A lifetime of seeking, collecting, restoring, preserving, and sharing the great American story of the inventive genius of Charles F. Kettering which is embodied but unfortunately now mostly forgotten in the once successful Delco-Light farm electric light plants and the industry they helped create.
For nearly 40 years, Wayne “Dr. Delco” Sphar welcomed visitors to his Delco-Light Museum in Avella, Pennsylvania, to marvel at the wonders of the electric-light plants that Charles Kettering developed during the first half of the 1900s for farms, ranches, homes, business, and small communities. The Delco-Light Museum took its visitors back in time when a person or business could produce their own electricity by using a Delco-Light plant and store it in batteries to power appliances which dramatically changed and improved rural living in America. Every item in the former museum was meticulously restored and capable of operating at the touch of a switch, just as Kettering would have designed it.
Wayne Sphar, who was born in 1936, the same year President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Rural Electrification Act into law, became fascinated with the principles of electricity as a young boy. His grandfather, Russell Sphar, worked as a lineman for the West Penn Power Company, a local electric utility. After severe storms and often during the night, Wayne would travel by vehicle with his grandfather to search for damaged power lines. Wayne’s interest in electrical generation and supply took off when he encountered a Delco-Light plant in a local junk yard. After painstakingly restoring the machine to operating condition, he showed it running, with electric lightbulbs aglow, at an antique engine collectors show. The display was a crowd pleaser. From that point on, he became known as “Dr. Delco” and sought any items that had to do with the Delco-Light plants. In addition to writing letters, publishing advertisements, and participating in antique engine and farm equipment shows, Wayne drove back roads all over the United States in search of items for his museum. Over the decades, he accumulated more than 40 Delco-Light plants, of which a selection of different models was on display in his museum building. He also collected a large selection of 32-volt DC household appliances, including
water-well pumps, washing machines, fans, radios, and coffeemakers. In addition, he remarkably preserved examples of Delco-Light plant advertising, sales and marketing literature, installation and service manuals, and other unique ephemera which he displayed in glass cases and on the walls of the museum.
In 2005, Wayne closed his Delco-Light Museum and sold the entire equipment collection to a private collector who put it into storage. The collection was put to auction in 2017 and dispersed to other interested collectors throughout the United States. Wayne passed away at his home in Avella, Pennsylvania, on October 5, 2018. He was 81 years old.
In order that Dr. Delco and his museum are not forgotten, we provide you this amazing photographic tour.
Wayne "Dr. Delco" Sphar
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