In 1938, the average annual wage was $1713 and the average cost of a new home was $3,925. The $950 taxpayer subsidy of connecting a rural farm to the electric lines in 1938 would in 2006 be equal to $24,600 based on wages and $63,200 based on new home value.
The major urban electric companies were the primary beneficiaries of the early federal tax dollars to connect farms close to the cities until the newly mandated consumer owned rural electric cooperatives could be established and become functional. Accordingly, the farm and wind electric plants were still in demand in the most remote areas. However, the uncertainty and effects of diminishing demand were starting to be felt in the industry.
War mobilization -The beginning of World War II in Europe and the Pacific would draw the U.S. into the battle and convert our entire national manufacturing capability in support from 1941 to 1945. All of farm and wind electric companies converted to produce armaments and military support material during this period.
After WWII, the market for farm and wind electric plants had been devastated. When Charles Kettering retired General Motors closed Delco-Light. Many other manufacturers transformed their product lines for new markets. A few wind companies survived through mergers and by serving export markets until the mid-1950’s. The central-station steam electric IOU’s would feed the rural grid and come to totally dominate the electric supply.
At this same time, Delco-Light production surpassed 375,000 units, the number of rural homes with a farm or wind electric plant exceeded 800,000 - about 15%, and business was growing for both farm and wind electric plant manufacturers, appliance manufacturers, and extensive retail sales and service network. The most popular Delco-Light model, the 8C3 combination automatic and battery charging plant rated 850 Watts, with a large capacity 160 amp-hour Exide Ironclad battery sold for $495. Choosing the larger 1500 Watt model would add $175. A gallon of kerosene at the time cost 6 cents. Similarly, a Jacobs Wind Electric Model 45 rated 1800 Watts with a 50 foot tower and large 440 Ah battery sold for $830. Adding a Delco-Light model 8C3 to insure a continuous supply of electricity would raise the price by $275.
The Rural Electrification Administration (REA) would lead to the unfortunate demise and destruction of both the farm and wind electric plant industry. Established by executive order as an “emergency agency to carry electricity to as many farms as possible in the shortest possible time and have it used in quantities sufficient to affect rural life.” The 1936 Rural Electrification Act transformed the REA to a permanent agency. In the next two years, $210 million was spent on 100,000 miles of power lines to provide electricity to 220,000 farms at a taxpayer cost of $950 per home. Each home was typically supplied with a 60 amp service that included a range circuit, two light circuits, and one appliance circuit. In connecting to the rural grid, each customer paid a monthly service fee, plus a per-unit cost of electricity.
Rural Electrification Act