These documents, which cover the years 1882-1896 and 1932-1940, pertain to the career of Wilson S. Howell, an engineer and inspector of Edison central stations. There are numerous letters, primarily from the years 1888-1891, to officials of local utility companies in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, as well as in St Paul, Des Moines, New Orleans, and other cities, providing Howell's critical recommendations on the operation of dynamos, instruments, and distribution systems. Subjects evaluated include metering, load balancing, voltage regulation, and equalizer fireproofing. Some of the letters mention customer complaints regarding blackening of the lamps and other light-quality issues. Additional correspondence from 1891-1895 with Francis R. Upton and the Edison Lamp Factory concerns Howell's findings as a traveling lamp account adjustor. Other correspondents include John H. Vail of the Association of Edison Illuminating Companies and Phillips B. Shaw, an organizer of Edison companies in Pennsylvania.
Also included are a plan to illuminate the New York Times office, probably in 1882; an 1888 letter to the Edison Machine Works relating to insulated cable at Newburgh, New York; an 1890 essay by Howell on the"double 3-wire" distribution system at Kearney, Nebraska; Howell's testimony in an 1896 patent suit involving lighting engineer Luther Stieringer; two letters written to Francis Jehl during the 1930s concerning Howell's education and contributions; and an historical account, prepared in 1940, of the Electrical Testing Laboratories, which Howell managed later in his career.
Among the unselected documents are photocopies of three voluminous personal diaries for 1888, 1889, and 1890. The technical information in these volumes is largely duplicated in the selected reports and correspondence. However, these diaries also provide significant details regarding Howell's family life and relations, his travel plans and expenses, his business affairs and contacts, and his personal interests, including theater and photography. Courtesy of the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village Research Center.