These documents, which cover the years 1933-1935, consist primarily of letters, telegrams, and postcards from Mina Miller Edison to her son Theodore and daughter-in-law Ann. Many of the communications are addressed to Theodore and Ann jointly, but some are addressed to Theodore by himself. Most of the letters were written from Seminole Lodge, the family's winter home in Fort Myers, Florida, and from Chautauqua, New York, where Mina spent considerable time during the summer. Other communications were written from Elmira, New York; Mount Berry, Georgia; Mount Wilson, California; and a train en route to Chicago. Also included is one letter by Theodore, written in response to a circular letter by Mina soliciting funds for a new charitable organization, the Woman's Exchange of the Oranges.
There are several references to Thomas Edison in the letters, including comments about Mina's plans to attend an Edison Memorial Day event in Chicago on October 21, 1933; Edison's love for Seminole Lodge; his rubber experiments and Mina's wish to see those experiments continue; and a visit in September 1935 to Edison's birthplace in Milan, Ohio. The 1935 letters contain numerous remarks about Edward Hughes, a widower whom Mina had known since the 1870s when their families both had summer homes in Chautauqua. Included are references to several visits to Seminole Lodge in February and March by Edward, who had a home in Deland, Florida, about two hundred miles away from Fort Myers on the Atlantic Coast. A letter of July 25 informs Theodore and Ann of Mina's plans to announce her engagement to Edward after the end of the Chautauqua season and explains the rationale behind her decision to remarry. Also included is an invitation to the wedding, which took place at Chautauqua on October 30, along with a card announcing that the couple would be residing at Glenmont after January 1. In addition, there is a postcard from the Wilson Observatory, which Mina and Edward visited on their honeymoon.
Among the visitors to Seminole Lodge mentioned in the correspondence are Mina's son and daughter-in-law Charles and Carolyn Edison, who visited in 1933 and 1934, and her sisters Mary Miller Nichols and Grace Miller Hitchcock, who visited in 1935. The letters from 1935 also indicate that Mina's secretary, Mary Elizabeth Given, accompanied her to Florida that year. A letter from March 1935 mentions that Grace had acquired her own "little place" near Seminole Lodge and that her late husband's brother and wife, Lucius and Sarah Hitchcock, had visited her there. There are also references to physician John Harvey Kellogg's invitation to Mina to stop by the Battle Creek Sanitarium in Miami on her way home in 1933 and to Mary's efforts to persuade Mina to join her in a visit in 1935. (Although Mina could see no point in visiting a sanitarium "when you have nothing the matter with you," she did acknowledge that she might consider it "if I could go and spend three months to take down obesity.") Two letters from 1933 mention a side trip to the Martha Berry School in Mount Berry, Georgiaa college for children of poor landowners and tenant farmers established by educator Martha McChesney, which was supported by Henry Ford.
The letters contain numerous comments about the impact of the Great Depression and particularly its impact on Chautauqua, which went into receivership in 1933 and faced the threat of foreclosure. Included are remarks about efforts by Mina and others to raise funds to pay off the Chautauqua debt, which by 1935 had been reduced in half. Mina also comments about the unwillingness of Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone to help out with the fund-raising drive. In addition, there are numerous references to Mina's role as president of the Bird and Tree Club and to other activities at Chautauqua such as sports and musical performances. Two letters from 1933 mention a visit to Chautauqua by the Berry School Boys. Other visitors mentioned in the letters include Thomas Edison (Teddy) Sloane and his cousin Charles Sloane, Jr., who motored up in 1933; Mina's four-year-old grandson, Michael Edison Sloane, who stayed with her for a time in 1935; longtime friend and family member Edith Edison; and various members of the Miller family.
Several letters from 1935 express concern about the physical and mental health of Thomas A. Edison, Jr., who died under mysterious circumstances in a hotel room at Springfield, Massachusetts, on August 25. A letter from February 17 indicates that Mina had considered leaving Florida to tend to her ailing stepson, but that she had decided not to go to New Jersey after being assured by Tom that "he does not need to have me do so." In the same letter, Mina asks Ann, who had been visiting Tom every day, to "please let me know just how he is." In a letter from Chautauqua written on August 9, Mina again inquires about "poor Tom" and mentions a recent letter she had received from his sister, Marion Edison Oeser. Perhaps referring to Marion's allegations that Tom' wife Beatrice had been engaging in a longtime affair with a man named Wilson, Mina attributes "the trouble" to Marion's "great interest in Tom" and the fact that "she does not understand Beatrice." A letter from September 4 indicates that Mina and her fiancÃ© Edward temporarily left Chautauqua to attend Tom's funeral, staying with Theodore and Ann at their home in Llewellyn Park. (Glenmont was usually closed up while Mina was away.) Commenting on the "staggering" events of the past two weeks, Mina also mentions the recent deaths of Llewellyn Park residents Margaret Colgate and Ralph Pomeroy and the sad news about her "near near neighbor"probably E. Remington Nichols, who passed away on September 30 after a brief illness.
Other family-related events mentioned in the letters include the deaths of Mina's brother Ira M. Miller and her "new found cousin" Lewis Miller Alexander in 1934; the deaths of friends Bettie Bofinger Brown and Harriet Irene Brown the same year; the death of Philip McKim Garrison (grandson of the abolitionist editor William Lloyd Garrison) in 1935; and the birth of twins Harold and Olga Sears (children of Theodore's sister-in-law Olga Osterhout Sears) in July 1935. In a letter from September 9, Mina speculates upon the possibility of Ann raising one of the twins but then adds "I imagine Olga would never consent." There are also occasional references to Calibron Products, Inc., the company established by Theodore in 1931. Courtesy of the Chautauqua Institution Archives, Oliver Archives Center.