By Joseph J. Cunningham
The following is an excerpt from Murphy adjunct Prof. Joseph J. Cunningham’s new book New York Power, which tells the story of the development of today’s New York City electric utility system.
New York City has long represented one of the most concentrated urban developments in the world. That density has placed unique constraints on every aspect of life. Electric light and power appeared during the 1880s, but much development was required to supply urban service at a cost that would make possible large-scale consumption. Innovation was needed most in midtown Manhattan, where the sheer density of electrical load overwhelmed the early systems and which continues to be the greatest concentration of electrical load in the world. The first public service was initiated in 1880 with the illumination of Broadway, Madison Park and some businesses by arc lights of the Brush Electric Company. Two years later, Thomas Edison introduced incandescent light service to the offices and businesses of the financial district from his station on Pearl Street. While that installation entered the record books, his long term objective was the midtown area. Edison considered the establishment of electric service in the area of the West Twenties and Thirties vital to the future of his company. Continue reading New York Power