Light Years of Pleasure

Delco-Light Generator Model 860


| May/June 1995



Delco-Light generator

10 St. Charles Place Midlothian, Texas 76065

Electricity, which we daily take for granted, was considered a dream and luxury to rural families between 1900-1935. The day-to-day chores of washing clothes, pumping water, sawing wood, reading by coal-oil lamps and trips to the outhouse were soon to be history!

The 'affordable' Delco-Light generator powered electric lights (32 volts DC), electric motors, and provided power for running water. The Delco-Light advertisements and literature (written in part by a Mr. Carroll) strongly implied that families growing without electricity were doomed to----, 'a childhood of ignorance, disease and hardship.' The sales literature is excellent, factual, and very persuasive.

Delco-Light was a subsidiary of General Motors during the late teens (1918). Charles Kettering of Dayton, Ohio, who invented automobile self-starters, held many patents in the design of the Delco-Light systems.

The model 860 (850 watt-32 volts) was the first Delco produced. The generator was installed in the home basement, anchored to a large concrete foundation. Due to noise and exhaust, many generators were located in outbuildings, along with an arsenal of 16 two volt batteries. These glass-jar batteries were rated 80 amp-hr or 160 amp-hr. Other Delcos were offered in 12 volt/110 volt, up to four cylinder, and ability to start on demand. Delco offered a complete line of generator plants, appliances, and water systems to meet everyone's needs.

My interest in Delco-Light systems started as a teenager in 1969. I was reading an article in a Rural Electric Co-Op magazine featuring an old-timer who used and collected Delcos. I've purchased four units in the last 10 years and finished the granddaddy 850 watt last year. I am working on completing a 600 watt Delco, which is one-third the size. The 850 watt Delco was built in 1919, an early model with one gallon fuel tank, serial number 73879. The Model 600 was built in 1923. That date is stamped on the engine.