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Electricity Sparks Fears in 1900?

Elec in Ports/ SeacoastNH

As 1900 dawns, the Seacoast faces a shocking new technology. Is electricity safe? Is it just another toy for the rich? Do we really need it when gas lights work just fine and horses are easier to ride than cars? Should we develop this new science or leave the genie in the bulb?



A Reporter's Notebook

Electric, electric, electric! The way people bandy that word about nowadays, you'd think electricity is the new salvation of mankind. That attitude is particularly "on the wire" this week as the Old Town by the Sea hurtles relentlessly from the comfortably familiar 19th century into the unknown landscape of the 20th.

This writer, however, urges caution as we contemplate the coming Electric Age, admonishing readers not to entertain Utopian flights of fancy. Certainly this modern miracle has its usefulness, but for every labor-saving benefit, electricity brings us -- something, we fear, is lost in the trade.

We have long acknowledged the value of the telegraph, bringing us speedy long distance communication, but bringing with it, an unsightly army of poles and wires that pollute the view of our historic city. Now comes the electric telephone, which offers promise. It promises, detractors fear, to strike at the very sociability of our community. People who would normally seek out each other's company, may now speak over a wire, and so far, with minimal fidelity. Still, the prophets (or should we say "profits") tell us that some two million telephone receivers may be in use by this time next year in 1901. Whether all these gentle people truly have something worthy to say, remains a mystery.


We were pleased, years back, to see electric bells made available to area businesses in need of alarms to protect goods from theft and fire. Here, at last, was a use above reproach, but progress waits for no man. Today we see that Trafton & Sons of 36 Congress Street are advertising electric light wiring for business and for homes. Electrified stores and electrified street lamps we can applaud -- but electrified homes? To date, thanks to the "shocking" cost of power from the Rockingham Electric Light and Power Company on Daniel Street near the ferry to Kittery, few residents can afford the conversion from the dependability of gas. But to see the future, a local pundit informs me, one need only walk down Water Street at night where the incandescent glow of electrical lights beckon hapless sailors from across the Piscataqua to visit houses of adult entertainment. Vice and corruption, it seems, have deep pockets. Electricity is the new Jezebel, seducing our young men into the arms of immorality.

CONTINUE Electricity in 1900  

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Friday, January 19, 2018 
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