I’ve watched over 5 hours of documentaries on this hotboy right here, so that makes me America’s #1 foremost scholar on George Westinghouse. So let me drop some knowledge on why this guy is such a badass Bachelor Uncle.
First of all, he wasn’t just some scumbag rich dude leeching off the work of others. No he built his fortune off his own noggin. Dude had over 400 patents and inventions. His first patent/invention was a rotary steam engine. Which is cool and all but you know what he was doing before inventing the steam engine?
Yup. Killing slavers and traitors as a union soldier in the Civil War. Normally I don’t condone killing of any kind, but I will go on record saying that if you have to kill someone – killing people who own slaves and those who defend slavery is probably fine.
His big break-through happened when he invented the air brake for trains. You see, back in the 1800’s trains were like space shuttles. Loud, noisy, futuristic and unsafe as fuuuuuuuuuck. The biggest issue was, they basically has brakes that were akin to asking a train politely to stop. So trains exploded and crashed into shit all the time.
There was so much demand for his brakes that he amassed a fortune. He was a pretty single minded guy, so he dove into the railroad industry and had hundreds of inventions that greatly improved rail safety. The guy just gave a shit about people. And that’s why I really want to talk about Westinghouse.
The Industrial Revolution gave way to the Technological Revolution, and the Westinghouse company was on the forefront of that. These guys went from doing cool train stuff, to using compressed gas and figuring out how to use and monetize natural gas. This, of course, lead to an interest in electricity. Which brings us to Nikola Tesla.
You see, Thomas Edison just ripped this genius off. Westinghouse, while he had the opportunity to do the same thing, said “Nah man. That’s unethical” and licensed some of Tesla’s alternating current patents. Then he hired the dude for an insane amount of money (about $55,000 a month in today’s money.) The thing was, Tesla’s AC motor was stuck in development, and not ready for primetime, but Westinghouse still kept paying Tesla large sums of money. He just believed in the guy.
Later he would buy the patent from Tesla for a stupid amount of money. This money allowed Tesla to set up his own laboratories and learn how to talk to pigeons and shit. I don’t know. Tesla’s a weird dude.
So, Georgey Boy got asked to light up the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago and using Tesla’s tech, he lit up the night sky for one of the first times. Edison gets all this credit for lightbulbs and shit, but Westinghouse and Tesla actually made it happen while Thomas was being a dick electrocuting elephants.
Can you imagine what it must have been like for human beings who have never seen a lightbulb before, walking into a Roman Colosseum looking thing lit by thousands and thousands of light bulbs? It must have felt like future arrived all in an instant. It’s so cool.
His company spent millions of dollars to create a giant gold robot and it’s dog. And this robot, named Elektro, smoked cigarettes, because – of course it did. Cigarettes were full of vitamin K and lead to a long life and a beautiful golden sheen.
But I go into this stuff because it’s cool. Because George Westinghouse was a bad ass. But that’s not why he’s Bachelor Uncle of the week. He’s Bachelor Uncle of the week because of how he treated his staff.
His staff almost universally loved him. He would go on the floor and meet with the workers. He’d learn their names and the names of their family members. He had a genuine interest in the people who helped him get where he was.
While other companies were making people work 70, 80 and 100 hour work weeks, grinding these people out in unsafe work conditions and insane amounts of stress. Westinghouse limited the work day to 9 hours a day. He offered half-days on Saturdays. This was all before organized labor movements. He just felt that a happy worker was a productive worker.
But his progressive stance on worker relations goes even further. He would move into communities and build houses on the large tracts of lands. He would then sell those houses, to his employees, at cost plus 5% interest, and just take deductions out of their paychecks.
He offered on the job training and career advancement for all of his employees. He trained a lot of them personally. A lot of these people went on to start their own successful companies. George insisted on clean, healthy, nice workspaces. They would have clean lunch rooms, places to take naps, great lighting, fresh water. None of these things were standard or normal in their day.
He even instituted forms of welfare, disability and life insurance for his workers and their families. Can you believe it? The dude was progressive and really cared about his workers.
But, in 1903, the labor movement had swept across the country and Mr. Westinghouse didn’t see why he needed to unionize, what with all he offered his employees. This put him on the wrong side of the labor movement and he too, was affected by strikes and never fully unionized.
But, I would argue, from transportation to fuel to electricity and automation. George Westinghouse did more to shape the future of America than Edison or Henry Ford. He was a legit decent dude, with great ideas, an amazing brain and a bulletproof work ethic. He was a weird iconoclast that needs to be better remembered today. I’m a George Westinghouse fan, and I wish he was my uncle.
Score one for the good guys George. Godspeed.