Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

C. Blythe Ahlstrom


One of man's most useful servants is electrical power. Technological advances have made it the greatest source of industrial power we have in the world today. The evolution of electrical power paralleled the development of our great American economic system. Like the development of mechanization, the growth of power was a long, drawn-out process. Man power was replaced with water power; water power was replaced with team , electricity, oil and natural gas. Eventually these sources may be replaced with atomic power.

Although the steam engine was a vast improvement over water power, there continued a need for transmitting energy long distances. Electricity was the answer. Electric power meant a vast increase in the amount of power available for production and great savings in capital, resources, and space. The transformer needed to transmit electrical power over great distances was first perfected by George Westinghouse at the Chicago Exposition in 1893. The purpose of the transformer at the generating site is to boost the voltage so that the losses in the transmission lines will be minimized. The purpose of the transformer at the point of use is to reduce voltage to a safe operating level before it enters the circuit.

In 1877 Thomas A. Edison turned to the problem believed by some experts to be "insoluble," of subdividing electric current and leading it into incandescent lamps. This cask was larger than discovering an element which would glow in a vacuum bulb without quickly burning out; he had to invent a whole new system of conductors, meters, and generators. The critical date for the invention came not in 1879, when a carbonized thread in a bulb stayed incandescent for forty hours at Menlo Park, but 1882 when the central station at Pearl Street in New York was put into commercial operation.

The great abundance of water power in the western states caused great interest in the pioneering and use of hydro-electric power. The first hydro-electric power plant serving a distant market was located in Oregon City , Oregon. This plant provided Portland, located thirteen miles away, with electric power as early as 1889.

The electric power fever hit Utah just a few years later. The big movement started with the organizing of the Pioneer Electric Power Company in Ogden on November 27, 1893. The Mormon Church was very instrumental in the financing of this company. The object was to harness the power of the Ogden River. This was to be achieved by building a dam in Ogden Canyon and running the water through a pipeline to the plant which was to be located nearer to Ogden. This system was completed in 1897.

Although this was the first major system in Utah, there were a few small, local hydro-electric systems preceding the Pioneer Electric Power Company. The accompanying paper will explain the development and growth of one of these early systems.