The Rise Of Copper Wire, Its Manufacture And Use To 1900: A Case Of Industrial Circumspection

Blake-Coleman, Barrie Charles (1981). The Rise Of Copper Wire, Its Manufacture And Use To 1900: A Case Of Industrial Circumspection. MPhil thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000fcab

Abstract

This work critically examines the principal events and circumstances which influenced the course and rise of a crucial component in modern electrical technology - copper wire.

This material, through successive eras, has played a variety of roles and enjoyed a range of distinct applications. In charting the development, manufacture and use of copper wire, the thesis describes how in its earlier history a traditionally made product, applied to traditional purposes (in arts and trades themselves subject to change) evolved into something which, in property and quality, was entirely different - electrical conductors. By 1850, copper wire can be said to have long begun its exchange of a traditional role for a modern one, having by this time found application as a telegraph conductor, with varying degrees of success. In this respect, early trials in overland and submarine telegraphy, as well as experiments on metallic conductors, are shown to have been major influences in the development of copper wire as an electrical conductor. Hence the transition of copper wire from its traditional qualities and roles to those where it was fit for specialist electrical applications, is fully considered. Careful consideration also is given to the work surrounding the establishment of electrical standards which came out of the need for improved copper conductors.

Apart from the emphasis placed on reviewing those factors important in changing the quality and characteristics of traditional copper wire, an equal level of discussion is given over to considering the condition, growth and changing fortunes of the wire mills and the wire industry during its greatest period of change and expansion - 1750-1900. The pressures felt by the manufacturers during this time (technological, economic and, to some degree, social) are examined as too the state of the attitudes and policies, moulded by changing market demands and levels of prosperity.

The overall object of the study is to give meaning and significance to, and a reasonable interpretation of, the historically important events which shaped the manufacture and application of copper wire. As such, the study critically assesses not only the reasons for the changing fortunes of copper wire, but the failure of the manufacturing effort behind it to emerge, at least by 1900, as a separate and distinct industry.

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