IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - January/February 2016 - 105

history

Joseph
Cunningham
JohnJ.D.
McDonald

Brooklyn electrification
reflective of national trends and practices

B

BROOKLYN BECAME PART OF
the City of New York (Greater New York)
on 1 January 1898. However, the fact
that it once was a separate city, with its
own government, commercial enterprises, press, culture, and entertainment
centers, remains a factor in both civic
and technological areas. For example,
the present-day subway system evolved
along two separate concepts with different sizes of vehicles and variations
in signal components. Similar differences impacted the evolution of Brooklyn's electrical generation and distribution system.
That evolution of the electrical utilities
was more reflective of Chicago, Philadelphia, and most other U.S. metropolitan
areas than of Manhattan. In Manhattan,
two electric companies, New York Edison
and United Electric Light and Power, operated as subsidiaries of the Consolidated
Gas Company. The former distributed
direct current (dc) power, and the latter
pioneered the distribution of alternating
current (ac) power. But in Brooklyn, the
Edison Company, after some early mergers, distributed both dc and ac, the type
dependent on the load characteristics of
the area supplied, a characteristic of most
cities at that time.
Such was the application of the 1896
axiom of the legendary mathematician
and electrical engineer Charles Steinmetz, who declared dc distribution to
be preferable so long as the load density
Digital Object Identifier 10.1109/MPE.2015.2481785
Date of publication: 30 December 2015

january/february 2016

Beginning in the latter years of the 19th century, the progressive electrification
of cities, towns, and rural areas around the world was based on a variety of
models and often took different forms. In North America, early electrification
was marked by competition between direct current (dc) and alternating current
(ac) to determine which power technology would prevail.
The May/June 2013 issue of IEEE Power & Energy Magazine carried the "History" article, "An ac Pioneer," written by Joseph J. Cunningham, which detailed
over a century of the development of Manhattan's power system. This issue's column, also authored by Joseph Cunningham, covers the development of the electric power system of the neighboring borough of Brooklyn, New York City. The
author details the important differences in the approaches used in the two boroughs. He also shows how the electrification of Brooklyn was more typical of the
model used in most other cities than it was of the approach taken in Manhattan.
Joseph Cunningham returns for his seventh visit to these pages. His interest in electric power systems dates to his youth when his high school science
project, "The Theory and Operation of Alternating Current," was awarded a
first place gold medal. This success led to a scholarship and a degree in physics
from St. Francis College of Brooklyn Heights, New York. He has researched and
authored numerous booklets, articles, and books on topics such as industrial
electrification, electric utility power systems, and electric rail transportation.
His latest book, New York Power, was published in 2013 by the IEEE History
Center Press. In 1976, he coauthored the definitive three-volume History of the
New York City Subway System. He has also lectured and taught widely on the
history of electrotechnology and has consulted on numerous history projects
and television productions. We welcome Joseph Cunningham back as our guest
history author for this issue of the IEEE Power & Energy Magazine.
-Carl Sulzberger
Associate Editor, History

was sufficient to amortize the greater
cost. As a result, dc was the urban
norm with ac distribution relegated to
the fringe areas.
1540-7977/16©2016IEEE

Origins
As in most cities, electric utility pioneers in Brooklyn focused on street
lights for their initial efforts. In 1886,
ieee power & energy magazine

105



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - January/February 2016

IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - January/February 2016 - Cover1
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IEEE Power & Energy Magazine - January/February 2016 - Cover3
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