From “The Illustrated American”, July 26, 1890
The question, Who owns the earth? has been brought up in a curious way at Providence, R.I., by the growth of the system of electrical railways supplied with the current on the overhead plan. A railway company proposed to use the earth for the return of the current, but a telephone company objected to this arrangement on the ground that this would so interfere with the working of the telephones, that the company would have to either suspend operations or to make changes at a vast expense. Owning to appeals to various courts, the question of the right of the railway company to use the earth for this purpose has not been settled yet.
It is reported that a town in Massachusetts has been having its streets lighted with electric lamps for six months, but has not been able to discover the source of the electric current. Many private houses are also lighted by this same current, while the owners are in the dark as to whom they should pay.
Professor Hertz’s wonderful experiments in regard to the nature of electricity show that electro-magnetic waves travel though space from every source of alternating currents or potentials. Referring to this, Prof. W.A. Anthony says in Practical Electricity: “Waves are chasing each other through our streets, our houses, our offices. They are everywhere present. We are bathed in this agitated medium every moment, and yet we live, and not only live, but are totally unconscious of the activity that surrounds us.”
Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone; Professor Elihu Thomson, inventor of the electrical welding-machine and other electrical devices; and Edward Weston, a leader in electric lighting, are all of English birth, it is said. They are all Americans, however in ingenuity and by adoption.
An electric rat and insect trap has been patented by an American resident of Paris. It consists of a cage, the bars of which are arranged alternately to form the positive and the negative wires of an electrical circuit. Inside the cage is placed a lure. When the unhappy victim, seeking the bait, come in contact with the wires, the circuit is closed, and an execution by electricity takes place. The same gentleman has invented a similar trap for mosquitoes. In the cage, in this case, is an incandescent lamp which attracts the mosquitoes, and they fly against the metal network only to be killed by the electrical current. Thus, they are not only killed, but are also lured to another part of the room, away from where the occupant is sleeping.
Electricians believe that electricity offers great advantages for cooking purposes, in almost every respect, over all other known and practical means of heating. Dr. W. Leigh Burton, of Richmond, Va., has succeeded in boiling, roasting, and frying by the electrical current, with less trouble than with an ordinary stove. One obstacle, yet to be overcome, is the difficulty of supplying the current to private houses; another is that a suitable electrical stove has not yet been devised. To illustrate the convenience of electric cooking, a heater was exhibited at the St. Louse Exposition last year, which kept water boiling a month without requiring any attention.
Some one has figured that 235,000 electric arc lamps and 3,000,000 incandescent lamps are burning in the United States. The number of electric motors is estimated at 18,000. There are 300 electric railways, with 1,500 miles of track.