Getting a Charge out of Delco Generators

Delco generators powered farms before rural electrification


| November 1998



Don Wiley with his display of Delco generators

Don Wiley with his display of Delco generators at this summer's Brighton, Ill., show

G. Wayne Walker Jr.

The next time you reach to turn on a light, stop yourself. Ask whether you really need the light, whether the generator's charged, whether you can do without. Then you'll have an idea of what it was like to live on a farm before rural electrification. 

Now, of course, an entire generation regards electricity as a basic birthright.

"Today, you talk to somebody under 40, they don't even know what a cream separator is, or what an outdoor toilet is," said Don Wiley, Sparta, III. Chances are equally good that they've never heard of a Delco generator. But in times past, the farmer who owned one was living high on the hog

"Only the wealthy farmer could afford a Delco," Don said.

At the close of the 20th century, a Delco generator is regarded as little more than a curiosity from another time. Although the compact units once generated power for such basics as lights, radio, refrigerator and iron, they turn up now mostly on junk heaps ... unless you're a collector, like Don.

Don and his brother-in-law, between them, have a collection of 30 to 40 Delco generators. The company's production of generators peaked between 1916 and 1946.