THE LEAD ACID BATTERY


| July/August 2000



PO Box 247 Dushore, Pennsylvania 18614-0247

Around the time of the Civil War the lead acid battery was invented and was used primarily to power telegraph sounders. During World War I, batteries of huge proportions were used to power submarines. The basic chemistry of the lead acid battery hasn't changed much since its invention.

The invention of the 'self-starter' for cranking automobile engines brought about a demand for portable, high output batteries that could be mass produced at an affordable cost. Most of the batteries used for stationary applications were contained in glass jars. As glass was not practical for mobile installations, a suitable substitute had to be found. Certain species of wood was resistant to the action of acid and a material called hard rubber was introduced as the principal material for constructing the vessel that contained the battery.

An inherent characteristic of a lead acid battery is that each cell generates two volts and as six were needed volts, to produce the proper amount of current, the battery case had to contain three compartments. Some of the hard rubber containers were encased in a wood box that would provide some protection against vibration and would allow clamps to hold the battery securely to the auto.

From the time that batteries were first used in a practical manner and continuing up into the nineteen twenties, batteries were so constructed that they could be rebuilt. Most communities had a battery shop and there were specialists who plied their trade rebuilding and selling batteries.

My first acquaintance with a battery shop was located on the second floor of a building next to my father's furniture store. What circumstances would prompt a person to have a battery shop on a second floor, defies reason. Nevertheless the shop was there and the proprietor was named Lew.