to be of great benefit and aid to the automobile industry?"

"Yes; it will solve the traction problem, and will be especially serviceable in heavy trucking."

"Can the battery be injured by jarring, for instance such jarring as it would get in an automobile over a rough road?"

"Well, down at my laboratory I have a battery that is on a rod that is jarred 26 times every minute, which is far more jarring and more severe jarring than any battery ever gets in any way. This has been jarring a long time, and there is no evidence of injury to the battery yet. And there won't be any."

"No doubt you have enjoyed the illumination of the Pan-American ?" was then asked of Mr. Edison.

"Yes; it is very nice."

"Will it be possible, in your estimation, for St. Louis to have a finer illumination?"

"I think they will. Especially if they carry out Mr. Stieringer's ideas of lighting the grounds and buildings. He has been for years trying to do what he has at last done at the Pan-American, but the architects were all along doubtful of results, and he didn't have his way. But at last they partially agreed with him, and hence the lighting at the Pan-American, which would have been still better if Stieringer hadn't been sick last spring."

"Then we may expect a finer illumination at St. Louis?"

"If the architects will only carry out Stieringer's suggestions, and do as he wants; not as they want, they will have the grandest exhibition of lighting the world has seen."

"Greater than the Pan-American ?"

"Oh yes! Give Stieringer his own way. This would have been better had Stieringer had his way. He is the only man who makes a business or profession of lighting. In other words, he is a lighting engineer."

"What is the perfection of lighting, exposition lighting, as you see it ?"

"The perfection of lighting will be when you can stand off half a mile at night and see all the outlines of the buildings-cornices, windows and buildings all outlined. The lines unbroken from top to bottom, horizontally and perpendicularly. When you have perfect lighting, you will not see the buildings."

Thumbnail images - Fig. 2. Edison at the Pan-American Exposition

Edison at the Pan-American Exposition - Fig. 2. Photo credit: n/a. Source: Western Electrician, v. 29, no. 7 (Aug. 17, 1901) p. 103.

At this point in the interview Henry Rustin, superintendent of the mechanical and electrical bureau of the Pan-American, was introduced. It was the first time he had met Mr. Edison. Luther Stieringer gave the introduction, saying, "This is Mr. Rustin. I tell you if it hadn't been for him and his good work, we'd have had no Omaha and no Pan-American."

Mr. Edison was evidently pleased at Mr. Stieringer's generous words of praise for Mr. Rustin, and, referring to the Pan-American illumination, he said: "This is out of sight."

The two men grasped hands in a most cordial greeting, the one proud to meet the inventor of the lamp that had developed his abilities in construction; the other glad to know a man who had handled such a great lighting installation, the largest ever known, with his lamps, with such eminent skill. Luther Stieringer stood, by. It seemed a proud moment for him to bring Mr. Edison and Mr. Rustin together. The representative of the Western Electrician could not fail to note how Edison, Stier-inger, Rustin had, each one individual fame through the incandescent lamp, and this was their first meeting. What a trio!

"You have recently been down to Niagara ?" continued the Western Electrician representative, when Mr. Rustin had departed.

"Yes; I enjoyed Niagara very much."

"It has made a wonderful development during recent years. What is the future of Niagara, as you see it ?"

"Niagara will continue to be utilized to a greater extent, but all locally. It is destined to be a great electrochemical center."

"Then, you don't think the power of Niagara is to be transmitted to a much greater extent ?"

"No."

"Why?"

"No money in it."

"When Lord Kelvin was at the Falls he said to me: 'I look forward to the time when the whole water from Lake Erie will find its way to the lower level of Lake Ontario through machinery, doing more good for the world than that great benefit which we now possess in the contemplation of the splendid scene which we have presented before us at the present time by the waterfall of Niagara.' Can you conceive such a change?"

"I think that is what ought to be. If they will thin the water down from six feet thick to six inches, it will give all the—what do you call it?—aesthetic effect called for by romantic people and all that the commercial people want, and everybody will be happy."

"You think Niagara is destined to advance as an electrochemical center ?"

"Yes; it will have many such industries. It will be a wonderful place."

"Will Niagara power be used in smelting ores?"

"I don't know why there are not several plants of that kind there now. They take a lot of power, though. I know of three or four big things of this kind that are about ready to locate to Niagara. They should be there now. Niagara has the power, and that is what they require."

"Will the Niagara power development continue in greatness and extent?"

"Yes; Niagara has a wonderful amount of power, and it is needed. That canal at Niagara is a very practical thing. Very. I was much interested in it."

And after a generous statement in regard to the graphite process of the Acheson International Graphite company, Mr. Edison said good-bye, and was soon on his way to meet Mrs. Edison in the Temple of Music.

The accompanying illustrations are "snap-shots" taken of Mr. Edison while on the grounds of the exposition. In Fig. 1 the group in the center consists of Mr. Edison, Mr. Stieringer and another gentleman. Fig. 2 represents the same gentlemen viewing the exposition in the rain. In both pictures Mr. Edison is at the right of the group.


See also:

"The Edison Storage Battery at Buffalo"
"Edison Storage Battery Not in Competition at Buffalo"
"The Evolution of Exposition Lighting", by Luther Stieringer