This folder contains correspondence and other documents relating to employment in Edison's laboratory and factories. Many of the items for 1917 pertain to adjustments occasioned by the entry of the United States into World War I, such as the hiring and reassignment of employees for Edison's government research projects and the provision of reference letters for current or past employees entering the military. Included is correspondence regarding the hiring of Cornell University electrical engineering instructor William Deans for naval research, the employment of several summer students on war-related projects, the work of Edison engineers such as E. Rowland Dawson, and the imprisonment of Deutsche Edison Akkumulatoren Co. engineer Paul Hagspihl at Ellis Island as an enemy agent.
Also included are documents dealing with the serious labor unrest and tensions with foreign workers resulting from wartime conditions. Among the items relating to the labor situation are communications from manager C. E. Fairbanks in regard to a strike of polishers and buffers, along with a printed notice from Local No. 44 of the International Metal Polishers, Buffers, and Platers Union criticizing the labor policies of Edison and his company. An anonymous letter from "A True American" chastises the inventor for advertising for "foreign help." There are also communications about the status of German nationals employed by Edison, such as chemical engineer H. H. Meno Kammerhoff; directives regarding the health and safety of employees working the powder room; and a list of Edison employees with information about citizenship and country of birth.
In addition, there is a letter from African American chemist C. Durham Campbell, a former assistant to George Washington Carver at Tuskegee Institute, in which he recollects that Edison offered Carver a position in his laboratory in 1916. A query from the chief's engineer's office regarding whether longtime associate John F. Ott should be paid while at home sick received the following response from Edison: "John Ott is to be paid under any circumstances, he is in for Life." A "confidential memorandum" from a domestic surveillance organization known as the Glen Ridge S.S. Association questions Ott's patriotism and warns that he "should be watched." Additional current and past employees represented or discussed in the correspondence include Richard G. Berger, Eben G. Dodge, Victor L. King, and Joseph Platky.
Approximately 15 percent of the documents have been selected. The unselected material includes requests for laboratory employment bearing Edison marginalia stating that there were no openings, as well as requests for employment in Edison's factories, in the electrical industry, or on military projects, all of which received a form-letter reply. Also unselected are application and reference forms from the Musical Phonograph Division; routine correspondence relating to military exemptions, leaves, references, and resignations, some of which was handled by personnel manager Mark M. Jones; a large number of unsolicited inquiries pertaining to a widely circulated but fictitious newspaper story that Edison was hiring one thousand men for a secret ten-month war project; letters of introduction; declined requests for personal references from Edison in support of applications for military commissions; printed forms from the New Jersey Bureau of Industrial Statistics; a four-page list of male and female employees in the iron loading department of the Edison Storage Battery Co., with pay rates; and items duplicating information in the selected material. Courtesy of Thomas Edison National Historical Park.