Hydroelectric Power

Manufacturing Interests

The Holyoke Water Power Company.

        As is generally understood, the history of the Holyoke Water Power Company furnishes the industrial history of the city. "The Story of the Dam," as told in the early part of this work, illustrates this and renders unnecessary here a repetition of the plans and experiments which finally eventuated in laying a practically imperishable foundation for the largest manufacturing city, supplied wholly by water power, in the world.
        As Holyoke is indebted to its unexampled water power — larger than that of Lawrence and Lowell combined — for its success, it owes this to the men who planned and made it perfect through the organization of a corporation and the co-operation of skilled minds and energy. Since, 1849, when the first dam was completed, the Water Power Company has had the best of talent at its command and has spared no expense to preserve intact, and absolutely safe from rupture, the great wall which cages and holds the mighty mass of waters behind it.
This has necessitated the expenditure of several million of dollars to date, and the corporation has now in view the expenditure of $750,000 more for the construction of a new dam. The average life of a dam is from fifty to sixty years, and the present apron was completed in 1871, but the company propose to be forehanded. The treasure’s report shows a surplus of $1,014,000, and in view of the immediate contemplated expenditure of three-quarters of a million dollars, it will be seen that the company is not independently rich. THe organizations consists of a board of nine directors, of which Gideon Wells, of Springfield, is president, and Edward S. Waters, of Holyoke, treasurer. About 150 different concerns are supplied with power by the corporation, which also furnishes the basis for the city’s electric light.
        To describe the detail of engineering which holds and distributes throughout the city of Holyoke the great body of water and power would require much more space than can be granted. Suffice to say that the 30,000 horse power in the control of the company has been more than sufficient, during the present year, (1982) to supply all the corporations requiring it, and steam power is rarely used by any of them. When it is considered that the average cost of steam power for manufacturing purposes, in the United States, is at least three times the cost of water power, it may be seen what an advantage Holyoke manufacturers have in the economy of this most important item.
        The pages following show but a part of the city’s great manufacturing interests. To describe them all would require a much larger book than we should be able to publish this season, and we can only say that the Water Power Company furnish power to a great versatility of industries, paper making being the most important of all. There are now no less than twenty-four large paper mills in the city, and two more are being built. The list of other industries would require apace which must be devoted to illustration, and this leads, in closing this brief review of a great corporation’s work, to a mention of the picture which occupies the lower part of this page. It is the reproduction of a very rare and beautiful engraving of “Holyoke in 1856,” as viewed from the South Hadley side of the Connecticut river. What better evidence can the Water Power Company give than an invited comparison of the Holyoke of to-day with the picture here given, showing Holyoke when there were but three mills in the city, and none south of Dwight street? The engraving was kindly loaned the editor of this work, by J.G. Mackintosh, Esq., of Holyoke, and he earned the money for framing the original, when a boy, by shoveling snow for John R. Baker, a merchant.
Holyoke Before the War
Holyoke Before the War — From an Old Print

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