Delco-Light

I was there

Media


Delco-Light Portable Generator with Sales Display, 1937

I was there...

Tell us your story >

Written by Mike Brazeau

Charles Kettering and Edward A. Deeds formed the Dayton Engineering Laboratories Company (DELCO) in Dayton, Ohio. DELCO was originally a research and development company but began manufacturing to meet the demand of the automobile self-starter they had developed. In 1916 Billy Durant bought DELCO under his United Motors Corporation holding company and it was folded into General Motors in 1920. One of their other widely known inventions was the Delco-Light Plant. It was a gasoline powered electric generator that powered many farms in rural areas across the country before electricity was readily available.

By 1930, 90% of urban America had the benefit of electricity but only 10% of rural America had been electrified. My mother recalls, as a child growing up on her parents farm in rural Greytown, Ohio in the 1930’s, hearing the hum of the "Delco" (as they called it) and the rows of glass batteries lined up on the shelves in the garage. The generator would run a few hours a day and store electricity in the batteries for use as needed. There were some 100 different models built over the years but the 850-watt, 32 volt DC unit accounted for 75% of the production. Being a unique 32-volt system, DELCO also sold the appliances to go with the light plants.

There had been nearly 150 different companies manufacturing home light plants with General Gas & Electric, Westinghouse Machine Company, Kohler Company and Fairbanks-Morse being a few of the more famous, but Delco-Light was clearly one of the most successful. They had sold more than 350,000 units by 1935.

DELCO built light plants for the war effort during WWII and continued production after the war but Congress passing President Roosevelt’s Rural Electrification Act in 1936 had finally brought electricity to most rural areas and in 1947 production of the Delco-Light unit had ceased.





Tag Cloud

1897-1909 Creation  1910-1930 Acceleration  1931-1958 Emotion  1959-1981 Revolution  1982-1999 Globalization  2000-Future Transformation  AC Spark Plug  Advertising & Marketing  Allison Engineering Company  Alternative Fuels  Alternative Materials  Alternative Propulsion  Anniversaries  Autoshows  Behind the Scenes  Beyond North America  Board of Directors  Brands & Products  Buick  Cadillac  Celebrities  Chevrolet  Color & Trim  Competitions  Concept Vehicles  Corporate Responsibility  DELCO  DELCO Electronics  Dealers & Distributors  Design  Design Centers  Detroit Diesel  Diversity  Education  Electromotive  Electronics  Emblems & Logos  Employees  Endurance  Energy Conservation  Engineering  Enthusiasts  Environment & Energy  Eras  Executives  Finance  Firsts  Fisher Body  Former Divisions  Frigidaire  GMAC  GMC  GMOO - GM Overseas Operations  GM Daewoo  HUMMER  Headquarters  Holden  Hughes Electronics  I was there...  Innovation & Technology  Innovators  Joint Ventures  LaSalle  Labor  Manufacturing  Mergers & Acquisitions  Methods & Techniques  Motorama  Oakland  Oldsmobile  OnStar  Opel  Operating Units  Pace Vehicles  Parade of Progress  People  Places  Plants  Pollution Control  Pontiac  Powertrain  Proving Grounds  Racing  Research  Retirees  Saab  Safety  Sales & Service  Saturn  Shows & Events  Specific Races  Sponsorships  Studios  Suppliers  Technical Centers  Ternstedt  The Business  Trends  United Motors  Vauxhall  World's Fairs