[Approximately 125 letters were added to this collection in March 2010. Four additional letters, written by Beatrice Heyzer Edison shortly before and after the death of Thomas A. Edison, Jr., were added in June 2010. Some of the letters from Book #36 with faint ink are partially illegible on the CEF microfilm. These images, formerly on the Edison Papers website, have been replaced by images scanned from the original letters in the CEF Collection.]
These letters, which cover the years 1886-1931 and 1935-1936, consists primarily of correspondence from Thomas A. Edison, Jr. (1876-1935) to his stepmother Mina Miller Edison. Also included are letters to his father Thomas A. Edison and his brother William L. Edison. Some of the letters are by Beatrice Heyzer Edison (ca. 1882-1950), whom Thomas married in 1906. There are numerous references to the work, health, and travel of Thomas A. Edison, as well as to his parental role and his troubled relationship with his son. Some of the letters from the 1890s are difficult to read due to faint ink.
Included are approximately 50 letters from the years 1890-1893, most of which were written while Thomas was attending St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire. Beginning in the fall of 1891, the letters contain many references to recurring health problems (including a bout of chicken pox in October), difficulties in studying, and Thomas's desire to return home. A letter from January 18, 1893, announces his intention to drop out of school and go to work for his father. Frequently mentioned in the correspondence is Thomas's younger brother William, who stayed at St. Paul's until the end of 1893. There are also references to John V. and Theodore M. Miller, younger brothers of Mina Edison, who also attended St. Paul's in the early 1890s. In addition, there are letters pertaining to the Edison brothers' stay in Akron, Ohio, during the summer of 1890 and in Port Huron, Michigan, during the summer of 1891. A series of fragmentary notes and drawings involving motors and cars, one of which bears the date of August 14, 1890, appears to be related to a project on which Thomas and William were working with John and Theodore Miller during their Akron visit.
Approximately 65 letters date from the period 1893-1896, when Thomas was working for his father at the New Jersey and Pennsylvania Concentrating Works in Ogden (Edison), New Jersey. Included are comments about progress at the mill and Thomas's expectations that his father's ore milling venture would eventually prove successful. There are also numerous letters written from Chautauqua, where Thomas spend part of the summer in 1893-1896 and struck up a friendship with George and Edward Redington, sons of a publisher in Syracuse, New York. An undated letter from the summer of 1893 describes his visit to Chicago World's Fair, which was preceded by a visit to Oak Place, the Miller family home in Akron, and a quarrel with his step-aunt Mary. Two letters from the summer of 1895 refer to Tom's unsuccessful attempt to interest his father in a camping trip with the Redingtons and other friends. One undated letter from September 1895 was written on board the SS Furst Bismarck on the day that Thomas sailed for Europe to attend the wedding of his sister Marion.
The letters from this period contain several references to Thomas's health problems, particularly recurring headaches and his feelings of sadness and depression after the death of a close female friend in December 1894. Other topics mentioned in the correspondence include Thomas's growing interest in painting; his intention to study French and German while working at the mill; the bad feelings between his stepmother and his sister Marion; and several accidents at the mill involving Thomas, including an eye injury sustained during his first month on the job. There are also comments by Thomas regarding his father's celebrity, his own feelings of inadequacy on being the son of a famous inventor, and his frustration that he had not been able to please his father.
There are 29 letters dating from the thirteen-month period beginning in January 1897, when Thomas turned twenty-one and informed his father that he was leaving his job at the Ogden mill. (An additional 23 letters from this period can be found in the Part III Family Records Series, and the letters from both collections are characterized in this note.) Included are letters pertaining to his trip to the Midwest and South in January-February; his brief return to the mill during the Spring; his trip to the Adirondacks in June-July; his six-week stay at Chautauqua in August-September; his move to Asbury Park, New Jersey, at the end of September; and the organization of a company in New York City in October to market the "Edison Jr. Improved" lamp. The letters from this period are filled with self-deprecating remarks by Thomas about his inability to live up to the expectations of his father, his feelings of being unloved and out of place in the Edison household in West Orange, and his fear that he is losing his mind. There are several allusions to romantic involvements, as well as references to Thomas's desire to further his education and attend college. (Another letter from this period regarding his romantic interests can be found among the family letters at the Edison-Ford Winter Estates).
There are two additional letters in the Charles Edison Fund (CEF) Collection from 1898, one written shortly after the birth of Theodore Edison in July and the other in December. Numerous other letters from 1897-1898, primarily addressed to Edward Redington, can be found in the "Edison, T.A. -- Family" folders D-97-09 and D-98-07 in the Part III Document File Series. Twenty additional letters covering the period February 1898-March 1899 can be found in the David E. E. Sloane Collection.
There are no letters in the CEF Collection from 1899-1906 and only three letters from 1907-1910. However, numerous letters written by Thomas Edison, Jr., during the years 1899-1910 can be found in the "Edison, T.A. -- Family" folders in the Part IV Document File Series. Six letters from 1907-1910, formerly in the CEF Collection, can be found in the Part IV Family Records Series. The remaining 21 letters in the CEF collection cover the years 1912-1931. Some of them were written by Thomas's second wife, Beatrice Heyzer Edison, whom he married in May 1906. Twenty-five additional letters from this period, formerly in the CEF Collection, can be found in the Part V Family Records Series.
Most of the letters from 1907-1919 were written in Burlington, New Jersey, where Thomas and Beatrice lived on a farm that the inventor had purchased for his son in 1906. The letters contain numerous expressions of affection for Mina Edison and other family members, as well as repeated requests for her to visit the farm. There are also references to Thomas's health problems, particularly his recurring headaches, which resulted in hospital stays in 1909 and 1910. A letter by Beatrice Edison from June 19, 1916, discusses her husband's recent baptism and confirmation in the Episcopal Church and the impact of his new religious beliefs on his personality. There are also comments indicating that Beatrice was pregnant and expecting a child within a few weeks. There is no further mention of the child in the Edison family correspondence.
Six of the nine letters from the 1920s are by Beatrice Edison and relate to Thomas's extended stay in New York City during the summer of 1922, where he was treated by Frederick Tinley and Henry Alsop Riley, two prominent neurologists associated with the Columbia University College of Physicians & Surgeons; some of these letters contain brief comments by Edison Jr. (Four additional letters can be found in the Part V Family Records Series.) A letter by Thomas from December 1927 affirms that "I am not happy nor do I ever expect to be - all chance of this was deprived me many years ago." A letter by Beatrice, probably written in November 1931, refers to her recent "breakdown."
The letters by Thomas Edison, Jr., have all been selected, with the exception of those published elsewhere in the Edison Papers editions. Numerous letters by Beatrice Edison, including ten additional letters written during Thomas's 1922 illness, have not been selected. Also not selected are a few birthday cards, holiday cards, and other ephemera. Most of the letters are from Books #16 and #36 on the CEF microfilm. The June 19, 1916 letter by Beatrice Edison, along with her letters from 1935 and 1936, 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 all the correspondence books on the CEF microfilm. Click here for a list of boxes with correspondence not on the microfilm. Courtesy of the Charles Edison Fund.