The first recorded harnessing of Niagara Falls power was in 1759 by Daniel Joncairs. On the American side of the Falls he dug a small ditch and drew water to turn a wheel which powered a sawmill. In 1805 brothers Augustus and Peter Porter expanded on Joncairs idea. They bought the American Falls from New York State at public auction. Using Joncairs old site, they built a gristmill and tannery which stayed in business for twenty years. The next attempt at using the Falls came in 1860 when construction of the hydraulic canal began by the Niagara Falls Hydraulic Power and Manufacturing Co. The canal was complete in 1861 and brought water from the Niagara River above the Falls to the mills below the Falls. By 1881 the Niagara Falls Hydraulic Power and Manufacturing Co. had a small generating station which provided some electricity to the village of Niagara Falls and the mills. This lasted only four years and then the company sold its assets at public auction due to bankruptcy. Jacob Schoellkopf arrived at the Falls in 1877 with the purchase of the hydraulic canal land and water and power rights. In 1879 Schoellkopf teamed up with Charles Brush (of Euclid Ohio) and powered Brush's generator and carbon arc lights with the power from his water turbines to illuminate the Falls electrically for the first time. The year 1895 marked the opening of the Adam No. 1 generating station on the American side. The station was the beginnings of modern electrical utility operations. The design and operations of the generating station came from worldwide competitions held by panels of experts. Some who were involved in the project include: George Westinghouse, J. Pierpont Morgan, Lord Kelvin and Nikoli Tesla. The plants were operated by the Niagara Falls Power Company until 1961 when the Robert Moses Plant began operation in Lewiston, N.Y. The Adams plants were demolished that same year and the site used as a sewage treatment plant. The Canadian side of the Falls began generating their own power on January 1, 1905. This power came from the William Birch Rankine Power Station located 500 yards above the Horseshoe Falls. This power station provided the village of Fort Erie with its first electricity in 1907, using its two 10,000 electrical horsepower generators. Today 11 generators produce 100,000 horsepower (75 megawatts) and operate as part of the Niagara Mohawk and Fortis Incorporated Power Group (source: Niagara Frontier Power web site).

Click here to view the Niagara Falls/Niagara Power collection finding aid: http://dr.library.brocku.ca/bitstream/handle/10464/2692/power.pdf?

Recent Submissions

  • Turning The First Sod for the Municipal Power Line 

    Unknown author (1908-11-28)
    A clipping of the turning of the sod ceremony for the laying of the first municipal power line in Toronto. Included are photographs of Mr. J.H. Fryer of Galt, Mayor Oliver of Toronto, Sir James Whitney, and Hon. Adam Beck.
  • Who Owns the Earth and How Did They Get it? 

    Hyde, Henry M. (1909-02)
    The author mentions the issues associated with using hydroelectric power in Niagara Falls and discusses the issues that may arise based on past experiences, "To the myopic and indifferent public the idea of a few men getting ...
  • The Romance of Transmission 

    Stratton, George Frederic (1908-05)
    This article is describes the aesthetic elements of Niagara Falls and aspects and those related to the power company. The author uses detail to describe the hydro towers, for example: "The construction of this line, is ...
  • The Power by-law 

    Ellis, P.W.; White, W.T. (1907-12-27)
    These are "proceedings at a special evening meeting of the Canadian club, at which the City Council of Toronto and the Electrical Development Company each provided a speaker to discuss 'The Power by-law' Mr. P.W. Ellis ...
  • Niagara Falls Already Ruined 

    Adams, Alton D. (1906)
    The article begins with the statement "Niagara Falls are already ruined!" and goes on to say "it is to be considered that the American Falls are in much more imminent danger than the Canadian. The pipe line, canal, and ...
  • The Electrical Features of Niagara 

    Unknown author (1897-06-05)
    The article includes "facts and figures about Niagara" and is discusses the following: The Niagara Falls Power Company, The Niagara Falls-Buffalo Power Transmission Line, The Niagara Falls and Lewiston Railway, Niagara ...
  • A Few Remarks About the Niagara Gorge 

    Buck, L.L. (1894)
    The author analyzes the gorge by dividing it into six parts and studying those portions of the gorge separately. The article then concludes that "at whatever point the falls have been, the river above them has spread over ...
  • Niagara Falls and Their History 

    Gilbert, G.K. (1895-09)
    An article about Niagara Falls, describing the following: The Drainage System, The Two Plains, The River and the Gorge, The Recession of the Cataract, Development of the Laurentian Lakes, The Whirlpool, Time"
  • Electrical Transmission at Niagara Falls 

    Foster, Horatio A. (1895-01)
    The article details the process of the Niagara Power Company and how it began with "a charter for the Niagara Falls Power Co. was obtained from the Legislature on March 31, 1886, by citizens of Niagara Falls; but there ...
  • Harnessing Niagara 

    Forbes, George (1895-10)
    The author mentions his role in the engineering work to do with the power companies at Niagara Falls. At the conclusion of the article he mentions, "If required, the power could be sent much more than a hundred miles, and ...
  • Industrial Niagara/Wind as a Motive Power in the United States 

    Abbott Vaughan, Arthur; Waldo, Frank (1895)
    The article discusses the industrialization of the area surrounding the power development. Also mentioned is the process of transmitting the power, "...it is necessary, in order to attain requisite economy, to raise the ...
  • A Triangulation Survey: For a Tunnel at Niagara 

    Mitchell, C.H. (1892)
    The article discusses a triangulation survey required to create a tunnel "a mile long and pass under the heart of the city, a triangulation survey for it must needs be made, of a sufficiently accurate character as to enable ...
  • How Niagara's Power Will be Utilized 

    Sellers, Coleman (1891-09)
    The article discusses the power that can be produced using Niagara Falls. The author mentions "The theoretical value of the water that passes over the crest of this mighty dam has been represented as requiring all the ...
  • Construction of Canadian Niagara Power Company's 100,000 H.P. Hydro Electric Plant at Niagara Falls, Ont. 

    Smith, Cecil B. (1905-01)
    The article discusses the details of the progress of the plant in Niagara Falls, Ontario by the Resident Engineer for the Company. The author describes the progress in sections: coffer dam, bridge, canal and forebay, ...
  • The Preservation of Niagara/The Niagara Gorge as a Chronometer/Niagara Falls Considered as a Source of Electrical Energy 

    Wright, G. Frederick; Trowbridge, John (1885-05-15)
    Three entries in the publication Science: "The Preservation of Niagara", "The Niagara Gorge as a Chronometer", and "Niagara Falls considered as a Source of Electrical Energy". The first article mentions a group of ...
  • The Diversion of the Niagara 

    Brown, Curtis (1894-09)
    The article discusses the way in which the Falls is being diverted to create power. The article mentions, "It is not an exaggeration to say that the first receipt of Niagara Falls power in Buffalo will mark an epoch in ...
  • Niagara at the Battle Front 

    Showalter, William Joseph (1917)
    The article discusses the harnessing of the Falls for power, but also "the artificial abrasive industry. How much its success means to America cannot be overestimated. Take the grinding machinery out of the automobile ...
  • Hydro-Electric Enterprise in Canada 

    Nunn, Paul C. (1906-03)
    The article includes maps and diagrams and plans of the Ontario Power Company. Some of the maps/diagrams include: Plan of Ontario Power Company's Intake Works, Screen House and Promenade, Section through Gate House, ...
  • Water-Power in the East 

    Laut, Agnes C. (1909)
    The article discusses "The Real Meaning of Conservation", "The Situation in New York", "Too Much Water and Too Little". The author mentions that "Conservation of water-power as it exists in actual practise does not mean ...
  • Niagara as a Timepiece 

    Spencer, J.W. (Appletons' Popular Science Monthly, May 1896, pp.1-20., 1896-05)
    The article discusses the history of Niagara Falls, including the narrative of Hennepin in 1697. Also mentioned are the methods of calculating the age of Niagara Falls, "All attempts at reducing geological time to solar ...

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