The growth of industry in Niagara Falls is closely linked to the growth of electrical power derived from the Falls. The first commercial power generation is attributed to the Niagara Falls Power Company with Edward Dean Adams at its head. In 1895, a hydraulic tunnel designed by Erie Canal Engineer, Thomas Evershed, was placed in service and three generators were installed that each delivered 5,000 horsepower. The first use of this power was consigned to Pittsburgh Reduction Company (later ALCOA), Carborundum and Union Carbide. The success of these three companies began the great expansion of the electrochemical and electrometallurgical industries that grew along with the power from Niagara Falls.
The “Niagara Falls Gazette” of May 13, 1940 offers a glimpse into the chemical history of the Falls. “Nowhere in the world is there congregated such an extensive and varied group of electrochemical industries as are found in the Niagara Peninsula. The bulk of this industry is engaged in the electrolysis of salt and the making of ferro-alloys, carbide and artificial abrasives but an almost infinite number of other products is included, many being derivatives of the products mentioned.” Six plants in the Falls in 1940 made alkali and chlorine by electrolysis of salt brine. The combined chlorine capacity of the group was over 400 tons daily, making the Falls the greatest chlorine production area in the United States.
Other related industries found their genesis through the low cost power offered by the Falls. A few Niagara Falls plants included Niagara Alkali, Iso-Chemical, Niagara Smelting, R & H Chemicals division duPont, Oldbury, ALCOA, American Treibach, Union Carbide, Prest-o-Lyte, Linde, Vanadium, Norton, Exolon, General Abrasives, Acheson Graphite, International Graphite, Gredag, National Carbon, Great Lakes Carbon and National Aniline. These plants and others were involved in the commercial production of chlorine, aluminum, sodium, soda, potash, chlorates, ammonia, HTH, bleach, wood alcohol, hydrochloric acid, benzoyl, peroxide and a host of other products that are derived from those on this list.
Douglas Farley, Director
Ann Marie Linnabery
Erie Canal Discover Center
24 Church St.
Lockport NY 14094