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The Age of Edison: Electric Light and the Invention of Modern America (Penguin History American Life) (Hardback) - Common Hardcover – January 1, 2013
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I wish Mr. Freeberg had a broader scope and looked at electricity. It's actually difficult to separate the impact of light from electricity. Since his focus is on the impact of just light, he only briefly mentions several broader electricity topics. But I wish he expanded on the following:
- How did the first dynamos work?
- How did Edison successfully create the first central power station in NYC?
- How was all the wiring pushed into individual houses in such a short time?
- How was the transition made from lighting streets to lighting homes?
- What are the details in the fight over DC (Edison) and AC power?
- Why did Edison merge his company and what happened in the battles with Westinghouse?
I also think the book relied too much on speeches and interviews from various World Fairs and Shows in the late 1880's and 90's. That said, the book offers plenty of fascinating information about electric light and its impact on life. This particular period is fascinating due to the rapid and fundamental changes taking place in daily life. A person born in, say 1860, would have likely started out with the same basic daily tools of life that people have used for generations. By the time of his or her death, such a person could witness a radical shift to essentially modern life.
Mr. Freeberg goes into detail regarding the problems of each light source, but since the incandescent light prevails, he writes about how it changed society, bringing more people to the city, where electric lights were changing the way people lived by opening up a night life (good and bad) heretofore never dreamed of. As the electric light spread to rural America, there was much prestige for the community that first had the honor of being electrified. Mr. Freeberg reminds us also of the dangers of electric power-----power lines falling and electrocutions because of faulty wiring.
Ernest Freeberg's book was a very informative and worthwhile read.
Ernest Freeberg took a new perspective on the development of the electric light and Edison's contributions. Instead of solely focusing on Edison and his greatness, he shifts the focus on ordinary people and how the times affected the invention of the light bulb. He takes the liberty to mention Tesla, but again Freeberg's purpose isn't to highlight just a single individual. Ordinary people make history as well and he sheds light on those unsung heroes. Most importantly however, was society's reception of inventions. Patents provided an incentive for inventors to race to claim rights to their invention, hundreds of ordinary citizens attended expositions throughout the country, and people found a myriad of uses for a single invention. The culture was receptive of life improving innovations.
Ernest Freeberg included multiple pictures per chapter, further illustrating important points about the age of the electric light. His claims are credible as he uses a mix of both primary and secondary sources. Overall, The Age of Edison is informative and entertaining. It is recommended for students and for everyone in general. It helps create a clearer understanding of the age of invention in America and its implications on modern day society.