Today, we hear politicians decry that the federal government is killing the private enterprise of coal mining by imposing environmental regulations and supporting other forms of energy. 

This is nothing new. The same scenario played out when, in 1935, the Rural Electrification Administration was established by an executive order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The agency was tasked with bringing electricity to the rural areas of the country. Extremely effective in accomplishing its mission, the agency managed to bring the percentage of rural residents using electrical power from 10% in 1930 to 50% by the beginning of World War II. Fayette Electric Cooperative had its origins in this government initiative.

Delco-Light plantHowever, that move ultimately destroyed an entire division of General Motors known as Delco-Lights and other similar business that were already providing electricity to nearly 1,000,000 farms in 1935. Thousands of people who were employed in the manufacturing, distribution, sales, installation, and servicing of these products were affected. The last Delco-Light plant was manufactured in 1947.

The Delco-Light plant was first built in 1916. The plant acted as an automobile system does today by using power from a storage battery to crank its engine. Then, the system turned the engine into a generator and stored electricity in batteries, or it could be used for direct power or light.

The device could ultimately provide electricity for several days before a recharge was necessary.

Other manufacturers began to produce devices to run off the Delco-Light plant, such as shallow and deep well pumps and systems for running water, clothes washers, vacuum cleaners, coffee percolators, toasters, waffle irons, irons, mixers, sewing machines, and even a portable power stand to operate the belt driven farm and household equipment that was popular at the time.

Local merchants carried light plants and products.  Farmers & Merchants Lumber Company of Brenham, Texas sponsored an exhibit on January 30, 1923 at 3 p.m. featuring Delco products such as a light plant, washing machine, Frigidaire, and power stand.  It was held on a train parked in Flatonia, Texas.

The September 18, 1931 issue of the Schulenburg Sticker noted that Charles Adamcik was demonstrating a new Delco radio with German tubes that plugged into the plant and used little electricity. The sound was described as the finest they had heard in a long time.

Lastly, local farmers enjoyed these products. The 1935 issue of the Schulenburg Sticker entitled Rural News Items stated:

“Emil Treptow and wife of Hallettsville R 5 have six boys. All are single with the exception of one who lives in Houston. This farm is in good condition, with plenty of teams, hogs, etc. They milk ten cows and sell butter and use the rest of the milk to feed the large flock of White Leghorn chickens and Narraganset turkeys. A few years ago their home burned and this was replaced with a new mission style house. It is splendidly furnished with all modern conveniences. He does not have to worry about the cold weather as he can set (sic) by a warm stove, turn on the radio and be comfortable. His home is lighted by a Delco system. He sells eggs from his pedigreed flock to the hatchery at Schulenburg.”

Photo caption: 
Illustration of a Delco Light Plant; photo courtesy of

Https:// downloaded December 21, 2018.
Https:// downloaded December 21, 2018.
Http:// downloaded December 21, 2018.
The Flatonia Argus (Flatonia, Tex.), Vol. 47, No. 13, Ed. 1 Thursday, January 25, 1923.
The Schulenburg Sticker (Schulenburg, Tex.), Vol. 37, No. 45, Ed. 1 Friday, September 18, 1931.
The Schulenburg Sticker (Schulenburg, Tex.), Vol. 41, No. 13, Ed. 1 Friday, February 1, 1935


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