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edit 7 Nov '07:
this thread illustrates and contains a video demonstration of the first-ever
mains-powered electric motor.

All previous motors were battery powered curios for the laboratory and the classroom,

until, that is, about the year 1882, when the first, small electric fan (still battery powered) was introduced.

1882 marks the beginning of Edison's central power generation for incandescent lighting, begun in New York City.

Three personalities are behind this motor you're about to see.

Schuyler S. Wheeler, at 22, was one of the builders of the Pearl Street station.

Francis B. Crocker was an inventor and more.

Charles G. Curtis was a partner.

The two latter men took Wheeler into their new partnership in 1886. Goal: to make and market the first appliance motors.

One model would be to drive the ubiquitous sewing machine. Think of tailor shops.

Another would be an electric fan, of which Wheeler may be said to have been the inventor,
at least, of the first mains-powered electric fan.

This motor represents the first application of mains power to a device other than the arc or incandescent lamp.

It is the beginning of the electro-kinetic era.

I will update this old posting again as the information comes to light and can be sorted into a readable form.

How I learned, just the other day, about Wheeler's association with the short-lived C&C firm:

screenshot from Cassier's (engineering) Magazine, Spring 1901

The complete magazine in PDF form

Crocker and Wheeler differed in their aims from Curtis, and so the partnership with Curtis ended and Crocker and Wheeler went into successful collaboration, themselves as manufacturers of motors.

Wheeler later founded what would become the IEEE.

Curtis was also important. Today again, via Google search made possible by gaining Curtis' full name, afforded through the 1901 article; Curtis went on to invent and to make the first steam turbine-powered generator: 500kW, 1903.
Charles. G. Curtis

All three of these men were key players in creating power systems from day one.

Wheeler was even one of the builders of Edison's Pearl Street station.

Crocker founded Columbia University's dep't of Electrical Engineering.

All learned by the turning up of an old motor, as follows
------------------------Original posting resumes----

Photos, just taken, of an early Curtis and Crocker motor.

Thinking it may be of general interest to people here,
I would like to post a series of snapshots.

The motor is operable and original (unmolested), including the finishes.

A similar, nearly identical motor (in electric fan form) is seen at
Note that these motors are electrically identical, yet the rpm ratings are at variance.

The fan blade would account for that; loading the motor as it does.


the data plate of the fabled, super-rare C&C fan linked above

This motor illustrated below was probably put to work as a sewing machine motor (my opinion).
Perhaps in a shop; more likely for commercial duty, I'd think, than for casual home use
--it's not much work to sew a hem or sleeve.

But if you do sew all day long every day--why, sir, an Electric Motor--fed for a penny's worth, from Mr. Edison's wire: this little machine bespokes tailors into the new age of labor saving efficiencies.


The power is taken off via a cleverly quick-detachable wooden pulley
sized to accept round leather belting such as was used with treadle operated sewing machines.

Imagine that one might obtain various diameters of pulley
for particular sewing purposes or speeds.
Last edited {1}
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That very same generator?
Isn't that remarkable!

This motor intrigues me because all the original marks of manufacture are there. The gutta percha;
the varnish and shellac. No signs of rough treatment over the years.

Yet, it has some mileage: the bronze or copper leaf brushes have worn a hollow in the commutator.

The bearings, however, are free of shake.

This'd be what? About a tenth or twelfth HP motor?

In those days (about 1887 for this motor), it hadn't been so very long since motors (gas motors) were advertised in terms of man power:
"1/3rd man power".

How 'bout that? It's may be quaint today,
but when we imagine what a marvel these first, practical motors were to their original owners.

The Mr. Crocker who made this motor:
founded the Dept. of Electrical Engineering at Columbia University.

The C&C Company apparently ceased at that time (1889).

So far as I know (not much), he later formed the Crocker and Wheeler Electric Motor Company, which carried on until about the year I was born.

I've run this motor with a Variac-feeding it full wave rectified DC.

Am so ignorant of these things: would this be a series wound motor? If so, would it run safely on AC?

It begins to turn with just a couple of volts applied. I have run it at 30V---unloaded, just to see the silent spin.

It's a lucky privilege: to have custody for a while, of this fine old relic.

Certainly, the C&C is -easier- to store in a cupboard

than that hydroelectric generator.


(Thank you Howard)
Last edited by Registered Member
A good question deserves a good answer.
Who else will add to this, or supply more nearly correct perspectives?
The past cannot speak directly. So,

let's make up an answer; realizing that this little motor was only a sprout precursing big motors just about to appear on the scene.

Niagara and the polyphase motor are not quite yet in sight.

But for this day of 1887, about
the only electrical PM programs are discussed here

at Pearl Street station

Gentlemen of the Maintenanceforums panel:
You have enquired about our preventive maintenance program
for the Pearl Street Station's Electrical machinery.

The materials here are basic:
-Babbitt journal bearings
-Cotton wrapped copper wire
-Shellac is our primary insulating varnish; sometimes copal resin linseed oil varnish.
Red oxide of iron is a good pigment
aiding the dielectric.
-We oil things.

We are bipolar, owing to constraints imposed by the bulk of the insulations,
and of cast pig iron;
we know full well, that
when better wire insulations and better magnetics come to be,
all of this will appear as primitive.
It is an infant field.

Our commutators are not undercut.
Our brushes spark, eroding copper and themselves. They rub enough to keep the mica level.
Our brushes are multiple leafed bronze on copper segments.
Commutation is costly, and wears badly if not well watched.

Journal wiping, oiling, commutator monitoring, and a wise hand to test for fever
in bearing boxes--these steps,
we propose, to be sufficient preventive maintenance.
We keep Voltaic pressures low, for it is costly to remove and rewind an armature or even a field, external though that be.

Regarding miniature dynamos or, particularly, the light commmercial motor:
indeed, it is possible, we think to say, that
given modest duty and provided with good environment, we predict that
a sewing machine motor will run one hundred years hence
as surely as it runs to-day.

It is a matter of working the horse, so to say, without much strain,
of the electrical nerve or mechanical frame.

Generous margins of safety, both in materials and in operation, permit of nearly unlimited life,
in an exchange of sorts, in mete, with the conversion efficiency.

Alas, we have yet to find any other means
equal to transmit the power
of one place, unto another,
than by the flower of the Pen.

With our sincerest good regards
For our future colleagues,

Howard P. Redecessor
Last edited by Registered Member
Quite so, Josh.
1887 was still the era of DC motors.
NYC relied mainly on Edison's DC system for decades to come.
The small DC motor has yet to be supplanted.

1887, the year of this motor's birth,
was also the cornerstone year for AC motors:

I think, because none of you guys has said "no, don't do it", I will trial the C&C on AC current from the Variac. Nothing stressfull. It will spin on AC for the first time ever, right? Even though its builder had no such current in mind for the design.

It is a univeral motor, right?
It sure appears to be straight series wound...

Another report later on,
after the veteran motor
proves itself again.
Our predecessors were just like us at basis:
inquiring and practical dreamers.

Thanks Josh,
Last edited by Registered Member
Hello professional friends,

It's now more than one year later.
Today I have access to basic DSL, enabling YouTube posting of video.

Last night I made a crude movie of the old motor in order to share it with the general public.

I want to share it with you guys first, though;
you're the first ones who helped me with the motor.

Francis B. Crocker was right in there at the beginning of electrical power transmission.
His career was long and prolific.

I realize today, more fully than last year, just what this small motor represents to all of us, and therefore desire to demonstrate the relic as a particular reminder of F.B. Crocker's practical intelligence.

And, for the first time in its 120 years of existence, it will be seen to run on AC current,
making this (practically) the oldest "universal" motor, so to speak, for demonstration purposes.

link to the video demo
(double-click the youtube player screen's lower right corner for a full-screen view)

Thanks for your support and for your past and future advice to a collector-hobbyist,


edit: the crude video will be re-done because it contains factual errors. Curtis was not the "money man": he too was an engineer, and as it turned out, a great one.
Last edited by Registered Member
Update. This is not a "for sale" forum-place, but I hope I may be excused for this special reason:

It is time (times are hard) to sell the motor. It is now listed at ebay, for sale, at a starting price it may not even realize.

I feel that if I don't sell it at all, I'll still be happy. It is such a wonderful motor. The auction description contains historical details
about the inventors. You electrical engineers are all interested in the first, the best, the most interesting electrical equipment?

So, here is the auction link---for reference purposes. And if any of you decide to bid on the item: know that it will be the best collectible you ever bought.
There is no other C&C motor in such good condition has this one. And even if you don't care to buy (I sure can't afford five grand, myself!), well,
you get the vicarious thrill of seeing it -possibly- find a new and safe home.

Here is the auction listing--like I say, not to shill, but to show and share. Thank you,

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