On July 6, 2022

Davenport Electric Fest to start buzz for EVs

By Mat Clouser, The Reporter

BRANDON — Most Vermonters know the state has long been at the forefront of renewable energy in America, but it might surprise some to learn just how far back that tradition goes.

Inspired by a visit to see a working electromagnet at the Penfield and Taft Iron Works in Crown Point, New York, in 1833, Forest Dale (Brandon) resident Thomas Davenport began work on the world’s first battery-powered electric motor, receiving the first-ever patent for one in 1837.

Courtesy Wikimedia Commons
In 1837, Thomas Davenport of Brandon received the world’s first patent for an electric motor. It was, in fact, the first patent for any sort of electrical device. His wife, Emily Goss Davenport, suggested the use of mercury as a conductor, and tore up her wedding dress to use as insulation.

This year, July 9, will mark the 220th anniversary of the birth of Davenport, and Gov. Phil Scott recently passed a resolution officially recognizing the date. To celebrate, the town of Brandon will be hosting the first Davenport Electric Fest from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Estabrook Park.

The event—sponsored by Green Mountain Energy, Drive Electric Vermont, and Solar Fest—will have several electric vehicles on display, including cars, buses, construction and agricultural equipment, as well as lawn care tools.

The festival’s organizers said several local and state politicians would also be in attendance to help raise awareness for the project, although none are slated to speak.

One person who will be speaking is UVM’s Department of Physics’ Scientific Electronics Technician David Hammond, who will be on hand to give a demonstration of a replica of the original Davenport electric motor.

“We’re excited about exposure for the tech,” said Jack Schneider of Brandon’s energy committee. “Once people are in the vehicles and see how they work, [switching to electric] it’s a no-brainer.”

Davenport’s wife, Emily, played a significant role in helping the original motor work more efficiently, even donating silk from her wedding dress to better insulate the copper coils used in its machinery.

“She sacrificed a lot more than that for him,” said historian Kevin Thornton—who is currently preparing a new exhibit on Davenport for the Brandon Museum—referring to Emily’s steadfast financial support of her husband as he worked on the motor.

A sketch accompanying Thomas Davenport’s 1837 patent for an electric motor.

In that spirit, the Davenport festival will also be a family affair, with food, music, face painting, and a bouncy house among the attractions meant to appeal to those who might not be of age to purchase their first electrically operated machine quite yet.

The Davenport Electric Fest represents just one of several events the town of Brandon has in development around the theme of renewable energy. The Energy Committee has been ramping up its promotions during the Independence Day celebration on July 2, and Solar Fest will be hosting a mixer for the Brandon Chamber of Commerce on June 22 as part of a ramping up activities for a bigger festival in September.

Even the Brandon Police Department is getting in on the EV game, as they recently announced the purchase (with the assistance of Green Mountain Power) of a new Kollter electric motorcycle as a sign of good faith in their commitment to eventually transition the force to an all-electric fleet of vehicles.

“We want it to be a celebration of one of Brandon’s greatest citizens,” said Brandon Town Moderator and Recreation Director Bill Moore. “Thomas Davenport helped change the world and might help save it too.”

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