[This folder has not been completely edited. Letters are currently being added, and documents identified as "to be edited" may not have images or complete database information. In addition, the information in the folder target (editorial description) may not be up-to-date.]
These letters are primarily from Marion Estelle Edison (1873-1965) to her father, Thomas A. Edison, and her stepmother, Mina Miller Edison. The selected letters, some of which are undated, cover the years 1894-1937. Numerous earlier letters, beginning in 1885, can be found in Part III of the digital edition in the Family Records Series (see below) and in the "Edison, T.A. -- Family" folders in the Document File Series.
The documents from the 1890s pertain primarily to Marion's courtship by, and marriage to, German army officer Karl Oscar Oeser (b. 1865). These and subsequent letters include numerous references to Edison’s financial support of Marion, who lived in Germany from the time of her marriage until 1925. The letters also contain extensive discussion of social, political, and economic conditions in Germany during World War I and the years immediately following. Among the topics mentioned are the enormous casualties of the war, Marion's fear for her own life and Oscar's, the impact of the war on her physical and mental health, the role of German women during the war, French bombing of the Alsace region, Marion's flight to Switzerland after the U.S. declaration of war, the rampant inflation and widespread suffering of the postwar years, the deterioration in Marion's own standard of living, and the French occupation of the Ruhr in 1923. In addition to the correspondence, there are numerous photographs and news clippings dating from the war.
There are also letters relating to Marion’s discovery of Oscar's affair with Clara Berger, their acrimonious and drawn-out divorce, Marion's growing contempt for the Germans, and her decision in 1924 to return to the United States. Included in these letters are comments about the inferior legal status of married women in Germany and the difficulties and high cost of obtaining a divorce. Also included are several references to a Swiss businessman named Faller, who became engaged to Marion at the beginning of 1924 but died a few months later in an industrial accident, along with comments about various other suitors. Some of the postwar letters contain remarks about Thomas Edison’s declining health and his precarious business affairs, including the temporary shutdown of the Edison Phonograph Works at the end of 1920. In addition, there are occasional remarks such as "I have been hungry for years for some sign of affection from you," which are revealing of Edison's personality and his sometimes contentious relationship with the children of his first marriage.
All of the letters through 1931 (the year of Thomas Edison's death) have been selected, with the exception of the letters published elsewhere in the Family Records Series of the Thomas A. Edison Papers digital and microfilm editions (see below). Also selected are a few additional letters from the 1930s relating to the deaths of Marion's brothers, Thomas Jr. and William; the alleged infidelity of Thomas's wife, Beatrice; Marion's affection for her half-brothers, Charles and Theodore (whom she characterized as "more of a philanthropist than a socialist"); her icy relationship with her half-sister, Madeleine; and the continuing efforts of Oscar Oeser to secure money from the Edison family. One letter expresses Marion's concern about the absence of male Edison descendants and her wish that Madeleine's family change their surname to Edison-Sloane in order to perpetuate the Edison name.
Following the correspondence are twelve undated photographs, including pictures of Marion and Oscar and their villa in Baden. The last document is a 15-page typewritten memoir bearing the title, "The Wizard of Menlo Park By His Daughter Marion Edison Oser." Included are Marion's reminiscences about growing up at Menlo Park and her impressions of her father, mother, and two brothers. Also included are comments about the family's residence in New York City during the 1880s, the death of Mary Stilwell Edison in August 1884, Marion's bonding with her widowed father during the following months, her father's courtship of Mina Miller, and her feelings about her new stepmother, who was "too young to be a mother to me but too old to be a chum." The last two pages contain remarks about Marion's tour of Europe in 1889-1892, her contraction of smallpox, her marriage to Oscar Oeser, the impact of World War I on their family life, and her return to America in 1925. A dateline on the last page indicates that the memoir was written in March 1956. Marion's signature appears below the dateline. An undated handwritten memorandum, which may be related to the reminiscences, precedes the typewritten memoir.
The letters are primarily from Books #29 and #30 on the Charles Edison Fund microfilm. Click here for a list of all the correspondence books on the CEF microfilm. Ten additional letters (including the nine letters added in June 2010) and the typewritten memoir are from a book, not on the microfilm, bearing the title, "Letters to Father and Mina from Thomas Alva Edison’s 1st marriage: Thomas, Jr; William, Marion." Click here for a list of boxes with correspondence not on the microfilm. An additional 125 letters and other documents relating to Marion Edison, some formerly owned by the CEF, can be found in the Family Records Series in Parts III, IV, and V of the Thomas A. Edison Papers digital and microfilm editions. A few other items by and about Marion Edison can be found in the David E. E. Sloane Collection.
Please note: The images in this folder were scanned from microfilm owned by CEF or from original documents in the possession of CEF. Some of the letters on the microfilm were subsequently donated to the Thomas Edison National Historical Park. These items are so indicated in the document information frame above each image. Courtesy of the Charles Edison Fund and Thomas Edison National Historical Park.