The Beginning

E-J Electric’s history began during the infancy of the electrical industry. In 1899, during the era of paper and wood-lined conduits and combination gas/electric lighting fixtures, Mr. Jack Enright and Mr. Theodore Joseph founded E-J Electric Installation Co. Four years later, in 1903, E-J became a member of the New York City Chapter of the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA). In 1912, Mr. Joseph hired Mr. Jacques R. Mann, who had begun his career with Walter Kidde Construction, as an estimator and construction engineer; thus beginning the four-generation involvement of the Mann family at E-J Electric.

Jacques Mann, when interviewed in 1958, recalled the equipment and installation practices which were current at the time he joined E-J. In the early 1900’s, conduits in use consisted of the heavy and light-walled iron types, or wooden and paper-lined brass-armored types. In those early days, many concepts existed for the design of equipment and systems, and recognized industry leaders and authorities sometimes championed different approaches. For example, H. Ward Leonard, a theatrical engineer, sponsored the lined conduit, while Fremont Wilson (the first Electrical Inspector for the New York Board of Fire Underwriters), sponsored the unlined type. But, the brass-wood strips in the lined conduits occasionally caused installation difficulties when the strips worked loose during pulling, thus tangling the conductors. As a result, the lined conduits eventually fell into disfavor and their use was discontinued.

Wiring Methods

Enclosures for panelboards were wooden cabinets, known as trays; they were fabricated in the field, usually out of scraps found on the jobsite. Those wooden trays were then lined with 16-gauge sheet iron, and conduit entries were drilled through the wood and sheet iron lining permitting conductor connection to the panelboard. Raceways and wiring methods typically employed for residential applications were circular loom, Attix wire, and grooved wooden moldings with capping. BX was only used on an occasional basis. Lighting outlets were usually located at gas fixtures and fixtures were normally used in combination with the gas because few people had enough confidence in the reliability of the electrical supply to trust it completely.

Also, in those days, lamps had carbon filaments and were rated in candlepower, with the largest commercially available lamp rated at 32 candlepower. One early installation at a new hotel in Long Branch, NJ, was equipped with series – connected arc lamps. The 1000V/AC lines were open, cleat work run on the ceilings. Mr. Mann reminisced that “Not long thereafter the hotel burned down”. Feeders for large buildings were three-wire makeups, two hot and a neutral. However, an additional neutral conductor was generally provided, should it be later decided to install a private power plant, typically a two-wire system. In general, installation practices were far from standardized.

DC - The Popular Choice

DC power was more popular than AC for several reasons. One explanation was the fact that state authorities had selected an AC generator with which to electrocute criminals at Sing Sing Prison. Another reason was that the great inventor Thomas A. Edison and General Electric both were advocates of DC power. Additional objections were related to control of AC motors. For example, elevators which operated on AC systems were difficult to start and stop smoothly, and were excessively noisy. However, regardless of the objections to it, AC power was eventually selected as the power of choice due in large part to the efforts of George Westinghouse, a major proponent of its use. One of the first significant AC power distribution systems was installed at Wanamaker’s Department Store in New York City. It consisted of 1000V/AC primary distribution, run on the building’s exterior to local step-down transformers hung beneath the windows, which provided two-wire 50V/AC secondary distribution.

From the time E-J Electric entered the field of electrical contracting, the company has focused on offering “specialized” services, in addition to the commonly expected design and installation functions provided by other electrical contractors. In its early years, one specialty E-J recognized as a related business was the servicing of the entertainment industry. When sound became part of the movies, E-J developed unique methods for wiring studios and theaters. And, when electronics first came into use for the control of stage lighting, the company again led the field. E-J installed the first reactor-type dimming controls for AC lighting at the famous Daly Theater on Broadway. The reactors were induction coils and the dimming was obtained by inserting a large chunk of iron into each coil. Since then, the industry has pioneered the development of new products and techniques for the electronic control of three-color house lighting and five-color stage lighting, as well as computerized, multiplex control systems.

E-J in the Entertainment Industry

E-J Electric’s expertise in the electrification of entertainment facilities expanded when the motion picture industry went indoors to produce movies on a gigantic scale. At that time, E-J assumed the role of industry leader by producing a number of innovative techniques and assisting in the development of National Electrical Code (NFPA 70) rules for such applications. Almost all of the large East-coast movie studios were E-J projects. In fact, the renovation of the Paramount Astoria motion picture studio, which was designed and installed under Jacques Mann during the original construction, was redesigned and supervised forty years later by J. Robert Mann, Jr., Jacques’ son and today’s Chairman of E-J Electric. Reconciliation of prevailing code requirements with accepted practices in the motion picture industry was the subject of a piece written by Jacques Mann for the Journal of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers in 1930. His paper, “Some Aspects of the National Code as Applied to the Motion Picture Industry”, provided electrical professionals who were designing and installing such systems with much needed insight to NEC requirements – at a time when the accepted practices, techniques, and technology were changing at a staggering rate. That effort was a colossal benefit to both the motion picture and electrical industries because many designers and installers specializing in such applications had only a vague familiarity, if any, with NEC rules and regulations.

Mexican Subsidiary Designs Motion Picture Studio 

Electrica Mexam, a subsidiary of E-J Electric organized in 1942, directed the design and installation of the electrical system for a mammoth motion picture studio in Mexico City. This facility, which consisted of 25 different buildings spread across a 31-acre tract, required a complete substation with duplicate banks of transformers and switchgear and a powerhouse containing a 60 foot metal-clad main switchboard assembly of individual switchgear cubicles. The ratings and operating characteristics for a variety of equipment such as motors, generators, transformers, etc., had to be carefully correlated to assure proper operation, adequate protection, and normal service life in the high altitude (7300ft) of Mexico City. Over the years, E-J’s entertainment client list has included such world renowned venues as Radio City Music Hall (where E-J continues to provide electrical maintenance today) and New York’s original Metropolitan Opera House. The company has also been responsible for electrical installations at the new theaters at John Jay Criminal College, Jazz @ Lincoln Center and Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School, home of New York’s High School for the Performing Arts and School of Arts and Music which was featured in the movie “Fame”.

Security, Fire Safety and Voice Communication Systems

Another specialty that E-J identified as a related business was the design, installation, and maintenance of security systems. From installing alarm wiring in the early part of this century to successfully assuming complete design and installation responsibility for today’s sophisticated computer-based security, building management, life safety and fire safety systems, E-J has again distinguished itself as an industry leader. Projects such as the fire-safety system upgrade of the McGraw-Hill Building that provides better voice communication, fire detection, and status reporting to the central fire command station, and STAR FIRE, the New York City Fire Department’s system for dispatching, tracking, and recording activities of all available fire-fighting equipment within the five boroughs, fully demonstrate E-J’s expertise in this technology.

E-J’s Efforts in World War II

In 1940, the construction industry in the New York City area was severely depressed. Several of the firm’s forepersons had previous experience with shipboard wiring and systems, or had served in the US Navy, so E-J decided to expand its capability and pursue work in marine electrical applications. The company’s first contract was with the Jefferson Boat & Marine Co. in Jeffersonville, Ind., where E-J was awarded a contract for four P.C. subchasers. After the first ship had been completed, E-J was retained to electrify four more subchasers. These 176 foot PC’s were difficult to wire because of the extraordinary concentration, and the variety of equipment needed. Despite the number of tremendous challenges these ships presented, E-J Electric successfully overcame every obstacle. Before E-J had finished completing the second group of four ships, the US Navy introduced the large and ambitious LST (Landing Ship Tanks) program. In order to fabricate the large number of 340 foot ships which were required, the Louisville Barge Co. began construction of what was to become the largest inland ship-building facility in the country. E-J was the electrical contractor selected to assume sole responsibility for directing expansion of the entire electrical system at the shipyard, and installation of the electrical systems and equipment on all ships to be built. During the following months, E-J had as many as 2300 electrical employees on its payroll at a given time. The critical nature of this program required an aggressive and intensive construction schedule. E-J masterminded and oversaw that schedule, and the result was a production rate of seven LST’s every month – more than one a week at the Louisville yard alone. Although the schedule required a large crew of electricians, only a very small number of skilled electrical workers were actually available in the Jeffersonville and Louisville areas. To overcome this problem, E-J, in cooperation with the Louisville Board of Education (which provided classroom and laboratory facilities), began the daunting task of training a substantial number of farmers, clerks, bartenders, or almost anyone who responded to the newspaper ads. E-J personnel served as instructors, and the company provided the training materials necessary to conduct a “cram” course in electrical construction techniques for this diverse student body. Due to time constraints it was not possible to graduate fully qualified electricians; however, it was possible to produce specialists skilled in a single aspect of the installation. In addition, as the war dragged on, the company recognized that women would be needed to contribute to this effort and, before the program ended, E-J had as many as 120 women doing termination and assembly work.

E-J Electric Receives 5 "E" Awards

Another innovative idea pioneered by E-J Electric was the use of pressed-steel watertight panels and outlet boxes. Navy specifications at that time called for the use of either cast-bronze or cast-aluminum boxes. However, when E-J demonstrated the significant weight savings that could be realized by the use of the pressed-steel enclosures, without compromising reliability, the Navy opted for the alternative presented, and E-J became the first contractor to use the pressed-steel boxes which are now in general use throughout the US Navy.

E-J’s incomparable effectiveness as project managers, designers, innovators and installers was recognized by the US Navy and was a key element in the Navy’s decision to retain E-J’s services for additional projects, particularly at the Nashville Bridge Company in Nashville, Tennessee, and at the Leathem Smith Shipbuilding Company, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin. Because of its proficiency in completing selected, specific assignments, E-J was chosen to run the entire electrical construction departments at both yards and was presented with 5 “E” awards by the United States Navy for its ship wiring achievements.

After World War II, E-J performed major electrical installations at Bronx Municipal Hospital, the 26th Ward Sewage Treatment Plant, the Schlitz Brewery, the West Side Airline Terminal, and a number of projects for the New York Telephone Co.