Friday, April 23, 2021

Early history of General Electric

Before the creation of General Electric, a series of mergers in the late 1880s created three giant corporations.

Thomas Alva Edison opened a laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey in 1876 and came up with the greatest invention of the age – a successful radiant electric lamp. Edison brought his various businesses together in 1890 and established the Edison General Electric Company. Then several Edison companies and the Sprague Electric Railway Company merged, incorporating officially in January 1889, to become Edison General Electric.

At the same time Westinghouse acquired three small companies: Consolidated Electric Company (1887), the United Electric Lighting Company (1890) and the Waterhouse Electric and Manufacturing Company (1888).

Another company led by Charles A. Coffin, the Thompson-Houston Electric Company of Lynn, Massachusetts, acquired seven competitors between 1888 and 1890 and emerged with the majority of the arc lighting business, a clutch of key patents, and a large pool of skilled personnel. The Thomson-Houston Company was formed from the American Electric Company, founded by Elihu Thomson and Edwin Houston, who held several patents for their development of arc lighting.

Thus in 1890 there were three large corporations in the electrical industry: Edison General Electric, Westinghouse and Thompson-Houston.

General Electric was founded in 1892 from the merger of Thomas Edison’s Electric Light Company with the Thomas Houston Company. With their merger the entire electrical industry was reduced from fifteen competitors to a duopoly in just five years. General Electric business based upon exploiting Edison’s patents relating to electricity generation and distribution, light bulbs, and electric motors.

Westinghouse and General Electric completed this rationalization in 1895 by signing a patent sharing agreement, effectively removing the last barrier to market control.

From its origins, General Electric was a broadly diversified company, with early businesses including lighting, power transformers and a wide variety of electrical components for industrial, commercial and residential use.

Earlier of 1890s, GE produced its first appliances electric fans at the Ft. Wayne electric works while a full line of heating and cooking devices were settled in 1907.
Early history of General Electric

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