VAN DEPOELE. Born in 1846.
Mr. Van Depoele, who is a Belgian, began the study of electricity when but ten years of age, at the time when the first telegraph lines were established between Poperinghe and Bruges. His father being master mechanic on the railroad at these points, the boy had access to the batteries and other electrical apparatus. He soon constructed batteries, electro magnets, etc., and with his spare money procured books on natural philosophy and electricity, which were far beyond his class in the College of Poperinghe, where he received his education. In 1861 he produced his first light with a battery of some forty Bunsen cells. The study and experiments continued with increased zeal, he passing many a night without sleep. In 1864 the family moved to Lille, France, and in a short time the young man attracted the attention of Dr. Patoir through his experiments and exhibitions. Mr. Van Depoele exhibited his light and other electrical appliances in Detroit, Michigan, in 1869, where he acquired subsequently considerable reputation in the manufacture of art furniture. The electrical experiments, however, were not abandoned, but every moment's leisure was spent in the pursuit of his hobby. Several different dynamos and induction machines, etc., were made. His aim all the time was to produce a practical electric light, and he never doubted that he would finally succeed. In 1870 he prepared a battery of one hundred Bunsen elements, exhibited the light and other experiments to his friends, who remember and bear testimony to his enthusiasm and success. In 1877 a public exhibition given of his light at Detroit, Michigan, and his friends, after witnessing the results, greatly encouraged him. He built an addition to his shop in which to conduct the experiments, undisturbed by his regular business, which business he turned over to his father. It was in this shop, and from this time that Van Depoele turned his entire attention to electrical experiments in all directions. Many different styles of lamps were made and experimented with, and not less than fifteen different styles of dynamos were made and tested, with all sorts of combinations and winding. The division of the current was accomplished, and many more difficult problems solved by these experiments. The studies and experiments were continued vigorously, and every now and then Van Depoele gave an exhibition of his light to the public. In 1879 he lighted up Adam Forepaugh's Circus; a few days later the Detroit Recreation Park, the Detroit Grand Opera House, etc. These exhibitions attracted the attention of capitalists, who cheerfully offered their assistance, and the experimenting shops were transferred to the Detroit Novelty Works, in Hamtramck, where several new machines were built and experiments continued, until in 1880, when a company was formed to enter upon the manufacture of the electric light machinery. Finding, however, that Detroit was not the real field, the company was transferred to Chicago, Illinois, where a new company was formed, being the one in existence today.