William Stanley, Jr. was one of America’s great innovators and inventors. He built his business in Pittsfield at the site that is now the William Stanley Business Park. When you walk here, you are walking in the footsteps of great innovators who created much of the modern world as we know it today.
During his lifetime (1858-1916), the Berkshire resident was granted 129 patents for a wide range of devices—from the first metal thermos to a better electric meter. Though lacking the name recognition of his contemporaries Edison, Tesla and Westinghouse, the prolific and creative Stanley ranks as one of the most significant inventors of AC (alternating current) power.
Stanley is noted for his patented coil transformer design in 1885, the breakthrough needed for high voltage to be transported over long distances using AC. In 1886, he demonstrated the world’s first AC lighting system, illuminating the Main Street buildings of nearby Great Barrington. Stanley founded the Stanley Electric Manufacturing Company in Pittsfield in 1890, as a creator of transformers, auxiliary electrical equipment and appliances.
Stanley Electric soon garnered the interest of General Electric, which purchased the company and provided another boon to the local economy. As William Stanley continued to create new and improved power distribution grids for GE, the company went on to become the area’s number one employer for more than a century.