A History of Electricity in the U.S.

For thousands of years, people all over the world have been fascinated by lightning. Some wondered how people could put that kind of power to practical use. But it wasn’t until the 18th Century that the path to the everyday use of electrical power began to take shape.

Benjamin Franklin

Maybe you have heard about the famous kite experiment by American Founding Father and inventor Benjamin Franklin. In 1752, to prove that lightning was electrical, he flew a kite during a thunderstorm.

He tied a metal key onto the string and, as he suspected it would, electricity from the storm clouds flowed down the string, which was wet, and he received an electrical shock. Franklin was extremely lucky not to have been seriously hurt during this experiment, but he was excited to have proved his idea.

Thomas Edison

Throughout the next hundred years, many inventors and scientists tried to find a way to use electrical power to make light. In 1879, the American inventor Thomas Edison was finally able to produce a reliable, long-lasting electric light bulb in his laboratory.

Tennessee Valley Authority

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the act creating the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) on May 18, 1933.

TVA is a federally-owned corporation in the United States that was created in 1933 to provide navigation, flood control, electricity generation, fertilizer manufacturing, and economic development in the Tennessee River Valley, a region that was particularly hard hit by the Great Depression.

Today the TVA is the nation's largest public power company, providing electric power to nearly 8.5 million customers in the Tennessee Valley. It acts primarily as an electric power wholesaler, selling to 158 retail power distributors and 61 directly served industrial or government customers. Power comes from dams providing hydroelectric power, fossil-fuel plants, and nuclear power plants. The Alcoa Electric Department is a TVA customer.

You can learn more about TVA on the TVA Kids Website. For more on the history of Alcoa Electric, visit or Department's History Section.