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From Shafts to Wires: Historical Perspective on Electrification


  • Devine, Warren D.


The shift from steam to electric power in manufacturing is recounted. Between 1880 and 1930 the production and distribution of mechanical power rapidly evolved from water and steam prime movers with shaft and belt drive systems to electric motors that drove individual machines. The use of electricity reduced the energy required to drive machinery, but more important, enabled industry to obtain greater output per unit of capital and labor input.Reduced energy needs and increased productivity in manufacturing influenced the relationship between energy consumption and gross national product in the first three decades of the twentieth century.

Suggested Citation

  • Devine, Warren D., 1983. "From Shafts to Wires: Historical Perspective on Electrification," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 43(2), pages 347-372, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:jechis:v:43:y:1983:i:02:p:347-372_02

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