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Volume 1281

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Remarkable Summer of '93

Chicago World's Fair of 1893
Ch. 7: Master Mind of
The World of Tomorrow
July 4, 1893 
Notes & Photos
The Adventures of 
Edgar Rice Burroughs
As Interpreted by
Bill Hillman

Electrcity Building

July 10, 1856 January 7, 1943

Beginning of the Age of Electricity
Nikola Tesla
I am beginning to fear that both father and Mr. Edison may be wrong about the future of the horseless carriage, as it seems possible that another means of propulsion for the vehicle lies in the near future.

While working for father at the American Battery Co. exhibit in this giant Electricity building with its 15,000 feet of floor space, I take every opportunity to visit a display associated with the rival Westinghouse Electrical Company display. Westinghouse actually won the Fair's electricity contract over Edison's General Electric Company. This was due to their new, less expensive, and more efficient alternating current system invented by their Croatian-born inventor, Nikola Tesla. 

Four of the twelve 1000 horse-power two-phase AC generators

Electricity Building from the Lagoon ~ North Canal

I first noticed this rather eccentric man in the dining room where he sits at the same table every day and goes through the same daily ritual. The waiter brings him 18 napkins (18 is divisible by three - his magic number), which he uses to polish the already immaculate table settings, while waiting for his meal to arrive. This seems to be a result of his compulsion about germs -- he even refuses to shake hands with people.  After I got to know him I realized that he has many other phobias and he is also hypersensitive to sound and touch.
North of the spectacular Edison light tower is a darkened room for the display of "High Potential and High Frequency Phenomena" with an adjoining section containing some of the fantastic inventions of Mr. Tesla. His display demonstrates the tremendous potential of his alternating current system that powers the Fair, and it is made up of a complex system of generators, motors, switchboards, lights, models, and copper circuit cables supported by insulators that were recently designed for a Pomona, California power company. All of this has been assembled to showcase the immense practical applications of electricity devices and the feasibility of the transmission of power over long distances.
The mighty searchlights during illuminations
The mighty spotlights during illuminations
Lighthouse lens in the Electricity Building
Lighthouse lens and displays
Nikola Tesla is the true genius of the Fair . . .  and our age. There is hardly a corner of the buildings and grounds where his inventions and discoveries are not manifest in one form or another. Countless thousands of incandescent lights illuminate the grounds, buildings, fountains, waterways and Midway attractions. Colorful search lights send their beacons into the night skies, beckoning to millions over the entire northeastern part of the state. Grounds transportation, Midway rides, and all manner of devices controlled by modern motors are powered by AC current electricity.

Electric Generators in the Machinery Building

This visionary genius always takes time to share his endless parade of wondrous ideas and plans for inventions. He must sense a kinship with me as his theories and speculations certainly tap into my sense of wonder and overactive imagination. I can only hope that someday I too will find a way to put my own imagination and far-out ideas to good use for the benefit of mankind. If I can realize this dream before I am Tesla's age -- he is in his mid 30s -- I will feel I've accomplished my goal. Tesla draws much of the inspiration for his ideas from poetry, literature, dreams, exotic spiritual beliefs and visions that flash across his brain. Who knows? Perhaps if I pursue my interest in poetry and writing I might benefit from the converse: drawing my inspiration for writing poems and stories from imaginative science and futuristic speculations.
A.C. MotorRadioTesla CoilRemote ControlImproved LIghting
Some of Tasla's Inventions
Electricity Building
Mr. Tesla has patented countless inventions based upon electricity:  induction motors, new types of generators and transformers, alternating-current transmission systems, and a new type of steam turbine. His exhibit in the Electricity building offers a means of demonstrating some of his most recent achievements.
The display rooms are presided over by Tesla himself. He presents an impressive charismatic figure in his white tie and tails as he darts between mountains of curious-looking machinery. Once the crowd has assembled he throws a master switch and the room is flooded with beautiful light -- there is no visible source of the light but it seems to be generated between large panels set on opposite sides of the room. The display is decorated everywhere with electrically lighted lamps and phosphorescent glass tubes that he has constructed from molten glass. He has gone so far as to treat some of them with uranium and radium to enhance their brilliance.  The largest tube light spells out, "Welcome, Electricians." He has twisted other tubing into letters representing the names of famous scientists and Yugoslavian poets such as ZMAJ (Zmaj Jovan).
Tesla's tubes of light
Like a magician he roams among his displays of high-frequency equipment demonstrating an endless number of electric miracles: an assortment of spinning metallic balls displayed on velvet show how alternating current works ~ revolutionary electric clocks synchronized to oscillators ~ discharge coils emit lightning flashers ~ concentrated electrical energy melts metals ~ the display of inventions grows larger each time I visit. I noticed on my last visit that he had added a carbon-button lamp which is a a working model of the incandescent sun that produces incredibly intense light. He used it to demonstrate what he believed to be cosmic and the other mysterious rays that are given off by the sun. 
During each of my many visits to Mr. Tesla's exhibit I have witnessed mobs of spectators filling the display area to capacity and without fail there were constant cries of fear and wonder during every demonstration. He usually starts his presentation with a display of ball lightning. He snaps his fingers which creates a ball of leaping red flame that he holds in his hands and moves all over his body with no ill effects. He then puts down the fireball and picks up brilliantly lit wireless tubes that he moves around the room, drawing energy from the room's ambient force field. This electrical wizard then ties a small animal to a platform where it is immediately electrocuted with thousands of volts. The screams from the audience are still echoing through the building as he climbs onto this platform of death. The voltage meter climbs until two million volts of electricity are passing through him, setting up a halo of dancing tongues of flame darting out from every part of his body. He has told me that he survives because the frequencies are kept high and the currents of great voltages flow over the outer skin.

He believes that this energy can someday be harnessed to create protective electrical shrouds that could keep people warm or cool under the most severe weather conditions from the equator to the Arctic.  He also predicts that the energy will have many medical uses: the treatment of ailments such as arthritis, anesthesia, the healing of bones, sterilization of wounds, making of surgical incisions, treatment of mental disorders and cleansing of the mind and skin.

Friend Mark Twain joins the demonstration
One afternoon, a few days ago, a visit from his friend Mark Twain caused a stir throughout the building. The gray-haired author in his white suit and black string tie persuaded a somewhat reluctant Tesla to let him step onto the rubber-mounted electric platform.  The switch was flipped and soon Mr. Twain was enveloped in an aura of humming electricity which set his whole body vibrating. He was obviously enjoying the experience until suddenly he clambered down in a panic, asking to be directed to the toilet facilities. The sudden laxative effect of the vibrations had cut short his otherwise pleasant experience.
During another afternoon a bevy of Tesla's young female friends from New York paid him a visit and escorted him out of the building. I learned later that they had agreed to accept his challenge to ride on the Ferris Wheel if he would first accompany them on a tour of the Woman's Building. It turned out that he was glad he made the visit since the guest speaker for that day was Mrs. Potter Palmer, who demonstrated the latest electric appliances for ladies' kitchens. Tesla immediately put his mind to work to devise ways of improving on the devices he had seen, which included coming up with an idea of using electromagnetic waves to cook food in specially designed ovens.

This Serbian genius seems intrigued with the wireless transmission of power, which he thinks will lead to the worldwide interconnection of all telegraph and telephone exchanges, stock tickers, personal communication, distribution of music and dissemination of news, photographs and printed material. To this end he is also working on the creation and control of mysterious energy waves to send signals over long distances -- signals that he feels will eventually transmit voice messages, and control all manner of things by remote control -- without wires.

Floor of Electricity Building: Looking south from centre
I am convinced that Nikola Tesla is a true genius with an endlessly fascinating personality. He seems to think that anything people can conceive they should be able to achieve and he has little patience with the myopic, the faint-hearted, and a doubting world.  His imagination is boundless and he seems obsessed with the potential of this mysterious thing called electricity. He even believes that he will soon be able to control lightning and to direct electrical power to and from the atmosphere to any location on earth. When he talks of this power he speaks in low, hushed tones with a wild, almost frightening look in his eyes. He feels that his experiments in this area can offer great benefits to mankind: free universal electric power, transportation, a means of national defence, even control of the weather. 

But he also fears the misuse of these discoveries could present evil powers with the means for world domination through the creation of death rays and global holocausts. He confides that these fears were first realized when the Westinghouse company corrupted his scientific achievements by using them to construct an electric death chair to execute criminals in a horrendous fashion. He swears that Edison was behind this, seeing it as a way of promoting the dangers of rival AC electricity. 

Tesla's Vision of the Future
Tesla's Vision of the Future

Tesla company stock certificate

Electric Chair
Tesla Coil
On the other hand, he seems convinced that the potential benefits to mankind from his scientific discoveries are boundless: he is sure that many human maladies and infirmities can be medically treated with some of his therapeutic devices. 

Thousands have now seen him demonstrate how safe his AC electricity is by passing high frequency power through his body to power light bulbs and to shoot large lightning bolts from his Tesla coils into crowds of spectators without causing any noticeable harmful effects.

Tesla seated by coil ~ surrounded by millions of volts of electricity
Court of Honor illuminated by brillian Westinghouse/Tesla lamps
Tesla's City of Light

Mr. Tesla shares Mr. Sturges' dislike for Thomas Edison (see Chapter 8) -- not surprising considering Edison's completely different "trial and error" approach to the development of electricity and inventions. He confided that, "If Edison had to find a needle in a haystack, he would proceed with the diligence of a bee to examine straw after straw until he found it. I was a sorry witness to such doings ... a little theory ... would have saved him ninety percent of his labor."  I've also learned that Edison cheated Tesla, his one-time employee, out of $50,000 and even "borrowed" some of his ideas and patents. 

Niagara Falls Power Development from Goat Island

It is hard to see how Edison's outdated DC electrical system can ever survive after the amazing success Tesla has had at the fair with his AC system.  Riding on this success he is now about to present plans for harnessing the power of Niagara Falls to create hydro-electric energy. He is the obvious winner in what many people call the "War of the Currents."

I have no doubt that Nikola Tesla will go down in history as the most versatile and productive geniuses of all time -- a true Master Mind. 

Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night:
God said, "Let Tesla be," and all was light.
B.A. Behrend,


Lifeguard and Swimming Intructor

Nikola Tesla through the years

Albert Einstein and Nikola Tesla


Tesla statue in Silica Valley with free WiFi

Tesla Statue on Goat Island

Tesla Monument at Niagara Falls

Tesla Logo
Edgar Rice Burroughs' 
Remarkable Summer of '93
Chapter 8
Ed and His Electric Flyer
A Docu-Fiction Series by Bill Hillman
Tesla logo
See Ed's Album of Columbian Exposition Stereoviews Ch. 7
Remarkable Summer of '93
A Docu-Novel by Bill Hillman
Ch. I: Welcome to Chicago's
Columbian Exposition
Ch. 2: Invasion of the 
Boys from Orchard Lake
Ch. 3: Grand Adventure
Strange New Worlds
Ch. 4: Magic City
The White City
StereoViews: Chicago
StereoViews: Buildings
StereoViews: Exhibits I
StereoViews: Exhibits II
Ch. 5: Midway Adventure I
The Great Wheel
Ch. 6: Midway Adventure II
Exotic Lands
Ch. 7: Master Mind of 
The World of Tomorrow
Ch. 8
Ed and His Electric Flyer
StereoViews: Midway
StereoViews: Peep Shows
StereoViews: Ed's Tour I
StereoViews: Ed's Tour II
. . .
Ch. 9
Complete All-Text Version
Ch. 10
Sister Jessie's Notebook
Ch. 11
Web Refs & Appendix
PART II: Time Shift Adventure
Back to ERB's Tarzana Ranch
Ed's Tour III
StereoViews from ERB Library
Souvenirs | Tours: IV | V | VI
Back To Tarzana: All Text

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