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Manufacturers Index - Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Co.

Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Co.
East Pittsburgh, PA, U.S.A.
Manufacturer Class: Steam and Gas Engines

Last Modified: Aug 27 2019 8:52PM by Mark Stansbury
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George Westinghouse

George Westinghouse, Jr., was the son of the founder of agricultural and sawmill machinery maker Westinghouse Co. The younger Westinghouse showed inventive talent from an early age, and he coupled it with entrepreneurial ability as well. In 1886, at age 40 and having already enjoyed considerable business success, he founded the Westinghouse Electric Co. to manufacture electric lighting. By 1891 the company had absorbed a couple of competitors and expanded its offerings and the name was changed to Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Co. Under this name the company enjoyed enormous success as an innovator and manufacturer of electric motors, generators, and electrical transmission equipment, becoming (with arch-rival General Electric Co.) one of the two largest manufacturers of electrical equipment in the world. By the time George Westinghouse, Jr., died in 1914, his company employed over 22,000 people.

Besides the parent company, there were also subsidiaries such as Canadian Westinghouse Co., Ltd. of Hamilton, Ontario, and British Westinghouse Co. of Manchester, England.

Information Sources

  • Electrical Review and Western Electrician, 1914, carried the following obituary.

    George Westinghouse, of German descent through the genealogy of his father, was born at Central Bridge, Schoharie County, New York, October 6, 1846, the son of George and Emeline (Vedder) Westinghouse. His descent through his mother is from Dutch-English ancestry, and he inherited not only the sturdy character of the Holland Puritans, but also their religious tendencies and their capacity for hard work, and in addition a preference for the fine arts.

    His father was a manufacturer in Schenectady and it was in his shops that the younger George acquired much of his skill as a mechanic. His early education was limited to the common schools and he became an inventor at the age of fifteen, conceiving something entirely new in the form. George Westinghouse, the famous inventor and engineer, died of heart disease at his New York City residence on Thursday, March 12. His health had been failing for some time and consequently his death, though a great shock to his thousands of friends and acquaintances all over the country, was nevertheless in a measure anticipated. The mental alertness and wonderful vitality that had so characterized his brilliant career remained with him to the end. Although actively associated with a large number of industries, he had, during the last few years, begun to transfer his responsibilities to the shoulders of his trusted lieutenants, the fortunate selection of which has always been one of the leading characteristics of his varied career. His demise, therefore, will not cause any material change in the policy or operation of the companies so indelibly linked with the name Westinghouse.

    George Westinghouse was born at Central Bridge, Schoharie County, N. Y., on October 6, 1846; his parents were George and Emeline Vedder Westinghouse. The father's ancestors came from Germany and settled in Massachusetts and Vermont before the Revolution; the mother's were Dutch-English. Mr. Westinghouse's father was an inventor, who, in 1856, removed his family to Schenectady, N. Y., where he established the Schenectady Agricultural Works. The boy attended the public and high schools of the town, spending much of his leisure time, after studies, in his father's machine shop. What to other lads would have been regarded as irksome and confining young Westinghouse found to be a source of amusement and instruction. Before he was fifteen he invented and made a rotary engine, and passed at an early age the examination for the position of assistant engineer in the United States Navy.

    In June. 1863, though barely seventeen, he enlisted in the Twelfth New York National Guard. He was discharged at the end of November of the same year, and joined the Sixteenth New York Cavalry, being chosen corporal. He was honorably discharged in November of the following year and a month later accepted an appointment as third assistant engineer, United States Navy, reporting for duty to the "Muscota," from which he was transferred to the "Stars and Stripes" and detached and ordered to the Potomac flotilla, June 28, 1865.

    At the close of the war, resisting solicitations to remain in the Navy, and wishing to continue his college studies, Mr. Westinghouse tendered his resignation and was honorably discharged, August 1, 1865. On his return he entered Union College, where he remained until the close of his sophomore year, and, obedient to his impulse toward experiment, abandoned his classical studies and entered upon active life, to find a wider scope for his inventive genius. In 1865 he invented a device for replacing railroad cars upon the track, which, being of cast steel, was manufactured by the Bessemer Steel Works, at Troy, N. Y. Going to Troy one day, a delay caused by a collision between two freight trains, suggested to Mr. Westinghouse the idea that a brake under the control of an engineer might have prevented the accident. His first thought was an automatic brake attached to the couplers which was unsuccessful. This was followed by steam, which proved also to be unsatisfactory because by the time it reached the brake from the engineer's cab it lost its power. Finally it occurred to him to investigate the use of compressed air. Drawings of the air-pump, brake cylinder and valves were made, but considerable time elapsed before a practical trial of the brake was obtained. The first patent was issued April 13, 1869, and the Westinghouse Air Brake Company was formed on July 20, following. Many changes and improvements were being made in the brake all the while, the business flourished, and the manufacturing works, begun in 1869, were completed in 1870.

    In 1870 Mr. Westinghouse went abroad to introduce the air brake in England—a difficult problem, as the trains in Europe had hand brakes upon only what were known as "brake-vans," there being no brakes upon the other vehicles. Not only did this require the spending of seven years in Europe, between the years 1871 and 1882, hut it taxed his inventive ability to meet the new conditions. In the meantime, Mr. Westinghouse invented the "automatic" feature of the brake, which overcame the imperfections in the first form, and removed the danger from the parting of trains on steep grades. In 1886 he invented the "quick-action" brake, the improvement being made in what is known as the "triple-valve." By this valve it became practicable to apply all brakes on the train of 50 freight cars in two seconds. The automatic and quick-action brakes are regarded by experts as surpassing the original brake in ingenuity and inventive genius, being not mere improvements, but distinct inventions. About 1880 Mr. Westinghouse became interested in the operation of railway signals and switches by compressed air, and soon after there was developed and patented the system now manufactured by The Union Switch & Signal Company. The "Pneumatic Interlocking Switch and Signal Apparatus," whereby all the signals and switches are operated from a given point, using compressed air as the motive power, and electricity to bring that power into operation, has been successfully introduced in Boston, Jersey City, Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis, and many other places.

    In 1886 the Westinghouse Electric Company was formed for the manufacture of lamps and electric lighting apparatus, Mr. Westinghouse having become interested in the subject. The business rapidly developed and in 1889 and 1890 this company absorbed the United States Electric Company and the Consolidated Electric Light Company. In 1891 all these properties were reorganized into the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company, which owns extensive works at East Pittsburgh, employing over 22,000 people. In 1892 Mr. Westinghouse secured for the Electric Company the contract for the electrical equipment of the World's Fair at Chicago, and in 1893 the contract for the large generators at Niagara Falls, both of which marked epochs in the progress of the electrical industry.

    In 1895 the Electric Company outgrew the small quarters at Garrison Alley and moved to East Pittsburgh and the same year works of the British Westinghouse Company were established at Manchester, England. The question of the steam turbine and its applications was investigated by Mr. Westinghouse and he secured the patent rights of Charles A. Parsons, of England, on the turbine in 1897-98. This development of a new prime mover soon led the inventor to consider the use of the turbine as a prime mover for ships. The trouble was the high speed. Mr. Westinghouse then developed and brought out one of the most ingenious devices of modern engineering. This was the mechanical reduction gear for reducing the inherently high speed of a turbine to the slow speed of a ship propeller or direct-current dynamo. He accomplished this work in collaboration With the late Admiral George W. Melville, U. S. N., and John H. MacAlpine. Within the last few years he also occupied himself with the development of an air-spring for automobiles and motor trucks which rapidly came into favor.

    Mr. Westinghouse rendered an invaluable service to the electrical development of the world, when, in spite of opposition, ridicule and efforts to crush his alternating-current system, he remained steadfast in his belief that this class of high-tension transmission would make distant electrical distribution possible. The world today recognizes its debt to his genius and courage. A struggle almost identical with that of the earlier fight for alternating-current transmission, is the recent development of alternating-current traction by means of the single phase motor which the Westinghouse Electric and Manufacturing Company has now wrought into an accomplished reality in the case of a number of traction lines, railroad terminals and tunnels. The value of natural gas to the manufacturing industries of Pittsburgh was foreseen by Mr. Westinghouse, who organized a company to develop this vast resource of Western Pennsylvania, and who met in characteristic fashion the engineering problems involved.

    Originating with one of the most important inventions connected with railways, the growth of the various Westinghouse industries has been largely identified with railway progress, and it is interesting to note that this progress has represented increased security of life, increased capacity of the railway and reduced cost of operation. It is simply stating a simple fact to say that Mr. Westinghouse has been a great factor in the advance of civilization as represented by the important part he has played by introducing improved means of transportation. Chance has had no place in the success of this man. It has been due to his foresight, courage and technical skill. As with his first invention, the air brake, the different kinds of apparatus has been developed to answer actual needs, in some cases acknowledged generally, and in others foreseen by him with remarkable prevision. When the apparatus had passed the experimental state and was ready for commercial exploitation, he established factories which are themselves models, and which show the same anticipation of future development. Not only are the buildings handsome and well equipped with the best tools, but the comfort of the employees has been considered in every respect. It is worth noting that the nine-hour day, or rather the fifty-four-hour week, was started in the Air-Brake Works in 1869, and has been adopted in all the other works.

  • Modern Mechanism 1895 page 552