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In an ambitious and expansive narrative, Klein (Rainbow's End: The Crash of 1929) chronicles the advent of steam power and the electrification of America. Klein's descriptions of the science of steam power, beginning with James Watt, and electricity are clear and detailed. He is especially strong when exploring the confounding engineering feats needed to make electricity a commercially feasible commodity. The heart of the book is the collision of entrepreneurs, inventors and financiers, and the epic battle between two icons of American industry, Edison and Westinghouse, to control and profit from the electrification of America. Along the way Klein brings dramatically to life the triumphs and disappointments, both human and technical, as the fledging electric companies sought to service American homes and businesses. In a well-written and satisfying account, Klein makes readers aware of the magnitude of the energy, genius and tenacity of not only Edison—whose development of the world's first power station in 1881 on New York's Pearl Street was a momentous accomplishment—but also of Westinghouse and many others whose discoveries and vision made cheap electricity possible. B&w illus. (June)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Klein (history, emeritus, Univ. of Rhode Island; The Genesis of American Industry, 1870-1920) presents an engaging, annotated, and accessible portrait of 18th- through early 20th-century inventors and entrepreneurs who fashioned America into the world's economic powerhouse. Rather curiously inserting the device of "Ned," a fictional visitor to the major expositions in Philadelphia (1876), Chicago (1893), and New York City (1939), all of which educated the public on industrial plans and progress, Klein highlights the famous-Thomas Edison, J.P. Morgan, and George Westinghouse-and the lesser known-including Nikola Tesla, Samuel Insull, and Charles Coffin-while also surveying the proliferation of industry based on their inventions, notably the railroad, steamship, and electric motor. Given his greater focus on the late 19th century, Klein might best have concluded with the electric illumination displays of the Pan-American Exposition of 1901, but "Ned" doesn't go there. Although "Ned" is at the 1939 World's Fair, the author scarcely mentions the rise of the automobile, the greatest agent of change during the early 20th century. This book will especially satisfy new or younger devotees of American applied scientific and technological history. Recommended for public libraries.
—Frederick J. Augustyn Jr.
“Klein’s book reads like a fairy tale...Klein himself rarely fails to reach for the full significance of events. (‘Every material achievement that would characterize civilization during the next two centuries began with the possibilities opened by the steam engine,’ he writes of James Watt’s invention.) The Power Makers is at once grandiloquent and granular. At technical descriptions, Klein excels. In explaining a disadvantage of Edison’s direct current—the greater the current, the bigger the wire needed to conduct it—he offers this nifty illustration: ‘to light Fifth Avenue from Fourteenth to Fifty-ninth Street, the conductors would have to be as large as a man’s leg.’ If you haven’t given Boyle’s law much thought since the Reagan revolution, reading Klein will reward you with an excellent course in heat, electricity, and magnetism, at very little cost to your composure.” —Jill Lepore, The New Yorker
"Maury Klein's stories of heroic inventors creating the industrial revolution make the history of technology come alive." —Daniel Walker Howe, NBCC Award nominee for What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848
"This well-oiled colossus of a book—its moving parts working together like a mighty machine—illuminates an epic period of national growth, when the country's first big carbon footprints were made on a march toward greatness and plenty." —Thomas Mallon, author of Henry and Clara, Bandbox, and Fellow Travelers.
“The Power Makers vividly and brilliantly reveals how the revolutions of steam and electricity, one facilitating the other, combined to reshape American society. Maury Klein tells a fascinating, heroic tale peopled by such giants as Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse, and J. P. Morgan, whose partnerships, subterranean deals, and marketplace battles redefined not just American commerce but the American landscape as well.”—Edward J. Renehan Jr., author of Commodore: The Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt
Prologue: A Show of Power: Philadelphia 1876 1
1 The Machine That Changed the World 14
2 Conquering the Waters 30
3 The Greatest Engine of All 51
4 In Search of the Mysterious Ether 71
5 Let There Be Light 98
6 A Covey of Competitors 118
7 The Light Dawns 136
8 The Pearl Street System 159
9 The Cowbird, the Plugger, and the Dreamer 177
10 The Alternative System 201
11 Eventful Currents 219
12 Gaining Traction 239
13 Competition and Electrocution 256
14 Money, Mergers, and Motors 279
15 A Show of Lights: Chicago 1893 300
16 The Niagara Fallout 324
17 Hard Times 345
18 The Future Arrives 366
19 Mastering the Mysteries of Distribution 395
20 The Empire of Energy 417
Epilogue: A Show of Possibilities: New York 1939 444
Electrical Circuits 453