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Digital Subscriptions > History Revealed > March 2019 > War of the Currents

War of the Currents

Thomas Edison, George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla – brilliant inventors and industrialists who battled in the early days of electricity to power humankind into the 20th century and beyond. Jonny Wilkes gives the war report

AC/DC THE W AR OF THE CURRENTS

The grand Administration Building and the reflective pool in front are aglow during the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago – a decisive victory for the company providing the electricity

Grover Cleveland had one of the more straightforward tasks of his presidency on the evening of 1 May 1893. After saying a few words to the crowd, he pushed a gold button and hundreds of thousands of lightbulbs buzzed into life. It may not sound like much today but no one had ever seen such a display of electrical power as the spectacle he switched on. Te lights coruscated over the grand lake and illuminated the neoclassical buildings purposebuilt for the occasion, while multi-coloured searchlights pierced the sky

The Chicago World’s Fair had opened. Over the next six months, an estimated 27 million visitors flocked to this celebration of culture, invention, architecture, entertainment and a city reborn from the ashes of a devastating fire two decades earlier.

The streets of the 1893 World’s Fair were lit up at night – as was the name of the man providing the power
ALAMY X3, GETTY IMAGES X10
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About History Revealed

The mystery of the Princes in the Tower has haunted history for centuries. Did Richard III really steal the throne by murdering his nephews? Plus: We uncover the story of Rome’s first lady – Agrippina the Younger, the naval battle of Boston Harbor as well as the top 10 cats that made history.