Updated 31-XII-2018

William Stanley Jr.

This article was written by fellow lamp engineer and collector Edward J. Covington, and originally appeared on his own website of biographical sketches of persons involved in the lamp industry. Following his passing in February 2017, and with kind permission of his family, Ed's words have been preserved here in the hope of maintaining access to his writings for the benefit of subsequent generations.

William Stanley8

The name of William Stanley, Jr. (1858 - 1916) is one that rings loud in the history of electrical engineering. He is remembered as one who was responsible for the development of a transformer that increased the distance over which power could be sent over small wires from a half-mile to several hundred miles. He also contributed to the development of an alternating current induction motor. As a result of his early work experiences he also contributed in the lamp and lighting areas.

Stanley was born in Brooklyn, New York. At the age of 17 he entered the 1881 class at Yale College. However, after attendance for three months he decided that college life was not for him and he left for New York. After spending a year or more in the nickel-plating business he became research assistant to Hiram S. Maxim at the United States Electric Lighting Company; this was about 1880. When that company purchased the Weston Electric Light Company Stanley became assistant to Edward Weston. After a few months in the employ with Weston, Stanley decided to move on. He worked as engineer and superintendent at the American Electric Light Company from the fall of 1880 to the summer of 1881. By 1882 Stanley was in Boston working for the Swan Electric Light Company. This led to his first electric lamp patent in that year; the patent involved a method of exhausting incandescent lamps. The existence of the Boston firm of Swan was short lived but Stanley had drawn the attention of George Westinghouse. Stanley installed, at the Lawrenceville Works of the Union Switch & Signal Company in Pittsburgh, a company owned by Westinghouse, a factory fully equipped for the production of incandescent lamps.

In 1890 Stanley established the Stanley Laboratory Company and the Stanley Electric Manufacturing Company in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. The latter company was formed with C. C. Chesney and J. F. Kelly for the purpose of manufacturing transformers. The Stanley Electric Manufacturing Company was absorbed by the General Electric Company in 1905.

Returning now to the subject of incandescence, William Stanley, Jr. and Edward P. Thompson were granted U.S. Patent 323,372 on July 28 1885 for a lamp with a carbonized silk filament. Samples of these were submitted to the Franklin Institute for comparison testing with competitor lamps in 1885. These lamps, known as Stanley-Thompson, are shown below.

William Stanley was granted 130 U. S. patents. Some of those are listed below. A complete list of Stanley's patents can be found in Reference No. 6.

  1. US 244,331 - 12 Jul 1881 - Circuit-Closer for Incandescent Lamps
  2. US 269,132 - 12 Dec 1882 - Electric Lamp
  3. US 316,302 - 21 Apr 1885 - Filament for Incandescent Electric Lamps
  4. US 322,496 - 21 Jul 1885 - Multiple Incandescent Electric Lamp
  5. US 323,372 - 28 Jul 1885 - Carbon for Incandescent Lamps
  6. US 324,894 - 25 Aug 1885 - Socket for Incandescent Electric Lamp
  7. US 330,269 - 10 Nov 1885 - Holder for Incandescent Electric Lamp
  8. US 333,028 - 22 Dec 1885 - Globe for Incandescent Electric Lamp
  9. US 333,564 - 05 Jan 1886 - System of Electric Lighting
  10. US 349,613 - 21 Sep 1886 - Automatic-Cutout for Electric-Lighting Circuits
  11. US 349,614 - 21 Sep 1886 - Automatic Cut-Out for Electric-Lighting Circuit
  12. US 363,559 - 24 May 1887 - Incandescent Electric Lamp

  1. The Electrical Engineer, Vol. XV No.249, 8 Feb 1893, p.151.
  2. "William Stanley Dies", New York Times, 15 May 1916, p.9 col.5.
  3. "A Life of George Westinghouse", Henry G. Prout, The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, New York, 1921.
  4. "William Stanley", Dictionary of American Biography, Vol.XVII, Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1935, p.514.
  5. "William Stanley", The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol.XXIV, James T. White & Co., New York, 1935, p.394.
  6. "William Stanley (1858-1916) - His Life and Work", Laurence A. Hawkins, The Newcomen Society in North America, New York, 1951.
  7. "The Electrical Manufacturers (1875-1900) - A Study in Competition, Entrepreneurship, Technical Change, and Economic Growth", Harold C. Passer, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1953.
  8. "The General Electric Story (1876-1986), A Photo History