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These items consist of correspondence and other documents by and about Charles Edison (1890-1969), oldest son of Thomas Edison and his second wife, Mina Miller Edison. The selected letters cover the years 1897-1916, but most were written during 1907-1910. Included are approximately 85 letters written while Charles was a student at Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut (1907-1909) and 30 letters written while he was attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge (1909-1912).The letters are addressed primarily to Mina Edison, although some are addressed to Mina and Thomas jointly and a few are addressed to Charles's younger brother, Theodore. There is also one letter to Charles written by his former Hotchkiss classmate Gerald (Poggy) Hinkley. Correspondence between Charles and his older sister Madeleine can be found in Charles and Madeleine Edison Correspondence.
Among the early correspondence are two letters describing an automobile trip to North Carolina with Thomas Edison in May 1906. Charles returned to New Jersey by himself on a train, while his father proceeded on to Tennessee. A letter to Mina Edison written from Akron a month earlier mentions the San Francisco earthquake of April 18, 1906. A letter from August 1907 describes Charles's visit to Monhegan Island, Mainea vacation spot that the Edison family would frequently visit in the years that followed.
The letters written while Charles was attending Hotchkiss are replete with information about academic and social life at the school, including football games and other sports events, student hijinks (including the hazing of new students), and the annual fall and midwinter dances. Also included are Charles's impressions of fellow students and faculty, including headmaster Huber Gray Buehler, whom the students called "The King." In addition, the letters document Charles's involvement in the St. Luke's Society (a Christian fellowship club), the Forum (the literary society), and the Hotchkiss Record (the student newspaper). Other topics discussed in the correspondence include Charles's struggles with geometry and physics; lectures by Edwin C. Mercer, Leland T. Powers, Jacob Riis, and George E. Vincent; tensions between students and faculty; and Charles's disenchantment with Hotchkiss during his final term.
The Hotchkiss letters also contain occasional comments about Thomas Edison, as well as other family members and Edison employees. Included are remarks about the suicide of Edison's personal secretary, John F. Randolph, on February 17, 1908; the inventor's ear operation in February 1908, which necessitated a 17-day stay in a Manhattan hospital; the 1908 family trip to Florida, which was delayed because of Edison's illness; Edison's phonograph and cement businesses; the lawsuit instituted against Edison's National Phonograph Co. by the New York Phonograph Co.; and the construction of a new garage and greenhouse at Glenmont. There are also several references to the Panic of 1907; a letter describing Charles's activities during his Spring vacation in 1909, including visits to New York City and Atlantic City; and a letter relating the details of his train trip from the Pacific Northwest to New Jersey in September 1908, including a stopover in Chicago.
The letters written while Charles was attending MIT are all from his freshman year, 1909-1910. (Numerous other letters written during the remainder of his stay a MIT can be found in the Charles Edison Fund Collection.) Included are numerous references to Charles's disappointing grades and his struggles with geometry and trigonometry. There are also remarks about the Delta Psi fraternity (also known as the St. Anthony Club and the Number Six Club), which Charles joined at the beginning of his freshman year, and about three fraternity members who would become lifelong friendsJohn Pierrepont Constable, whom Charles would appoint chief engineer of the West Orange Laboratory in 1918; Robert Sayre (Bob) Cox, who accompanied Charles on his trip to San Francisco in 1913; and Aurelius Pointer (Re) Hornor, who left his native Arkansas to work for Thomas A. Edison, Inc. after Charles became president of the company in 1926. The letters contain occasional derogatory remarks about Boston, which Charles called "the homeliest town I have ever been in," as well as comments about Boston society and street life.
The last three selected letters are from 1913 and 1916. The first letter was probably written in April 1913, several months after Charles had taken a leave of absence from MIT. Included are remarks about Charles's work for the Boston Edison Co., along with a comment suggesting that he had not ruled out the possibility of returning to MIT in the fall. A letter written from California in November 1913 discusses his plans to build an amusement park in San Francisco, as well as other money-making schemes, and reacts to his mother's criticism that he was "not getting the best out of my time." A letter from March 1916 comments on the birth of Madeleine's first child, Thomas Edison (Teddy) Sloane. Following the correspondence are two undated items: a seven-page handwritten script for a play and a one-page poem.
The following items have not been selected: a photograph of Charles Edison receiving the Edison Commemorative Stamp platter; a copy of Readers Digest, December 1961, containing an article by Charles Edison about his father"My Most Unforgettable Character"; a letter from Charles Edison to Madeleine Edison Sloane, January 10, 1962, informing her that he will be sending some family letters that are "immensely valuable . . . from an historical standpoint"; letters from Charles Edison to David E. E. Sloane, August 2, 1967, January 11, 1968; and a printout, dated May 5, 2005, from the Charles Edison Fund website. Courtesy of David E. E. Sloane.