A Map of American Electricity Use in 1921

Power was not evenly distributed.
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Electricity_Consumption_Cartogram_1921_Literary_Digest.jpg

It's hard to remember a time when not everyone had electricity, and when those that did used it sparingly. That's because from about 1900 to 1965 or so, the electric power industry pushed the price of electricity down and down and down. By the end of their incredible technological (and corporate) surge, electricity cost very little and Americans used a lot of it.

And because it was cheap and the government had intervened in rural areas through outfits like the Tennessee Valley Authority, electricity became very evenly distributed across the land (though, even now, the price per kilowatt hour varies substantially).

In 1921, however, that was not true. The use of electricity did not basically track population. Instead, there were wide regional variations in access to and consumption electricity. In essence, the entire south used relatively less electricity than the rest of the country. 

Nowadays, that's not true.  Texas, Florida, Alabama, and Georgia are all among the top ten states for electricity production (along with Pennsylvania, Illinois, California, New York, Washington, and Ohio). Which is not what you see on the map above. Credit low prices, air conditioning, and increasing populations.

Via Jesse Jenkins at the Energy Collective

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is a senior editor at The Atlantic, where he oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer calls Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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