These documents, which cover the years 1936-1937, 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. Many 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. Others were written from Mexico City and various locations in Europe.
The first item from 1936 is a postcard from Mexico, which Mina characterizes as a "fascinating country" despite its poverty. The letters from Fort Myers mention Mina's involvement with the Community Congregational Church and the Plant Flower and Fruit Guild, as well as an impending visit by Ann Edison. Mina also comments on the death of her older brother Edward on March 27 in a Fort Lauderdale hospital, noting that his passing "has left a great void." In the same letter, she remarks upon her reluctance to let go of any of Thomas Edison's memorabilia. "It seems just a little of him with me," she writes. "I miss him so in everything here. It is all so, so different." The letters from Chautauqua discuss Mina's activities with the Bird and Tree Club and the successful campaign to pay off the Chautauqua debt. There is also a reference to an impending visit by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who delivered a notable "I Hate War" speech on August 14.
Among the topics discussed in the 1937 letters from Fort Myers are an upcoming visit by Theodore and Ann; a visit by Mina's fourteen-year-old grandson, Peter Edison Sloane, and Charles and Artie Hughes, the son and grandson of Mina's second husband Edward Everett Hughes; the death of Mina's longtime African American cook Queenie Adams on January 12; and the death of guide and family friend J. Fred Menge two weeks later. In addition, there are eight letters written during Mina's and Edward's trip to Europe during the summer of 1937. Included are letters written from London, Rattvik (Sweden), Stockholm, Moscow, and Copenhagen, as well as a letter written aboard the SS Statendam en route to Europe. Among the topics discussed in the letters are the social welfare state in Sweden compared with the United States; political and social conditions in Russia; and comparisons of the Swedish, Russian, and Danish populations in terms of happiness. Mina also comments on how Thomas Edison is honored in Leningrad and Moscow. In addition, there are remarks about various Americans encountered in Europe, including Mina's nineteen-year-old grandson, John Edison (Jack) Sloane, who joined the couple in London and stayed with them until the end of their visit to Norway. Also included are comments regarding the death of Mina's stepson William Leslie Edison on August 10 and Mina's concerns about the health of her younger brother John Vincent Miller. In a letter written three months before she sailed for Europe, Mina expresses regret that she and Thomas Edison had never visited Scandinavia together. A day-by-day account of Mina's visit to Europe can be found in a 162-page typescript version of her diary.
There are also occasional references in the correspondence to Calibron Products, Inc., the company established by Theodore in 1931, and to Ann's attendance at the Rutgers College of Pharmacy, from which she received a Bachelor's degree in 1937. In addition to the correspondence, there are two newspaper clippings. A clipping from the Newark News, June 4, 1937, announces the departure of Mr. and Mrs. Hughes for Europe and provides details of the planned itinerary. A clipping from the New York Times September 12, 1937, gives Mina's impressions of Russia.
Click here for a 163-page typescript of Mina's diary of her European trip. Courtesy of the Chautauqua Institution Archives, Oliver Archives Center.