Gilded Age New York Podcasts Uncategorized

Notes from the podcast (#132): Electric New York


Manhattan grid illuminated, taken from the Metropolitan Life Tower in Madison Square, looking downtown. I’m not sure when this photo was taken, but a reasonable guess might be the late 1910s. The caption says ‘New York Edison Company, Photographic Bureau.’ (Photo courtesy NYPL)

FOR MORE INFORMATION: We just scratched the surface on the ‘war of the currents’ and 19th century American achievements in electricity. Luckily there are a great many readable books on the subject. Tom’s favorite is ‘Empire of Light’ by Jill Jonnes which descriptively recounts the battles between Edison and Westinghouse. There’s also the breezy ‘AC/DC: The Savage Tale of the First Standards War’ by Tom McNichol which is a more sensationalist take on the subject.

If you want a broader history of electricity and power (one that includes the innovations of steam and gas), nothing is better than Maury Klein‘s ‘The Power Makers.’

There are dozens of books and films on Thomas Edison himself, but I highly recommend ‘The Wizard of Menlo Park’ by Randall E. Stross, probably the most engrossing of the books listed.

FURTHER LISTENING: If you enjoyed this episode, you might also like our show on the history of Times Square (Episode #118, find the blog entry here, download the show from here). And of course, Edison makes a significant appearance in NYC and the Birth of the Movies (Episode #120, blog entry here, download show here).

Now, if you dare go back to some of our really older shows I also make a mention of electricity’s impact on the development of Coney Island. We delve into the Brooklyn amusement neighborhood’s early history in Episode #12: Coney Island: the Golden Age (download). And of course, one of our earliest podcasts ever was on the Blackout of 1977. It’s Episode #5, dozens of podcasts ago, so be kind! (here)

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