For example, during the opening ceremony of the Niagara Falls power plant project -- one which marks the complete victory for his AC electrical system and the defeat of Thomas Edison's DC electrical system -- he stood in the background while individuals like Nikola Tesla gave rousing speeches.
And near Westinghouse's death, he decided to not set up foundations in his name because his charity was largely done anonymously and through his lifetime of benevolent treatment of his employees, providing them opportunities in his more than 60 companies instead. Andrew Carnegie admitted that Westinghouse could have made a lot more money if he didn't treat his employees so well.
Indicative of his nature, Westinghouse also hated to be photographed, so there are few original examples outside of the same old recycled ones.
In fact, he hated the most famous photo of him called "Westinghouse at Work", and told the people involved to not use it. The photographer, commissioned by the New York Times, hid in another room and took a photo of him in his natural working state. It was a pose his employees had seen of him hundreds of times. Yet he specially told them to not publish it once he found out about the photograph. And so it wasn't published until after his death.
The image, ironically, was front and center in the $200,000 memorial given to him by his 60,000 employees in 1930.
"The general who does not advance to seek glory, or does not withdraw to avoid punishment, but cares for only the people's security and promotes the people's interests, is the nation's treasure." Sun Tzu
“If someday they say of me that in my work I have contributed something to the welfare and happiness of my fellow man, I shall be satisfied.” George Westinghouse
Why do I say "still"?
As I mentioned in an earlier blog entry, Westinghouse as a man has been largely forgotten. Everybody knows Edison, Rockefeller, and even his partner Tesla. But Westinghouse? Probably not, except perhaps the appliances that bear his name.
And although Sun Tzu and his Art of War are well-known, Sun Tzu's existence has been questioned since antiquity. Even today I see scholars who should know better by now question Sun Tzu's existence. The claim was and still is absolutely ridiculous especially when the Chinese historian Sima Qian mentioned Sun Tzu by name. Why would scholars refer to the Records of the Grand Historian whenever it suits them but question it when it comes to Sun Tzu?
Having said all that, if we can ask Westinghouse and Sun Tzu how they feel about their legacies, they would emphatically say, "It's all good!" As long as society is still benefiting from their work -- in Westinghouse's case, AC power everywhere and safe railroad travel, and in Sun Tzu's case, potential peace wherever there is a threat of conflict -- they are more than happy to be inconspicuous.
So I reluctantly say that if they are happy, then I am happy, too. ☯
"Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid." Matthew 5:14