westinghouse electric

Bertha Lamme Feicht

(1869–1943) Engineer

Bertha Feicht is considered to be the first American woman to earn a degree in a discipline of engineering other than civil engineering. Her thesis addressed mechanical and electrical engineering. After graduation she accepted a position at Westinghouse as the first woman engineer at that firm. In 1973 the Westinghouse Educational Foundation created a scholarship in her name.

Number 160 in an ongoing series celebrating remarkable women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Diaspora: Notable German- Americans

German Americans are the USA’s #1 heritage group and have been influential in almost every field in American society, including science, architecture, business, sports, entertainment, theology, politics, and the military. Famous German-Americans include:

MILITARY: Baron von Steuben, John Pershing, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Chester W. Nimitz, Carl Andrew Spaatz, Norman Schwarzkopf 

POLITICIANS: Carl Schurz, Friedrich Hecker, Frederick Muhlenberg, Henry Morgenthau, Jr. and Sr., Dwight D. Eisenhower, Herbert Hoover, Henry Kissinger, and John Boehner

INDUSTRY & BUSINESS: Henry J. Heinz, (Heinz ketchup), Frank Seiberling (Goodyear Tires), Walt Disney (Disney), John D. Rockefeller (Standard Oil), William Boeing (The Boeing Company/United Airlines), Walter Chrysler (Chrysler Corp), Frederick & August Duesenberg (Duesenberg Automobile Corp), Studebaker brothers (Studebaker Automobile Corp), George Westinghouse (Westinghouse Electric Corporation), Levi Strauss (Levi’s jeans), Charles Guth (Pepsi cola), Bill Gates (Microsoft), Elon Musk (SolarCity/SpaceX/Tesla Motors), James L. Kraft (Kraft Foods), Henry E. Steinway (Steinway & Sons pianos), Charles Pfizer (Pfizer, Inc.), Donald Trump (The Trump Org), John Jacob Astor (Waldorf Astoria Hotels), Conrad Hilton (Hilton Hotels), Guggenheim family (Guggenheim Foundation), Marcus Goldman (Goldman Sachs), Lehman Brothers, Carl Laemmle (Universal Studios), Marcus Loew (MGM Studios), Harry Cohn (Columbia Pictures), Herman Hollerith (IBM)), Steve Jobs (Apple Inc.), Michael Dell (Dell Inc.), Eric Schmidt (Google), Peter Thiel (PayPal Inc.), Adolph Simon Ochs and Arthur Ochs Sulzberger (The New York Times), Charles Bergstresser (The Wall Street Journal), Al Neuharth (USA Today), Eugene Meyer (The Washington Post) etc.

BEER BREWING: German Americans were pioneers and dominated beer brewing for much of American history, beginning with breweries founded in the 19th century by German immigrants August Schell (August Schell Brewing Company), Christian Moerlein (Christian Moerlein Brewing Co.), Eberhard Anheuser (Anheuser-Busch), Adolphus Busch (Anheuser-Busch), Adolph Coors (Coors Brewing Company), Frederick Miller (Miller Brewing Company), Frederick Pabst (Pabst Brewing Company), Bernhard Stroh (Stroh Brewery Company), and Joseph Schlitz (Joseph Schlitz Brewing Company). 

ARCHITECTS, SCIENTISTS & ASTRONAUTS: Brooklyn Bridge engineer John A. Roebling and architects Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe left behind visible landmarks. Albert Einstein, J. Robert Oppenheimer, Wernher von Braun, John Peter Zenger, John Steinbeck, Kurt Vonnegut, Joseph Weizenbaum etc. set intellectual landmarks while Neil Armstrong was the first human to land on the moon.

HOLLYWOOD PEOPLE & SPORTS ATHLETES & MUSIC: Still others, such as Bruce Willis, George Eyser, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jack Nicklaus, Doris Day, Grace Kelly, Clark Gable, Marlene Dietrich, Johnny Weissmuller, Ernst Lubitsch, Walter Damrosch, John Denver, John Kay, Meryl Streep, Kim Basinger, Sandra Bullock, David Hasselhoff, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kirsten Dunst, Kevin JameS, and Steven Spielberg became prominent athletes, actors, film directors or artists.

Elektro the Moto-Man and Sparko his dog were made by the Westinghouse Electric Corporation and displayed at the New York World’s Fair in 1939 and 1940. Seven feet tall and weighing 250 pounds, Elektro could walk, smoke cigarettes, count, and unleash simple quips like, “My brain is bigger than yours.” Sparko, well he just barked, as dogs are wont to do. Probably he smoked too, if his circuits got too hot. Elektro may not seem impressive now, but at the time he amazed millions of visitors to the New York Fair. The hole in his chest was not built there in homage to Frank L. Baum’s heartless Tin Man, but so spectators could see there was no operator inside working his levers and gears. Possibly the hole grew larger when World War II’s metals shortages prompted Westinghouse to scrap plans to build him a female companion. Today Elektro resides at the Mansfield Memorial Museum in Mansfield, Ohio, where Westinghouse was once based. And little Sparko, well he’s gotten lost, as dogs as wont to do. The photo dates from 1939.

Edison Electrical Institute, “Live Better Electrically”

Better Homes and Gardens. May 1966. 

The Live Better Electrically campaign was an initiative launched in partnership between General Electric and Westinghouse in 1956. In postwar America, people were honing in on all the modern conveniences and innovations of the era, and the demand for electricity rose. The thing is, as more consumers got on the grid, electricity costs went down, so there was a push to create more electric demand. Having a Gold Medallion home meant that you were at the forefront of modernity, and had a completely electric home - appliances, heat, lighting, air conditioning, you name it. You even had to have a certain number of outlets to qualify for that coveted medallion. The campaign was marketed heavily at least through the early ‘70s, and real estate agents still used medallion homes as a selling point after that point. 

The main spokesman for the campaign was Ronald Reagan, and television viewers could marvel at how life was so much more efficient through the magic of electricity. Here’s a fun video of one of the spots that includes the entire Reagan family: