Friday, March 28, 2008

early user of electricity

photo courtesy the Pritchett collection, subject unknown

In the decade following the 1893 panic, hydroelectric power was first developed in this country for factory use. American woolen mills slowly adopted the new source of energy, but at the turn of the century only a small portion of their machinery was operated by electricity. Even as late as 1905 the amount was insignificant. The following table, based on the percentage of horsepower consumption in the woolen industry will indicate the trend.

The Charlottesville Woolen Mills became one of the early users of electricity. It had been necessary in 1889 to add another waterwheel and in 1902 steps were taken to increase not only machinery but the waterpower as well. Waterpower, hampered by floods, droughts, and obstructions, had long been a drawback to uninterrupted work, but no adequate substitute existed. During a dry spell in 1895, Marchant investigated the use of an electric motor for supplemental power but found the cost too great.--Harry Poindexter

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