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When Cities Went Electric

You might know about Tesla vs. Edison. In cities, it was Edison vs. Westinghouse.
Candles illuminating Avenue de l'Opéra in Paris under the Exposition Universelle (1878).
Candles illuminating Avenue de l'Opéra in Paris under the Exposition Universelle (1878).Wikimedia Commons

This post is part of a CityLab series on power—the political kind, the stuff inside batteries and gas tanks, and the transformative might of mass movements.

The story of electric power is a story of urbanization. The major battlefield of the famed “War of Currents”—an electric arms-race and propagandized power struggle between Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and George Westinghouse—was Manhattan. But to set the scene, let’s start in Paris, the City of Light.