Wire Panic!

Great Inventions, Physics, Science

This week we’re coming back to the infamous war of the currents, which took over scientific and public debate in the 1880s and 90s. One of the things that happened during that time was “the wire panic” spread by the New York press with such headlines as “Death by Wire” and peculiar cartoons.☠️ The articles were aimed at George Westinghouse’s company, the use of high-voltage alternating current (AC), and the electrical wires taking over the city like a giant spider’s web. As we know, the war against Westinghouse and AC was mainly fueled by his rival, Thomas Edison, whose official aim was to protect the people’s lives, but in reality also to promote his electrical system and ruin competition. ⚡⚡

Edison wasn’t completely wrong in his efforts though; the AC system at the time lacked appropriate regulations and led to several deadly incidents. The most known involved John Feeks, a Western Union lineman working in Manhattan. On October 11, 1889, Feeks died seconds after he touched a telegraph line that had been shorted with a high-voltage AC line. And even though the 19th century was an extremely dangerous time for industry workers (e.g., 1 out of 100 railroad brakemen died annually in the US), that accident was witnessed by hundreds of mortified people, who watched Fleek’s body smoldering for almost an hour. The incident was highly reported by the press, intensifying the public’s fear of the mysterious, inherently dangerous nature of electricity and electrical wires.😱 A heated debate over the regulation of the electric industry ensued, along with several weeks of complete darkness in New York as the overhead AC lines were cut down.⚡

Shout-out to Andrzej, who reprises his role as a Victorian hatter in our anti-wire poster inspired by a 1889 cartoon entitled “The Unrestrained Demon.” 👻

Happy October 1st!

Medicine

Happy October 1st! 👻 The spooky season is upon us, and although we celebrate the macabre all year long on Veinity Fair, it’s time for some more supernatural-themed Victorian trivia! Apart from new comics, I’ll be also reposting Halloween favorites from previous years on my social media. 🦇 Let me know which 19th-century spooky stories interest you the most!🎃

War of the Currents

Famous Victorians, Great Inventions, Physics

In the early 1880s, an electric light revolution started to take over big American cities. Two electric power transmission systems were introduced: street lamps utilizing high-voltage alternating current (AC) and indoor lighting using low-voltage direct current (DC). The latter was heavily promoted by Thomas Edison, especially when his company was suddenly threatened by new competition: George Westinghouse and his transformers and wire system enabling AC to be used for indoor lighting. The introduction of this new system started the so-called war of the currents, in which the Edison Electric Light Company tried to besmirch Westinghouse’s name and solutions by sparking fear in the public. And while at the time it was true the AC system could be extremely dangerous, the actions taken by some of the people involved were questionable to say the least and involved lying to the press, blackmail, and even killing animals.

This comic was inspired by Andrzej who won the possibility to become one of the characters in a local charity event! 💜 If you would also like to become a character in one of the future comics, check out the Anatomist membership level on Veinity Fair Patreon.