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“St. Louis and the Union Electric Company,” by J.W. McAfee, The Newcomen Society of England, American Branch, NY, 1947. This 32 page pamphlet is a summary of the electric utility that serves St. Louis. It is now known as Ameren and through subsidiaries serves much of Missouri and southern Illinois. The text is an address delivered by McAfee, then President of Union Electric before the Newcomen Society in New York City on Dec 17, 1947. The Newcomen Society is named after the inventor of the original steam engine (later improved by James Watt). The society records the history of material civilization especially related to the industrial revolution and associated businesses.

The pamphlet begins with an overview of the history of settlement of the Mississippi Valley beginning with the travels of Father Marquette and his companion, Joliet, in 1673. St. Louis was founded in 1763. Thomas Edison built his Pearl Street generating station in NYC in 1882. Competitive arc lighting systems were then in primitive forms. The first hydroelectric generating plant was built at Appleton, WI, in 1882.

Electricity first came to St. Louis when Tony Faust, a restauranteur brought a Jablochkoff dyanamo and lamps back from the Paris Exposition in 1878. It ran two or three nights before it burned itself out. The equipment was repaired in time to light the St. Louis Fair in 1880. The Brush Electric Association, organized in 1882 built a generating works for arc lighting in 1889. Electric trolley cars and interurbans arrived in 1891.

A liberal ordinance enacted in 1884 made it easy to start an electric utility in St. Louis. They proliferated. As many as 100 franchises may have existed at one time or another. In 1889, they began to consolidate with the three largest forming St. Louis Illuminating Co., which evolved through a series of consolidations to form Union Electric Light & Power Co. in 1902.

In 1947, Union Electric was primarily a coal-fired/steam plant company, but they had a dam/hydroelectric plant on the Mississippi River at Keokuk, IA. The dam, first suggested by Robert E. Lee when he was with the Corp of Engineers in 1836, was developed by Mr. Hugh L. Cooper, who had built the first Niagara Falls hydropower plant. Stone & Webster arranged financing based on a contract with Union Electric to purchase a minimum of $1MM worth of power per year. Construction was completed in 1913. A second project, Bagnell Dam, the dam that forms Lake of the Ozarks, was completed in 1931.

In more recent times, Ameren has added two modern coal-fired plants, Labadie and Portage de Sioux, the Callaway nuclear power plant in Fulton, MO, and a hydropower storage facility on Tom Sauk Mountain, highest point in Missouri, which made the news a few years ago when overfilling resulted in rupture of the mountaintop dam. Plans are to reconstruct Tom Sauk. Permit requests have been filed for a second nuclear plant at Callaway.

This brief summary is the only known history of Union Electric Company. It whets the appetite for more information. Illustrations.
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