Niagara Falls Hydraulic Power and Manufacturing Company

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For other hydroelectric generating plants at Niagara Falls, see Niagara Falls hydroelectric generating plants.

Niagara Falls Hydraulic Power & Manufacturing Company of Niagara Falls, New York, was the first company to generate electricity from Niagara Falls in 1882. The company took over a canal used for hydraulic mill power which was built by predecessor companies.


In 1805 Augustus Porter along with his brother Peter Porter purchased the American Falls from New York at a public auction. The purchase also included the water rights from above the upper rapids till below the falls. Augustus proposed a hydraulic mill canal in 1847 and offered the right of way for the canal to any person ready to build it, but the Porter brothers died before somebody showed interest in the project.[1]

Later Caleb Smith Woodhull with associates had the intention to built the canal. They purchased 1852 the land with the water rights from the heirs of the Porter brothers and formed 1853 the Niagara Falls Hydraulic Company. The company started with the construction of the canal in 1853 but stopped after 16 month[2] because the construction costs of the canal had been underestimated and the company therefore failed. [1]

In 1856 Stephen N. Allen bought the company which became the Niagara Falls Water Power Company. It completed the entrance and river portion of the canal 1857.

The company was purchased by Horace H. Day in 1860 and became the Niagara Falls Canal Company. The canal was finished 1861, but could not be used because of the Civil War. In 1875 the first customer, the grist mill of Charles B. Gaskill called the Cataract City Milling Company, was using the water of the canal."Col. Charles B. Gaskill". Oakwood Cemetery Association. Retrieved 2014-01-02.  Before the water was dropping unused back to the Niagara River at the end of the canal. 1877 the company went again bankrupt and was auctioned. It was bought by Jakob Friedrich Schoellkopf, who formed 1878 the Niagara Falls Hydraulic Power and Manufacturing Company to use the canal. [1]

Built before the era of industrial production of alternating current, the electrical plant generated direct current electricity, and only provided it within a range of two miles from the plant.[3]


  1. ^ a b c Mikalac, Norman. "The Hydraulic Canal". Retrieved 1 January 2014. 
  2. ^ Howells, W.D.; Twain, Mark; Shaler, Nathaniel S. (1893). The Niagara Book. Buffalo. pp. 192–225. 
  3. ^ "Niagara Falls Frequently Asked Questions". Retrieved 2011-03-11. Although mills have been using diverted water from the Falls as a source of hydraulic power since 1759, it wasn't until 1882 that the Falls was used to generate electricity. The Niagara Falls Hydraulic Power & Manufacturing Company, which constructed a canal for hydraulic power generation nearly 20 year prior, began operating a small electrical plant in Niagara Falls, New York in 1882. The plant, which generated direct current (DC), could only distribute current a distance of 2 miles. Despite this limitation, it was a big hit for both its utility and as a tourist attraction. It was this small plant that demonstrated the potential for hydro-electric power from Niagara Falls. ...