This dynamo, connected directly to a high-speed steam engine, was one of six that produced direct current at Thomas A. Edison's electric power station at 257 Pearl Street in New York City. The Pearl Street Station was the prototype for central station power generation. Edison set out in 1878 to provide an electrical distribution system to bring lighting into the home: His first filament lamp lit on October 21, 1879. With the help of Frances Upton and C.L. Clarke, Edison built his engine-driven dynamo for the 1881 Paris Electrical Exposition.
This machine, which began operation on December 15, 1891, for the New York Edison Illuminating Company, represents the beginning of large-scale electric power generation in the United States. The generator was designed by chief engineer John Van Vleck, David Joy (known in England for his valve gear), and S. F. Prest.