Electric Chair

Lead: Caught up in the frenzy of competition in the early days of electric power, Thomas Edison gave impetus to development of the twentieth century’s most fearsome form of judicial execution, the electric chair.

Intro. : A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: In the 1880s, inventor Thomas Edison and industrialist George Westinghouse were locked in a fierce competition over the future of electric power. The issue was transmission. Edison championed direct current, Westinghouse, in alliance with the brilliant and erratic Nikola Tesla, was an advocate of alternating current. Westinghouse eventually prevailed because AC, with its more efficient distribution over longer distances, was clearly the superior choice.

Mr. Watt’s Slight Innovation

Lead: There was not much of an Industrial Revolution until a slight improvement by the Scottish inventor, James Watt.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Industrial progress is marked by long series of bottlenecks overcome by small but clever innovations. For centuries the main product of England was wool. First in raw form, cut from English sheep and shipped to the factories of the Netherlands, and later fabricated in English shops into simple woolen clothing. By 1700 the added popularity of cotton clothing created an opportunity. Already the machinery had been invented which could take raw cotton and wool and make cheap clothing for the mass market, but to operate those machines required energy. Primitive factories used water wheels turned by swiftly moving streams and rivers but there were just so many usable water sources around. Perhaps it was thought this first great modern energy crisis could be resolved by steam power.

George Westinghouse II

Lead: Aware of repeated and often deadly railroad accidents, George Westinghouse developed the air brake.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: At first Westinghouse tried to harness the steam generated by the locomotive, but found that by the time steam reached the rear of the train it had begun to condensing thus losing its power to force the brakes. His solution came while reading a magazine article describing the construction of the huge railroad tunnel through Mont Cenis in the Italian Alps. Instead of generating steam deep in the mountain for drilling which would eat up precious oxygen, engineers compressed air on the outside and pumped it to the tunnel face. Westinghouse applied the same principle to stopping trains, some of which were dozens of cars in length.


George Westinghouse I

Lead: On a dark February night in 1871, the chief engineer of the New York Central's crack Pacific Express, Doc Simmons, peered beyond a rounded bend south of Poughkeepsie, New York and saw disaster coming and could do absolutely nothing about it.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Everything was executed precisely. Simmons blew the emergency whistle. Trainmen between each of the passenger cars went to their stations. The icy handles began to turn. The brakes began to bite. Too little. Too late. A wrecked freight train lay tumbled across the small drawbridge just ahead. The Pacific Express, its useless brakes complaining loudly, drove through the oil-filled tank cars and pitched into Wappinger Creek. The tanks ignited. Thirty people died including Doc Simmons. Pity. Had the New York Central not been so cheap, Simmons would surely have been able to save lives that night. Already available was a device so effective that it was to revolutionize the railroad industry. In the public outcry following the Wappinger Creek disaster, New York Central and most other major lines began to equip their passenger stock with an invention by a little-known engineer. It was the air brake. His name was George Westinghouse.

Thomas Edison’s Invention of the Phonograph

Lead: In 1877, Thomas Alva Edison stumbled upon his most original invention, the audio phonograph. He captured sound.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: Most of Thomas Edison's inventions were either improvements on other ideas or adaptations of existing technology. His incandescent lamp was vastly more efficient than any before, making home lighting economically viable. His kinetoscope laid the foundation for the modern motion picture. It was with the phonograph, however, that Edison made his most creative contribution to modern life and its discovery was by accident.

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Charlie Crocker’s $10K Bet (Transatlantic Railroad)

Lead: Charlie Crocker's men lay ten miles of track and won for their boss a $10,000 bet.

Intro.: "A Moment in Time" with Dan Roberts.

Content: It all started in late October 1868. Thomas C. Durant, of the Union Pacific Railroad, had just witnessed his own men laying 7 3/4 miles of track, a record for a single day's work. He then cabled Charlie Crocker, chief engineer of the Central Pacific working eastward on the first continental rail link. He wagered $10,000 that the Union Pacific's record could not be broken surpassed. Crocker thought he could beat it, accepted the bet, and bragged that his crew could lay ten miles of track in a single day.

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Henry Ford and the $5 Workday II

​Lead: Faced with declining productivity Henry Ford stumbled upon a novel solution, he improved the working conditions of his workers.
Intro.: "A Moment in Time" with Dan Roberts.
Content: In 1914, despite a new factory, numerous new machines and carefully planned efficiency programs, the Ford still had problem with turnover. The pay was low and working conditions were less than ideal. Men had little incentive to remain on the job and would float from job to job. Over that year for each 100 jobs in the plant, 963 men had to be hired.

Henry Ford and the $5 Workday

Lead: Henry Ford had a sparkling new factory to make his automobiles, he had perfected the assembly line to assemble them but there was one thing missing.
Intro.: "A Moment in Time" with Dan Roberts.
Content: In his old factory Henry Ford had been able to produce 14.7 cars a year per worker, therefore was shocked to discover that with the new plant in Highland Park, occupied in 1910, that his productivity had been cut more than in half to 6.7 car a year.