Testas Great Ideas

One day later, another article appeared in the Niagara Gazette entitled, "Tesla's Great Ideas," November 23, 1893. The subtitle reads, "W. R. Rankine talks of them — Nothing would surprise him - thinks that possibly some of his plans will be brought to a practical reality — satisfied with progress of the work." Then the article begins (reproduced in its entirety):

William R. Rankine, secretary and treasurer of the Cataract Construcion Company, arrived in the city this morning from New York looking extremely well and happy.

Mr. Rankine dined at the Prospect House today and was interviewed by a GAZETTE representative on matters in general.

"How is work progressing on the works, Mr. Rankine?"

"Very satifactorily indeed! The contracted work is being pushed along and is progressing as rapidly as one would wish."

"What is your opinion of this matter of electricity on the canals?"

"I think it gives the newspapers a fruitful topic for discussion and the public something to think about."

"What about Tesla's project of transmitting electricity from Niagara Falls to New York?"

"Tesla is always ahead of the procession and I have come to that point where there is nothing astonishing to me in anything this remarkable man may propose. It would not be surprising to me to see some of his wonderful ideas brought to a practical reality in the near future."

Nikola Tesla, An Accurate Sketch

Now we are getting to 1894 just before the power is turned on at Niagara Falls. The article is entitled, "Nikola Tesla, An Accurate Sketch of the Wonderful Serbian Wizard Who Deals in Electricity." Subtitled, "His remarkable genius. Sees 'the low lights flickering on tangible new continents of science' — inherits his inventive turn from his mother - early history of a romantic life."

Right next to this article is found another of a decidedly less scientific nature: "Malaria and Epidemics Often Avoided by Partaking of Hot Coffee in the Morning." We can see the state of discernment of the scientific method in those days.

I'll just quote the first paragraph here since it is available elsewhere:

The readers of the GAZETTE will appreciate the following sketch of Nikola Tesla, the famous electrician who has frequently visited here. It is taken from the February Century and is by Thomas C. Martin. Nikola Tesla was born in Serbia, a land so famous for its poetry that Goethe is said to have learned the musical tongue in which it is written, rather than lose any of its native beauty. There is no record of any one having ever studied Serbian for the sake of Serbian science; and indeed a great Slav orator has recently reproached his one hundred and twenty million fellows in Eastern Europe with their utter inability to invent even a mousetrap. But even racial conditions leave genius its freedom, and once in a while nature herself rights things by producing a men whose transcendent merit compensates his nation for the very defects to which it has long been sensitive ...

Electric Lighting

In the next article, where Tesla is interviewed, we note that he will refuse to discuss his new invention, the electric arc lamp, that was keeping him busy while the Adams Plant was being completed. Here is an interesting article that reveals efficiencies for incandescent lamps that still have not been surpassed today. Let's take a look at a short article that appeared in the Niagara Gazette. May 22, 1896, entitled, "Electric Lighting." "Nicola Tesla Has a New Scheme Which Will Revolutionize The Present System" reads the subtitle.

New York, May 22. Nicola Tesla has solved the problem which he set before himself many years ago and which may revolutionize the system of electric-lighting. It is, electrical experts say, the nearest perfect adaption of the great force to the use of man.

In Mr. Tesla's laboratory in Houston Street is a bulb not much more than three inches in length, which when the current turns into it, becomes a ball of light. The heat is almost imperceptible. With it a very large room is so lighted that it is possible to read in any corner. Yet this is done without the attachments necessary in existing lights.

The rays are so strong that the sharpest photographs may be taken by them.

No new dynamo is required to produce the current. The bulb is attached to a wire connected with the street current. There is no danger of harmful shock in its use.

Mr. Tesla has been working for many years on his theory of the necessity and practicability of the conservation of electrical energy. The present incandescent light gives only three per cent of illuminating power. The other 97 per cent is wasted in heat

The bulb which he has perfected gives 10 per cent of light and loses 90 per cent of energy. He declares that he will, with the aid of a few more experiments, be able to produce 40 per cent of light, so that the waste will be reduced to only 60 per cent, or 37 per cent less than at present.

This article is no less than amazing because today our incandescent bulbs still check in at about 3 per cent efficiency. Where did Tesla's invention go?

Nikola Tesla, An Interesting Talk

Now we get to what I believe is the most exciting article of all. Here is an actual interview with Tesla just after the power is being turned on at the Falls and Buffalo is just about to get some of the power (not reprinted or available anywhere else in the literature). Here Tesla is visiting the Niagara Falls Adams Plant to inspect the work that has been finally finished according to his design. The article, from the Niagara Gazette. July 20, 1896, is entitled, "Nikola Tesla, An Interesting Talk with America's Great Electrical Idealist." The subtitles read, "Remarkable personality. The dreamer in science was in the city yesterday, inspecting the wonders which had been achieved in harnessing Niagara. He had but little to say. Mr. Tesla was here with George Westinghouse, President Adams of the Cataract Construction Company, Commodore Melville of the United States Navy, Mr. William R. Rankine, and other distinguished men." The article, a real gem, is quoted in its entirety:

Nikola Tesla, the brilliant Serbian electrician who believes that ultimately electricity, generated by flying atoms, will be pumped out of the ground for use anywhere, was a visitor at Niagara Falls yesterday.

He was accompanied by Edward D. Adams, president of the Cataract Construction Company; George Westinghouse, president of the Westinghouse Electric Company; his son, Herman H. Westinghouse of New York; Thomas D. Ely, superintendent of motive power of the Pennsylvania Railroad; Commodore George W. Melville, chief engineer of the United States navy; Paul D. Cravath, counsel for the Westinghouse Company, and William R. Rankine, secretary of the Cataract Construction Company.

It is a difficult thing to interview Nikola Tesla, but to sit down and talk with him, man to man, is a privilege to be enjoyed and remembered. One seldom meets a man more free from affections and self-conciousness. He does not like to talk about himself and when the subject comes up he is sure to steer away from it as soon as possible.

With due apologies to Mr. Tesla for so much personality, it may be said that he has the same cast of countenance as Paderewski -- long and thin, with fine, clean cut features, long forehead, and a certain gleam of the eye that denotes what might be called spirituality. Anyone who has read of the personality of Edgar Allan Poe and who has also had the pleasure of a talk with Tesla, would feel instinctively that the unhappy inspired child of Parnassus and the Serbian electrician would have found much in common if they had ever met

Tesla is an idealist, and anyone who had created an ideal of him from the fame that he has won, will not be disappointed in seeing him for the first time. He is fully six feet tall, very dark of complexion, nervous, and wiry. Impressionable maidens would fall in love with him at first sight but he has no time to think of impressionable maidens. In fact, he has given as his opinion that inventors should never marry. Day and night he is working away at some deep problems that fascinate him, and anyone that talks with him for only a few minutes will get the impression that science is his only mistress and that he cares more for her than for money and fame.

He had one of his rare moments yesterday when he could be induced to talk of science and when asked of the advances made in the problem of transmission, with earnest face and eyes fairly ablaze, he said, "There is no obstacle in the way of the successful transmission of power from the big power house you have here. The problem has been solved. Power can be transmitted to Buffalo as soon as the Power Company is ready to do it."

As the famous electrician grew enthusiastic he gestured with his hands which are apparently trustworthy indicators of his nervous condition. They trembled a little as he held them up and the conclusion to be drawn from them was that their possessor was a man of tremendous nervous energy.

Mr. Tesla is a man between 38 and 39 years of age and looks even younger. He was born in a town called Smiljan in Serbia on the borderland of Austria-Hungary. His father was an eloquent preacher of the Greek Church, and his mother was a woman of remarkable ingenuity. He had an inherited taste for mechanics, and it is his mother's blood that makes him what he is.

Tesla Interviewed

The article continues:

A squad of Buffalo and local newspaper men greeted the visitors as they emerged from the dining room of the Cataract House yesterday afternoon and Secretary Rankine courteously introduced the reporters to his distinguished guests.

Mr. Tesla's first visit to this city made him the object of much interest, and while decidedly backward in interviews he was a most agreeable talker. He said, "I am just off of a sick bed and not very strong yet," when first greetings were over. "Yes this is my first visit to Niagara Falls and to the power house here. Oh, it is wonderful beyond comparison; these dynamos are the largest in the world. Ft always affects me to see such things. The shock is severe upon me."

"What do you think of the project of transmitting power to Buffalo?" he was asked.

"It is one of the simplest propositions," he said. "It is simply according to all pronounced and accepted rules, and is as firmly established as the air itself."

"Do you think that the cost will be less for power transmitted than for using steam power?"

"Certainly. Even if steam was as cheap as electricity, it would be a full steam plant and never be reduced in quantity to be less than 25 per cent of the full power no matter how small the quantity is that you use, while electricity the moment you shut it off, costs nothing."

"What is your opinion of Buffalo's prospects with such great power so near it and so easily obtained?"

"It is an ideal city with a great future, a wonderful future before it." Further on he said: "Niagara Falls has the greatest future of all. For here it will be the cheapest to obtain power and its limit is hard to imagine." In regard to transmission, Tesla asserted that it is cheaper to transmit power in large quantities than in small quantities; the larger the force the less the loss in transmission, and in this connection Secretary Rankine stated that power would be transmitted to Buffalo not later than November of this year. The contract for completing the pole line would be let this week, and by November the company would send all the power they could spare to that city. This would not exceed 1,000 horsepower. Next year, when the new dynamos are ready, this amount would be increased as rapidly as the demands for it came in.

Mr. Tesla said that he was not prepared to talk on his latest invention, the new vacuum light. He was devoting his energy and study to the subject of transmission and insulation in order to bring it down to as near a perfect point as possible. He said he was going back to his laboratory from here and begin to work zealously on the important matters referred to.

Mr. George Westinghouse, who was among the group and who stands preeminent in the electrical world, regarded the conversation with much interest and good nature. He spoke to the Buffalo men present in the most flattering manner of the outlook for that city, but of course he said Niagara Falls was bound to receive the first and greatest benefits of the development of power here. "It will be Greater Niagara first," he said, "but Buffalo's possibilities are to be made marvelous as well." From his practical mind the project of power development for this city and Buffalo seemed unlimited.

In regard to the comparative cheapness of power in Buffalo he said that were electricity as high in price as steam it would be cheaper for use, as there was nothing required in the way of skilled labor to use it. Anyone could shut it off and turn on an electric current, but only a few could run a steam engine. Then the convenience of electrical power over steam power in manufacturing was so great that its value was manifold in this direction. The cost, however, in Buffalo for electric power transmitted from this city, he did not know as he was not connected with the power company. Secretary Rankine came to his aid here and said, "You can say it will cost one half what steam power cost there."

"Mr. Tesla, what is your opinion of the effect of this development of power on Buffalo and Niagara Falls," was asked of the great inventor as he was turning away.

"The effect will be that both cities will stretch out their arms until they meet," he said in an enthusiastic manner, which indicated the true characteristics of the man so clearly.

Secretary Rankine stated that the object of the party here was purely one of a personal nature. The company has adopted Tesla's system of a two phase current for transmitting power and they also use two of Tesla's motors for starting the big dynamos and Mr. Westinghouse has made all of the machinery for the company and consequently both men were interested in the plant here. The visit of Commodore Melville of the navy was one of inspection. That officer is deeply interested at present in improving in every way possible the electrical machinery on the new warships now being built He was the guest of the Power Company's officials and took great interest in all he saw here.

The visitors departed yesterday afternoon on the West Shore for New York at 5 o'clock.


The last article that I discovered was printed during the time of celebration of the great accomplishment of AC power generation and transmission to the distant city of Buffalo. Dated January 11, 1897, this article from the Niagara Gazette is entitled, "Are Coming to This City" with subtitles, "Many prominent men who are interested in the big power development; Important meeting to be held; The directors of the Cataract Construction Company will probably take some important steps regarding new contracts. The visitors will attend a great banquet in Buffalo tomorrow night."

Knowing the historical value of this last article to mention Tesla, let me take the liberty of quoting it in its entirety:

Tomorrow morning a special car will bring to this city from New York nearly all the directors of the Cataract Construction Company, also officers of the Power Company and some of the most noted electricians in the world. A meeting of the Cataract Construction Company is to be held here, an inspection of the work in progress made and some important steps are to be taken regarding new contracts, etc.

Tomorrow night Buffalo will formally celebrate the coming to that city of electric power for commercial purpose. The celebration is to be in the form of a banquet given at the Ellicott Club, and to which many distinguished guests are invited and will be present. This banquet is the only method Buffalo has of celebrating and to those who are to be present it is a glorious way. The menu is to be fine, in fact it is to be the very best that any 350 men ever sat down to, and the main feature of the occasion will be the toasts and addresses made by some of the greatest men of the day in advancing electrical science and turning it into practical and commercial benefits. Among those who are to attend are such men as Thomas A. Edison, Nicola Tesla, Frank Spragde, the inventor of the trolley system, Elihu Thompson, inventor of the arc electric light; also E.J. Houston, an electric light system inventor; Charles F. Brush the original electric light man; George Westinghouse and a host of others.

The officers of the Niagara Falls Power Company are the only representatives from this city, with the exception of Albeit H. Porter, who was formerly resident engineer of the Cataract Construction Company.

The list of toasts had not been completed on Saturday night, but all will be ready today. One of the speakers is to be Tesla, that is sure, and others will probably do some talking too."

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