Edison Lights up Wall Street

About this time of the year, all the way back in 1882, Thomas Edison’s Pearl Street Station started the first electric power utility which was on Wall Street in New York City.  Not only did Edison invent the light bulb, but his Edison Illuminating Company also designed the Pearl Street Station: the first-ever U.S. commercial central power station. The station was located at 255-257 Pearl Street in Manhattan and it was powered by coal.

Remember that … the natural gas industry viewed him as a competitor to them on street lighting.  They did not see power generation as a business as of that time, after all, it hadn’t existed as a business yet!

This original Pearl Street Station operated for eight years before it burned down in 1890. The only original dynamo that survived the fire is now kept at the Greenfield Village Museum in Dearborn, Michigan.

In addition to electricity, Edison also made use of the steam byproduct the plant generated, providing steam to local manufacturers and heat to nearby buildings.  His first start ultimately became Consolidated Edison who still operates a steam system based upon this early implementation.  This Pearl Street Station began providing electricity to 508 customers in New York and a total of 10,164 street lamps and the first inside lamps as well.  Among those electric lamps were 106 lamps at the offices of J.P. Morgan’s investment bank Drexel, Morgan & Co. Morgan had been one of Edison’s largest financial backers.

One of my prior blogs pointed out that some key investors were from the natural gas industry because they viewed Edison’s electric lamp as a competitor to their lighting business.  The more things change the more they remain the same.

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