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The Document File is primarily, but not exclusively, a collection of incoming correspondence. The correspondence frequently contains notes by Edison or one of his secretaries, indicating the nature of the reply. The folders comprised by this series also contain drafts and final copies of outgoing correspondence, as well as legal, financial, and patent-related documents. Legal material in the Document File includes agreements, incorporation papers, powers of attorney, proxies, depositions and other legal statements, and, occasionally, civil court records such as summonses and satisfactions of judgment. Financial material includes financial reports, unbound account sheets, bills, receipts, promissory notes, stocks, bonds, payrolls, and orders. Patent-related material includes patent applications, caveats (preliminary applications), and patent assignments. The Document File also contains a variety of other documents, such as memoranda, essays, reports, circulars, inventories and other lists, test reports, and, occasionally, a laboratory drawing on the back of another document. Dockets and endorsements frequently appear on the back of the incoming correspondence. They have been selected only when they contain significant information not appearing on the document itself.
The items in the Document File for 1879-1886 relate primarily to the invention and development of Edison's incandescent electric lighting system. Included is material dealing with both the technical and business aspects of electric lighting and power. Many of the documents pertain to the establishment of manufacturing and operating companies in the United States, Great Britain, France, Chile, and other countries in Asia, Europe, and South America. There are also numerous documents relating to Edison's platinum search, to his development of an ore separator, and to the establishment and operation of the Edison Ore Milling Co., Ltd. There is some material relating to the experimental electric railway at Menlo Park.
In the folders for 1879â€“1882 there are a considerable number of documents pertaining to Edison's work on the telephone, particularly the establishment and consolidation of companies in Great Britain and France. For the years 1880-1882 there is a long run of correspondence between Edison and John Michels, the editor of Science. The folders for 1885-1886 contain correspondence concerning the development of Edison's phonoplex system of railway telegraphy. There is also a small amount of material relating to other forms of telegraphy and a few documents about the phonograph.
The documents are arranged by year. Within each year they are divided into broad subject categories such as electric light, telegraph, and telephone. These categories are frequently subdivided according to individual companies (for example, "Electric Light -- Edison Electric Light Co."). Sometimes a company folder is further subdivided according to function (for example, Electric Light -- Edison Electric Light Co. -- Engineering Department"). During the period 1883-1884 the Thomas A. Edison Construction Department installed central stations throughout the Northeast and Midwest, and documents relating to these stations can be found in folders such as "Electric Light -- TAE Construction Dept -- Stations -- Massachusetts -- Brockton." For the years 1883 and 1884 there is also an extensive collection of outgoing correspondence from the Construction Department and other Edison companies, which can be found in "Edison, T.A. -- Outgoing Correspondence."
Documents concerning the promotion of Edison's inventions in foreign countries are filed in folders such as "Electric Light -- Foreign" and "Telephone -- Foreign -- United Kingdom." Documents relating to more than one subject or pertaining to personal matters or to topics not falling under the main subject categories can be found in the "Edison, T.A. -- General" folders.
Extensive collections of incoming correspondence, agreements, and other unbound documents also appear in the Charles Batchelor and Francis R. Upton collections (Special Collections Series) and in the Harry F. Miller File (Legal Series). Courtesy of Thomas Edison National Historical Park.