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Columbian Exposition

Columbian Exposition
1893

In 1893 the world’s innovators were engaged in a race to harness electricity to provide power for humanity.  In the lead were Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison, with Tesla’s alternating current (A/C) concept going up against Edison’s direct current (D/C) system in what is known as the “Battle of the Currents.”

When the Chicago World Fair was illuminated using Nikola Tesla’s neon fluorescent lighting powered by his A/C system, it was a spectacle that amazed the world.

The battle came to a head at the 1893 Chicago World Fair (also known as the Columbian Exposition in honor of the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ voyage to the Americas).  Inventors were invited to submit bids to light the fair using electricity. Edison submitted a bid for $554,000 using his D/C concept. But George Westinghouse, armed with Tesla’s patents for A/C power, bid $399,000 and won the contract.

Columbia Exposition at the 1893 Chicago World Fair featuring Tesla's A/C and fluorescent lighting inventions
Tesla and Westinghouse team up to outshine Edison at the 1893 Chicago World Fair.

When the 1893 Chicago World Fair was illuminated using Nikola Tesla’s inventions for A/C electricity and fluorescent lighting, it was a spectacle that amazed the world.  More important, Tesla’s victory over Edison in the Battle of the Currents was a win with far-reaching impact:  Tesla proved to the world that A/C was superior to D/C for safely transmitting power over long distances to a large population, and A/C became the standard system of our modern power grid.

Pivotal Moments in Nikola Tesla’s Life

Explore the inventor's most influential moments and discoveries using our interactive Tesla Timeline.

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