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Manufacturers Index - Fort Wayne Electric Works
Last Modified: Mar 26 2015 1:47PM by joelr4
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      THE GENERAL ELECTRIC WORKS — The great Fort Wayne plant of the General Electric Company, manufacturer of standard electrical apparatus used throughout the civilized world, had its beginning in 1881, when James A. Jenney, inventor of an electric arc lamp and a small dynamo, came to Fort Wayne and installed his apparatus in the establishment of Evans, McDonald and Company. On November 1, of this year, with an authorized capital of $100,000, Ronald T. McDonald organized the Fort Wayne Jenney Electric Light Company, a manufacturing and selling concern, with the following officers: H. G. Olds, president; Perry A. Randall, vice-president; Oscar A. Simons, secretary, and R. T. McDonald, treasurer and general manager. This original company occupied a building at the southwest corner of Calhoun and Superior streets used by John H. Bass as a boiler shop, and later removed to a building on the south side of West Superior street at the foot of Wells street, a site afterward occupied by the first electric light plant. The third uptown building used by the concern was a rented structure located on East Columbia street. Next the company purchased the small vacated plant of the Gause Agricultural Works at Broadway and the tracks of the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago railroad, which has formed a nucleus of the building expansion of the concern. At this time the company had an authorized capital of $500,000, of which $366,000 had been issued.

      In 1885 M. M. M. Slattery, of Massachusetts, was engaged as chief electrician. The Thompson-Houston Electric Company, of Lynn, Massachusetts, secured a controlling interest in the stock in 1888, and at that time the word "Jenney" was dropped from the name of the concern. Henry J. Miller succeeded Oscar A. Simons as secretary. In November, 1888, the entire plant was destroyed by fire, but it was rebuilt, and operations were resumed in July, 1889. With the acquisition of the Brooklyn factory of the Thompson Houston Electric Company in May, 1890, James J. Wood, who had licensed the company to manufacture under his patents, was engaged to come to Fort Wayne to superintend the manufacture of arc lighting apparatus under his rights, and also the Slattery incandescent apparatus. Many expert workmen were added to the force. The "Wood" systems soon attained a nation-wide reputation.

      Financial difficulties resulted in June, 1894, in the leasing of the plant to the newly organized Fort Wayne Electric Corporation on the day of the appointment of a receiver for the concern. The officers of the corporation were: R. T. McDonald, president; Charles S. Knight, vice-president; Charles C. Miller, secretary and treasurer; James J. Wood, electrician and general superintendent, and Fred S. Hunting, chief of the engineering department. Soon after the death of Mr. McDonald, in December, 1898, while on a trip to Texas, the plant again was in financial difficulties, resulting in a receivership, in January, 1899. At a receiver's sale a few weeks later, the plant was purchased by the General Electric Company, of Schenectady, New York. It was generally understood at that time that to the efforts of Mr. Wood is due the decision of the company to continue to operate and enlarge the Fort Wayne plant.

      The officers of the new company, the Fort Wayne Electric Works, organized in May, 1899, were: Henry C. Paul, president; S. D. Green, vice-president; M. F. Westover, secretary, and Fred S. Hunting, treasurer and sales manager, while Mr. Wood continued his services as factory manager and chief electrician. From this period to the present much of the success of the plant had been due to the efforts of Mr. Hunting and Mr. Wood, surrounded by an organization of progressive, capable men. In June, 1911, the Fort Wayne Electric Works was merged with the General Electric Company, but the business was carried on in much the same form as before, but under the name of the Fort Wayne Electric Works of the General Electric Company, in reality a department or division of the General Electric Company. This plan of operation was abandoned in January, 1916, since which time the plant has operated as the Fort Wayne Works of the General Electric Company, one of the most important of the plants of that organization. One of the several incandescent lamp plants of the company was established in the Katzenberg bakery on Montgomery street in the summer of 1906, and the present large plant on Holman street was built during the winter of 1907 and 1908. This building was the first re-enforced concrete structure to be erected in the city.

Information Sources

  • The pictorial history of Fort Wayne, Indiana 1917 pgs 509-510