Early electrical appliances in ships


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I was doing some research into Campania recently and it got me interested in the early application of electricity in ships. I found out lots of things, but one of things I could not determine was which was the first liner to have electric heaters in cabins?

I know that the first heaters where bulb type heaters, with frosted glass bulbs., and that these were in use on Kaiser Wilhem der Grosse in 1897. I find no earlier mention and don't really know where to look - short of going to a library and wading through archived "Engineering" journals.

Does anyone know?
 

Inger Sheil

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I would also be interested in the early use of electricity on ships, Jason. A particular WSL officer I've been researching is supposed to have been on the first vessel with electricity to have sailed through the Suez Canal (a curious claim to fame!), but unfortunately the vessel was not named in the source.

One WSL officer wrote in his early years of what a luxury it was to have an electric lightbulb in his cabin.
 
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That certainly is a curious claim to fame!

One way to find out more about this subject is to study Engineering periodicals from 1880 - 1900. All I've been able to find out was that the City of Berlin was the first ship to have electric lights, in 1879. Then first ships to have electric fans for ventilation / forced draught purposes were the Inman liners City of Paris and City of New York. Finally the first important passenger liner to have electric heaters in cabins was Kaiser
 

Bob Godfrey

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Inger, if your man was heading for Australia via Suez the ship could well have been the Orient Line's Orient. This was a full-rigged liner built in 1879, and claimed after a refit in 1884 to be the first passenger ship on the Australian run to have electric lighting and refrigeration. The ship served this route until the end of its life in 1909.
 

Inger Sheil

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Cheers Bob - I'll review what notes I have for his career, and may use 1884 as a starting point for reviewing the engineering periodicals Jason mentions (as well as the Shipping Gazette, which also sometimes has such tidbits).

Unfortunately, the details around the claim were left very vague!
 

Bob Godfrey

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If he said nothing more than that the ship 'had electricity' you might need to go back further into the second half of the 1870s. Increasingly, ships were built or converted with electric mast and deck lights at about that time when the necessary technology first became available, though as Jason said the use of electric lighting for interiors didn't come till the end of the decade. The City of Berlin was one of several liners which claimed to be the first to be so equipped in 1879.
 
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There's also the Columbia, of 1880, which was fitted with Edison light bulbs. This was Edisons's first commercial order, and I've also read that this was the first commercially produced light-bulb, whatever that means. If
 

Bob Godfrey

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'Commercially produced' means the bulbs were manufactured for sale - initially at £2 each, which is £120 or $200 in today's money! Columbia was fitted with 115 of Edison's bulbs (presumably only a fraction of the total lighting requirements) as a costly experiment, but a successful one. The vessel took more than two months to get from New York to the West Coast around Cape Horn, and every bulb was still working at the end of a rough voyage. Excellent publicity for the Edison Company and its new product, which was clearly not as fragile as many (including Edison!) had supposed. But mass production and much lower prices would be needed before this form of lighting could make much impact on the market.
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Hi

Thanks Bob, for that interesting bit of information about pricing, and the first voyage. As I'm interested in researching this area myself, can you name any sources?
 

Bob Godfrey

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Jason, you're on the right track with the engineering and shipbuilding periodicals of the time. I find it useful also to look for articles from Victorian and Edwardian newspapers and illustrated periodicals, which generally had good coverage of the impact of new inventions and other 'wonders' of the time. The advertisements are often as interesting as the articles, and give a good idea of what was available at any one time and at what cost. You can find such material online, but it does mean a lot of trawling though a great many sites. You need to have a lot of time on your hands!
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