July 9: Thomas Davenport

On July 9, 1802, Thomas Davenport was born in Vermont. He built the first direct current motor in the U.S. at age thirty-two. A blacksmith, Davenport had visited an iron works in New York in 1833 and was intrigued by the electromagnets there. He bought one, took it apart, forged a better iron core, and rewired with silk from his wife's wedding gown. Emily Davenport played a large role in the project and was named in the 1837 patent.

Three years later, Davenport used his motor to print The Electro-Magnetic and Mechanics Intelligencer. It was the first newspaper printed with electricity. The motor made no money for Davenport. Running motors with batteries was too expensive. Sales didn't take off until the electric grid developed decades later to power motors.

Davenport was also known for calling out Charles Page who won federal government dollars to build an electromagnetic locomotive. The boondoggle was made clear to all when the test run failed spectacularly. Page is deservedly credited though for exposing the greatest fraud of mid-1880s. He investigated the Fox sisters who were enriching themselves performing public séances. Page publicized that the raps were not from the spirits but from the sisters themselves.