Tuesday, July 29, 2008

{Review} The Electric City: Energy and the Growth of the Chicago Area, 1880-1930 by Harold L. Platt

This book is a history of the electrification of the city of Chicago. It is not a narrative history, rather it is a more scholarly (dry!) work with lots of tables and charts. Still, it's an interesting series of events I wasn't aware of. Starting in the more downtown areas and moving towards the suburbs, numerous small companies were established that sold electricity to nearby customers. Surprisingly for a number of years they existed side by side with companies providing gas for illumination. The author notes that it often wasn't a matter of the customers demanding electrification of their neighborhood, rather it was a start-up small electricity supplier being nearby that convinced customers to give electricity a try. Very much like the way we saw the early ISP surge in the 1990s. Ultimately, this being Chicago, local politics soon intervened and the companies that survived and ate up the others were the ones which had the best political connections.

Recommended only for those who are willing to plod through a very academic study.

Link to LibraryThing entry for this book

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