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The five letterbooks in this series cover the period December 1889-November 1892. Most of the correspondence is by Alfred O. Tate, writing on behalf of the Edison Manufacturing Co. Many of the letters are addressed to the officials of telegraph and railroad companies, including Albert B. Chandler, president of the Postal Telegraph Co., and several officials at the Pennsylvania Railroad Co. and the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad Co. There are also numerous letters addressed to James W. Gladstone, manager of the Edison Manufacturing Co., at the company's plant in Silver Lake, N.J.; and to James F. Kelly, general sales agent. Most of the documents pertain to the technical and commercial development of the Edison-Lalande primary battery, which Edison refined and began marketing in 1889.
There are many letters regarding the marketing of the battery for use with the phonograph. Other documents relate to additional applications for the battery, including electric lighting, fire and burglar alarms, dental and medical instruments, and cigar lighters. Included are letters concerning customer relations, problems with the performance of the battery, proposed design improvements, contract and royalty arrangements between Edison and Felix Lalande, advertising methods and marketing strategy, and the establishment of agencies in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Continental Europe. The later books were extensively used by Thomas Maguire, Edison's bookkeeper and general office assistant, to record billing notices.
Each book contains approximately 500 numbered pages. Approximately 25 percent of the correspondence has been reproduced. All of the letters that illuminate Edison's own role in the company's operations or that provide substantive information about technical or commercial matters have been selected. Categories of documents not selected include non-substantive letters pertaining to orders, billing notices, expenses of traveling salesmen, and other routine company business. In addition, the indexes at the front of the book have not been reproduced.
Although every technical effort has been made to ensure the legibility of the documents, some pages difficult to read because of faint, spreading, or smearing ink. In addition, there are occasional pages that are wrinkled or torn. Letters presenting severe legibility problems have not been selected. Courtesy of Thomas Edison National Historical Park.