Frank Julian Sprague

Frank Julian Sprague

Electrical Inventor and Engineer
William D. Middleton and William D. III Middleton, John Sprague
Distribution: World
Publication date: 09/25/2009
Format: Hardback 111 b&w illus.
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).


“[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

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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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