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The thirty-three volumes in this set contain tissue copies of Edison's correspondence for the period March 1911-June 1918. The last book also contains a few letters from August 1918, January-March 1919, and September 1919. There are no extant letterbooks for the period after September 1919. Most of the letters in the first five books are by Edison and his secretary, Harry F. Miller. The correspondence in the remaining books is primarily by Edison and William H. Meadowcroft, writing as "assistant to Mr. Edison."
Many of the items in the earliest books relate to the commercial and technical development of Edison's alkaline storage battery and its use in automobiles, trucks, locomotives, safety lamps for miners, and country house lighting. Several letters pertain to Edison's organization of the battery business in Europe, including the appointment of John F. Monnot as his representative.
There are also numerous letters relating to Edison's phonograph and motion picture businesses. Included are items regarding the introduction of the Diamond Disc phonograph and the Blue Amberol cylinder record in 1912 and the selection of suitable music and recording artistsa process in which Edison was closely involved. Other letters deal with the development of the Home Projecting Kinetoscope and educational filmsa project for which William Walter Dinwiddie was hired in December 1911and the introduction of the Kinetophone (motion pictures with sound) in 1913. The letters from 1915 contain frequent references to the fire of December 1914 that destroyed the Edison Phonograph Works.
After the outbreak of World War I in Europe in August 1914, the letters discuss the effects of the war upon the American chemical industry, the disruption of markets for the carbolic acid (phenol) that Edison used in the manufacture of phonograph records, and his experiments toward producing synthetic phenol as a substitute for imported carbolic acid. In addition, there are also numerous letters pertaining to Edison's move into the chemical manufacturing business; the construction of benzol absorbing plants in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and Woodward, Alabama; the erection of additional plants for the manufacture of aniline and other chemicals at Silver Lake, New Jersey; and the sale of his surplus stocks of benzol, toluol, and other chemical products. The letters from 1915-1918 contain many references to Edison's role as the head of the Naval Consulting Board; his increasing preoccupation with war-related research for the U.S. Government, including submarine research conducted at Sandy Hook, New Jersey; and his extended absence from the laboratory during the period August 1917-May 1918.
A few items deal with Edison's ore milling technologies and the royalties earned by the Edison Crushing Roll Co. Additional correspondence with businessman Henry B. Clifford concerns his proposed application of Edison's ore milling technologies to sites in Colorado. There are occasional letters discussing the cement business and Edison's continuing interest in poured concrete houses.
Among the many letters relating to Edison's personal and family affairs are items regarding his health, diet, and sleeping habits; the activities of his children and other family members; his membership in clubs and societies; his book and journal orders; his charitable donations; improvements at Glenmont, his home in Llewellyn Park, New Jersey; and the upkeep of his winter home in Fort Myers, Florida. Also included are letters pertaining to his friendship with Henry Ford, John Burroughs, and Harvey Firestone and his vacations and camping trips with them. In addition, there are numerous letters in which Edison expresses his opinions and prejudices about a variety of social, religious, political, and economic issues. Included are letters discussing Edison's widely reported ideas about the deleterious effects of cigarette smoking, his support for women's suffrage and prohibition, his attitude toward Jewish bankers and industrialists, his position during the presidential campaigns of 1912 and 1916, and his opinions about the European war.
Approximately 15 percent of the documents, including all substantive letters pertaining to Edison's business operations and personal affairs, have been selected. The following categories of documents have not been selected: routine letters of transmittal and acknowledgment; non-substantive correspondence concerning the ordering and shipment of materials; letters about routine financial transactions; routine or repetitive responses to letters from individuals seeking employment, requesting advice, and offering advice; and responses to other unsolicited correspondence.
The books are numbered from 25 through 54; LB-099, LB-117, and LB-118 lack numbers. Although every technical effort has been made to ensure the legibility of the documents reproduced in this edition, some letters may be partially unreadable because of spreading or smearing ink or light imprints. In addition, there are occasional pages that are wrinkled or torn.
Unbound tissue copies of outgoing correspondence and interoffice memoranda can be found in the Edison General File Series and in the company record groups. Courtesy of Thomas Edison National Historical Park.