Great Barrington in Berkshire County, Massachusetts — The American Northeast (New England)
William Stanley Overlook
Housatonic River Walk
William Stanley (1858-1916) devised an innovative electric distribution system using an alternating-current transformer. His laboratory was in Horace Day’s rambling, vacant rubberwear factory, the foundation of which is just visible on the opposite bank of the Housatonic River from where you stand. The evening of March 20, 1886, Stanley and his assistants L.L. Jenkins and Reginald Belafield demonstrated its practicality by powering lights in offices and stores on Main Street, Great Barrington. Stanley’s innovation allowed efficient, long-distance transmission of power. “Crude as the apparatus was, with all its faults of design and construction, it operated in a marvelously beautiful manner, and thoroughly satisfied me that I had a system of distribution which was capable of indefinitely extending the limits over which electricity could be publicly served,” Stanley said.
Simultaneous with Stanley’s endeavor, heiress Mary Sherwood Hopkins had an Edison direct-current system installed at her new Kellogg Terrace on South Main Street, and provided power to neighboring businesses. Thus the town witnessed the first skirmish in what became a major battle of the currents. Stanley’s mentor George Westinghouse and a-c ultimately prevailed. Stanley went on to establish a manufactory in Pittsfield in the 1890s which evolved
“Some people are a little puzzled by the term of this invention. It was called an ‘induction coil’ rather than a ‘power transformer’. This may be because ‘transformer’ had not been a known term at the time. While it comes in all sizes and shapes, its most recognized form is the round garbage-can size device you see atop utility power poles. It solved a basic problem in the d-c, at the safe voltage of about 100 volts, could not be transmitted over long distances. So Stanley’s transformer allowed power to be generated at places like Niagara Falls and easily sent to places like New York City. This made low-cost electricity available world-wide and opened the door to all the wonderful electrical devices we take for granted today.”
George C. Stanley, inventor’s grandson, 2005
Location. Touch for map. The marker is on the Housatonic River Walk. Marker is in this post office area: Great Barrington MA 01230, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. W.E.B. Du Bois: Champion of Rivers Around the World (about 700 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Niagara Movement (about 700 feet away); W.E. B. Du Bois Birthsite (approx. 0.2 miles away); Alternating Current Electrification (approx. ¼ mile away); Memorial Street Light (approx. ¼ mile away); William Stanley (approx. ¼ mile away); First Court House of Berkshire County (approx. 0.3 miles away); The Mahaiwe Theater (approx. 0.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Great Barrington.
Categories. • Industry & Commerce •
Credits. This page was last revised on August 31, 2017. This page originally submitted on August 30, 2017, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York. This page has been viewed 59 times since then and 6 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on August 30, 2017, by Larry Gertner of New York, New York. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.