20. History of Electricity

Low-cost, and easily transmittable power was the key to the industrialization of our country and allowed the U.S. to become a world leader in manufacturing. It spurred development of businesses, good paying jobs and improved the quality of life for average citizens. Hydropower is relatively inexpensive to produce. Man has used the power of water for centuries to turn tools and machines. A man named Lester Pelton is considered by some experts as the father of hydroelectricity because he invented a water turbine that captured the power of fast running mountain creeks and waterfalls. Many of the pioneers of hydroelectricity worked right here in the Niagara region. People like Augustus Porter and Jacob Schoellkopf in the U.S. and Edward Dean Adams in Canada saw huge potential in Niagara Falls as a power source. They brought in inventors like Nikolai Tesla and George Westinghouse to work out the science. In the 1850’s a series of owners started building a hydraulic canal in Niagara Falls. By 1874 a flouring mill was using water diverted from the upper rapids to turn a turbine on the gorge wall. In 1881, Schoellkopf who purchased the canal four years earlier, offered water power from his mechanical turbines to power a generator developed by Charles Brush to run electric lights. Schoellkopf’s power station number one was one of the first hydroelectric generating stations in the world. These exhibits feature historical photos and lead you to our theatre where you are invited to watch learn how and why the Niagara Power Project was built.