(xylophone tones, How Dry I Am) (old time big band music) Radio announcer: You can be sure if it’s Westinghouse. (jazz music) Voiceover: George Westinghouse changed the face of the world with his inventions, patents, business sense, and personality. Not a day goes by that we don’t use something pioneered by George Westinghouse. He is the forgotten role model that our country needs to teach future generations of Americans that hard work and kindness pay off. George Westinghouse was one of the most successful men in the world; a respected engineer, inventor, and America’s greatest industrialist.
He was a pioneer of the Industrial Revolution and played a leading role in turning the United States from a young agrarian society into a modern economic powerhouse. The name Westinghouse has been a household name the world over for more than 100 years because of one man, his love of machines, and his desire to make the world a better place. Edward Reis: The accomplishments that George Westinghouse had in his lifetime had a major impact on the way we live . His work in the railroad industry with the Westinghouse air brake, the electrification of the world with Westinghouse alternating current, him being instrumental in developing natural gas as a fuel, and his impact on the shipping industry with the Westinghouse geared marine turbine engine.
George Westinghouse was known as a good person.
He always had a very good rapport with his workers. There was never a strike at any of the Westinghouse companies all the time he had control of them. That was not common back in those days.
He certainly was not motivated by greed or money. He really thought that his accomplishments would benefit mankind, and that alone was a driving force for him. Jim Sutherland: The most important thing about George Westinghouse was the way he treated his employees. He was unique. Quentin Skrabec: Westinghouse really offers a role model.
He was a passionate man and a lot of times he’s lost in history under Edison. William Terbo: Nikola Tesla had great regard for Thomas Edison of being a workaholic, and Thomas Edison had great regard for Nikola Tesla for his ability to be a workaholic. My father tells me specifically that of all the people that Tesla met, that he had the highest regard for George Westinghouse. (drum roll) Voiceover: George Westinghouse was born on October 6, 1846 in Central Bridge, New York to George and Emeline Westinghouse.
Edward Reis: George was the 8th of 10 children. Interestingly, he was named George Westinghouse, Jr. after his father. He was never really a good student in school.
He always had trouble applying himself to coursework that he didn’t think had immediate benefit. Later in life he was to say that the very best educational experience he had was the ability to work in his father’s shops. His father owned a company called the G. Westinghouse and Company, manufactured agricultural equipment and small steam engines. He loved to make things and build things. He built a working waterwheel one time, a model.
He built a working steam motorboat that he was able to use. He even made a violin. He developed these early mechanical skills and later in life he was to say those early mechanical skills he learned as a young boy served him well throughout his lifetime.
Quentin Skrabec: George Westinghouse, as a child, he’d probably be considered a problem child. He seemed to be bored with school. He loved mechanics. He loved to come back and work in his dad’s shop. Voiceover: George spent most of his boyhood in Schenectady, New York.
He would be known as George Westinghouse, Jr. for many years until his father died, at which time he dropped the Jr. from his name. Edward Reis: Interestingly, everything that is written indicates that George Westinghouse did not get a lot of encouragement from his father, but he did get quite a bit of encouragement from his mother, the local minister encouraged him quite a bit, and we know that one foreman in his father’s shops really provided George Westinghouse with a great bit of encouragement. He set aside an area in the factory for him to work.
He explained him how to use the various machines and materials to make items. Obviously, this had a major impact on George Westinghouse throughout his lifetime. Voiceover: It was recorded that he always felt more comfortable in his father’s shops than he did at school.
In 1860, at 13 years of age, George began to work there for 50 cents a day. Even as a boy it was clear that he posessed a unique talent for understanding and working with machines. Edward Reis: One story about George Westinghouse as a young boy was that he was in a scouting group that was planning to take a hike one afternoon. His father had given him a chore to cut some pipe, and that chore was certainly going to take longer than that day. However, George rigged up a machine with a saw blade.
He was able to cut all that pipe in a half a day and he was able to go on the hike. From what was documented, it was said that George Westinghouse, Sr. was not at all happy even though George Westinghouse was able to accomplish the task in a very short period of time he wasn’t happy at what had motivated him to do that. (drum roll) Voiceover: The American Civil War broke out in April of 1861 when George was 15. He desperately wanted to serve his country, but was prevented by his father to do so. He said that George would be allowed to enlist at the legal age of 17, but prayed the war would not last that long. The Civil War raged far longer than anyone had expected.
By 1863, the carnage was staggering after battles like Antietam and Gettysburg. It was clear then that the war was not the romantic adventure it was once thought to be. Even though the casualties were mounting and the Union army was demoralized after years of defeat, George Westinghouse enlisted in the New York Volunteer Cavalry as a private shortly before his 17th birthday.
The next year, he passed a special mechanical examination to become an offer in the U.S. Navy. His military service made a huge impact. Later in life he said, My earliest greatest capital was the experience and skill acquired from the opportunity given me when I was young to work with all kinds of machinery, coupled later with lessons in the discipline to which a soldier is required to submit, and the acquirement of a spirit of readiness to carry out the instructions of superiors. George’s older brothers, John and Albert, serviced in the military as well. Albert was captured at the Battle of Gaines’ Mill and confined to Libby Prison for a short while.
After being exchanged and released, he was killed in 1864 leading a Cavalry charge.
Edward Reis: I’m convinced that his father thought his brother was the one who was going to be successful in life and spent a lot of time with his older brother. Quite frankly, from everything I’ve read is I don’t think his father ever thought George Westinghouse was going to amount to anything. (gunfire) Voiceover: The war ended in 1865.
Although more than 600,000 American lives had been lost, life began to return to normal. The 18-year-old George Westinghouse, Jr. was mustered out of service and enrolled at Union College in New York. He quickly became bored. It was recorded that the President of the college said to him, You’re wasting your time here. A classical course is nothing for you. You have a genius for invention. Cultivate it and you will become a great engineer. He left school after two months and returned to his father’s shop.
At that time, the country was in a rapid state of change. For a man full of ideas, there was much to do. Quentin Skrabec: It was an excellent time for an inventor, for an industrialist like Westinghouse to come onto the scene.
Lots of people came onto the scene at that time, obviously. Even the Carnegies and so forth, a lot of what we call the robber barons, were just starting out in that time frame. We had an economic boom going that was a residual of the war. It was great time.
Investment money was there. People were moving forward. Industries were cranked up. It was a time of expansion. (piano music) Voiceover: On October 31, 1965, the 19-year-old George Westinghouse, Jr. was awarded his first patent for a rotary steam engine. Edward Reis: He started working on that patent at the age of 15.
It was granted to him at the age of 19. As we go through his life, we can see the role that rotating devices, the large rotating turbines and large rotating generators, the impact they had on the electrical industry. Then you look backwards and see that George Westinghouse had this interest in rotating engines from his very first patent as a young boy; started at that work at the age of 15. Voiceover: For the next 48 years, he would, on average, take out one patent every month-and-a-half. Edward Reis: He had two other early patents, for a car replacer for getting cars back onto the tracks when they derailed, and an item called the railway frog was a device used between the tracks where two tracks intersected.
These two patents here were very successful for George Westinghouse and provided him the money he needed to get started with the Westinghouse Air Brake Company. (slow band music) Voiceover: He planned to have his car replacer and railway frog manufactured in New Jersey, but instead looked west to the booming town of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Fortunes were being made in Pittsburgh. The city’s location at the joining of two major rivers made it the ideal spot for manufacturing and distribution. In the 1860s, the air was thick with smoke as the iron and steel industry grew, churning out metal for tracks, engines, and the myriad of machines, tools, and devices used to build the network of railroads crisscrossing the country.
Legend has it that as George stepped off the train, he practically walked into one of Pittsburgh’s wealthiest investors. Edward Reis: The very first night he was here evidently he’d lost his way downtown. He saw this gentleman coming his way and stopped him and asked him for directions.
That fellow’s name was Ralph Bagley. Ralph happened to be going in that direction he said, so he walked along with George Westinghouse to explain him where he was going that evening. From that chance meeting, him and Ralph Bagley became great friends for the rest of their lives. Quentin Skrabec: There’s some mythology around the meeting. Within a week, he had somehow made a business connection there.
That would have been typical. Westinghouse was the type of guy that went into a city, He was a salesman. He was probably looking for the industrialist in town. He had an invention. He needed some suppliers to make that part.
Westinghouse, type of guy that still even all through his career would hustle. He’d be out there knocking on the door of industrialists. (crash sounds) Voiceover: In a time of relative peace and quiet, newspapers were once again full of carnage. Catastrophic train accidents were on the rise as the number of trains in the country grew in size and quantity, and with increasing speeed. As the body count escalated, a clear solution was needed.
Westinghouse was said to have been personally effected by a terrible train crash in 1866, which motivated him to solve the problem. (train whistle) Nearly anyone could make trains bigger and faster, but nobody had devised a working solution to stop them quickly. (train whistle) At that time, stopping a train was a complicated, inefficient ordeal. Edward Reis: In those days, for example, on a freight train, the brakeman literally rode on top of the freight cars all day long. When the engineer gave a blast of the whistle to put down the brakes, they’d jump up, turn the wheel on that car, then run down that car, jump to the next car, run down the car to turn the brakes on the next car, and that, again, applied the brakes to the wheels.
So stopping a train was a very long, jerky kind of a process. By the way, the brakeman had an extremely dangerous job. Many of them were killed and injured, as you can imagine, the conditions riding on top of those freight cars all day long, rain, snow, whatever. Voiceover: A speeding train could take up to two miles to come to a complete stop. Not only were the lives of brakemen at risk when jumping from car to car on a moving train, but anything getting in the way of a roaring locomotive was almost certainly destroyed. (breaking glass sounds) Westinghouse felt that if an immediate powerful application of breaks were available that these horrible accidents could be avoided.
Men had been tinkering with train braking concepts for years. There were other patents dealing with brakes, but George Westinghouse was the only man to put old and new ideas together into a complete, workable combination. (jazz music) In fact, one key ingredient was discovered out of thin air. (jazz music) Edward Reis: George Westinghouse had been reading a new scientific magazine and there was an article that caught his attention on a French company building a tunnel through the Mont Cenis mountain in the Alps. It caught his attention. It was no ordinary tunnel, you see. It was 8.5 miles long.
It says they were having great difficulty until two new inventions came along. An Englishman had invented what he called a hammer drill bit, and an Italian had invented what he called an air motor. It caught George’s attention because the article said at that time that the pipe going back into the mountain was 6 atmospheres of air to drive the hammer drill bit to drill the holes for the dynamite was over 3,000 feet long. At that point in time he thought surely if they can drive a hammer drill bit into solid rock 3,000 feet away using air, he could be able to use air to drive the breaks on a train.
Voiceover: Many people thought he was crazy because who in their right mind would envision a roaring train being stopped by the wind? But that didn’t stop him. George Westinghouse, Jr. was issued his first patent for the air brake on April 13, 1869 at 22 years of age. With the air brake, the engineer could control all of the brakes on a train from the cab. This would allow for longer trains carrying more people and more goods.
Edward Reis: The United States was really moving westward. Industrialization was taking place. They had the need to move a lot more freight and people.
With the Westinghouse air brakes, the trains could become longer and heavier. (upbeat music) Voiceover: At that time, George was traveling the country, soliciting orders for his railway devices and had many opportunities to present his thoughts on air brakes to railway officials. He said that none of those approached appeared to have faith in the idea. Edward Reis: George Westinghouse was so sure that he would be successful with the Westinghouse air brakes that he invested all his money, and also his good friend, Ralph Bagley, invested money, and he built a full set of brakes for a locomotive and four cars.
Voiceover: The first air brake apparatus was explainn in a Pittsburgh machine shop in 1868. It then came time to install it on a full size train to test it in a real world demonstration. Railroad officials were invited and the first air brake trial became legendary.
Edward Reis: They all boarded the four passenger cars. George Westinghouse was riding in the locomotive that morning with the engineer, Dan Tate. This trial was to go to Steubenville, Ohio and return, a total of 80 miles.
Voiceover: Upon emerging from the tunnel, they came face to face with two horses and a wagon standing on the tracks. Edward Reis: The horses kind of panicked. A wheel got stuck. The wagon overturned.
The horses fell down. The drayman fell down. Dan Tate applied the Westinghouse air brakes for the very first time. They skidded up the track.
George Westinghouse, they say, was very, very concerned as they skidded up the track. Fortunately, they stopped four feet short of running over that wagon, those two horses, and the drayman. They say everyone in the back got knocked to the floor. They got banged into each other.
They got jostled quite a bit. The highest level superintendent of the Steubenville and Panhandle Railroad put his arms in the air and he said, Gentlemen, we’ve just seen the greatest demonstration of this Westinghouse air brake system we’re ever going to see. I think we should just back her up to Grants Hill and call it a day. Voiceover: The future of railroading was set in motion over the next several months as more tests were conducted around the country. Railway officials were impressed resulting in immediate orders of air brake equipment. Westinghouse Air Brake suddenly began appearing on passenger trains around the country.
Quentin Skrabec: A lot of people in those days, people like Charles Dickens and so forth, they had phobias about train travel in those days because the death rate was so high. The air brake took that phobia away. Voiceover: The Westinghouse Air Brake Company was chartered on September 28, 1869. The new company began churning out parts with an initial work force of about 100 men. Over the next decade George Westinghouse made numerous improvements to the air brake, and by 1877, most American railroads had their passenger trains outfitted with them.
It was declared by one writer that no railroad claims to be first class that does not employ Westinghouse air brakes. Even with the success, another major hurdle remained: the freight train industry. It was said that the freight industry was the slowest to adopt the air brakes because railroad companies did not want to invest the money to protect the lives of their cheap labor force. Brakemen were paid $1.50 a day and received nothing if they were maimed or killed. It cost about $50 to install air brakes on a train car.
Edward Reis: A piece of documentation I came across said that in one particular year there were 5,000 brakemen killed or injured in the United States that year. It was an extremely dangerous job, one of the most dangerous jobs there ever was. Voiceover: This was considered the age when railroad companies could buy senators.
The railroad business was profitable, and they intended to keep it that way.
Quentin Skrabec: The air brake offered nothing to them, profit-wise. The hand brake system seemed to be fine. You lose a few Irishmen. It didn’t seem to upset them at all.
Edward Reis: Pennsylvania Railroad had a very good reputation, but some of them did not. It was documented that in those days, some of the railroads, if a brakeman got killed, they felt no more obligation than to move the body to the side of the track. Quentin Skrabec: They balked at it and just like a lot of companies do they had to be dragged in there by the government. They did everything they could to slow that process down. Voiceover: Before any laws could be put in place, standards had to be set so that a car from California would couple with a car from Maine.
The Burlington brake trials were organized to set those standards and would prove to be one of the most critical events in the history of the air brake and in the life of George Westinghouse. Quentin Skrabec: As Congress in this country got more interested in the problem of railroad safety and the pressure came on to do something about it, these famous trials out in Iowa came into being.
They would test a number of different types of brakes at the time. Westinghouse air brake wasn’t the only brake out there. Edward Reis: The first Westinghouse air brakes were called straight brakes.
As the air went back the line, it applied the brakes to the wheels of the train to stop the train. However, if the piping or the coupling let go or broke, you would lose your brakes. Voiceover: To improve upon his original design, he invented the automatic air brake in 1873. Edward Reis: Now the air was holding the brakes off the wheels.
When you wanted to apply the brakes, you would simply reduce the pressure to stop the train. The other advantage to that was if the pipe separated or coupling separated or the pipe broke, the train would automatically come to a stop. It was referred to as the brakes that worked even when they failed. Voiceover: The automatic air brake was powerful, but not fast enough. Quentin Skrabec: Initially, as the trials started, Westinghouse had some problems with the air brake.
Eventually came up with the triple valve. It allowed a buildup of pressure at the local car. You could release that pressure very quickly versus waiting for the pressure to come down the line from the engine. Fast response was what the triple valve was all about. Voiceover: The master car builders accepted the new Westinghouse air brake.
The train, fitted with new quick action brakes, was sent on tour and a series of trials were made in a dozen cities. Sales exploded. But Westinghouse didn’t stop there. Edward Reis: George Westinghouse also had an invention called the friction draft gear, which allowed the trains, when they were starting out and stopping, to cushion the impact between the cars. This was considered to be a major improvement in the railroad industry.
In fact, the president of the Pennsylvania Railroad at the time was quoted that the friction draft gear by Westinghouse was every bit as important as the Westinghouse air brake to the railroad industry. It basically still used to this very day the friction draft gear. Quentin Skrabec: In the 1880s they finally enacted, late 1880s, they finally enacted several laws that required the use of the air brake.
That certainly was a big boom for George Westinghouse and a success story for him. (train sounds) Voiceover: The booming industrial companies in the United States purchased these inventions as fast as he could produce them, yet George Westinghouse, Jr. remained a humble man. It was said that progress was always a great deal more interesting to him than profit. In fact, he would have said that progress is profit. Edward Reis: Some railroads were very slow in adopting the air brake.
The New York Central, under Commodore Vanderbilt, one of the wealthiest men in the world at the time, was very slow in adopting the Westinghouse air brakes. In fact, the story goes that George Westinghouse was talking to a superintendent at New York Central one time about the air brakes, and he said, George, as long as I’m living there’ll never be Westinghouse air brakes on the New York Central. Evidently, the story goes, George Westinghouse said to him, Well, I’m a lot younger than you. I guess I’ll just have to outlive you. Now on the other hand, the New York Central had a great wreck and there were many people killed in that particular wreck. At that point in time, Commodore Vanderbilt backed down, got a hold of the Westinghouse Air Brake Company to install Westinghouse air brakes on the New York Central. Voiceover: A railroad superintendent once said, If the men who worked the railroads ever chose a patron saint, it would be Saint George in honor of George Westinghouse. Westinghouse was not all work and no play.
It was said that he loved the theater, music, and a good clean joke, although he claimed that solving mechanical problems relaxed him. When not working, he spent most of his time with his biggest supporter and closest friend, his wife, Marguerite. At the time of his very first patents in 1867, even before the air brake, George Westinghouse, Jr. met Marguerite Erskine Walker by chance on a railroad train. Edward Reis: George Westinghouse met his wife, Marguerite, on a train ride.
He was on the Hudson River Railroad heading toward Schenectady. He was not a smoker, so he passed up some available seats in a smoking car and went on back to another car. There was an available seat beside a very attractive young woman.
He struck up a conversation with her. He really liked this young lady. Just before he deboarded, since he was getting off before her, he wrote down the names and addresses of three friends of his family so that Marguerite could write to those folks so they could attest to the good character of George Westinghouse.
When he returned home, he immediately went to the local minister and friend of the family and had him write a letter to Marguerite, again attesting to the good character of George Westinghouse. , we’ve kind of gotten away from that practice. He went home that night and told his mother and father that he had met the young lady that day that he was going to marry. Within a year, he and Marguerite were married and they had a very long and fruitful marriage.
He always considered Marguerite to be his very best supporter. She supported his ideas no Dener how wild they really were. Voiceover: The two honeymooned at Niagara Falls, a location that would prove to be an important one later in the career of Mr.
Westinghouse. They had a happy relationship. It was said when they were on the same continent they talked every single day over the telephone, and when separated by the Atlantic Ocean, would send a daily cable message.
It seems amazing that at first George could not afford to move Marguerite to Pittsburgh. In the early days of the air brake, before it really took off, she lived in Schenectady with his parents. When the money began to flow, he bought her a home in the affluent Homewood district of Pittsburgh in 1871. They added on to the old house, which became a luxurious dwelling, and dubbed it Solitude. A substantial lawn and gardens would grow, along with their substantial fortune.
Edward Reis: The Westinghouses only had one child, George Westinghouse, III. He was born 16 years after they were married. When they were married, George Westinghouse was 20.
His wife, Marguerite, was 24, which means then that when she had their only child she was 40 years old. Voiceover: As George Westinghouse, III grew up, he spent a lot of time at their summer home near Lenox, Massachusetts. It became a favorite of Mrs. Westinghouse. In the days before energy conservation, it boasted 1,500 light bulbs and the world’s first lighted tennis court.
The massive estate even had the world’s first private alternating current power plant to supply the electricity. Solitude was equally interesting. When looking at pictures of it, one might notice an object that seems out of place with an opulent estate and gardens; a natural gas derrick.
Westinghouse decided to prospect for gas in his own backyard. When Marguerite heard about this, she was thrilled. It was recorded that she said something like, George, you travel so much it would be nice to have you working at home for a while. Edward Reis: In those days when they drilled a well, as they drilled the dirt and rock out, they’d strike a match to it.
If it flamed up, they said they had a vein of gas. At 300 foot they told him they had a small vein of gas. At 900 feet they told him they had another small vein of gas. He told them to keep drilling.
At 1,500 feet they hit a huge vein of gas. They immediately threw a match and set it afire. It was over 100 feet high, the flame. The roar could be heard for blocks. For a few days it became the great event in Pittsburgh.
People came from everywhere. They came by street railway, they came by horse and buggy, they walked; throngs of people in the neighborhood to see this great fire that lit the sky for miles around. He was absolutely delighted, but his neighbors were not. Initially, neighbors like Henry Heinz and Henry Clay Frick were a bit upset by this. However, George shared his natural gas with them and with friends around the block.
Westinghouse would always prove to be an interesting neighbor, at one point having 4 gas wells at Solitude, an alternating current power plant, and a set of tracks to test street railway equipment. As Marguerite had predicted, George spent time at home with his new toys and his evenings at the well, designing new drilling tools and improvements in gas prospecting. In 1884, he went into the natural gas business.
Edward Reis: From all this gas that he had, he decided he was going to start a natural gas company. All his existing charters wouldn’t allow him to start a utility, so he looked around and found an existing charter in the city of Philadelphia that would allow someone to start a utility. However, that charter was not being used at the time, so he acquired it. He brought that charter to Pittsburgh and started his natural gas company.
He never, for whatever reason, changed the name on that charter, and ironically, the name of that company was the Philadelphia Company. He had this very successful company in Pittsburgh named the Philadelphia Company. Later his street railway company was added to the Philadelphia Company. When that company was broken up by the federal antitrust in 1951, it became Pittsburgh Railways, the largest streetcar company in the city at the time, and it also became Equitable Gas and Duquesne Light, both of those companies existing to this very day.
Voiceover: Two years after he drilled his first well, Westinghouse had over 30 patents in the area of natural gas. Quentin Skrabec: He had seen in his trips to England the use of, what they had coal gas over there, not natural gas, but they were using coal gas to run a lot of their industry. He saw it as a cleaner, more efficient fuel. Industries adapted to the natural gas right away.
It was cheaper, first of all. A lot of steel companies went to it. Then, the engineer that he was, and what he had learned from compressed air in air brakes was where he learned how to transmit gas.
Voiceover: Natural gas was dangerous in the early days. Lines frequently broke and asphyxiation from gas leaks and explosions were common. It’s usage was not even metered. Westinghouse worked feverishly to solve these problems and developed escape pipes, meters, and the automatic cutoff regulator. (old time music) By the the 1880s and ’90s, George Westinghouse had founded dozens of companies.
Even with those constant distractions, under his leadership the growth of the Westinghouse Air Brake Company moved full speed ahead. They quickly outgrew their original works in Pittsburgh and moved across the river to a larger building. Westinghouse could see that the need for trains was growing rapidly as the western states exploded in population. He knew that a much larger plant would be needed to keep up with the increasing demand. In 1889, the air brake works were moved to a massive site about 14 miles east of Pittsburgh in the Turtle Creek Valley.
A building plan was made having in mind topography, water supply, and the disposal of sewage. Streets, homes, and a community were built around the new shops and the town of Wilmerding was created. In that day and age, many industrial companies kept their workers in barracks and cheap monotonous row houses, but Westinghouse Air Brake built good homes with gas, water, electricity, and baths. Many of them even had lawns and gardens. They went on to establish lawn and garden contests, and the little town became a place of taste in an otherwise dreary industrial region. (old time music) (train whistle) A trip through the Westinghouse valley in 1904 gives an up-close look at the air brake works and housing. (old time music) George Westinghouse always thought of safety and sanitation in his shops.
They were well ventilated with the best heating and lighting available at the time. A century old blueprint explains the elaborate sprinkler systems which were installed at the air brake works, which was very uncommon and expensive at that time. A writer said that, As one walks about the factory, he often thinks that the men at work are a good deal better off than they are in their own homes. Included in the plant was a small emergency hospital with an operating room and pharmacy, complete with a surgeon and nurse. Both sick and accident benefits were paid to workers years before it was a common practice to do so.
The cheapest way to take care of factory injuries was, of course, to prevent them. At his plants, serious accidents were rare. George Westinghouse felt that tired, miserable workers were not as safe and efficient as well-rested, happy ones. In the days of demanding physical labor in the sweltering heat and discomfort of factory shops, George Westinghouse invented the precursor to the modern-day weekend.
Edward Reis: As a young man, George Westinghouse was working on a Saturday one time, and he was quoted as having said, If I ever own my own company, I’m going to give my workers a half holiday on Saturday. Later in life, at the Westinghouse Air Brake Company, he was the first major employer in the country to grant his workers a half holiday on Saturday. This was a precedent that Henry Clay Frick and Andrew Carnegie were not at all happy that George Westinghouse had set this precedent of giving his workers a half holiday. He always treated his workers well. We know that the homes that Westinghouse built for the Westinghouse Air Brake people in Wilmerding, Pennsylvania and the homes he built for the East Pittsburgh works of Westinghouse Electric Company, those homes were rented or sold to the employees.
If the employees chose to acquire the home, they could do it on a monthly deduction. We know that George Westinghouse had those homes insured so if something happened to the worker, his family would be taken care of, his wife and children would have a home that was paid off. That, again, is the only example that I could locate of someone, one of the great business owners at that time, doing something like that for his workers. (old time music) Voiceover: And his workers loved him.
Some of the quotes from Westinghouse Air Brake employees give the closest look at George Westinghouse available to us . One letter reads, George Westinghouse stood well over 6 feet tall. When he raised his great right hand, palms towards you and fingers spread a little, and said in a gentle voice with a hint of a smile, ‘But you don’t understand,’ it was quite plain to the dullest mind that the sooner he understood the better for him. His manner was the same with princes as it was with mechanics. It hurt him to hurt the feelings of another. (old time music) Westinghouse was known as having an amazing memory and it was said by company men, Do not tell the Old Man anything you do not wish him to remember 10 years from now. It was written that Mr.
Westinghouse was an incorrigible optimist. He experimented on a full-size scale and backed the faith that was in him to the limit. He never looked back, was never discouraged, and never had any regrets over past failures. Another said, George Westinghouse is the embodiment of imagination in britches, walking about the face of the earth doing things that change society just as birds sing. It was unheard of at the time for men of Westinghouse’s social standing to have anything to do with the common factory worker.
But the former Cavalry private didn’t see it that way. In 1894, the Civil War veterans group of the north, called the Grand Army of the Republic, would hold their 28th national encampment in Pittsburgh. Edward Reis: George Westinhouse, upon finding that out, went to the committee and said, Listen, I just finished two big factory buildings at my new East Pittsburgh works of Westinghouse Electric Company and they’re completely done but no equipment has been moved in. What I’d like you to do is bring out workers and convert one of those factory buildings to a great dining hall. I’d like it to be carpeted. I’d like a great staircase to be built and a stage to be built, all carpeted. I’d like tables with linen tablecloths and napkins. I would like to host one night during Grand Army Week, as it was called, for the Civil War veterans from the Grand Army of the Republic. He also told them, And by the way, you wouldn’t have to use any of your committee’s money. You could send me all the bills. I’d be willing to pay for that. 6,500 Civil War veterans came to that great dinner at East Pittsburgh that evening. (exciting opening movie music) Voiceover: Many people know the name Westinghouse because they grew up in a house full of Westinghouse appliances like roasters, dishwashers, and refrigerators. Innovative industrial products and home appliances from the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company made Westingouse a household name. But well before their first dishwasher would ever roll off the assembly line, George Westinghouse had to first win the battle of the currents again Thomas Edison. (old time music) Thomas Alva Edison was born in 1847.
He was a forceful, egotistic, eccentric creator who had difficulty working with others, all direct contrast to George Westinghouse who was a military trained engineer. Edison got his start in telegraphy and invented a stock ticker and other industrial products early in his career. Around the same time that Westinghouse was perfecting the air brake, Thomas Edison invented the phonograph. Whereas the air brake was largely ignored by the national press, the phonograph was hailed as the greatest invention of all time. The phonograph was fun.
The phonograph made music. The phonograph was unlike anything 19th century people had seen before and the population was in awe. Edison became famous and the public loved him. And he loved that the public loved him. He was regarded as the most famous American in the world.
He patented the electric distribution system, and soon after activated the Pearl Street electric generating station which provided direct current power to some streetlights and a couple dozen customers in Manhattan. In the early 1880s, America’s growing industries were crying for more and more power that was less costly and cumbersome than steam-generated power. The development of electricity was like the rapid development of the automobile, computers, or the internet. Everyone could see that it was useful and amazing, but nobody knew quite how to utilize it or what the standards would be.
It could be said that Thomas Edison created the idea of the centrally located power station. The only problem was that the direct current power he was using did not transmit very far. Jim Sutherland: You could only transmit direct current a few thousand yards from a Edison generating station. William Terbo: It was quite obvious to George Westinghouse that direct current was never going to be a national model. It’s just a local model.
Voiceover: That meant that in order to power a city, he would need power stations every mile or so that were small in practically in their customers’ back yards. These facts did not stop Edison from promoting DC power with the theatrics and flare that he was known for. (smashing sound) Edison lived in New York City, was politically connected, and loved to put on a good explain. He leveraged his fame, his name, and his face to his advantage in business. Direct current power became popular and Thomas Edison became a leader in the field.
Quentin Skrabec: Edison had the market and built the first power station in New York for transmission of lighting. J. P. Morgan actually had the first house that was lit. Voiceover: In contrast, George Westinghouse did not even like to be photographed.
Yet the limitations of DC power were very clear to him. He felt that electric power should be generated in one place and be transmitted to users far away. In 1885, George Westinghouse became interested in the inventions of European inventors Gaulard and Gibbs, relating to the use of single phase alternating currents and distribution with transformers.
Jim Sutherland: George Westinghouse was the first to recognize that you could use a transformer in a large system. With alternating current, you can transform the voltage up to a high voltage low current and send it hundreds and thousands of miles at the high voltage, then step it back down to the low voltage where you use it. It was the key to the entire system.
Voiceover: He purchased the American rights to their patent and threw himself into the study and design of a new kind of transformer. It was said that he recalled his experiences in the gas industry with the reducing valve that allowed high pressure gas from the well to be transported over a great distance and then delivered at low pressure at the point of use. The transformer was his reducing valve for electricity.
Quentin Skrabec: That’s exactly what he was doing with gas transmission. Voltage is pressure. It’s the exact same term in electricity as it is in hydraulics and gas fluid. He could step up the voltage to transmit it at a faster speed and then when he got to the houses he could step it back down again.
Voiceover: Those who watched him work were stunned at his capacity to do extraordinary things quickly. Through long evenings he would work in his private railroad car and in his house, designing, sketching, and dictating. When at home, he often worked on his billiard table. It was said he never had a pencil, but just borrowed one from the nearest man.
He never returned any of the pencils and nobody knows what happened to them. One writer said that his trail through the world was blazed with other men’s pencils. Jim Sutherland: He had a unique ability to look at prolems and come up with solutions of his own, but he was also willing to take other ideas from other people. If he had to buy ides or buy patents, he did. Voiceover: In a miraculous three weeks, Mr.
Westinghouse and his staff redesigned the Gaulard and Gibbs transformer. Male: Gaulard and Gibbs certainly had the idea correct. It was the mechanical part of actually manufacturing and building these transformers that they came up short.
It was a rather crude device when Westinghouse acquired it. Voiceover: The Westinghouse Electric Company was started on March 8, 1886 in the Garrison Alley works in Pittsburgh. Male: The Garrison Alley operation was really a research operation, a developmental operation.
He was working on a number of projects there, including the transformer. Male: He was interested in developing ideas into products, and products into companies, and companies providing employment. Voiceover: In the beginning, Westinghouse Electric didn’t have it easy.
Along with research into alternating current, it was about that time that Westinghouse began to seriously compete with Edison in the incandescent lamp business, with a full plant making single pin lamps, which were a slightly different design than the Edison screw-in bulbs. (cartoonish music) This was the beginning of the battle of the currents.
The fierce competition between Westinghouse and Edison for domination in the electrical field would not end for another decade. Interestingly, it resulted in one of the earliest known format wars between which standard of light bulb and socket would be the dominant one. Customers who chose to go with Westinghouse single pin sockets could buy this clever adapter to use Edison’s screw-in bulbs. A few commercial alternating current plants were put into operation over the next few months but there were still problems.
Even though AC power could be generated in large bulk and transmitted many miles away to light cities, there was still no practical AC motor, and thus no practical way to power machines with alternating current. (slow old time music) Nikola Tesla arrived in New York City in 1884 with a head full of ideas and barely a cent to his name. He was a brilliant Serbian-born inventor who spoke a dozen languages. William Terbo: He came to the United States at the age of 28 with a letter from the director of the Edison Company in Paris that was directed to Thomas Edison saying I know of only two great geniuses in the electrical business. You are one and the gentleman holding this letter is the other one. Voiceover: Thomas Edison hired him and put him to work redesigning DC generators.
The famous story is that Edison offered to pay him an outrageous sum of $50,000 for his work. William Terbo: Telsa came to him and said okay, now where is my $50,000? Supposedly Thomas Edison said, Oh, my dear Nikola, you don’t understand the American sense of humor. It was the straw that broke Tesla’s back and almost immediately after that he left Edison. Voiceover: The brilliant inventor ended up digging ditches for a while, literally, to support himself while he was still creating.
In 1887, he constructed the initial brushless alternating current induction motor. A year later, he saw patents issued to him on his motor and on the associated method of transmitting power by polyphase currents. William Terbo: When George Westinghouse heard about that, it was like a light went on, an electric light went on perhaps you might say. This was the possibility where he could see that technology overtaking everything else in the world, and he was right. Voiceover: Tesla’s ideas would enable steam or hydro-powered generators to generate polyphase currents that power induction motors in machines in factories.
William Terbo: The group of patents that Tesla had, which essentially identified the entire path from beginning to end, from the motor to use alternating current to the method of distributing the current and everything in between. It was the answer to the question that George Westinghouse had. Tesla had the answer. Voiceover: Unlike Edison who was solely behind DC power, he listened to Tesla. He acquired the rights to Tesla’s induction motor and polyphase patents and Nikola Tesla came to Pittsburgh to work for the Westinghouse Electric Company.
Quentin Skrabec: He was also able to back off, a guy like Tesla, who had tremendous intelligence, and Westinghouse realized, probably more intelligent than him, understood, certainly, the sophistication of AC current, which is not an easy thing. we describe it in differential equations; it’s a nightmare even for young engineers trying to learn that. Voiceover: Tesla’s inventions combined Westinghouse’s manufacturing skills and his ability to assemble parts of a whole system brought practical alternating current power to existence. One writer said, The invention of alternating current motors and the system for operating them was one of the greatest advances ever made in the industrial application of electricity. Not everyone agreed.
There was serious opposition to AC power. (storm sounds) Assertions were made that the alternating current system was dangerous and that its use should not be permitted commercially. Numerous articles appeared throughout the country designed to prejudice public opinion against the system. (wind) One bitter article from a scientist read, There is no plea which will justify the use of high alternating current either in a scientific or commercial sense, and my personal desire would be to prohibit entirely the use of alternating current. If anything was needed to urge Westinghouse to greater effort, this antagonism served the purpose. Edward Reis: If we look at a comparison of Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse, we find a number of major differeneces. They had quite a difference in personalities.
An example, during the great battle of the currents is Thomas Edison backed the electric chair, not as a humane way to eliminate convicted criminals, but as a way to get a competitive advantage over his competitor, George Westinghouse’s alternating current. Thomas Edison was trying to discredit Westinghouse’s alternating current. He had a campaign to make it look much more dangerous than it really was, although it was dangerous, and obviously this very day we know it could kill people. But George Westinghouse believed electricity was there to benefit mankind and should not be started off by executing condemned criminals. Thomas Edison pushed that in the state of New York and recommended the electric chair as a humane way to execute condemned criminals, and by the way, said you’d have to use Westinghouse’s alternating current; direct current just wouldn’t do it.
Now that wasn’t exactly true but that’s the position that he pushed. George Westinghouse was appalled that Thomas Edison would lower himself to that level of competition. When the electric chair was first proposed, there was no term electrocution in existence at the time. Thomas Edison even lowered himself to the point where he suggested that the term to be used would be called Westinghoused, so you Westinghoused a condemned criminal, later to be called electrocute a condemned criminal.
He’d lowered himself pretty low at the point of how he was willing to compete. Voiceover: Edison’s connections with the media and politicians worked overtime for him, spinning the evils of alternating current power. It was said that Thomas Edison went so far as to work with a man who electrocuted dogs and cats on stage to give AC power a bad name. Moving footage exists of an elephant being electrocuted in front of a crowd.
Although it is claimed to be Edison’s work, the film clip is generally accepted not to be part of the battle of the currents; however, it gives an idea of the gruesome inhumane acts that those men did in order to prove their point about the dangers of alternating current. Jim Sutherland: Westinghouse came in with a system of alternating current that immediately made the Edison direct current equipment obsolete. Since Edison had provided direct current equipment to a lot of small municipal power companies and light companies, they didn’t have money, they didn’t have any capital, so he had taken paper. He owned large shares in those municipal companies.
He knew that if Westinghouse was successful in replacing all of his direct current equipment that was installed, he would be financially hurt. That’s why he was so anxious to do everything he could to make George Westinghouse’s alternating current system a bad word. (quiet chords) Voiceover: After years of costly research, Westinghouse’s big chance to explain the complex polyphase system and AC power in action would come during the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago. But Thomas Edison would not make it easy for them. (crowd applause and cheers) The 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, known as the Columbian Exposition, was set to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Columbus discovering the New World. It was to be the biggest, grandest, most spectacular World’s Fair ever. It would be quite the party, and proved to be an interesting event in the life of George Westinghouse.
It would also be ground zero for the battle of the currents. (crowd noises) On May 23, 1892, as the immense fairgrounds were being constructed on the shore of Lake Michigan, the Westinghouse Electric Company won the lighting contract for the World’s Fair. David Cope: You have to remember how people lived at the time. They lived in darkness.
We don’t live in darkness at all. Even if you go outside at night, there’s light. Whoever wins this bid, if it’s going to Edison or if it’s going to be Westinghouse, it’s going to mean a great deal because people are going to come to the Fair, they’re going to see light at night. They’re going to be able to extend the day.
Voiceover: The story is that the exposition company saved about a half a million dollars by going with Westinghouse Electric over General Electric. This loss to Westinghouse was unexpected. Thomas Edison had counted on his name and strong patents to guarantee the contract and planned to make a profit at the Fair. Westinghouse, on the other hand, would make a risky move by going into it expecting to lose money in order to gain promotion, a gamble that could sink the entire company because of the time and money that went into the polyphase development, leaving the Westinghouse Electric Company in a weakened state to survive the financial crisis of 1893.
Quentin Skrabec: Edison at the time represented General Electric, but he had already been bought out. That battle was a vicious one. Westinghouse finally undercut and won it. Voiceover: George Westinghouse told his managers the work must be done right regardless of cost. He said that any loss could be charged to advertising, and that was the main objective.
David Cope: Hundreds of thousands of people came at night just to see the lighting. What they do is they go back and they talk about it. Voiceover: The World’s Fair was a massive undertaking, but Westinghouse had the courage of his conviction that his men could do it. He closed the contract before even consulting them.
Edison was well known for challenging people on patent infringement, and even though Westinghouse had won the World’s Fair contract, they were dangerously close to a patent dispute and a massive lawsuit. The Westinghouse alternating current system was going to power the lights of the Fair, but the light bulbs that were going to be used were too similar to a patent owned by Edison, the one piece incandescent light bulb. Some six months before the opening, with all of the Westinghouse work already installed, the patent on the Edison incandescent lamp was sustained and Westinghouse was not permitted to use the light bulbs that he had planned to use. George Westinghouse had a clever way around this problem, though.
Years earlier, he had purchased rights to the Sawyer-Man lamp patent and chose to use those lamps instead. Thus, originated the famous two-piece Westinghouse stopper lamp, so called because a piece of ground glass held an iron filament fitted into the bulb like a cork. Edward Reis: Good business sense said he better have a backup and that turned out to be the two-piece all glass Westinghouse stopper lamp that was upheld in the court as an independent patent. Perhaps wasn’t as good an incandescent lamp as the Edison lamp at the time, but it was good enough to successfully illuminate the great Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. Voiceover: Westinghouse rushed through extensive new production facilities to finish the bulbs the moment the Fair was scheduled to open.
Edward Reis: The Westinghouse Company at that time manufactured 250,000 two-piece all glass Westinghouse stopper lamps. It was estimated at the time that it was 25% of all the incandescent lamps made up to that point in time anywhere in the world. Voiceover: It was a quick and dirty job, and the opening of the Fair on May 1, 1893 was not delayed an hour. In his tradition of surrounding himself with smart people, Westinghouse was well served by his patent lawyers and engineers. The World’s Fair lamps did not last long and had to be changed often, but Fair visitors never knew this at the time.
All they saw was the beautiful lighting, and the name Westinghouse. The Fair was a huge success, attracting nearly 28 million visitors in its six month run. The Westinghouse exhibits had prime real estate.
Just off the court of honor sat the massive electricity building, which was one of the most popular attractions. The Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company occupied a huge chunk of floor space right alongside their rival, General Electric. In machinery hall, the Westinghouse Electric Company explained off their complete polyphase system. The generating plant for the World’s Fair lighting was the largest alternating current central station then in existence.
To further amaze visitors, the complex switchboard used to control all of the machines required only one operator. George Westinghouse attended the Fair that summer, but left all the planning and construction of the exhibits to his managers. Mr. E. E. Keller, the Westinghouse manager of the World’s Fair contract, said, Like most of his helpers, I felt ready to march through fire for him, and was amply repaid. Such was the man, Westinghouse. In the end, they even turned a profit of $16,000, not including advertising. Jim Sutherland: I’d like to have been there.
That would have been a great experience to walk through that place. But I understand no one person could see the entire Fair during the summer, there was so much to see. Voiceover: Many believe that the greatest single thing to come out of the Columbian Exposition was not Cracker Jack or the Ferris Wheel, but that it finally settled the AC versus DC battle of the currents once and for all. The World’s Fair helped Westinghouse win one of the most important contracts in history. (music and rushing water) The hope of harnessing the tremendous power of Niagara Falls had been a dream of scientists and engineers for decades.
Top minds like Lord Kelvin and Thomas Edison were involved, but by the fall of 1893, the project remained stuck in the mud suffering from the bitter controversy over whether alternating current or direct current should be used. It was the impressive display of AC power at the World’s Fair that gave Westinghouse just the edge he needed, and even skeptics like Lord Kelvin, who was once on the DC side, gave in. Man: People came into the Fair remembering the name Edison.
They came away thinking Westinghouse. William Terbo: It gave the publicity that George Westinghouse needed to really put in position his ultimate goal, which is also Tesla’s ultimate goal from childhood, to put the power system into Niagara Falls. Voiceover: Now all the power could be generated in one spot, and transmitted many miles away with the help of transformers. On October 24, 1893, Westinghouse Electric was awarded the contract for three 5,000 horsepower alternating current generators for Niagara Falls.
The first hydroelectric generator unit was tested on April 16, 1895. A year later, three seconds after midnight on November 16, 1896, Buffalo, New York was receiving power from the mighty Niagara Cataract for the first time. The battle of the currents had been won by Westinghouse.
William Terbo: It was such an event. Tesla was there and spoke, and he spoke at length. I understand from some newspaper comments, spoke at excessive length. Voiceover: Pieces of the original power line from the 1895 test were saved to honor the occasion.
The Westinghouse Electric Company finally started seeing returns on their enormous investments into alternating current and the polyphase system. Orders began to flood in. The original Niagara Falls generators were joined by the addition of seven similar units a few years later.
, newer plants and technology continue to harness the hydroelectric power of Niagara Falls. Edward Reis: Later in life Nikola Tesla was quoted as saying, The only man in the world that could have pulled off alternating current was George Westinghouse, for he was the only man that would come up against Thomas Edison. Voiceover: Even though the battle of the currents may have been over, the fierce competition between Westinghouse and Edison continued. Edward Reis: It’s well known that Thomas Edison had 1,093 patents during his lifetime. History also records that George Westinghouse is credited with 361 patents during his lifetime. But again, understanding the differences in their personalities has a major impact on how many patents each was granted.
It is well known and well documented that if you were a worker that worked on an item that was patented and worked for Thomas Edison, the name on that patent was Thomas Edison. It’s also well known and well documented that if you were a worker that worked for George Westinghouse at the time and had worked an item that was patented, the name on the patent was that of the empoloyee or the worker. Benjamin Lamme, for example, one of the great Westinghouse engineers, perhaps best known for having designed the first three 5,000 horsepower generators that went into Niagara Falls, Benjamin Lamme alone had 162 patents during his career at Westinghouse, Everyone of them recorded in the name of Benjamin Lamme.
I always thought if we could get all these patents of all the great engineers and others that worked for Westinghouse, if he had the same practice as Edison of putting his name on those patents, he’d have well excess, also, of 1,000 patents during his lifetime. Voiceover: George Westinghouse always surrounded himself with the best and the brightest. Man: He had a real knack as a manager that Edison didn’t, in that he could bring a lot of very creative, very intelligent people together, and at least get them to work towards a project.
These people are hard to bring together.
They had big egos. He was able to manage that. He was a tremendous manager, something that Edison was not an most inventors were not. (old time big band music) Voiceover: By 1900, George Westinghouse had started or was associated with nearly 40 companies. By 1910, that number would rise close to 60 companies. He was worth many millions of dollars several times over, although some joked that Marguerite spent it faster than even he could make it.
Man: Later in life George Westinghouse worked on some other ideas that perhaps he’s not as well known for . Westinghouse Electric Company actually went into the production of full-size Westinghouse alternating current electric locomotives in the early part of the 1900s. This came about in part because the east coast of the United States, the New York City area, for example, considered steam locomotives too dirty, and also too unsafe. There had been a great wreck in New York when an engineer on a steam locomotive failed to see the signals because of the smoke from the locomotive, so the east coast of the United States electrified their railroads.
Taking advantage of that opportunity, Westinghouse Electric manufactured full-size electric alternating current locomotives at the East Pittburgh works of Westinghouse Electric here in Pennsylvania. Voiceover: On May 16, 1905, he made history by combining two of his passions; transportation and alternating current electricity, where his electric train was matched against a steam locomotive of similar size. As he stands front and center, his smile is no doubt covered by his trademark mustache. That day, his electric locomotive proved superiority in handling a train of 50 steel gondolas, opening up the future of new electric railroad innovations for the Westinghouse Electric Company.
Westinghouse made tremendous advances in the areas of railroad signalling and interlocking. The Union Switch and Signal Company, regarded as one of his least glamorous but most important companies, was found in 1881. Quentin Skrabec: A lot of people remember the air brake; they don’t remember all the work that Westinghouse did with switching and signalling.
You had trains on the same track. They had to pick up signals. They had to make switches. The tracks had to be manually switched a lot of times so the trains wouldn’t collide.
Voicover: Signals tell a train when to reduce speed, when to stop, and when to start, when to proceed under control, and when to go ahead at full speed. Quentin Skrabec: The railroads weren’t too interested in it. It was a safety issue, and they weren’t really … Just like the brakes, they didn’t come on stream with that.
Westinghouse sort of pushed that. He saw a need. Voiceover: Interlocking provided control and operation of switches and signals so that they moved in certain sequences.
It was said that if a man were blindfolded and pulled levers at random, he could stop traffic, but he could not produce a collision. Edward Reis: They were using air to switch tracks was new at the time. They were also using electric current down the railroad tracks so they could tell where the trains were without having observer in a tower, which had a major impact on the ability to move lots of trains through heavy traffic areas. Those two items alone had a major impact on the railroad industry.
Voiceover: Another of his lesser known inventions was the steam heater, which used steam from the locomotive to warm train cars in the dead of winter. Edward Reis: Later in life, George Westinghouse also worked on a marine turbine engine for the shipping industry. Quentin Scrabec: What you have in steam engines in shipping is steam engines turn a shaft very quickly. Reduction gear allowed that fast turning to move down to slow turning with a lot of torque so it could drive through the water. So the reduction gear allowed for very efficient steam power of ships. (old movie music) Voiceover: George Westinghouse was involved with industries related to the newest mechanical marvel of the 20th century: the automobile.
He was influenced by a device a chauffeur in Lenox used to reduce road shocks in his car. Westinghouse noticed that it needs changing to make it successful, and a year later saw the first set of Westinghouse air springs installed on one of his vehicles. It was recorded that he said, They make a wonderful difference in the riding qualities of the car. Edward Reis: He came up with the idea of using air for shock absorbers on a car.
So, for example, he owned automobiles and obviously the roads were kind of rough and the ride was kind of rough, so he, in effect, invented the shock absorber as we know it . Voiceover: George Westinghouse was always working for ideals. He was always trying to produce a perfect product and commercial success was bound to follow, and so was the prosperity of his employees. But not everything that he touched turned to gold.
Edward Reis: Like all great inventors, George Westinghouse did have some failures. I wouldn’t necessarily say they were major failures.
His rotary steam engine, his very first patent, for example, he was never able to make it a commercial success, and yet that idea of a rotating engine stayed with him throughout his lifetime. He also worked for many, many years on a steam turbine, and eventually acquired the Parson steam turbine patents from England because it was a better steam turbine than the one he had been working on. Was he successful with the development of his own steam turbine?
The answer is no. But long term, all the experience that he gained from having worked on his own Westinghouse steam turbine, they reduced the size of that engine by 2/3 and keeping the same power output. Quentin Skrabec: Also, you could set them up anywhere.
You didn’t need a Niagara Falls in your backyard. This allowed for electrical generation across the country. This is where Westinghouse was brilliant. He could get in there on something that somebody else had started like that, and really bring it into commercialization.
Edward Reis: They made major improvements to the Parsons steam turbine even though it was basically a very good design to begin with. (slow, sad piano music) Voiceover: George Westinghouse explained faith in his enterprises by investing his own money in them. Many of his new businesses were financed at the beginning by borrowing from his seasoned companies, which had already become successful, like Westinghouse Air Brake. Several times he imperiled his entire fortune and his credit by investing practically everything into his start-up companies when others lacked faith. This meant he had more at risk, but the payout was higher if they succeeded.
The risks of this method of finance culminated in the disaster of 1907, which came to be the tragedy of his life. The Westinghouse enterprises had spread all over the world and their requirements for working capital were immense. When the widespread money crisis of 1907 arrived, his loans were called. Quentin Skrabec: Because he was fascinated in new projects, he borrowed a lot of money at the time, which was not his usual stop. He was sort of anti-banking.
Not sort of; he was. He didn’t like to borrow money. He liked to generate investment out of his own profits. He had a dislike for bankers and that would hurt him in the long run.
But in the case of a lot of electrical projects like the Niagara Fall generating plant at the time, he was overextended in his electrical company, no question about it. J. P. Morgan up in New York had wanted to bring Westinghouse in to an electrical trust with at the time General Electric. Westinghouse disliked trusts and refused. That put him at odds with Morgan.
Edward Reis: The bankers were very tough individuals. They had taken Edison Electric Company away from Thomas Edison in 1888. He was not happy about that, by the way.
There was a downturn in the economy, a depression, if you would, here in this country. George Westinghouse had just invested a huge amount of money in building the East Pittsburgh works of Westinghouse Electric Company. He had quite a number of outstanding loans. Loans were callable in those days.
If he were here , he’d tell you, he believed the bankers used that as a reason to force him out of control of the Westinghouse Electric Company, which they did. Quentin Skrabec: Newspapers, the Pittsburgh newspapers in particular, blamed it on Westinghouse, his poor management. So on top of everything else, he’s getting headlines that he’s a poor manager. Now Morgan didn’t take over Westinghouse.
There were other bankers. It was really a crushing blow to him. Voiceover: It was written that this was the most considerable mercantile failure that America has ever witnessed. Control of the Westinghouse Electric Company passed out of his hands.
Ironically, his name remained as their greatest asset. The writer of his biography said that as he was riding with him one night, when passing the great works at East Pittsburgh, George turned his face towards the bleak hills on the other side of the way with an expression so pathetic as to break one’s heart. Quentin Skrabec: He didn’t have enough cash to make the payment.
It was a temporary situation. It just wouldn’t happen for a big company like that. They would be able to get money on the open market.
But because Morgan basically controlled the open market in those days, even for the government with no Federal Reserve, he could make that decision and block that type of cash inflow that Westinghouse would have easily gotten . (soft piano music) That electrical company was the company he loved the most at the time. It was where he was doing all his progressive projects, all his scientific research. The air brake company, which he retained, was pretty much steady business, so he went after another group of inventions in a lot of different ways that he could utilize the resources and the money of his air brake company.
Voiceover: The short years of his life that remained after the tragedy were filled with the same unceasing activity. A friend asked him if he would slow down, and he replied, No, I do not feel that it would be right for me to stop now. I feel that I have been given certain powers to create and develop enterprises in which other men can find useful and profitable employment, and so long as I am able, it is my duty to continue to exercise those powers. Lifelong, he was temperate in everything but his work. In an era where everyone smoked, George Westinghouse did not. He rarely drank, and he never used profanity. One writer said of him that, While Westinghouse’s head was in the stars, his substantial feet were on the ground. Late in 1913, his health began to fade.
What was called an organic disease of the heart developed and he retired to his home in Lenox to rest. During the illness, his quizzical humor and inventive spirit lived on. But his body slowly faded away. On March 12, 1914 he died. It was said that drawings for an electric wheelchair that he was designing were nearby at the time of his death.
Edward Reis: Upon his death, his eight pallbearers were all his oldest workers from the Westinghouse Air Brake Company, including the very first worker that he had ever hired. To have that honor to be a pallbearer at George Westinghouse’s funeral certainly explained the interaction he had with average workers in his plants. Voiceover: Marguerite died a few months later. George and Marguerite Westinghouse are buried in Arlington National Cemetery beneath a modest headstone.
He had requested to be buried there in honor of his Civil War service. (old time music) The world and the Westinghouse companies continued on after his death. His brother became the President of Westinghouse Air Brake, which continued its operations and growth. His son, George III, who had passed an apprenticeship at the air brake works, carried on the legacy and managed the family finances. Man: Westinghouse Air Brake Company changed their name at one point in time to Wabco, but they’re still with us with the name Wabtec. Voiceover: Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company remained at the forefront of the modern era as the country rapidly embraced electric power and purchased new machines and appliances to aid in daily life.
In 1920, Westinghouse made history by airing the first commercial radio broadcast in the country. Edward Reis: They started radio station KDKA. The first transmittal on that radio station was done in November 1920 from atop the K buidling at the East Pittsburgh works of Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company as it was called at the time. They broadcast the presidential election returns that year. That was the very successful first commercial radio broadcast in the United States.
KDKA went on to become a very successful company. The very first year that they operated, they operated from a studio atop the K buidling at the East Pittsburgh works, and they actually had a tent. It was said you could hear the train whistles in the background because they were in a tent they had not way to keep that sound out of the radio programs at that point in time. (upbeat movie music) Voiceover: Say, what Fair’s this?
Female: It’s the Westinghouse Freedom Fair. You’ll find it in every Westinghouse dealer’s store in every town in the United States. So go to the Fair at your dealer’s.
See these seven great Westinghouse appliances and learn how they bring you hours of freedom from drudgery every day. For instance, here’s freedom from all the nuisance and mess of defrosting. (slow big band music) Voiceover: For decades, Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company appliances were considered to be the leaders in their field; well built, well engineered, and fashionably styled. Their ads ran everywhere and influenced American pop art and pop culture for generations. Female: Oh, and that reminds me, when you cook the Westinghouse Electric way, you’re free from an overheated kitchen, and you’re free, too, from all the grease and grime that forms on walls and curtains from other kinds of cooking. Voiceover: Westinghouse advertisements from the early 20th century explained just how happy the American housewife was with a kitchen full of Westinghouse Electric appliances.
No longer did she have to slave over a hot oven all day. Now, she could set a clock, go out on the town with her friends, and come home to dinner waiting for her and her family. (big band music) For the fellows out there, tired of using a crank in the morning? Westinghouse gave them batteries to start their cars.
In 1916, Westinghouse Electric introduced a revolutionary toaster that flipped bread slices, evenly toasting both sides. Things we take for granted now, were brand new back then. Electricity was used to power fans, curling irons, light bulbs, radios, coffee percolators, and a variety of Westinghouse Electric wares. In the early days before standardized AC wall outlets, these devices screwed right in to your light sockets. Smooth curves, sleek lines, and chrome accents are hallmark traits of their famous 1930s line of electric appliances.
In the George Westinghouse tradition of surrounding himself with the best and the brightest, Westinghouse Electric filled its ranks with industrial designers like Ralph Kruck and created products with such style and originality that remain collectors’ items . These rare hand-drawn sketches by Kruck and rough drafts of refrigerators, washing machines, vacuums and other appliances explain the amount of work and ingenuity that went into their manufactured goods for decades. In the 1950s, their advertisements and slogans heralded a new era of comfort and convenience. Female: And the Westinghouse Electric sink frees you forever from washing dishes. Here is freedom from cooking drudgery.
Voiceover: You can be sure if it’s Westinghouse became a national catchphrase in 1954. Famous actors like Ronald Reagan, Betty Furness, and Edward G. Robinson appeared in Westinghouse advertisements. Cartoon characters like Blondie and Dagwood celebrated their electric life on board games. Female: And remember, you can be sure if it’s Westinghouse. (old movie music) Voiceover: The Westinghouse marketing machine knew no boundaries and had friends in the highest places. In the 1940s the Walt Disney Company produced a promotional film for the Westinghouse Electric Company, explaining what advancements Westinghouse was making in the area of household appliances, electricity, and modern comforts.
Radio announcer: 1910, however, brings into our lives what some people are calling a miracle. A new servant, not very well trained yet, but willing and cheerful: electricity. It lightens our homes, but not yet does it lighten our housework. David Cope: This is a Westinghouse turkey roaster. My grandmother had this, and she had it back in the late ’30s, early ’40s.
We have used it every year for Thanksgiving since then. Radio announcer: By the 1930s a new day at last. Our servant, electricity, has learned to cool and heat, wash and iron, roast and toast.
We get a house, stuff it with furnishings, and then try to stuff ourselves in last. David Cope: Dependable. It’s what you think of Westinghouse. Old line, dependable, usable. You’re talking 60 years of dependability.
Industrial designers at the time knew that if they made something aesthetically nice, people would by it. Then aesthetically they could change it and people would have to have the newer models. Radio announcer: Let’s look inside that wall. You see, everything is going along fine with only 1,950 watts plugged into the circuit.
The refrigerator, the iron, the coffee maker, and the radio. But, if we plug in that extra 1,150 watts, just see what happens when it hits and overloads the circuit. (cartoon sounds) Voiceover: Although some of their predictions of the future were a bit far fetched, much of what we see in the film was brought to reality by the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company. (smash) Voiceover: Oh, goodness, what was that? Radio announcer: That’s what happens when we try to load too many watts on poor electric circuit. Female: And here are America’s favorite laundry twins, the Westinghouse Laundromat and the Clothes Dryer. Radio announcer: This is the new Laundromat.
It does everything but think. Quentin Skrabec: Industrial designers consider the Westinghouse Laundromat and the Westinghouse Clothes Dryer as excellent examples of early modern industrial design. Actually, Westinghouse created the name Laundromat for the washing machine, and they had the twin, as they called them, the Westinghouse twins, with the Clothes Dryer. Now one year and one year only, this Clothes Dryer Westinghouse had, had a built-in unit that when the Clothes Dryer finished the drying cycle, it would play the song, How Dry I Am. Now we have the unit mounted on top here so one can also see the device that was used to play that song, How Dry I Am.
Radio Announcer: Put in the clothes, set the dials, add soap, and it washes, rinses and damp dry, ready for the electric dryer, where the clothes are tumbled about in heated air until they’re completely dry, soft and fluffy. (excited music) Jim Sutherland: I think Westinghouse Electric had its golden age during and soon after the Second World War. Now, of course this was 30 years after George Westinghouse died so you can’t credit that directly with George Westinghouse, but it’s the legacy that George Westinghouse, as a man, left that was developed into a company that could produce the many, many things that they made during the Second World War and afterward. They made gun control systems for tanks that allowed them to fire while the tank was moving. It stabilized the motion of the tank platform. They made torpedoes.
They made DDT canisters. They made binoculars. They also made helmet liners. They fired chickens through windshields to test airplane windshields in East Pittsburgh.
They had a compressed air cannon and they would fire dead chickens at the glass panels that they’d set up and see which panels could withstand a head-on collision with a chicken at 200 mph. (airplanes flying sounds) If you were a pilot, it was pretty important to know that your glass had been tested! (chuckle) (big band music) Voicover: In true Westinghouse tradition, throughout the 20th century many of their most spectacular marketing and advertising displays, innovations, and spectacles were featured at World’s Fairs. As one newspaper headline put it, Everywhere Around the Fairs, it’s Westinghouse. George had always like World’s Fairs because he believed that they made the public more conscious of the name Westinghouse. David Cope: World’s Fairs were used as a promotional. You have to remember, they didn’t have advertising, per se, that we have where people could see how things worked.
Voiceover: Westinghouse had been a constant presence at these massive events sine the Centennial Exhibition in 1876. At the St. Louis Exposition in 1904, Westinghouse occupied more than 70,000 square feet of Exhibition space with their growing empire of companies. In 1933, nearly 20 years after their founder’s death, Westinghouse made a memorable impression at the Century of Progress Fair in Chicago. The motto for the Fair was Science finds, industry applies, man conforms. It was once again held along the shore of Lake Michigan.
Man: So people came away with the name … They knew that Westinghouse was a good, solid name. It meant security, it meant electricity that was going to come into their homes and be able to provide them a new way of life. Voiceover: In 1936, Westinghouse was there again with a strong, glamorous presence for the Great Lakes Exposition in Cleveland.
The main attraction in the Westinghouse booth was the little theater with the revolving stage of five scenes called Leisure for Living. It was usually packed, for it was the only air-conditioned enclosure on the grounds. The Fair was deemed a success as Westinghouse reported a dramatic sales increase in the region following the event.
Westinghouse Day was celebrated as trains from East Pittsburgh brought employees and their families to the Golden Jubilee, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company. Male: She’s [consistently] diving into the bottom of the dark and greasy water to search for knives and forks, dishwater splashing around [unintelligible] all over Mrs. Drudge.
The rubber apron isn’t much help now. She’s splashing so hard it’s getting all over me. Voiceover: The 1939 World’s Fair could have been the one explain where Westinghouse really came close to outdoing its 1893 performance. Their marketing department came out swinging with robots, singing fountains, time capsules, and the battle of the century’s dish washing contest. New York City hosted the 1939 World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows with its theme The World of Tomorrow.
It was thought that the public had forgotten all about the battle of the currents and they were going to New York to dramatize Westinghouse’s mastery of electricity. David Cope: Almost every Fair building in 1939 had no exterior windows. Westinghouse differentiates themselves because their building is shaped like an omega with these two marvelous glass fronts that people looked into and saw what was going on inside. They explained absolutely every part of their production lines at the time without explaining a great deal of their products.
Elderly lady: That’s what I call smart, making time the theme of the home exhibits. No one who hasn’t cooked over a wood stove with the light of kerosene lamp can really appreciate what it all means. Voiceover: A fierce competition took place daily in the Westinghouse auditorium.
The Battle of the Centuries pitted Mrs. Drudge armed with only a dishpan, soap, and towel, against Mrs. Modern, armed with a Westinghouse dishwasher, in a dramatic dual to see who could wash 50 dishes the fastest.
Male: 7 minutes and 58 seconds. In that time Mrs. Modern has washed 50 dishes and 40 pieces of silverware. It’s all over Mrs. Drudge.
You may as well rest now. (laughter) Voiceover: Contestants were rated on the time they took to wash 50 soiled dishes, the cleanliness of the dishes, and the condition of the contestants at the end of the contest. Male: Now, point number 3. The condition of the contestants. Mrs. Modern looks as fresh and neat as when she stepped into the ring, while Mrs.
Drudge, well, I’ll have to leave that to you! (audience laughing) So, ladies and gentlemen, I give you the winner, Mrs. Modern. (audience applause) Voiceover: As if that wasn’t enough, one of the greatest publicity schemes of all time was created by Westinghouse when Elektro, the Moto-Man, appeared at the Fair. (suspense music) Man: And so, ladies and gentlemen, with a great deal of pride and pleasure, I present to you Elektro, the Westinghouse Moto-Man. Elektro, come here.
And here he comes, ladies and gentlemen, walking up to greet you under his own power. David Cope: People have to have something to remember. You can explain an electric iron and people say, oh, that’s pretty exciting. But you can have a robot that uses all the technology that Westinghouse had at the time, put it together, and it does these marvelous tricks.
They’re not going to go home and say, we saw an iron. We saw Elektro! Again, they’re going home and say, Where did you see Electro? Well, Westinghouse. Voiceover: It was thought that thanks to Westinghouse engineering some day robots will do all our household chores, and even walk the dog, assuming that dog is Sparko, the robotic dog who appeared with him during part of the Fair. At 7 feet tall and 260 pounds, Elektro did some pretty amazing things. Man: You see, all I need to do is to speak into this phone, and Elektro does exactly what I tell him to do. Voiceover: Elektro could differentiate between the colors red and green and would speak out red or green. Most importantly, he smoked cigarettes by the dozens, and not only puffed them in inhaled, but blew the smoke in great billows from his nostrils. (crowd noise) Male: And folks, he’s only two years old, too; just learning.
Elderly lady: Why he’s almost human! Lady in gold hat: If he wasn’t so big I’d take him for an engineer. Man: Westinghouse would have loved Elektro. Westinghouse would have loved the whole exhibit.
It explained first of all solid workmanship, and I think that’s what Westinghouse means. When you think of Westinghouse, you’re thinking of solid craftsmanship, dependability, and inventiveness. Electro: Who?
Me? Male: Yes, you. Electro: Okay, toots. Voiceover: During a radio interview with KDKA on his way to the World’s Fair, Elektro said, I’m so tough I’m the only guy in the world that really shaves with a blow torch! He was not so tough as to withstand water, though. Specific instructions were given not to take him out in the rain.
Elektro was actually the third in a line of Westinghouse robots that started in 1927 with Televox. In 1932, Westinghouse created Willie Vocalite. One far-fetched idea for the 1939 Fair, which was mercifully scrapped, was to convert Willie Vocalite into Electro’s woman companion robot, and to have her do dishes and vacuum at the Fair. David Cope: People for centuries had put things into boxes.
You’re building a building, you put a cornerstone, you put a box and you put some things in. Westinghouse comes up with an idea. We’re going to have this for 5,000 years later. People are going to open it up and see what 1939 was like. Voiceover: The time capsule was filled with artifacts of the day including a slide rule, hats, seeds, cigarettes, and letters from scientists like Albert Einstein.
Made of cupaloy, it was meant to be a 5,000 year time capsule and to be opened in the year 6939. It remains buried in the same spot. The letters from Einstein and other famous scientists of the time hinted at the dangers of atomic weapons and the possibility that mankind might not be around in 6939 to open the time capsule. (exciting music) At the 1964 World’s Fair, things began to change. Radio announcer: Near the Astral Fountain in the federal and states area of the World’s Fair is the time capsule exhibit of the Westinghouse Electric Corporation.
Three tall towers poised against the Long Island sky mark the spot where Westinghouse buried the first time capsule in 1938. Man: I think 1893 and 1939 changed culture. I think ’64 only reflected the change in the culture. I don’t know that Westinghouse was devoid of ideas, but it was a time period when they did repeat themselves. Not a very exciting exhibit.
When you look at the Westinghouse exhibit, they simply seemed almost tired. Radio announcer: The Westinghouse time capsules; legacy for the people of the year 6939, proving that man not only endures, he also prevails. (music) (gentle big band music) Voiceover: Mirroring the changes seen at the 1964 Fair, corporate culture and consumerism were changing America. Anti-trust laws through the mid 20th century had been hard on the company, forcing them to break up.
The once mighty Westinghouse manufacturing plants were regarded as outdated. Foreign competition was creeping in, and energy costs were rising. As times were changing and lower performing divisions had to be cut it was difficult to maintain the kind of relationship with its workers that the good old days permitted.
Gone forever were company bands, the Westinghouse athletic teams, employee housing, and the lawn and garden contests. Jim Sutherland: Now, Westinghouse in 1955 had 55% of their refrigerator market in the United States. For any company to have 55% of a market is amazing.
Twenty years later they had to sell the division to get money to buy a cable system. Voiceover: Even though Westinghouse was widely thought of as having the best engineers, designers, and technology, they could no longer keep their costs down to remain competitive. Joseph Deley: He said at our display last night, all the products really looked great, but I heard this morning that all the products were stolen by a thief except the toaster.
The bottom line of that was we had a lousy toaster in the field. (chuckles) Voiceover: The remainder of the 20th century and into the new millennium, the Westinghouse companies and divisions went through various changes, sell-offs, and mergers. In ‘s global economy where companies like Toshiba, Siemens, Schindler Group, Philips, and Northrop Grumman own former divisions of the Westinghouse companies, it has been joked in articles, Can you be sure if it’s Westinghouse? Jim Sutherland: there’s only one company that’s called Westinghouse Electric Company and it’s the group that is designing and building nuclear power plants. All the other companies have been changed to other names as they were bought by Siemens and Emerson, Cutler-Hammer; large companies that are very successful . It’s the same engineers doing the same development work, but the name Westinghouse does not appear outside over the door. , CBS manages and licenses the use of the Westinghouse Electric Corporation name and logo that appear on a variety of products that rely on the circle-bar W to market a familiar and trusted brand name to consumers.
It was said years earlier by E. E. Keller, 1893 World’s Fair manager, that George Westinghouse was an exceedingly modest man, very unassuming, and almost retiring. He disliked self advertising, but strongly advocated the advertising of products and performance; therefore, the name Westinghouse had become synonymous with ingenuity, initiative, courage, and accomplishment, and was unquestionably the company’s most valuable asset. Paul Kravath, a friend and associate, said that he was the soul of the enterprises that he created.
That soul is immortal. Because of this, it can be said that Westinghouse is remembered primarily as the name of a company, while Thomas Edison is remembered as America’s greatest inventor. Edward Reis: Yeah, history has treated Thomas Edison quite well compared to George Westinghouse, considering that the world was electrified using Westinghouse alternating current. many people attribute all successes in electricity to Thomas Edison.
It came about for a number of reasons; personality primarily. George Westinghouse was a very reserved individual. He did not seek the limelight. He did not seek media attention.
In fact, he tried to avoid it. Thomas Edison, on the other hand, liked media attention. He very much like to be in the limelight, and he liked to talk about his successes to the media. He was also from the New Jersey/New York area, where the media provided a lot more coverage than they would here in the smokey city of Pittsburgh.
The other advantage that Thomas Edison had is he outlived George Westinghouse by 17 years. Voiceover: In a twist of irony, the American Institute of Electrical Engineers honored George Westinghouse for his tenacious work in establishing the alternating current system by awarding him the Edison Medal. He was offered, and accepted, the presidency of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1910. Westinghouse received many other honors, including a spot in the Hall of Fame for Great Americans.
David Cope: Having been a teacher, Edison is played up in every major American history textbook. He is still that touchstone inventor that we think about. Westinghouse gets the mention but not the due course that he should. Quentin Skrabec: Westinghouse was a people person.
He loved to have family picnics. He loved to have Christmas parties for his employees. He loved to walk through the plant and talk to his employees. He got involved with them personally when they needed help. Joseph Deley: One interesting story that I can tell you while I was on the trade was I was working with an older fellow in the lathe group.
His name was Harry, who by the way, when he was in his teens or my age, he was doing the same thing, running a lathe, in East Pittsburgh. Poor Harry one day was having problems making a part. He kind of got upset and in his anxiety threw a hammer on the floor in disgust. Unfortunately, when he looked up, George Westinghouse was walking down the aisle and saw Harry with his problem.
George come over to Harry and says, How you doing? What’s up? What’s the problem? Harry told him, explained him the blueprint that he was having trouble making a part, George looked at it and said, Move over, took off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves, put down his briefcase, and helped Harry make the part, then put his jacket back on, and said, I’ll see you later, and left.
Harry told me that story when he was in his 60s and I was 17 and I’ll never forget that story as long as I live. William Terbo: Among the things that Tesla found most interesting in Westinghouse was his patents on air brake, the railroad business, because he recognized from his background in Europe in which the trains were doing the same as they were in this country, their trains were running together at all sorts of times and not stopping properly, that he saw that George Westinghouse was a consummate inventor himself. Quentin Skrabec: He had such a following of his own employees.
Very rarely do you see that. When he was even in trouble in 1907 and he couldn’t get money from the bank, his employees tried to chip in.
They didn’t have enough. Jim Sutherland: People are in Westinghouse Air Brake and Westinghouse Electric and Union Switch and Signal companies are very loyal to the spirit of George Westinghouse that filled their companies. That spirit was something that you could not purchase. It was a gift. Edward Reis: The Westinghouse Electric Company was getting ready to celebrate its 50th anniversay in the year 1936, so they wrote a letter and sent that letter to some older retirees in Westinghouse Electric, older workers from Westinghouse Air Brake, the Union Switch and Signal Company, the other Westinghouse companies.
They also sent letters to people that they thought may have interacted with George Westinghouse at one time or another. For example, they sent letters to the various railroads. They asked these individuals to write back with personal remembrances of interactions with George Westinghouse.
This large stack of letters came back and they’re very interesting letters; very personal. They’re a real insight into his personality. They’re a real insight into the various business practices that he had and his ability to get along with people. It’s most interesting and very fortunate that these letters exist .
Voiceover: Those who knew George Westinghouse and served with him in the army of industry considered him to be America’s greatest industrialist and held him in the highest regard. Personal letters from Westinghouse employees speak volumes about the character and personality of the man whom they refer to as Uncle George. E. E. Keller said that all of his employees who came in personal contact with him seemed to catch his enthusiasm and were glad to do the job in hand for Uncle George.
Westinghouse had many nicknames. Former employees wrote letters about how the Old Man paid for their train fare and tickets to attend the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia where Westinghouse Air Brake made their first World’s Fair appearance. The same employee said that when the Chief asked them to work all weekend to finish a job on time, they felt honored to do so.
George Verity, former Director of Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company, said, His industries were so solidly and completely built around his personality that the name Westinghouse was ingrained in our national industrial structure for all time to come. As I knew him, he was an outstanding man, who not only created many new things, but he also put old things together in a new way, and then motivated both the new and the old with an invisible, mystic and titanic power. Paul Cravath said, I am sure that none of us has ever known a man who combine the qualities of faith, imagination, and courage as they are combined in George Westinghouse. But he was never so engrossed in his great achievements that he did not have time to help a friend in need. I need not say that we shall never see his like again. A former foreman said, During the panic of 1893 many men were laid off at the Electric Company, but Mr. Westinghouse said, ‘Get those men back to work. ‘I am not hard up.’ It was recorded that he ordered his workers to do odd jobs around the shop rather than be laid off. Scientific American said, He succeeded because he believed in himself and in his invention. An inventor who is a pessimist is doomed to failure. Mr.
Samuel Gompers, former President of the American Federation of Labor said, I will say this for George Westinghouse. If all employers of men treated their employees with the same consideration as he does, the American Federation of Labor would have to go out of existence. Andrew Carnegie summed it up by saying, George Westinghouse is a genius who can’t be downed. In the modern era, when many billionaire CEOs are indicted for fraud, corruption, and theft, their former employees celebrate when they are sent to jail. In contrast, 16 years after the death of George Westinghouse, in 1930, former Westinghouse working class employees paid for the construction and dedication of a monument honoring him that remains standing in Pittsburgh’s Schenley Park. (music) It says, George Westinghouse, Union soldier, citizen of Pittsburgh, founder of Westinghouse industries, benefactor of humanity through his labors and inventions. (music) Much has changed since his days as a Cavalry trooper. His companies have come and gone, expanded, contracted, and changed. Solitude was demolished in 1919 and the land donated for a city park.
The George Westinghouse Memorial Bridge, built in 1932, remains standing. (music) Alternating current, air brakes, and many of his other innovations continue to shape the modern world that we live in . (music) Man: George Westinghouse once said, If some day they say of me that in my work I have contributed something to the welfare and happiness of my fellow man, I shall be satisfied. (music) Jim Sutherland: Everybody was proud to work for Westinghouse in those days. If you asked a person who was a Marine, Are you a Marine or were you a Marine? they’ll say. I am a Marine, even though it might have been 40 years ago that they were sDeng in the Marine Corps. As a Westinghouse engineer, I am a Westinghouse engineer. (gentle music)