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These files contain patent applications and related drawings, along with correspondence between Edison's attorneys and the U.S. Patent Office. Many of the applications pertain to improvements in Edison's phonograph. There is also material relating to electric lighting and power, ore milling, motion pictures, and various other technologies.
Another set of application files for Edison's U.S. patents can be found in the National Archives (Record Group 241, Records of the Patent Office). The National Archives set is nearly complete for this period and is available on microfilm. For that reason, the formal specifications and the correspondence between Edison's attorneys and the Patent Office have not been selected in the case files for the successful applications in the Edison National Historical Park's collection. The selected material from these files consists primarily of notes, drawings, and draft specifications by Edison, along with occasional correspondence to or from Edison, his associates, and his companies. The case files for Edison's abandoned or forfeited applications have been selected in their entirety except for duplicates, printed patents by Edison and other inventors, and other printed material.
The patent application files are arranged in chronological order according to execution date, the date on which the formal application was signed and witnessed. For Edison drafts, the dates appearing on the documents are generally earlier than the formal execution date.
Folio Numbers. These numbers were assigned by patent attorneys Richard N. Dyer and Frank L. Dyer and by the various Dyer partnerships to applications filed on behalf of Edison and other clients. Folio numbers generally appear on the upper left corner of the application covers. There are two series of folio numbers: one beginning in the 1880s and continuing through 1901; the other beginning in the early twentieth century and continuing into the 1930s.
Edison Case Numbers. These numbers, which are often preceded by the letter "E," were also assigned by Edison's patent attorneys, beginning in the late 1870s. Unlike the folio numbers, the case numbers were used exclusively for Edison's applications. Case numbers generally appear on the application covers and can also be found on other patent-related documents such as the patent application casebooks published in Thomas A. Edison Papers, Part II (1879-1886). The case number system was discontinued in 1905.
Serial Numbers. These numbers were assigned by the U.S. Patent Office to applications filed by Edison and other inventors. A new sequence of numbers was used for each year. Serial numbers generally appear on the upper right corner of the application covers and on the correspondence between Edison's attorneys and the Patent Office.
Patent Numbers. These numbers were assigned by the U.S. Patent Office to successful applications by Edison and other inventors at the time the patent was formally issued.