This book examines American social perceptions of electricity as an energy technology, between the mid-nineteenth and early decades of the twentieth centuries. Arguing that both technical and cultural factors played a role, Daniel French shows how electricity became an invisible and abstract form of energy in American society. As advancements allowed for an increasing physical distance between power generation and power consumption, electricity became consciously detached from the environmentally destructive fire and coal that produced it. Adopted simultaneously with Progressivism and consumerism, electricity use was encouraged and seen as an integral part of improvement and modernity, leading Americans to culturally construct electricity as unlimited and environmentally inconsequential—a newfound “basic right” of life in the United States.
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