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Edison General Electric
Edison’s businesses in Schenectady grew quickly. He moved his underground tube company to Schenectady. But Edison’s businesses were struggling financially. His decision to stick to direct current hindered the success of his electrical and lighting companies. Electric lighting was still expensive, affordable only by the wealthy. Despite widespread interest, it was not available to the average person.
In 1889, Edison’s chief financial backer, J.P. Morgan, had concerns about the operation of Edison’s businesses. He worked with some of Edison’s financial associates, including Samuel Insull, and created the Edison General Electric Company, a merger of Edison’s lighting and electric companies, which included the Edison Electric Light Company, Edison Lamp Works, and Edison Machine Works.
Financial success continued to elude Edison’s companies after the creation of Edison General Electric. Edison’s insistence to push DC power instead of alternating current (AC) countered the general direction of many other inventors.
One of Edison’s competitors, Elihu Thomson and his Thomson-Houston Company, had developed a new AC power generating and distribution system. But Edison’s lamp was still the best lighting product. Neither product could be successful without the other because of patent protection.
When Edison (or any inventor) developed a new invention, he sent information about the invention to the Patent Office, part of the federal government. The patent office would review the information and then issue a patent, which gave the inventor exclusive right to their invention for 17 years.
Edison’s financial backer, J.P. Morgan, met with Charles Coffin, the president of Thomson-Houston and offered to buy Thomson-Houston. Coffin countered by considering the purchase of Edison’s companies. The two men eventually agreed to a merger, and on April 15, 1892, GE was born.