William Stanley, Jr.

The name of William Stanley, Jr. (1858 - 1916) is one that rings loud in the history of electrical engineering. He is remembered as one who was responsible for the development of a transformer that increased the distance over which power could be sent over small wires from a half-mile to several hundred miles. He also contributed to the development of an alternating current induction motor. As a result of his early work experiences he also contributed in the lamp and lighting areas.

Stanley was born in Brooklyn, New York. At the age of 17 he entered the 1881 class at Yale College. However, after attendance for three months he decided that college life was not for him and he left for New York. After spending a year or more in the nickel-plating business he became research assistant to Hiram S. Maxim at the United States Electric Lighting Company; this was about 1880. When that company purchased the Weston Electric Light Company Stanley became assistant to Edward Weston. After a few months in the employ with Weston, Stanley decided to move on. He worked as engineer and superintendent at the American Electric Light Company from the fall of 1880 to the summer of 1881. By 1882 Stanley was in Boston working for the Swan Electric Light Company. This led to his first electric lamp patent in that year; the patent involved a method of exhausting incandescent lamps. The existence of the Boston firm of Swan was short lived but Stanley had drawn the attention of George Westinghouse. Stanley installed, at the Lawrenceville Works of the Union Switch & Signal Company in Pittsburgh, a company owned by Westinghouse, a factory fully equipped for the production of incandescent lamps.

In 1890 Stanley established the Stanley Laboratory Company and the Stanley Electric Manufacturing Company in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The latter company was formed with C. C. Chesney and J. F. Kelly for the purpose of manufacturing transformers. The Stanley Electric Manufacturing Company was absorbed by the General Electric Company in 1905.

Lamps were submitted to the Franklin Institute for comparison testing with competitor lamps in 1885. William Stanley, Jr. and Edward P. Thompson were granted patent No. 323,372 on 28 July 1885 for a lamp with a carbonized silk filament.

William Stanley was granted 130 U. S. patents. Some of those are listed below:

Item Patent No. Issue Date Description
1.244,33112 Jul 1881Circuit-Closer for Incandescent Lamps
2.269,13212 Dec 1882Electric Lamp
3.316,30221 Apr 1885Filament for Incandescent Electric Lamps
4.322,49621 Jul 1885Multiple Incandescent Electric Lamp
5.323,37228 Jul 1885Carbon for Incandescent Lamps
6.324,89425 Aug 1885Socket for Incandescent Electric Lamp
7.330,26910 Nov 1885Holder for Incandescent Electric Lamp
8.333,02822 Dec 1885Globe for Incandescent Electric Lamp
9.333,5645 Jan 1886System of Electric Lighting
10.349,61321 Sep 1886Automatic-Cutout for Electric-Lighting Circuits
11.349,61421 Sep 1886Automatic Cut-Out for Electric-Lighting Circuit
12.363,55924 May 1887Incandescent Electric Lamp

A complete list of Stanley's patents can be found in Reference No. 6.

1) The Electrical Engineer, Vol XV, No 249, 8 Feb 1893, pg 151.
2) "William Stanley Dies," New York Times, 15 May 1916, pg 9, col 5.
3) Henry G. Prout, A Life of George Westinghouse, The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, New York, 1921.
4) "William Stanley," Dictionary of American Biography, Vol XVII, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1935, pg 514.
5) "William Stanley," The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol XXIV, James T. White & Co., New York, 1935, pg 394.
6) Laurence A. Hawkins, William Stanley (1858-1916) His Life and Work, The Newcomen Society in North America, New York, 1951.
7) Harold C. Passer, The Electrical Manufacturers (1875-1900) A Study in Competition, Entrepreneurship, Technical Change, and Economic Growth, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1953.
8) The General Electric Story (1876-1986), A Photo History, A Hall of History Publication, Schenectady, New York, 1989. The photograph of William Stanley shown above was scanned from this book.