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).

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Recent Submissions

  • Turning The First Sod for the Municipal Power Line

    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 control of the water supply and of drawing vast wealth from that control will sound like the foolish wail of a crack-brained sensationalist; it will arouse only a fatuous smile of ignorant contempt. But the readers of this magazine have heard of the turbine water-wheel; they know what is meant by the long distance transmission of electric power; they are able to realize what it means to hand over forever, as a free gift to a little coterie of men, the absolute control of the incalculable power developed by the rivers and streams of the United States. And - pray God- once they do understand the situation, they will not smile, but smite. The Congress of the United States and the legislatures of the various states are the danger points which must be constantly watched if the people are to be saved from spoliation."
  • 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 of a highly developed and very substantial character. For the greater portion steel towers are used instead of the usual poles, and the ordinary span is five hundred and fifty feet, although at certain crossings of small lakes or swamps spans up to twelve hundred and fifty feet are found. The conducting cables are of aluminum, the largest consisting of nineteen strands. The insulators used on this, as on all other high voltage lines, are surprisingly large compared with those used commonly to support telegraph or lighting wires."
  • 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 spoke in favor of the measure, while Mr. W. T. White spoke against it. The President, Mr. John Turnball, presided."
  • 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 tunnels that already pierce the cliffs between the upper river and Niagara Gorge, are large enough in themselves to carry twice the amount of water which runs over the American Falls." The following are sections of the article: Quick Action Needed, Question of Revenue, Deepen American Channel, American and Canadian Falls Compared, Proposed Line of New Channel, Dry Niagara, The Burton Resolution.
  • The Electrical Features of Niagara

    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 Falls Hydraulic Power and Manufacturing Company, The Carborundum Company, The Electrical manufacture of Sodium, Other Uses of Niagara Power, Present and Future. Also included are maps of the following: Conduit from Power House to Transformer Station, Section of Canal Wall at Bridge Abutment, Power Development in Q.V.N.F.
  • 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 a much greater width than that of the present gorge, and that the falls themselves always left the gorge narrower than we now find it, to be afterward widened by atmospheric influences." Included in this article is a folded map that includes the Niagara River, Chippewa, Clifton and Niagara Falls.
  • 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 being no available capital at hand, nothing was done until 1889, in June of which year the Cataract Construction Company was formed by Francis Lynde Stetson, Edward A. Wickes and William B. Rankine, all of New York City. On July 5th of the same year, having secured the necessary capital, the Cataract Construction Company contracted with the Niagara Falls Power Company to construct all the necessary works and plant for developing and utilizing the first 100,000 H.P. of the great water power."
  • 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 still be more economical than steam, even though coal is cheap there. In countries where power is much wanted, but very costly, the electrical transmission will be successful at distances of many hundreds of miles."
  • 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, " is necessary, in order to attain requisite economy, to raise the electrical pressure to 20,000 or even 50,000 volts, and to build the most perfect and substantial transmission lines. This part of the plant is as yet entirely incomplete, though the designs have been prepared with the greatest care and forethought. As the Niagara plant has received the attention of the best engineering talent in the world, and as the work has been prosecuted so slowly and thoroughly that experience is able to rectify errors as they occur, scientific success is assured. So it is the commercial aspect that is at once the most interesting and problematical. To what distance from Niagara can the Cataract Company deliver power, in competition with steam?"
  • 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 the centre lines to be located and produced from each of the three shafts. In a paper of this kind, it is not intended to describe in detail this proposed tunnel; the preliminary survey being the object. A few points, however, must be introduced, so as to convey a general idea of the nature of the work."
  • 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 coal that is now being mined in the world daily burned as fuel to make steam sufficient to pump back the same quantity of water. All the industries of American could be operated by this power, if it could be wholly transmitted."
  • 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, wheelpit, tailrace tunnel, power house, underground conduits, transformer station, power house machinery. Also included are several maps: Canadian Niagara Power Company Coffer Dam for Canal Entrance, Power Development in Q.V.N.F. Park, Stone Bridge over Canal Inlet, Section of Canal Wall at Bridge Abutment, Conduit from Power House to Transformer Station, Cross Section of Power House and Wheel Pit.
  • 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 individuals that worked to preserve Niagara, "Through the efforts of this Niagara-Falls association, an act was passed, in 1883, providing for a commission entitled 'The commissioners of the state reservation at Niagara and giving them power to proceed through the courts to condemn the lands needed. Ex-Lieut.-Gov. William Dorsheimer is the president of this board; and the other members are President Anderson of Rochester university, Hon. J. Hampden Robb, Hon. Sherman S. Rogers, and Andrew H. Green. With some modifications, they adopted the plan proposed by the state survey." The second article discusses the recession of the falls and how it has changed over many years. Included in the descriptions of changes to the landscape are two diagrams. The first is captioned "Section of the Strata along the Niagara River, From Lake Ontario to the Falls", and the second is "Falls of Niagara" showing a preglacial channel. The third article discusses the use of Niagara Falls for energy, "...the utilization of the energy of Niagara Falls as a source of light apply also to the question of the electrical transmission of power, with this exception, that the electrical transmission of power has not reached even the perfection which systems of electrical lighting have attained."
  • 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 the history of the development of electricity. That moment will determine, approximately, how far great currents of electricity can be carried by the latest methods, without a loss from the wires sufficient to make the cost of the current equal the cost of steam-power. Upon this test depends largely the question whether Niagara power shall be sent broadcast through half a dozen states, or whether it shall be confined to western New York, and the result will be looked forward to with anxious expectation."
  • 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 factories, remove it from the munition plants, eliminate it from the locomotive works, car foundries, and machine shops of the country and you would paralyze the nation's whole industrial system. And that would have happened ere now had not Niagara's artificial abrasives stepped in to save the day when the war shut out our natural supply of emery and corundum from Asia Minor."
  • 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, Relative Water Levels, Section through Generating and Distribution Stations, Section through Valve Chamber and Helical Spillway, Section through Generating Station, Section Detail of Horizontal Turbine, Plan of Electrical Works, Section through Transormer Room.
  • 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 the locking up of water-power against the public. It means the throwing open of that power to full development - dry season as well as rainy, not just a tenth of the possible power, but ten-tenths of the possible power; not just to the profit of one per cent of the population or two or three units of capital, but to the profit of every living soul in the State where that water-power exists. Conservation is not demanding that water-power be conserved in the West for the East, but that water-power be conserved in the West for the West, and in the East for the East."
  • 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 years meet with great difficulties, yet Niagara Falls have been used as a chronometer as frequently as any other natural phenomenon, and indeed Niagara is perhaps the best measurer that we have. Andrew Ellicott (in 1790) divided the length of the gorge by the supposed rate of recession of the falls, and assigned fifty-five thousand years as the age of the cataract. Forty years later Bakewell reduced the time to twelve thousand years, and a few years afterward Lyell's estimate of thirty-six thousand years became popular and remained so until about fifteen years ago. This method of dividing the length of the chasm by the rate of recession was correct as far as it went, but even the rate was not then known."

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