(Letter to the Sydney Morning Herald, March 20th, 1890, about the electrification of Sydney’s street-lighting, replacing gas, and the electrification of the steam-tram network. Post borrowed from the Old Sydney Album in Facebook)..
IF ORDINARY PRECAUTIONS ARE TAKEN THERE IS INFINITELY LESS DANGER IN THE USE OF ELECTRICITY THAN IN THAT OF GAS.
During the past decade (1880-90) there were in the whole of Europe only 13 deaths occasioned by electricity.
The city of Sydney,with a population of less than the 1000th part of that of Europe, can furnish a much heavier record of mortality against gas, and yet people have long ago ceased to complain of the danger attaching to the use of the latter agent.
There are far more deaths attributable to the careless use of “Rough On Rats” and many other household poisons, than to electricity.
No less than 300 persons were injured and 135 killed by the explosion of a cartridge factory at Antwerp last September, and 13 women were killed by the collapse of a carpet factory at Glasgow last November, whilst nearer home, and still more recently, about 150 lost their lives in the ill-fated SS QUETTA – still no one suggests dispensing with cartridge and carpet factories and mail steamers.
Every week has something to record in the way of boiler explosions, killing in the majority of cases over a dozen persons; gas explosions are items of every-day occurrence, yet the cranks who become furious at the bare mention of an electrical accident hardly think such mishaps worthy of mention.
During the year ending December 31, 1888, out of a total of 1258 deaths by accident in New York, electricity gave only 6, versus illuminating gas 32, kerosene 17, and drowning 173 – this alone should suffice to show that electricity is, relatively speaking, safe, and the testimony may be considered of especial value, coming from New York, where nearly every street, shop, and store of importance, and a very large number of public buildings and private dwellings, are lit by electricity, whilst a large number also of factories and workshops and tramway systems are supplied with power by the same agent”.
Wilfred J. Spruson
(photo from City of Sydney Archives shows electric tram, electric arc-lamp and telephone wires in Redfern St Redfern, c.1909.)