Charles F. Brush bigraphy, stories - Inventors

Charles F. Brush : biography

17 March 1849 - 15 June 1929

Charles Francis Brush (March 17, 1849 – June 15, 1929) was a U.S. inventor, entrepreneur and philanthropist.


  • Charles F. Brush High School in Lyndhurst, Ohio is named after Brush, whose sports teams and other groups are named the "Arcs," after Brush's lamp.
  • Metro Parks, Serving Summit County's Furnace Run Metro Park in Richfield, Ohio, received a donation of land from the Family of Charles F. Brush. The donated tract is known as Brushwood.
  • USS Brush (DD-745) 1943-1969 (then Taiwan's Hsiang Yang until scrapped in 1993) was named after Brush, sponsored by his great-granddaughter.


Born in Euclid Township, Ohio, Brush was raised on a farm about 10 miles from downtown Cleveland. He had a great interest in science, particularly with Humphry Davy's experiments with the arc light; he tinkered with and built simple electrical devices such as a static electricity machine at age 12, experimenting in a workshop on his parents farm. Brush attended Central High School in Cleveland where he built his first arc light, and graduated there with honors in 1867. His high school commencement oration was on the "Conservation of Force". He received his college education from the University of Michigan, where he studied mining engineering (there were no majors—as there are today—in electrical engineering). At Michigan, Brush was a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity (Omicron chapter).

In 1876 he secured the backing of the Wetting Supply Company in Cleveland to design his "dynamo" (an electrical generator) for powering arc lights. Brush began with the dynamo design of Zénobe Gramme but his final design was a marked divergence, retaining the ring armature idea that originated with Antonio Pacinotti. Brush remarked on his motivation for improving the generator in his : "The best forms of magneto-electric apparatus at present before the public are unnecessarily bulky, heavy, and expensive, and are more or less wasteful of mechanical power." After comparing it to the Gramme dynamo and other European entrants, the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia judged Brush's dynamo superior due to its simpler design and maintainability after completing tests in 1878.

Brush produced additional patents refining the design of his arc lights in the coming years and sold systems to several cities for public lighting, and even equipped Philadelphia's Wanamaker's Grand Depot with a system. His lights were easier to maintain, had automatic functions and burned twice as long as Yablochkov candles. His generators were reliable and automatically increased voltage with greater load while keeping current constant. By 1881, New York, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Montreal, Buffalo, San Francisco, Cleveland and other cities had Brush arc light systems, producing public light well into the 20th century.

url=|volume=70|page=142|title=Charles F. Brush and the First Public Electric Street Lighting System in America|first=Mel |last=Gorman|journal=Ohio History:the Scholarly Journal of the Ohio Historical Society|publisher=Kent State University Press|accessdate=2011-09-10}}

The San Francisco system was the first case of a utility selling electricity from a central plant to multiple customers via transmission lines. The California Electric Light Company (now PG&E)Note legal title. Roe, born circa 1852, died December 10, 1894."In June 1879 [young Canadian broker] Roe [and other investors] incorporated the California Electric Light Co., he serving as secretary and manager. J. R. Hardenbergh was the first president.... In July 1880 PIERRE B. CORNWALL was elected vice president and treasurer. Next year he became president..." purchased two generators from Charles Brush's company in 1879 and soon opened a second plant with 4 additional generators. Service charges for light from sundown to midnight was $10 per lamp per day/week. Brush's system was lighting Broadway 2 years before Edison's Pearl Street Station began lighting New York. By 1893 there were 1500 arc lights illuminating New York streets.

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