This folder contains correspondence from inventors and others asking for Edison's advice on technical matters or his assistance in improving or promoting inventions. Also included are general inquiries relating to the invention and patenting processes. Many of the letters for 1917 concern World War I and antisubmarine warfare; some of these were referred to the Naval Consulting Board or to the U.S. War Dept. Included are letters from Charles A. Coffin of General Electric, F. Allen Whiting of the Cleveland Museum of Art, and U.S. Senator John Sharp Williams of Mississippi about antisubmarine devices, along with a letter by Williams about a life-preserver union suit developed by an inventor named Aud. In addition, there is correspondence with Huntington Smith of the Animal Rescue League on the best way to euthanize stray animals; with food exporter Robert L. Conlon on the vacuum preservation of tropical fruit; with John Penman on sound insulation in concrete industrial buildings; and with Dr. Kurt Voigt on the production of hydroquinone. Also included are a translation and report prepared by employee A. William Almquist regarding ideas submitted by a Danish inventor named Holger Dankirk.
Less than 5 percent of the documents, including all items bearing substantive marginalia by Edison, have been selected. Among the unselected documents are numerous requests for financial assistance, routine informational queries, suggestions for various types of new inventions, and offers to sell patents. There are also a few unsolicited letters relating to social reform plans and campaigns. Most of these letters were handled by the secretarial staff and were never seen by Edison; some are marked "no ans." Some of the writers identify themselves as women or children; other letters are written on prison or asylum letterhead.
Similar letters about antisubmarine warfare and other military-related subjects can be found in the Naval Consulting Board and Wartime Research Papers, Special Collections Series. Courtesy of Thomas Edison National Historical Park.