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Above All, A Name

Fortnightly Magazine - January 1 1998

the future of Niagara Falls ("Suicide of a Waterfall," Feb. 9, 1928, p. 11), the Welch style was unmistakable. Consider this report of a 1927 order settling a dispute over a utility trade name. Though it appears without byline, its author cannot be doubted, at least in the mind of anyone who knew Francis Welch:

The Albatross of the "Ancient Mariner," which "every day for food or play, came to the mariner's hollo" met an untimely death, according to the poet Coleridge, but its name has been preserved to lend its good will to the operations of the "Albatross Coach Line," which Messrs. Combs and McCartney operated not as a partnership but as separate individuals under the same name. When certificates for such operation were granted by the Missouri commission, however¼ ("Under the Sign of the Albatross," Feb. 9, 1928, p. 22.)

Or this account of Halloween vandalism aimed at street lights in the city of Providence, R.I.:

The mortality rate among the electric light bulbs of the city of Providence, R.I., is increasing at such a rate that it is causing grave concern to Ralph W. Eaton, who, as the city's public service engineer, is the man to become gravely concerned.

The year 1934 wasn't a particularly good year for light breaking. True, there were 4,498 lamps and 1,239 globes broken but that was hardly a drop in the bucket compared to what the folks did in 1936¼ Whether this was due to increased interest in the matter or to improved marksmanship Mr. Eaton doesn't say. ("Electric Bulbs Destroyed by Acts of Providence," June 4, 1936, p. 724.)

Even on the eve of World War II, Welch never flinched in the task of providing knowledge and insight for his readers:

The year 1940 is bound to bring headaches to everybody in all lines of business and all walks of life. The reasons are obvious: There is the war in Europe with its unavoidable impact upon our national economy and public psychology. Next, there is the general election which even at this early date has all the politicians tearing their hair trying to figure out the various angles. These are going to be disturbing factors - to put the matter mildly. But disturbing factors are nothing new to the utility industries. ("The Washington Outlook for Utilities - 1940," Jan. 4, 1940, p. 3.)

By 1975, Lucien E. Smartt had taken up where Francis Welch left off. Cognizant of the Fortnightly's special mandate to educate and inform, Smartt (managing editor, 1975-1980; editor, 1981; editor-in-chief, 1982-89) carried on the tradition of professionalism. To his credit, he openly questioned what he came to see as overzealous regulation in the 1970s and 1980s, such as the Fuel Use Act (barring natural gas fuel for electric generation) and the unnatural excitement over "negawatts" and demand-side management. Writing in 1979, Lucien Smartt reiterated the challenge that we gladly accept today:

Public Utilities Fortnightly is still an open forum for the free expression of opinions - and dissemination of information

- which are germane to the conditions of public