Known as the Power City, Niagara Falls became the center of an intense rivalry between two giants of electrical engineering - Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison - in the late 19th century. These iconic figures shaped the future of power distribution and illuminated the city of Niagara Falls in a never-before-seen light.
Nikola Tesla, the Serbian-American inventor, sought to prove that his system of Alternating Current (AC) was more efficient and safer for long-distance power transmission. With this technology, power could be transmitted over long distances by simply transforming it into higher voltage. AC also reduced the power loss due to heating of wires. The visionary inventor partnered with the industry tycoon George Westinghouse and chose Niagara Falls to showcase this technology.
Opposing Tesla was Thomas Edison, a leading inventor of his time, known for inventions like the phonograph and practical electric light bulb. Edison supported Direct Current (DC), where electric charge flowed in one constant direction. His concept was widely used at the time, but it had limitations, mainly its inefficiency in transmitting power over long distances. Despite this, Edison fiercely defended his system, even spreading misinformation about AC’s safety.
The War of the Currents, as it was known, reached its climax in 1895. Tesla and Westinghouse were commissioned to harness the power of Niagara Falls, creating the first large-scale AC power plant. The hydroelectric power station was a tremendous success and led to the widespread use of AC for power transmission.
Niagara Falls didn’t merely witness a feud between two geniuses; it was also a catalyst for revolutionizing our world’s electrical system. To this day, visitors can explore the history and impact of this pivotal period at the Niagara Power Vista Visitors Center and the Nikola Tesla Statue and Monument. Step back in time and delve into a world of inventions and innovators, amidst the roaring sound of cascading waters and shimmering rainbows of Niagara Falls.