The history of the electric utility in the United States is an amazing study. I will only touch the highlights in this article. By 1879, Thomas Edison, after many failed attempts finally invented an electric incandescent light bulb. Within a few short years by 1882, the first small electric generating plant was developed to serve a small area of residences and businesses to power their electric lighting in Manhattan. Most public lighting up until this time used natural gas. Several small electric generation plants sprung up at this time but could only serve customers within one mile of the plant.
Edison, who was a better inventor than businessman, hired a young man named Samuel Insull. Over the next four decades, Insull, developed what we know today as the vertically integrated utility which combines electric generation, electric transmission and electric distribution.