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British Industrial History

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Frank Julian Sprague

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Frank Julian Sprague (1857-1934) Electrical engineer.

1884 Founded the Sprague Electric Railway and Motor Co.

1934 Obituary.[1]

FRANK JULIAN SPRAGUE died in New York on the 25th October, 1934, at the age of 77. Born at Milford, Connecticut, on the 25th July, 1857, he entered the Naval Academy, Annapolis, in 1874, and in 1880 carried out electrical work at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Two years later, at the age of 25, he represented the United States Government at the Crystal Palace Electrical Exhibition, where he served as a member of the Jury of Awards. Leaving the Navy on his return to the U.S.A., he became an assistant to Mr. T. A. Edison, under whom he was engaged on the planning of electrical distribution systems. A year later he formed the Sprague Electric Railway and Motor Co. and developed the application of the electric motor to industrial uses. He next turned his attention to the problem of designing a motor for use in electric traction, a problem whose solution he embodied in the first successful electric street railway, which he evolved for the Union Passenger Railway Co. in 1887. This achievement he followed up by designing a number of experimental electric locomotives for elevated railways in New York. He subsequently invented the Sprague electric elevator, and, in 1895, the multiple-unit system of electric train control, both of which were widely adopted. Several concerns with which he was connected, including the Sprague Electric Co. which he formed in 1897, were merged in 1902 in the American General Electric Co. He later became president of the Sprague Safety Control and Signal Corporation and the Sprague Development Corporation. He was elected a Foreign Member of the Institution in 1899, and a Member in 1911. In 1892 he was elected president of the American Institute.

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