Georgia Power Company/Southern Company
The Early Years (1883-1911)
Georgia Power Company originated in Atlanta. The company has a complex genealogy, encompassing in its history five different name changes and five different Georgia Power companies.
Electricity came to Atlanta in 1884, when the Georgia Electric Light Company of Atlanta, chartered in 1883, began service.
Just before the turn of the century, Atkinson and Joel Hurt, an Atlanta streetcar entrepreneur, engaged in fierce competition to gain control of the electric, streetcar, and steam-heat franchises issued by the city council. The dispute lasted for years, ending in 1902 when Atkinson bought out Hurt's interests
In 1903 the company added to its holdings the Atlanta Gas Light Company, which operated as the natural gas department of the electric company until 1929. For years the Butler Street Steam Plant, acquired from Joel Hurt, acted in conjunction with the Davis Street Plant and the Alabama Street Substation to provide electricity for Atlanta. Meanwhile the Atlanta Water and Electric Power Company began construction of the Morgan Falls hydroelectric plant, the first water-generated electricity used in the city. Even before its completion, Atkinson contracted to use the entire output. The Atlanta Journal reported on October 2, 1904, that for the first time the muddy waters of the Chattahoochee River were powering streetcars on the streets of Atlanta. Just east of downtown, to encourage streetcar ridership, the company developed the popular Ponce de Leon Springs as an amusement park. The number of riders increased further when the company drained the lake across from the park and erected a stadium in time for the 1907 season of the Atlanta baseball team that the company had just bought.
The Formative Years (1912-1959)
Many changes occurred during the company's formative years. Needing more power for Atlanta after the first decade of the twentieth century, Atkinson made an agreement to acquire a financially strapped hydroelectric project on the Tallulah River in north Georgia, newly begun by the Georgia Power Company, which had been chartered by C. Elmer Smith and Eugene Ashley in 1908.
In 1912 Atkinson combined this first Georgia Power Company, the Morgan Falls hydro plant, and the Georgia Railway and Electric Company
The electric company was instrumental in developing radio in Georgia and Atlanta. Because noise on telephone lines and storm damage to wires made communication with plants and substations uncertain, in 1920 the company built the first radio broadcasting station in Georgia, 4FT, later WDAW. This station rebroadcast musical programs from another pioneer station, KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as a public service, and aired some local programs as well. The Atlanta Journal became interested in radio and asked the electric company engineers to build a new station in the Journal building. This station was installed in 1922 and named WSB. Radio communications with the plants also proved to be uncertain because of the electrical noise in the plants and the vagaries of radio; one could talk to someone as far off as New England or California but not to a hydro plant a hundred miles away. Not long afterward, GRPC donated its radio station to the Atlanta Constitution, which, in turn, donated it to the Georgia Institute of Technology to establish the station WGST.
GRPC was acquired in 1926 by Southeastern Power and Light Company, a holding company. This changed to Commonwealth and Southern Corporation (1929), which became in 1947 the Southern Company, parent company of Georgia Power today. Southern Company is a leading energy provider in the nation and the world.
In 1926 the company began a string of acquisitions of smaller municipal and independently owned electric systems. The second Georgia Power Company was formed from the consolidation of several utilities controlled by Southeastern Power and Light Company. Shortly thereafter, this company combined with Georgia Railway and Electric Company and Georgia Railway and Power Company, Athens and Rome electric properties, and East Georgia Power Company to form the Georgia Power Company (the third), which received its charter in 1927. With consolidation in 1928, the company acquired electric and street railway properties in Macon under the same name, Georgia Power Company (the fourth).
When the company acquired Columbus Electric and Power Company in 1930, yet another Georgia Power Company was chartered.
During the Great Depression era, the company organized teams of salespersons outfitted with cars and trailers (called "kitchen coaches") to demonstrate and sell home appliances in rural areas. The company made little from the sale of appliances but profited from the additional use of electricity. Appliance purchasers benefited from the convenience of the appliances and from the company's appliance repair service.
The Later Years (1960-2002)
In the 1990s the company accelerated the construction of combustion turbine plants fueled by natural gas. In 2002 Georgia Power's parent company, the Southern Company, entered the gas distribution business.
Georgia Power Company, Brightening People's Lives for More than One Hundred Years (Atlanta: Georgia Power, 1998).
W. Hubert Joiner, Let Us Reason Together: A History of Labor Relations of the Georgia Power Company (Atlanta: Georgia Power, 1979).
Jean Martin, Mule to MARTA (Atlanta: Atlanta Historical Society, 1975).
Wade Wright, History of the Georgia Power Company, 1855-1956 (Atlanta: Georgia Power, 1957).
Margaret Obear Calhoon, Georgia Power Company
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