The Last Days of Night

The Last Days of Night
Historical Timeline

As a work of historical fiction, one of the major techniques employed in The Last Days of Night is a compressing and rearranging of the real-life calendar of events. Below, you can find both the real and the fictional timelines, so you can see where they match-up and where they diverge. Click on each event to see a primary source account of it.

Please note: “Historical spoilers” abound, so don’t read this until you’ve finished the book!

THE BOOK

REAL LIFE

Edison tells the New York Sun that he’s invented an electric lamp

September 16, 1878

Edison tells the New York Sun that he’s invented an electric lamp

Edison tells the New York Sun that he’s invented an electric lamp

September 16, 1878

Edison tells the New York Sun that he’s invented an electric lamp

Edison applies for a patent on an ‘incandescent electric lamp’

November 4, 1879

Edison applies for a patent on an ‘incandescent electric lamp’

Edison applies for a patent on an ‘incandescent electric lamp’

November 4, 1879

Edison applies for a patent on an ‘incandescent electric lamp’

Edison receives the patent for the ‘incandescent electric lamp’

January 27, 1880

Edison receives the patent for the ‘incandescent electric lamp’

Edison receives the patent for the ‘incandescent electric lamp’

January 27, 1880

Edison receives the patent for the ‘incandescent electric lamp’

1884-1888

Reginald Fessenden works in Edison’s lab

1884-1888

Reginald Fessenden works in Edison’s lab

Summer 1884-Spring 1885

Tesla works for Edison

Summer 1884-Spring 1885

Tesla works for Edison

Edison sues the United States Electric Lighting Company and the Mount Morris Electric Light Company, both of which became adjoined with the Westinghouse Electric Company

1885/1886

Edison sues the United States Electric Lighting Company and the Mount Morris Electric Light Company, both of which became adjoined with the Westinghouse Electric Company

January 8, 1886

George Westinghouse forms the Westinghouse Electric Company

Westinghouse counter-sues Edison by filing a suit against the McKeesport Light Company, an Edison entity.

1886

Westinghouse counter-sues Edison by filing a suit against the McKeesport Light Company, an Edison entity.

1886-1890

Reginald Fessenden works in Edison’s lab

Agnes Huntington has a dispute with the manager of the Boston Ideals & gives an interview to the New York Times about these troubles

December 1886

Agnes Huntington has a dispute with the manager of the Boston Ideals & gives an interview to the New York Times about these troubles

November/December 1887

Westinghouse tries to compromise with Edison only to be rebuffed

November 1887

Alfred Southwick, a member of the New York State Death Commission, reaches out to Thomas Edison about the efficacy of using electricity to execute prisoners, but Edison declines to get involved.

December 9, 1887

After some further prodding by Southwick, Edison has a change of heart and promotes the idea of using Westinghouse’s A/C current as the method of execution.

December 1887

Edison sues Westinghouse for infringing on his lightbulb patent

December 1887

Edison sues Westinghouse for infringing on his lightbulb patent

Early 1888

Paul is hired by George Westinghouse

1888

Paul is hired by George Westinghouse

Early 1888

Westinghouse buys up smaller electrical companies and licenses his A/C technology to local firms

The Last Days of Night

The novel begins here

The workman burns on Broadway

May 11, 1888

The workman burns on Broadway

The workman burns on Broadway

May 11, 1888

The workman burns on Broadway

May 11, 1888

Westinghouse counter-sues Edison

May 15, 1888

Tesla’s presentation at Columbia

June 1888-1890

Reginald Fessenden works in Westinghouse’s lab

New York State Legislature establishes electrocution as the means of capital punishment, effective January 1, 1889

June 4, 1888

New York State Legislature establishes electrocution as the means of capital punishment, effective January 1, 1889

Harold Brown’s anti-A/C editorial is published in the New York Post

June 5, 1888

Harold Brown’s anti-A/C editorial is published in the New York Post

June 7, 1888

Westinghouse tries to compromise with Edison only to be rebuffed

Mid-June 1888

Tesla’s presentation at Columbia

July 1888

Tesla moves to Pittsburgh to work for Westinghouse

July 1888

Tesla moves to Pittsburgh to work for Westinghouse

Harold Brown conducts his first animal electrocution experiment

July 30, 1888

Harold Brown conducts his first animal electrocution experiment

Agnes Huntington has a dispute with the manager of the Boston Ideals

August 1888

Agnes Huntington has a dispute with the manager of the Boston Ideals

Harold Brown’s anti-A/C editorial is published in the New York Post

August 1888

Harold Brown’s anti-A/C editorial is published in the New York Post

August 1888

Tesla leaves Westinghouse’s Pittsburgh lab

Fire at Tesla’s lab

September 19, 1888

Fire at Tesla’s lab

November-December 1888

Westinghouse buys up smaller electrical companies and licenses his A/C technology to local firms

November 1888-December 1889 (yes 1889):

Tesla suffers from amnesia

December 1888

Paul hires associate attorneys to help him with the case

Agnes gives the New York Times an interview about her troubles with the Ideals

December 1888

Agnes gives the New York Times an interview about her troubles with the Ideals

1888-1889

Agnes is courted by Henry Jayne

Harold Brown conducts his first animal electrocution experiment

January 1, 1889

Harold Brown conducts his first animal electrocution experiment

Mid-late January, 1889

Break-in at Harold Brown’s office

Mid-late January, 1889

Edison outed as being Harold Brown’s co-conspirator in promoting the electric chair.

William Kemmler kills his wife

March 29, 1889

William Kemmler kills his wife

Early-Mid May, 1889

New York Federal Court rules against Westinghouse in the lightbulb patent case

Spring/Summer 1889

Charles Coffin helps Edison, Brown & New York State acquire an A/C generator to be used to execute Kemmler

New York State Legislature approves electric chair for use in executions

Early-Mid May 1889

New York State Legislature approves electric chair for use in executions

William Kemmler kills his wife

Mid-Late May 1889

William Kemmler kills his wife

Summer 1889

Paul appears in court and unsuccessfully argues against using the electric chair to execute Kemmler

Summer 1889-Summer 1890

Bourke Cockran (likely on orders from Paul Cravath) appears in court and argues against using the electric chair to execute William Kemmler

Summer 1889

Charles Coffin helps Edison, Brown & New York State acquire a Westinghouse A/C generator to be used in Kemmler’s execution

July 1889

Break-in at Harold Brown’s office

William Kemmler is executed via an electric chair

August 6, 1889

William Kemmler is executed via an electric chair

August 1889

Edison outed as being Harold Brown’s co-conspirator in promoting the electric chair.

Baring Brothers collapses

August 10, 1889

Baring Brothers collapses

September-December 1889

Westinghouse faces bankruptcy and he and Paul appeal to creditors in New York City

Fall 1889

Tesla leaves Westinghouse’s Pittsburgh lab

October 1889

The Pittsburgh Circuit Court rules against Westinghouse in the lightbulb case, stating that Edison alone created a practical, functioning bulb

Late 1880s/Early 1890s

Agnes Huntington & Henry Jayne engage in a courtship

Tesla works on X-Rays with Wilhelm Röntgen

December 1889

Tesla works on X-Rays with Wilhelm Röntgen

January 1, 1890

Reginal Fessenden outed as a spy for Edison

January 1890

Edison is removed as the head of EGE and Charles Coffin is installed in his stead

Westinghouse licenses Tesla’s A/C patents to the newly-renamed General Electric

January 1890

Westinghouse licenses Tesla’s A/C patents to the newly-renamed General Electric

January 1890

General Electric licenses Edison’s lightbulb patent to Westinghouse

January 1890

Westinghouse provides Tesla with a new lab

January 1890

Westinghouse convinces Tesla to sign away his royalty on his A/C patents

Mid-January 1890

Agnes breaks things off with Henry Jayne

1890’s

Tesla becomes a minor celebrity in New York City

1890’s

Tesla becomes a minor celebrity in New York City

William Kemmler is executed using an electric chair

August 6, 1890

William Kemmler is executed using an electric chair

Agnes discusses her career in an interview with The New York Times

September 21, 1890

Agnes discusses her career in an interview with The New York Times

Baring Brothers collapses

November 15, 1890

Baring Brothers collapses

November-December 1890

Westinghouse faces bankruptcy and he and Paul appeal to creditors in New York City

Early 1891

Westinghouse convinces Tesla to sign away his royalty on his A/C patents

The New York Federal Court upholds Edison’s prior victory in the lightbulb case

July 14, 1891

The New York Federal Court upholds Edison’s prior victory in the lightbulb case

1892

Paul and Agnes get married

1892

Agnes and Henry Jayne dissolve their relationship

Early 1892

Tesla suffers from amnesia

February 1892

Edison is removed as the head of EGE and Charles Coffin is installed in his stead

EGE maintains its victory in the lightbulb case in the Federal Court of Appeals

October 4, 1892

EGE maintains its victory in the lightbulb case in the Federal Court of Appeals

November 15, 1892

Paul and Agnes get married

The US Supreme Court upholds Edison’s lightbulb patent, officially ending the ‘Seven Years’ Incandescent Lightbulb War’

December 1892

The US Supreme Court upholds Edison’s lightbulb patent, officially ending the ‘Seven Years’ Incandescent Lightbulb War’

1893

World Columbian Exposition

1893

World Columbian Exposition

1893

Reginald Fessenden works for Westinghouse in Pittsburgh

May 1893

A Westinghouse Electric draftsman is outed as a spy for Edison

Tesla works on X-Rays with Wilhelm Röntgen

1895

Tesla works on X-Rays with Wilhelm Röntgen

Fire at Tesla’s lab

March 13, 1895

Fire at Tesla’s lab

1896

Paul, Westinghouse, Edison & Tesla gather at Niagara Falls

Westinghouse licenses Tesla’s A/C patents to the newly-renamed General Electric

1896

Westinghouse licenses Tesla’s A/C patents to the newly-renamed General Electric

July 19, 1896

Tesla’s first visit to Niagara Falls; his companions included Paul Cravath & George Westinghouse

January 12, 1897

Niagara Falls Power & Conduit Company Banquet to celebrate electric power being generated by the Falls

Early 1900s

Paul implements the ‘Cravath System’