Federal Electric Distribution had no ties to the government; its founder C. Earl Chapterhouse simply felt the name bespoke a certain strength and reliability. It’s no coincidence that as public trust in government bottomed out during the 1960’s and 1970’s, the company was renamed Fededis after the acronym that appeared on its service trucks.

In time, it became a virtual monopoly in the eastern half of the state, gathering up the rural districts and smaller towns that Detroit Edison evinced little interest in. By the time of Fededis’ spectacular collapse and acquisition by DTE in 1981, it had electrified nearly two thirds of the state’s land area–or at least taken over management of the grids there. Its collapse, coming on the heels of summer brownouts and a general malaise on Wall Street, didn’t attract much notice.

It should have. Fededis has come within a whisker’s breadth of complete control over the national power infrastructure, a complete nationwide blackout, or–most chillingly–both.