Thomas Davenport

Photo added by Bill McKern

Thomas Davenport

Williamstown, Orange County, Vermont, USA
Death 6 Jul 1851 (aged 48)
Salisbury, Addison County, Vermont, USA
Burial Brandon, Rutland County, Vermont, USA
Memorial ID 40741185 · View Source
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Inventor. A blacksmith, in the 1830s he experimented with the assistance of his wife Emily and fellow inventor Orange Smalley. In 1835 he patented the first electric motor, and used it to power a model railway. Convinced of the motor's commercial possibilities, he moved to New York City and attempted to attract investors by demonstrating how it operated a printing press and other machines. The venture failed because no one could predict the amount of energy available in the primitive chemical batteries then in use, meaning a direct current (DC) motor couldn't compete with the steam engine. Bankrupt, Davenport returned to Vermont and started a book describing his vision for electricity's future, but died just days before his 49th birthday. By the 1860s, a new generation of inventors determined that Davenport's motor worked in reverse, with water or steam powering it to function as a generator. By the late 1800s electric trains and trolleys were common, with a Davenport motor generating electricity at a central plant and another converting it to power that moved the cars. Recognizing that increased demand required a larger manufacturing capacity, Thomas Edison started a factory in Schenectady that became General Electric. GE's first products were motors and generators that copied Davenport's, and the realization that his motor generated power by running in one direction and provided it by running in the other led to the creation of alternating current (AC), giving rise to electric lights and other appliances. There is a monument to Davenport in Forest Dale, and the Smalley-Davenport Shop has been the subject of state historic preservation efforts.

Bio by: Bill McKern

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  • Maintained by: Find a Grave
  • Originally Created by: Bill McKern
  • Added: 16 Aug 2009
  • Find a Grave Memorial 40741185
  • Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Thomas Davenport (9 Jul 1802–6 Jul 1851), Find a Grave Memorial no. 40741185, citing Pine Hill Cemetery, Brandon, Rutland County, Vermont, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .