National Electric Light Association. Convention.

Convention, Volume 42, Part 1 online

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tee to consider the President's Address and report its findings at
a subsequent session Mr. Charles L. Edgar of Boston, Mr. John
F. Gilchrist of Chicago, and Mr. J. E. Davidson of Omaha. ,

(President Wells in the Chair. )^

The President: The Secretary has some announcements to

Acting Secretary Sewall read the following telegram :

San Francisco, Cal., May 16, 1919.
R. H. Ballard, Vice-President,

National Electric Light Association, Atlantic City, N: J.
Please convey to your Convention the felicitations of the
Pacific Coast Section N.E.L.A. and cordially invite members to
be present at the most enthusiastic of all electrical conventions
ever staged in the West, April, 1920. We feel that contact be-
tween the East and West among members of the electrical indus-
try is of vital importance and you can promise that matters of
such timely interest will be discussed as will justify Eastern dele-
gations coming West to our Convention at that time.

E. A. Wishon, President.

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Acting Secretary Sewall also read the following telegram :

Chicago, III., May 19-1919.
W. F. Wells, President,

National Electric Light Association,
Atlantic City, N. J.
Very much regret that owing to the delay in my return home from
Europe it is impossible for me to be at the Convention of the
National Electric Light Association this week. Please convey my
regrets to my friends. I hope that the Convention will be a very
great success. Samuel Insull.

Acting Secretary Sewall also read the following announce-

"Mr. E. P. Edwards, chairman of the wireless telephone
demonstration of wireless telephony, announces that wireless tele-
phone communication may be had between the Million Dollar
Pier and the Steel Pier at any time during the Convention. This
is in addition to the times previously set for demonstrations of
wireless telephony."

W. H. Johnson, Philadelphia, Pa. : There will be no mem-
ber of this Association more missed from this Convention than
Mr. John W. Lieb ; we miss his kindly manner and helpful sug-
gestions, and the wonderful store of information that he always
gives at every Convention. I therefore move that a committee
of three be appointed with power to send Mr. Lieb a telegram
forthwith, at the beginning of this Convention, expressing our
s)rmpathy with him in his illness and good wishes for his speedy
recovery, and that the telegram be spread on the minutes of this
Convention as a part of the proceedings.

The President: Gentlemen, you have heard the motion. I
know we will all miss Mr. Lieb very much. He has been the
heart and soul of this Association, as well as of other associations,
and in putting this motion I am going to ask all who are in favor
of it to please signify by a rising vote.

(The motion was unanimously carried by a rising vote.)

The President: I will appoint Mr. W. H. Johnson, Mr.
W. H. Atkins and Mr. Martin Insull as said committee.

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In accordance with our regular practice, I will appoint as
sergeants-at-arms during the Convention Messrs. Anderson and
Marshall of the Association, and Mr. Millar of the Electrical
Testing Laboratories.

We will now have the report of the Acting Secretary, Mr.
S. A. SewalL

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While the activities of the Association committees "Were very
much curtailed during the first half 'of the administrative year on
account of the war, soon after the armistice the demand for pfe-
war activities was so strong that the Executive Committee at its
meeting on January 10, 1919, gave the order for full steam ahead.
During the time from January 10 to May 15, 1919, a total of
seventy-five committee meetings were held with a combined at-
tendance of 1127. These committees have prepared forty-three
papers, which have been printed for this Convention.

The general work of the office has been very active both
during the war and after the armistice, handling a great deal of
correspondence, as many of the smaller member companies called
for assistance of all kinds and through the Information and Data
Department we were able to render considerable help. During the
year we have had four hundred specific requests for help and
information; we have issued 1700 handbooks and over 12,000
miscellaneous publications. While the size of the Bulletin was
materially reduced, there were issued about 130,000 copies, and of
the 1918 Convention Proceedings 9500 copies were distributed.

The Rate Book, which now contains the rates of all cities
serving a population of 25,000 and upwards, is very much in
demand and is practically self-supporting. We now have 614
subscriptions. Rate Research still holds its own with a subscrip-
tion list of 338.

The Commercial Section now has several very attractive pub-
lications which it is offering to the membership.

With the impetus which the present Convention will give to
the work of the Association it is evident that its activities will
more than keep pace with the demands of the reconstruction

The President: The next number on the program is the
report of our insurance expert, which will be presented by Mr.
W. H. Blood, Jr.


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The title "Insurance Expert" conveys but little conception
of the functions of the office. A brief review, therefore, of the
causes which led up to the creation of this position, together with
a short history of achievements, is especially opportune and fit-
ting, as the first decade is drawing to a close since the creation
of the office which the present incumbent has filled continuously.

Ten years ago the National Electrical Code (Underwriters'
Code) was, with the rapid progress in the art, undergoing con-
stant change and it became apparent to the officers that the
National Electric Light Association should be represented by
some one in attendance at all of the conferences. When changes
were considered it was necessary to see that no rules were
adopted which would retard the development of the electric light
and power industry. There were, moreover, tendencies at that
time toward the introduction of rules materially increasing the
cost of electric wiring and in turn tending to prevent the wider
uses of electric light and power. At the same time it was evident
that many of the rules were susceptible of modification so as to
reduce the fire hazard.

In order to secure intelligent cooperation with the Under-
writers, your officers thought it advisable to obtain the services
of one familiar with the installation of wiring systems and with
the construction and operation of electric light and power plants.
As a result the writer was selected and the position of "Insur-
ance Expert" created to fit the case.

In the process of evolution the Underwriters* Electric Asso-
ciation, which had been responsible for the National Electrical
Code, was dissolved, and the work formerly undertaken by it was
taken over by the Electrical Committee of the newly formed
National Fire Protection Association. Representatives of all of
the electrical associations of national character were included on
this Committee. Your Insurance Expert has, as a result, repre-
sented the National Electric Light Association on the Electrical
Committee since it was formed. He has also served on many of
the sub-committees, has attended all of the meetings and has

Maai^scrtpt of this report was received April twenty-fourth.


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been active in all matters connected with the electrical work of
the Association.

That it is necessary to have some one on the watch for un-
desirable rules is evident from the fact that from year to year
niany proposed changes have come up before this Electrical
Committee, which, if they have been passed, would have hurt
the electric industry materially. These injurious rules have been
resisted by your representative, and in general his suggestions
have had due consideration by the Electrical Committee. Our
relations have been, and I see no reason why they should not
continue to be, most harmonious. The National Fire Protection
Association has recognized and emphasized the desirability of
having the Electrical Committee composed of men who have the
time and inclination to represent continuously their respective
associations, men who are familiar with the historical forma-
tion of the rules and who are so closely identified with the
organizations which they represent as to be able to speak with
some authority.

For many yeirs the National Electrical Code was revised
biennially in open meeting at which there was free discussion, a
vote being taken on each proposed change. This method of pro-
cedure furnished no opportunity for the consideration of changes
in the Code, except for a short period just prior to these meet-
ings. This resulted in a large amount of rush work just before
each meeting, and fdr the remainder of the two-year period there
was practically no opportunity for consideration of any matter
that might come up. A proposed change which was not approved
in the open meeting had to lie over for two years. There was
also no provision for permitting the use of new apparatus or
trial of novel wiring systems even on a tentative basis.

A change in procedure, however, has been brought about.
Under the present arrangement the work of the Electrical Com-
mittee, as a whole, is to be conducted by two classes of commit-
tees to be known as standing committees and technical sub-com-
mittees. The standing committees are what might be termed
"steering committees" or "committees of initiation," and they
are largely responsible for the future of the National Elec-
trical Code. Associated with them are to be technical sub-com-
mittees to which detailed investigations are to be referred. By

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this arrangement, continuous performance is expected, although,
as previously, changes in the code can be expected only once in
two years. Investigations and recommendations, however, will
be always under consideration. A committee is also to be
appointed to deal with the subject of new appliances and novel
systems of construction.

Under present arrangements it is expected that all sugges-
tions to be presented to the Electrical Committee will come
through the accredited representative of one of the natiomil
organizations forming the Committee. In this way the many
hastily conceived suggestions coming from irresponsible indi-
viduals should be eliminated. The biennial public meeting will be
continued, but will hereafter be in the nature of a hearing, and
any vote taken then will be considered simply as an expression
of opinion and will not necessarily be binding upon the Electrical
Committee. The Electrical Committee will meet after the hear-
ing and make its own definite recommendations to the National
Fire Protection Association, of which organization it is a part.

It is intended that representatives of the National Electric
Light Association shall serve on some of the technical sub=-com-
mittees in order that they may furnish operating experience. If
any members of the Association are especially interested in any
of the subjects covered in the Code, or know of men who are
peculiarly well qualified to act upon these sub-committees, your
Insurance Expert should be informed of them. This will be of
great assistance in the formation of the committees, will help to
establish rules which are in accordance with recognized practice
and will naturally bring about a closer cooperation between the
National Fire Protection Association and the National Electric
Light Association.

A few years ago whenever there was a fire which by any
forced conclusions could be attributed to electrical causes, it was
common practice to attempt to make the electric light company
which furnished the current stand the loss. This resulted in the
bringing of a great many suits against electrical companies on the
ground of n^ligence. Such cases were frequently brought at
the instance of insurance companies, and because of the famil-
iarity of their attorneys with the conduct of such cases and the
unfamiliarity of the attorneys of the electric companies, verdicts

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were often secured against the lighting companies. The officers
of the National Electric Light Association, realizing the serious-
ness of such situations, called upon your Insurance Expert to
assist member companies in resisting such suits. Your Insurance
£xpert has, therefore, for a period of years been very active along
these lines and has rendered assistance to the companies thus
attacked by outlining the nature of the evidence necessary for
defence; by submitting, to the local attorneys, references in
court decisions; by instructing these attorneys in electrical mat-
ters; by assisting them in determining the actual cause of the
fire; by examining the witnesses for the trial and by acting as
general adviser throughout the case, frequently serving himself
as an expert witness. As a result of this procedure, compara-
tively few suits have been brought during the past few years,
and it is most gratifying to state that in every suit into which your
Insurance Expert has been summoned since his office was created
no decision has been rendered against a member company. A
belief that this record can be continued indefinitely is of course
not to be expected.

Since the last report was submitted by your Insurance Expert,
several important cases have been handled in a manner approxi-
mately as outlined above. One of them was in the nature of an
arbitration proceeding between the New York, New Haven and
Hartford Railroad Company and the Adams Express Company
which was heard before the Honorable William H. Taft, as
Arbitrator. The Railroad Company's station at Hartford, Con-
necticut, was largely destroyed by fire and the Express Company
asserted that the fire was due to electrical origin. This loss was
approximately $300,000. Testimony was introduced, as usual,
to show that the fire was hottest on the ceiling of the building
where the electric light wires were located. With this as a start-
ing point, an ingenious theory was worked up to show that the
fire originated on the wires through the leakage of high tension
current which jumped various gaps and went through 110 volt
fuses, switches and meters without injuring them. The theory
was full of weak links and supposition rested upon supposition.
Your Insurance Expert gave his usual services in this case, acting
as an expert witness, and he has the pleasure of reporting that
Judge Taft decided that the fire was not of electrical origin.

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In another case where suit was brought against the Har-
wood Electric Company of Hatzelton, Pa., an attempt was made
to show that the fire was caused by the negligence of the Com-
pany in allowing 2200 volts to get into a mill, thus causing a loss
of some $25,000. Your Insurance Expert, assisted in establish-
ing the method of procedure, helped in the examination of wit-
nesses and finally testified in this case. It was proved that 2200
volts did not get into the mill and that besides numerous other
possible causes, an electric fire might have "been started by 220
volts, due to the defective wiring installation of the customer.
The trial judge handed down an opinion directing judgment in
favor of the Harwood Electric Company. It is no exaggeration
to say that the accurate presentation of the electrical details of
this case (as the judge was unusually well posted on electrical
matters) was the determining factor in the decision.

In another important case tried in Martinsburg, West Vir-
ginia, the claim was made that an employee in a dyeing estab-
lishment was killed by a 2200 volt current furnished by the Poto-
mac Light and Power Company. In this case your Insurance
Expert assisted in the preparation of the line of evidence neces-
sary, in securing the desired witnesses, and also in giving expert
testimony. The weight of the evidence showed that the man
received neither 2200 volts, nor even 110 volts used on the light-
ing circuit, but met his death by a blow on the head occasioned
by a fall. The verdict of the jury in this case was in favor of
the Potomac Light and Power Company. The case was fought
hard and was won only by superior handling and intelligent pre-
sentation of the electrical features. Since the decision, however,
new evidence has been presented and the court has set aside the
verdict of the jury and ordered a new trial. The Compan/s
attorney, however, has applied for a writ of error and the case
is now pending in the Supreme Court of Appeals.

Your Insurance Expert has been in correspondence with
many member companies ; has given them desired information in
the matter of ratings and improvement of risks; has furnished
many technical details in reference to the best type of construc-
tion and has outlined what constitutes standard practice. The
service rendered by the Insurance Expert is necessarily intermit-
tent, but, as is obvious from the above report, it frequently calls

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for several days, sometimes weeks, of uninterrupted time, and is
supplemented by almost daily routine matters needing prompt

Your Insurance Expert again offers his services to all mem-
ber companies and, in order that no precedents may be estab-
lished against this industry, suggests the desirability of consult-
ing him in reference to all suits instituted on account of elec-
trical fires. He also desires to secure the closest cooperation of
all the member companies with reference to improvements in the
National Electrical Code, in order that these rules may be drafted
with due reference to the best engineering practice and economy.

The President: If anyone desires to ask Mr. Blood any
questions on this Report, or to say a word in discussion of the
same, the opportunity is now open. (No response.) If not, we
will proceed to the next number on our program, which is "Report
of Rate Research Committee," which will be presented by Mr.
Alex Dow.

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The Rate Research Committee held no stated meetings
last year. It continued the publication of Rate Research
and the Rate Book and answered such questions as came
to its Chairman or to its members by direct correspondence.
When these questions were of general interest, notice was taken
of them in the Bulletin. In most cases the answer would have
been found in Rate Research had the inquirer read that publica-
tion regularly. Moral — subscribe to Rate Research.

That publication just about breaks even. Its effect on rate
practice, through furnishing information to State Commissions,
as well as to our own members, is unquestionably valuable. There
is a distinct reduction in the arising and holding forth of cruel and
unusual rate theories and rate schedules.

The Rate Book as a financial proposition does not break even,
but the deficit is not so big as we thought it would be. The value
of the Rate Book is unquestionable when a company is actively
studying rate problems. Its general usefulness, as compared to
the weekly publication of Rate Research, is doubtless much less.
We have had several suggestions as to betterment or as to exten-
sions that might be made in the Rate Book, but we would rather
see its publication continued for a year or more, on the present
plan and under normal business conditions, before we attempt
either to better it or withdraw it.

Now as to the peace-time work of the Committee. During
these years of war all we could do was to watch and make record
of the evolutions of the subject — z subject changing in its color
and scope almost daily during that period. Our record has given
us much material for study. It has given us no new rate theory,
neither any new rate method. Indeed, I do not look for either
of these.

A few remarks are in order at this time, in advance of the
detailed study for which we are now having opportimity. The use
of a surcharge rather than an alteration of a rate schedule is a
war-time expedient, of which the motive is obvious. It is in-


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tended to make clear the belief of the Commission that war-time
costs are only temporary. That they shall be temporary is our
hope, but I now remind you that cpsts have not yet gone down ;
that the conditions that warranted rate increases and surcharges
remain with us ; and that the period of readjustment is not likely
to be a period of rapid regression in costs.

Another rate method which has had considerable vogue is
the use of a coal clause, so called, recommended some time ago
by the R^te Research Committee as specially applicable to large
contracts. The coal clause method has been given, in some cases,
a wider scope than that recommendation contemplated. How the
clause has served its purpose during the war is a matter of inter-
est, but how it will work in contracts continuing during peace time
is a matter of greater interest. It is going to be difficult to keep
it impressed upon* our customers that coal costs have not yet defi-
nitely gone down and may not go down. Also, the Committee's
former warning of possibilities of disputes with customers, who
may challenge the good faith of the company in its statement of
coal costs, is a warning of even more importance today than it
was during the period when coal costs were officially fixed. Re-
member that what seems a simple matter to those companies
which buy, f.oi. barge or cars, their year's supply of coal at
a contract rate, and can offer the contract as evidence of costs,
is a very complex matter for those companies which had to go
into the open market in order to make good contract deficiencies,
or have had Fuel Administration supplies wished upon them
during the last months of fhat late-lamented Administration, and
which still have those supplies which may be excessive in quantity
and undesirable in quality. The policy of wisdom will be the
policy of guessing in advance what explanation will be required,
and then, if possible, avoiding the explanations.

Another clause which had an increased vogue during the
war period was the Power Factor clause. Everybody who has it
says it is all right; but I sometimes think that these professions
are like those of the fellow who married the wrong girl and just
dared not acknowledge it. While the Committee has recom-
mended the use of a Power Factor clause and pointed out the
equity of it, that recommendation gave the warning that the clause
should either definitely be a penalty clause intended as a deterrent

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or it should be a very carefully worded cost clause intended to
graduate the rate according to increased costs resulting from poor
power factor. The distinction between these two methods must
be recognized and observed.

Other committees of the Association are dealing with meth-
ods of power factor determination, of metering and even termi-
nology, and the work of these committees will in due time be help-
ful and will be received with great satisfaction by the Rate Re-
search Committee. The relation of our Committee to all of these
junior committees requires a word or two. Our work neces-
sarily' touches on that of the Meter Committee. It also touches
upon that of the commercial sales committees — thus a two-part
method, intended to encourage the long use of current, is, be-
cause of its purpose, a matter for the consideration of the Com-
mercial Section. Again, when we study the question, either for
our own information or to enable us to answer the conundrums
which are asked of us, as to why in one territory rates for one
class of service^ say lighting or power, should be relatively high
and the other class relatively low as compared to exactly opposite
conditions in some other territory, we find that we run into the
province of the Accounting Section and into the very dubiously
lighted and very much wire-entangled "No Man's Land" of the
apportionment of costs to classes of service. And having each
of us, individually, and all of us as a committee, rather burned
our fingers and torn our clothes in such explorations, we are shy-
ing from consideration of that interesting subject, and are quite
willing to leave it to the enterprise of our junior committee.

Our attitude therefore is that our duty is to study rate-
making methods, to furnish information thereon, and in due time

Online LibraryNational Electric Light Association. ConventionConvention, Volume 42, Part 1 → online text (page 4 of 32)