October 6, 2011 - National German-American Day

and Happy Birthday, George Westinghouse (a German-American inventor and engineer)

On this date in 1683, thirteen German families landed in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the American colonies. They soon founded a town called Germantown. This day commemorates the addition of German culture and foods to the American “melting pot.” Of course, this fits in perfectly with Oktoberfest celebrations that are held in Germany and all over the world during this time of year.

To celebrate, grab your wurstl (sausage) and sauerkraut, pile your plate high with kasspatzn (mmm, my favorite cheese noodles) and potato pancakes, and be sure to have a giant pretzel!

George Westinghouse, born on this day in 1846 in New York, invented the railway air brake and pioneered the American electrical system in a rivalry with Thomas Edison. Although Edison is even more famous than Westinghouse, it was Westinghouse's alternating-current system, based on research by Nikola Tesla, that prevailed (won out) over Edison's direct- current system.

The main reason that power plants use alternating current is because it is much easier to change the voltage of the power using a transformer. Power plants can save a lot of money and energy by sending power long distances at high voltages, and then drop it down to lower voltages for distribution and household use. If you want to know more, check out the explanations at How Stuff Works. If you want to read about the “Current War” and how Westinghouse benefitted from a quarrel between Tesla and Edison, check out this article.

Of course, one reason I chose to highlight Westinghouse is because he comes from the Westringhausen family in Germany. That means that he was a German-American!

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