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These items consist of letters to and from Mary Emily Miller (1867?-1946), younger sister of Mina Miller Edison. The letters written by Mary cover the years 1890 and 1898-1899. Most of them are addressed to Mina, but there are also letters to her brother John, her sister Grace, and her nephew Charles Edison. The letters to Mary, which cover the years 1888, 1927-1929, and 1935 were all written by Mina. Some of them are addressed jointly to Mary; her husband William W. Nichols (1860-1948), whom she married in 1912; and her stepdaughter Marian (1897-1988).
The earliest letter, written by Mina in March 1888three months before the birth of her first child, Madeleinementions Mary's and Grace's upcoming trip to Europe, playfully expresses hope that "three or four Princes [will] fall in love with you," and predicts that Mina "will have a perfectly beautiful little one to show you" at her next visit. Mina also mentions "a little side flirtation" that she noticed between Grace and family friend Charlie Bruch. (Mary and Grace would both remain unmarried until their forties.) A telegram sent by Mary on August 4, 1890, congratulates Mina on the birth of her "little boy" Charles.
The twenty-four remaining letters by Mary, many of which are undated, cover the period March 1898-March 1899. Included are comments about the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, the opposition of Mary Valinda Miller to her sons Theodore and John entering the military, and the reaction of the Miller family to Theodore's death on July 8, 1898, following the Battle of San Juan Hill. Also included are remarks regarding a book about Theodore, written by various family members, that was published in 1899 as Theodore W. Miller: Rough Rider. Other topics mentioned in the letters include Mary Valinda's reaction to Grace's decision to take a teaching position in Atlanta ("Mother does nothing but weep since she heard about Grace"); the financial difficulties of the Conger family, whom Mary characterizes as "mostly all crooked"; the health problems of Mary's aging aunt and uncle, Lucy and John Hunter, who moved into the Miller family home at Oak Place in mid-1898; the deteriorating condition of Mary's sister Jane, who died on November 29, 1898; Jane's belief that her affliction was "punishment because she did not have children"; a dispute between Lewis Miller and Chautauqua co-founder John Heyl Vincent; preparations to close Oak Place after the death of Lewis on February 17, 1899; and the financial condition of the Miller family following his death.
In addition, the letters contain comments about plans for Mary and her mother to travel to West Orange to attend the birth of Mina's third child (Theodore Miller Edison, born on July 10, 1898), plans to name the baby "Mary" should it be a girl, and Louise Miller's characterization of baby Theodore as being "as homely as they make them." There are occasional remarks about Thomas Edison's ore milling operations in Ogden, New Jersey, including a facetious comment, made after the suspension of operations at the mill, that "perhaps when they get the hoodoo out of the mine, it will be a go." The letters reveal Mary's negative opinion of her nephew, William Leslie Edison, whom she characterizes as "deceitful," as well as her belief that it would be beneficial for him to remain in the army, "where he needs no money [and] where he is getting disciplined in a good many ways."
Five letters by Mina Edison cover the period July 1927-February 1929. The first letter discusses plans for the upcoming Chautauqua assembly and the involvement of Mina and other Miller family members in the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle. (Mina graduated from the C.L.S.C. in 1930 after completing a four-year reading course.) The letters written from Fort Myers during the winter of 1929 include comments about Edison's impending eighty-second birthday celebration, the probable visit of President-elect Herbert Hoover, and Edison's friends Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone, whom Mina believed were exploiting the Edison name for their own advantage. There is also a reference to Mina's involvement in beautification and clean-up projects in the African American district of Fort Myers. The last document, written four days after Mina's marriage to retired businessman Edward Everett Hughes, characterizes her second husband as a "gentle and thoughtful" man. Courtesy of David E. E. Sloane.