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These documents cover the years 1862-1931, with one additional item from 1937. They consist primarily of letters to and from Edison. They relate to a variety of subjects, including telegraphy, phonographs, telephones, electrical lighting, alkaline storage batteries, and motion pictures. Some of the letters from the 1920s discuss Edison's experiments in producing rubber from plants, his attitude toward the radio, and his skepticism about its use in transmitting music. There is also correspondence concerning Henry Ford's automobiles, his profit-sharing plans, and his antisemitism. Some of the letters deal with Edison's summer camping trips with Ford, naturalist John Burroughs, and rubber manufacturer Harvey S. Firestone. Other items of a personal nature include correspondence about Edison's health and his opinions on cigarette smoking and prohibition, along with jokes and birthday greetings exchanged between Edison and Ford. A few letters pertain to the re-creation of the Menlo Park laboratory at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan.
In addition, there is some non-correspondence, including a 13-page account of the "beginnings of the incandescent lamp and lighting systems," prepared by Edison for Henry Ford in 1926. Also included are Edison's penciled responses to handwritten and typewritten questions submitted by reporters in 1929. The questions address topics such as capital punishment, airplane travel, religion, moral standards of the young, fashion trends, television experiments, crime reporting in newspapers, prohibition, and economic prosperity during Herbert Hoover's presidential administration.
Among the correspondents are Edison and his parents, Samuel and Mary Edison; Joel H. Hills and William E. Plummer, financiers of Edison's early experiments in telegraphy; Samuel Insull, Edison's personal secretary during the 1880s, and William H. Meadowcroft, his personal assistant from 1910 to 1931; laboratory assistants Francis Jehl, John F. Ott, and Charles N. Wurth; and Thomas Logan, superintendent of the machine shop in the Menlo Park laboratory. Other correspondents include Ford and his personal secretaries Frank Campsall and Ernest G. Liebold; William C. Anderson, manufacturer of electric automobiles; William G. Bee, vice-president of the Edison Storage Battery Co.; and William A. Benney, research superintendent at Edison's winter home in Fort Myers, Florida, during the 1920s.
The unselected items include routine letters to and from Hill & Co., a Ford dealership in Fort Myers, pertaining to a car given to Edison by Henry Ford; other documents that merely duplicate the information in selected material; non-substantive letters of transmittal and acknowledgment; photocopies of documents from other repositories and from published works; a few illegible items; and variant versions of documents already published in the microfilm and digital editions of the Thomas A. Edison Papers. Courtesy of the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village Research Center.