Frank Julian Sprague

Frank Julian Sprague

Electrical Inventor and Engineer
William D. Middleton and William D. Middleton III
Foreword by John L. Sprague
Distribution: World
Publication date: 9/8/2009
Format: cloth 336 pages, 111 b&w illus.
7 x 10
ISBN: 978-0-253-35383-2
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Winner, The 2010 George W. and Constance M. Hilton Award
Frank Julian Sprague invented a system for distributing electricity to streetcars from overhead wires. Within a year, electric streetcars had begun to replace horsecars, sparking a revolution in urban transportation. Sprague (1857–1934) was an American naval officer turned inventor who worked briefly for Thomas Edison before striking out on his own. Sprague contributed to the development of the electric motor, electric railways, and electric elevators. His innovations would help transform the urban space of the 20th century, enabling cities to grow larger and skyscrapers taller. The Middletons’ generously illustrated biography is an engrossing study of the life and times of a maverick innovator.

Author Bio

William D. Middleton is the author of more than 20 books and many hundreds of articles on rail transportation, engineering, and travel topics. He is editor (with George M. Smerk and Roberta L. Diehl) of Encyclopedia of North American Railroads (IUP, 2007).

William D. Middleton III is a contributor to the
Encyclopedia of North American Railroads (IUP, 2007).


"No one has previously used Sprague's personal papers in a published biography . . . Recommended." —Choice , May 2010

"The authors weave this biography through time, with technological and political details that make Sprague human, a creative soul pressing his ideas with a sports-like outcome—some wins, some losses, and some ties. . . . I recommend this well-written book detailing the life of the 'Father of Electric Traction' to explain the development of what we so casually take for granted." —
Trains , April 2010

"Anyone interested in American history, urban affairs, and related topics will find this book very interesting." — , 12/1/2009

"[By documenting] the life of the person generally considered one of the most significant leaders in the development of public transit . . . [this] is a welcome addition to the literature." —James H. Graebner, author of
From Small Town to Downtown: A History of the Jewett Car Company

"Frank Sprague . . . is a major historical figure who for decades lacked a significant biography. This void has been ably and engagingly filled in this book by the dean of electric traction authors, William D. Middleton, and his son, William III." —Classic Trains , Summer 2010

"This definitive, and long-awaited, biography of the 'Father of Electric Traction' details the life and times of an exceptional engineer, maverick innovator, entrepreneur, and businessman." —
NMRA Magazine , August 2010

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Table of Contents

Foreword by John L. Sprague

1. A Boyhood in New England
2. The Midshipman Inventor
3. Sprague and the New World of Electricity
4. Triumph at Richmond
5. Sprague and the Electric Elevator
6. Frank Sprague and the Multiple Unit Train
7. Electrifying the Main Line Railroads
8. The Naval Consulting Board and the Great War
9. Sprague and Railroad Safety
10. A Diverse Inventor
11. An Inventor and Engineer to the End
12. Epilogue

Appendix A. Frank Julian Sprague Patents
Appendix B. Frank Julian Sprague Honors and Awards
Appendix C. Common Electrical Terms
Selected Bibliography
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