1890s Perceptions of Electricity (shared post)


One of the joys of researching historical mysteries is discovering new-to-me historical blogs. Icing on the cake is when the blogger generously shares her talents. A special thanks to the author of this piece, Tine Hreno, for permitting me to re-post this fascinating article on 1890s’ perceptions of electricity. I know you’ll enjoy it. As you’ll see from the full article, not only was electricity a source of light and power, it was an opportunity for entrepreneurs to make some quick money on electric “health” products, such as the rheumatism ring below.

Image via Sears Roebuck Catalog, 1897.
Image via Sears Roebuck Catalog, 1897.


Popular Perceptions of Electricity in the 1890s

by Tine Hreno

If you lived in a major city, like London, electricity had become part of your everyday life by the 1890s. You might not have it in your home, but even if you did, you might not understand what it was.

Even electrical engineers, like Nikola Tesla, used words like “energy” to describe that which was generated by electricity and that which he felt after sleeping. It’s not clear that many people distinguished between the two. Tesla actually got the idea for tuning radio frequencies through his belief that he and his mother were tuned into the same frequency when she died. Still, Tesla understood more about electricity than most people do today, but the electrical revolution was spreading rapidly.

A town called Godalming, Surrey, built the first central station to provide electricity to the public in the fall of 1881. They did so because the disagreed with the rate the gas company was charging them. I understand the feeling from dealing with my internet provider. Godalming’s system was first used for their street lamps, but within the year more than 80% of its homes were connected. Overall, the town wasn’t happy with their new electrical system and reverted to gas (also a familiar feeling in dealing with new internet providers). However, by 1882, London had a large-scale power station at Holburn Viaduct.

Read the rest here (and check out the cool lithographs and product advertisements): Writers in London in the 1890s: Popular Perceptions of Electricity in the 1890s


Thanks so much for stopping by!

Psst…by my next post, I should have some book news.

Until next time,


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2 thoughts on “1890s Perceptions of Electricity (shared post)”

  1. Margot KinbergMargot Kinberg

    Wow! This is fascinating, Kathy. So interesting how our perceptions have changed in just over a hundred years. Thanks for sharing this.


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