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    Description

    Samuel Insull: Electrification of New York City Cable Cross-Section Paperweight. Unique glass and silver-plated paperweight presented to one of the most interesting tycoons of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Samuel Insull (1859-1938). We encourage bidders to look up his biography online. The weight is 4" across and 1" tall. It contains a cross-section of lubricated copper coil used in the electrification of New York City when that city converted from gas to electric. It dates from the 1889-1892 period. It is inscribed on the bottom: "Mr. Samuel Insull" and, around the sides: "General Electric Company Schenectady, N.Y. U.S.A. 600,000 CM 132 KV Oil Filled Cable". According to the consignor, he showed it around 30 years ago to Insull's son who remembers seeing it sitting on his father's desk.

    Insull emigrated to the U.S. from England in 1881 and managed to land a job with Thomas Edison. He helped build power stations throughout the U.S. and was one of the founders of Edison General Electric, precursor to General Electric. He was promoted to Vice President in 1889, but was bypassed for the presidency when the company merged with Thomson-Houston Electric in 1892, following an effusion of capital from J. P. Morgan and the Vanderbilts. In order to calm the waters, he agreed to transfer to Chicago. He continued his efforts to build electric grids for urban centers, successfully advocating for the switchover from direct to alternating current (in opposition to Edison) and lowering costs of electricity, making it affordable for all. He became a major benefactor and civic leader in his adopted city, building an opera house. He made extensive use of holding companies to amass a fortune, but the Great Depression wiped him out and he escaped to Paris to avoid prosecution. He died in Paris of a heart attack with only 80-cents in his pocket.

    Of particular interest to us is the fact that Insull and his actress wife Gladys Wallis figure prominently in "Citizen Kane". The make-up for the elder Charles Foster Kane was based on pictures of Insull. In addition, Kane's girlfriend, Susan Alexander, was based on Insull's wife, a former Broadway star who came out of retirement to appear in the Chicago Opera House, prompting newspaper columnist Herman Mankiewicz (screenwriter of "Citizen Kane") to pen a bad review.

    Please check out the other Edison-related items we have in the sale.


    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    December, 2016
    3rd Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 888

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