[Approximately 200 letters were added to this collection in September-October 2009. At the same time, undated items previously published were assigned more precise conjectured dates, and dates that were incorrectly conjectured were corrected. These changes necessitated numerous changes in the Document IDs. The correspondence was re-examined in November 2011, and more precise or accurate dates were assigned to 22 letters. These changes resulted in additional changes in the IDs. Since many of the IDs were very long and unwieldy, a decision was made to renumber the entire sequence of letters. To find the current ID for a letter if you know the old one, click here.]
[Twenty-five letters were added in 2013.]
These letters are primarily from Madeleine Edison (1888-1979) to her mother, Mina Miller Edison. Although Madeleine's letters are sometimes addressed to both parents, only a few letters, relating principally to her request for financial assistance in 1923, are written directly to Thomas Edison. In addition to the correspondence by Madeleine, there are letters to Thomas and Mina Edison from John Eyre Sloane (1886-1970), whom Madeleine married in June 1914. There are also occasional letters written by Madeleine. The recipients include her four children, Thomas (Ted), John (Jack), Peter, and Michael; relatives such as her aunt, Mary Emily Miller, and friends such as her college roommate, Julia Thompson.
The selected letters, many of which are undated, cover the years 1898-1938. Most of the early letters were written while Madeleine was attending Oak Place School in Akron, Ohio, in 1905-1906 and Bryn Mawr College in 1906-1908. Also included are letters pertaining to her 1908 vacation in Annisquam, Massachusetts; her 1909 vacation with the Sloane family in Edgartown, Massachusetts, during which she became acquainted with her future husband; her visit in the fall of 1909 to the home of her best friend Julia Thompson, whose father was a friend and biographer of the poet Eugene Field; her visit that same year with Peggy James, the daughter of philosopher William James; and her 1910 trip to Bermuda, during which she met Mark Twain. One undated letter from 1912 relates to her work at the Bureau of Municipal Research in New York City under the direction of civic leader William Harvey Allen. Another undated item, probably also from 1912, mentions Madeleine's secret engagement to John Sloane and her frustration at her mother's opposition to their marriage.
There are only two extant items from the period 1913-1917an undated letter to Julia Thompson from the summer of 1914 describing Madeleine's wedding; and a letter from June 1916, written shortly after the birth of Madeleine's first son, Thomas Edison (Ted) Sloane. The 37 selected letters from 1918 were written primarily while the Sloane family was living in Washington, D.C., and contain numerous remarks about the war and its impact on domestic life. Also included are comments about Charles's marriage to Carolyn Hawkins in March 1918, which came as a surprise to Madeleine and other family members since it was not preceded by a formal engagement. In addition, there is discussion of Madeleine's second pregnancy, her hope for a daughter, and her return to New Jersey in April 1918 a few weeks before the birth of Jack.
More than half of the selected letters date from the period 1919-1931. Most were written while Thomas and Mina Edison were residing at Seminole Lodge, their winter home in Fort Myers, Florida, or while the Sloanes was on vacation in New England. The letters contain numerous comments about the domestic life of the Sloane family, including the birth of Peter Edison Sloane in 1923, the birth of Michael Edison Sloane in 1931 when Madeleine was forty-two, and the upbringing and education of the four children. There are also extensive references to Madeleine's social activities, including her involvement in community theater and her active role in the Garden Club of the Oranges; her health, including her gallbladder operation in 1929; her relations with her servants; and the construction of a home in Llewellyn Park. In addition, there are occasional remarks indicating Madeleine's attitude toward her parents, her brothers Charles and Theodore, her half-brothers Thomas Jr. and William, and their spouses. Also included are comments regarding race relations, the contest for the U.S. Senate in 1930, and John Sloane's involvement in local Republican politics. Two letters from 1937 discuss the final illness and death of William Edison. The last two itemsan extract from a 1938 letter and the draft of a speech given sometime after World War IIcontain comments by Madeleine regarding the achievements and historical reputation of her father. The draft speech also includes Madeleine's impressions of Edison as a father and her feelings about growing up as the child of a famous inventor.
Approximately two-thirds of the letters have been selected. All of the correspondence written prior to Madeleine's marriage has been selected except for a few fragmentary items. A more selective approach has been taken toward the letters written during the period 1918-1931. All of the dated letters have been selected, as well as undated letters that are revealing of Madeleine's personality or her attitude towards her parents, siblings, and in-laws. Undated items pertaining to routine family matters have not been selected. John Eyre Sloane's letters have not been selected except in cases where they contain significant comments about Madeleine. With a few exceptions, the letters written after Thomas Edison's death in October 1931 have not been selected. Also not selected are approximately 45 letters that were donated to the Edison National Historical Park during the 1990s and published in the Family Records Series of Thomas A. Edison Papers, Part V (1911-1919).
Most of the letters are from Books #1-#4 on the Charles Edison Fund microfilm. There are also a few letters from the beginning of Book #19. Click here for a list of all the correspondence books on the microfilm. In addition, there are a few items from two correspondence books not on the microfilm: (1) "Madeleine & John Sloanís Letters to Mother and Father, Volume 2"; (2) "Dear Charles Edisonís Letters: Grandparents, Sisters/Brothers, Aunts/Uncles, Cousins, Friendsí Letters." Click here for a list of boxes with correspondence not on the microfilm. Numerous other letters to and from Madeleine Edison can be found in the David E. E. Sloane Collection. A few additional items, including a letter from Madeleine to her brother Charles written on his eighth birthday, can be found among the family letters at the Edison-Ford Winter Estates. Courtesy of the Charles Edison Fund.