These documents, which cover the years 1868-1891, pertain to a lawsuit brought against Edison by Ebenezer Baker Welch, a Boston commission merchant and telegraph entrepreneur. The issue in dispute related to an 1869 contract by which Welch had purchased a half-interest in an early type of duplex telegraph, in exchange for funding Edison's experimental work. The case was initiated in the Superior Court of Suffolk County, Massachusetts, in 1883 and then moved to the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Massachusetts. It was finally settled out of court in 1892. Most of the documents on Edison's side of the case were prepared by Hale & Walcott (later Hale & Fiske), his attorneys in Boston.
Among the items in the Superior Court record are the plaintiff's initial declaration, with a copy of the contract, and the defendant's answer, denying that the contract applied to Edison's later inventions. Included in the Circuit Court record are a set of questions posed by Edison to Welch in 1884; Welch's responses in 1889; and a request for an increase in the damages sought by Welch, from $30,000 to $230,000, moved by well-known attorney Benjamin F. Butler. Also included are motions by Edison in 1890 requiring Welch to supply a list of patents allegedly covered by the contract and documentary evidence for his claims; Welch's list of such patents; his own questions for Edison; and Edison's replies, taken by deposition in 1891.
At the end of the court record is a series of transcripts produced by Welch of letters and other documents, 1868-1884, supporting his case. These pertain to Edison's experimental work on various telegraph instruments in Boston in 1868-1869 and to business arrangements involving himself, Welch, and Milton F. Adams.
Items not selected include routine documents relating to legal motions, court orders, and other procedural matters; documents containing duplicate information; and an account of the case written many years later by Richard Hale, the son of Edison's attorney George S. Hale. Courtesy of the National Archives.