Cover

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Title, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-viii

Contents

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pp. ix-x

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Foreword

John L. Sprague

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pp. xi-xiv

A 1932 photograph shows a trim elderly man holding a chubby two-year-old child. The man is well dressed and has a slightly quizzical expression as he regards his armful. His face is narrow and seems constructed of sharp angles and lines. He has a full head of hair, a prominent nose, and a full but welltrimmed mustache. But it is his eyes that grip you. Even in the slightly faded image, behind his metal-rimmed glasses...

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Acknowledgments

William D. Middleton, William D. Middleton III

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pp. xv-xx

At the time of his death in 1934 Frank Sprague was a widely known and celebrated electrical engineer and inventor, and the New York Herald Tribune had ranked Sprague with Thomas Edison and Alexander Bell as a remarkable trio of inventors. “Perhaps no three men in human history,” said the Herald Tribune, “have done more to change the daily lives of human kind.” In the years since their death both Edison and Bel...

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1 A BOYHOOD IN NEW ENGLAND

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pp. 3-10

Milford, Connecticut, is now a city of more than 50,000 residents, lying some 10 miles southwest of New Haven and stretching along the shores of Long Island Sound. Milford grew large only in the recent past with the growth that followed World War II, but it has been there a long time. What became Milford, named after the English city, was purchased by English settlers from the chief of the local Paugusset tribe in 1639, making....

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2 THE MIDSHIPMAN INVENTOR

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pp. 11-34

When Frank Sprague began his appointment as a midshipman at the Naval Academy, it was not, in some respects, the best time to be committing to a career with the United States Navy, for it was in the midst of a long period of decline. During the Civil War the Union Navy had built the greatest navy in America’s history. At the end of the Civil War the navy had some 626 ships in commission—65 of them ironclads—but with the war won, and no threatening rival in sight, Congress was unwilling to support...

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3 SPRAGUE AND THE NEW WORLD OF ELECTRICITY

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pp. 35-62

“A course of study which I have followed for four years has very strongly developed my tastes for work in connection with electrical service, and I can only feel satisfied when thus employed,” wrote Ensign Sprague in a March 1883 letter to Secretary of the Navy William E. Chandler resigning his commission. Among other reasons Sprague cited for his resignation were his desire to engage in experimental work, and the receipt of attractive offers from several companies. The problems of the overcrowded condition of officers in the naval service and the slowness of promotion...

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4 TRIUMPH AT RICHMOND

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pp. 63-90

New York City began operating the first American animal-drawn street railway in 1832, and over the next several decades the horsecars had spread to other cities as the country’s urban population grew. By the beginning of the 1880s urban public transportation had grown into an enormous industry, and one that was steadily growing ever larger. In 1881, for example, there were some 415 street railway companies in the United States, and they operated 18,000 cars over 3,000 miles of line and transported...

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5 SPRAGUE AND THE ELECTRIC ELEVATOR

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pp. 91-110

As American cities grew rapidly during the nineteenth century, so did the need for a better form of urban horizontal transportation. That need was finally met by the development of the electric street railway thanks to the work of Frank Sprague and others during the 1880s. And much as the need for improved horizontal transportation was met through the application of electricity, so was it through the use of electric power that the development of increasingly tall buildings was made possible,...

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6 FRANK SPRAGUE AND THE MULTIPLE UNIT TRAIN

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pp. 111-136

In 1890 when Frank Sprague turned his attention to the development of highspeed electric elevators, he had by no means given up his interest in electric railroads. As early as his 1882–1883 visit to London, he had developed ideas for the electrification of the city’s steam-powered subway. In 1885 he had developed and presented a plan for the electrification of New York’s steam-powered elevated lines, and by 1886 had developed and tested electric equipment for the Els. With the elevated companies....

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7 ELECTRIFYING THE MAIN LINE RAILROADS

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pp. 137-170

Frank Sprague’s principal area of interest had shifted from electric traction to the development of the electric elevator with his sale of the Sprague Electric Railway & Motor Co. in 1890, and the subsequent establishment of the Sprague Electric Elevator Co. in 1892. But as we have already noted, Sprague also remained very much interested—and involved—in the development of electric traction. Best known was his continuing (although unsuccessful) effort through most of the 1890s to convince...

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8 THE NAVAL CONSULTING BOARD AND THE GREAT WAR

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pp. 171-198

By the start of the second decade of the twentieth century it became increasingly apparent that war was coming to Europe. Many in the United States realized that despite its isolationism, the United States would eventually have to join the conflict, and that it was neither militarily nor industrially ready to do so, and that furthermore, if steps weren’t taken to prepare the country, the United States might be “knocked out” before it could even join in the conflict. This concern became increasingly pressing...

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9 SPRAGUE AND RAILROAD SAFETY

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pp. 199-220

By the beginning of the twentieth century the United States had emerged as the world’s greatest industrial power, and it was supported by one of the largest railway systems in the world, reaching virtually every corner of the continent. In the period from the time of the Civil War to the end of the century, the railroads transported an American manufacturing output that had increased fivefold. Coal production had grown by ten times, with an annual production that reached 270 million tons annuall...

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10 A DIVERSE INVENTOR

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pp. 221-242

As an inventor, Frank Sprague presents us with a complex character of sometimes seemingly contradictory traits. On the one hand, he provides a textbook example of the “inventor’s shop” model of focused, directed research on a specific set of design problems—working with his colleagues and employees methodically testing and revising designs in a disciplined shop environment. On the other hand, he also displayed characteristics more in accordance with the “lone inventor” stereotype—jotting...

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11 AN INVENTOR AND ENGINEER TO THE END

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pp. 243-256

In July 1927 Frank Sprague moved into the 70th year of his life, and one might have expected him to begin easing up on the level of his work, or to have begun to enjoy the pleasures of a life of semiretirement. But this, of course, would not have been Frank Sprague. From the time of his youth onward he had always held these strong interests in an extraordinary range of diverse topics, and he would hold them throughout his life. Sprague, working with his eldest son, Desmond...

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12 EPILOGUE

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pp. 257-270

Frank Sprague and Thomas Edison were contemporaries as electrical engineers and inventors in the exciting new world of electricity in the latter part of the nineteenth century. They sometimes worked in cooperation, and sometimes in competition with such great early electrical engineers as Nikola Tesla, Alexander Graham Bell, Elihu Thomson, George Westinghouse, or Charles Steinmetz. From the time the two men met in June 1878, just after Sprague’s graduation from the U.S. Naval Academy...

Appendix A. Frank Julian Sprague Patents

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pp. 271-280

Appendix B. Frank Julian Sprague Honors and Awards

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pp. 281-282

Appendix C. Common Electrical Terms

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pp. 283-284

Notes

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pp. 285-298

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 299-304

Index

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pp. 305-316

Book Info

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