[Twenty-nine letters were added in August 2012; additional letters are currently being edited. ]
These letters are primarily from Mary Emily Miller (1869-1946) to her older sister, Mina Miller Edison. A few of the letters are jointly authored by Mary and her mother, Mary Valinda Miller, and by Mary and her husband, William W. Nichols. Also included are three letters to Charles Edison (one is addressed jointly to Charles and his wife, Carolyn Hawkins Edison) and a letter by Mina's secretary, M. Elizabeth Given. The selected items, many of which are undated, cover the years 1886-1931. Included are references to Thomas Edison's work, health, and travel; his paternal and spousal roles; and his relations with members of the Miller family. There are also remarks pertaining to the construction of Edisonís laboratory in West Orange and the development of his talking doll, kinetoscope, and phonograph.
Additional items concern the final illness of Mary's sister, Jane (1855-1898); the re-marriage of Jane's husband, Richard P. Marvin, in 1900 and his death six years later; Mary's treatment at the Battle Creek Sanitarium following a nervous breakdown in 1909; her life in-residence with the Edison family during much of 1910; and her courtship by, and marriage to, engineer and businessman William W. Nichols (1860-1948) in 1912. Other topics mentioned in the letters include the final illness of Mary Valinda Miller, who died in October 1912; Mary's treatment at the Battle Creek Sanitarium following the death of her mother; Thomas Edison's illness in 1913; the marriage of Grace Miller to businessman Halbert K. Hitchcock in February 1916; the birth of Thomas Edison's first grandchild (and namesake), Thomas Edison Sloane, in March 1916; and the marriage of Charles Edison in March 1918. Marian Nichols, daughter of William Nichols and his first wife, actress Marise Naughton, is also mentioned in many of the letters.
The nine letters written during the period 1914-1918 include numerous comments about World War I. Several letters mention Mary's concern about Edison's daughter Marion, who was living in Germany and married to a German army officer. One letter expresses her fear that the enemy might use Marion as a "tool" to harm her father. Other war-related topics mentioned in the correspondence include research conducted by Edison at the Naval Base in Key West, Florida, during the winter and spring of 1918; charges of disloyalty raised against President Wilson's secretary, Joseph P. Tumulty; and the sinking of the Tuscania by a German submarine in February 1918an incident in which 230 Americans were killed. A letter from 1925 mentions the Scopes trial and the late Lewis Miller's concern about his many unmarried children. (Jane married in her late 30s; Mary and Grace, in their mid-40s; Lewis Alexander and Edward, in their 50s.) A letter from 1928 mentions Mina Edison's participation in the presidential election campaign of Herbert Hoover. The last letter, written by Mina Edison's secretary, M. Elizabeth Given, discusses the physical and mental condition of Thomas Edison three weeks before his death.
There are approximately 330 letters to or from Mary E. Miller in Books #8 and #9 on the Charles Edison Fund microfilm, as well as additional items in Book #35. In some of these letters William W. Nichols appears as co-author or co-recipient. Click here for a list of all the correspondence books on the CEF microfilm. In addition to the letters presented here, numerous other documents originally in the CEF Collection can be found in the Family Records Series in Parts III, IV, and V of the Thomas A. Edison Papers digital and microfilm editions. Additional letters by Mary E. Miller can be found among the family papers at the Edison-Ford Winter Estates and the David E. E. Sloane Collection. Courtesy of the Charles Edison Fund.