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British Industrial History

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Alexander Dow

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Alexander Dow (1862-1942)

1942 Obituary [1]

ALEXANDER DOW, outstanding as an engineer, administrator, and financial expert on public utilities in the United States, died at Ann Arbor, Michigan, on the 22nd March, 1942. He was a man of broad interests and high character, who fashioned his life on the solid rock of honesty and fair dealing. He built exceedingly well.

Born in Glasgow on the 12th April, 1862, he went to the United States in 1882 and his early work was done during his employment by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, the Baltimore and Ohio Telegraph Co., and the Brush Electric Co. of Cleveland, Ohio, who manufactured the Brush arc-light dynamo. For the latter Company he was responsible for the design and construction in 1892 of a lighting system for the city of Chicago, utilizing underground cables for distribution.

In 1893 the city of Detroit employed him as engineer to design, build and operate a municipal lighting plant, at a time when a municipal plant was a real adventure in economics and civic relations. In 1896 he became Vice-President and General Manager of the Edison Illuminating Co. of Detroit, a predecessor of the Detroit Edison Co., which was formed in 1903.

In 1912 he became President of that Company and held this position for 28 years; resigning the presidency in 1940, he then became Chairman of its Executive Committee. During all those years his insistence upon furnishing reliable service at fair rates played a major part in the remarkable growth of the city of Detroit. From 1916 to 1921 he served that city as the engineer member of its Board of Water Commissioners, of which Board he was President from 1925 to 1932. He introduced the same sound business procedure into this city department which he had always observed in private practice.

He held honorary degrees from the University of Michigan, the University of Detroit, and Wayne University. He was elected a Member of The Institution in 1911 and was awarded by the American Institute of Electrical Engineers the Edison Medal for 1936.

A man of quick sympathies and deep human understanding, he had the respect and affection of the 10000 men and women who made up his staff, and of countless others in Detroit and throughout the United States.

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