Electric City: General Electric in Schenectady

Electric City: General Electric in Schenectady

Electric City: General Electric in Schenectady

Electric City: General Electric in Schenectady

Synopsis

For seven decades the General Electric Company maintained its manufacturing and administrative headquarters in Schenectady, New York.

"Electric City: General Electric in Schenectady" explores the history of General Electric in Schenectady from the company's creation in 1892 to the present. As one of America's largest and most successful corporations, GE built a culture centered around the social good of technology and the virtues of the people who produced it.

At its core, GE culture posited that engineers, scientists, and craftsmen engaged in a team effort to produce technologically advanced material goods that served society and led to corporate profits. Scientists were discoverers, engineers were designers and problem solvers, and craftsmen were artists.

Historian Julia Kirk Blackwelder has drawn on company records as well as other archival and secondary sources and personal interviews to produce an engaging and multi-layered history of General Electric's workplace culture and its planned (and actual) effects on community life. Her research demonstrates how business and community histories intersect, and this nuanced look at race, gender, and class sets a standard for corporate history."

Excerpt

On the morning of August 20, 1886, Thomas Alva Edison boarded a New York Central and Hudson River Railroad train for a half-day journey north from New York. Some three hours later Edison sat impatiently in Albany as the train idled for nearly an hour before chugging off once more on its now westerly course. Just as the engine achieved top speed, the engineer throttled back, and the train once again slowed to a stop. Moments later Edison stepped down onto the cobblestoned main street of Schenectady, a Dutch heritage town of fourteen thousand. From the rail station Edison and his entourage, proceeding for a mile along the Erie Canal, passed the Westinghouse machine works just as two unfinished factory buildings and the broomcorn fields of the countryside came into view.

Edison’s visit to the Mohawk Valley persuaded him to proceed in an investment that presaged the formation of the General Electric Company and that launched Schenectady on thirty years of exponential growth. As ge matured into an international manufacturing giant, developing a unique male-centered culture anchored by faith in electrical technology, the old Dutch town blossomed into a cosmopolitan but ungainly metropolis of eighty thousand persons.

This book examines the construction and the content of Schenectady General Electric’s culture of technology. in relating selective aspects of ge history, it focuses on the company’s technical men: the engineers who stood at the center of the Schenectady works culture and the scientists and craftsmen who enabled engineers’ accomplishments. At its core, ge culture posited that engineers, scientists, and craftsmen engaged in a team effort to produce technologically advanced material goods that served society and led to corporate profits. Scientists were discoverers, engineers were designers and problem solvers, and craftsmen were artists.

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