The field coils can be mounted on either the rotor or the stator, depending on whichever method is the most cost-effective for the device design.
Bipolar generators were universal prior to 1890 but in the years following it was replaced by the multipolar field magnets. Bipolar generators were then only made in very small sizes.
The stepping stone between these two major types was the consequent-pole bipolar generator, with two field coils arranged in a ring around the stator.
This change was needed because higher voltages allow current to flow greater distances over small wires. To increase output voltage, a DC generator must be spun faster, but beyond a certain speed this is impractical for very large power transmission generators.
By increasing the number of pole faces surrounding the Gramme ring, the ring can be made to cut across more magnetic lines of force in one revolution than a basic two-pole generator. Consequently a four-pole gnerator could output twice the voltage of a two-pole generator, a six-pole generator could output three times the voltage of a two-pole, and so forth. This allows output voltage to increase without also increasing the rotational rate.
In a multipolar generator, the armature and field magnets are surrounded by a circular frame or ring yoke to which the field magnets are attached. This has the advantages of strength, simplicity, symmetrical appearance, and minimum magnetic leakage, since the pole pieces have the least possible surface and the path of the magnetic flux is shorter than in a two-pole design.