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Over seventy-five volumes at the Edison National Historical Park relate to Edison's financial and manufacturing activity during the 1870s. This material has been organized into five categories: (1) Personal and Family Accounts, (2) American Telegraph Works Accounts, (3) Edison & Unger Accounts, (4) Edison & Murray Accounts, and (5) Menlo Park Accounts.
Personal accounts record the expenditures of Edison, his family, and members of his staff on foodstuffs, household commodities, and other personal items. A few business records relating to Edison's personal finances can also be found in this category.
Accounts for the three Edison companies and for Menlo Park have each been subdivided into three broad categories: summary accounts, books of original entry, and labor and cost accounts.
The summary accounts consist of ledgers and two pocket notebooks containing statements. The ledgers record credits and debits for accounts payable and receivable and therefore provide a summary of the transactions between the Edison companies and their customers and suppliers over a period of time. The two sets of statements contain estimates of the total assets and liabilities of the firm of Edison & Murray and thus provide a summary of the total indebtedness of the company.
The books of original entry contain individual accounts, daybooks, order books, shipping and delivery records, and petty cash accounts. While entries in the ledgers usually appear under the name of various customers and suppliers, the transactions recorded in the books of original entry were entered chronologically, usually at the time that the transaction occurred. Prior to being entered into ledgers, the accounts of important suppliers were often recorded individually into pocket notebooks. These individual accounts contain a day-by-day record of the flow of supplies into the Edison companies. The daybooks provide a daily record of the payments, deliveries, and obligations of the Edison companies. The daybook entry for each transaction was later recorded a second time in the relevant debit or credit column of the ledger.
The third category of company accounts contains materials used in cost accounting. Labor costs for each Edison company were recorded in time books and in payroll and time sheets. These records contain information about the hours worked by company employees and their weekly pay. Some of them also contain breakdowns of the hours worked by members of the labor force on specific jobs. Also included among the labor accounts are employee time books, which record the daily hours or piecework of individual employees. A record was kept of costs of tools and supplies, but this information was rarely segregated and organized to reflect overall costs of manufacturing. Costs of tools and supplies were often recorded in the same volume as labor costs. In some cases, all types of costs involved in the manufacture of specific items, such as printers, were grouped together.
Edison and his associates often mixed different types of accounts in the same volume, and classifications such as "ledger" and "daybook" have been used to characterize the majority of entries in an account book and not the totality of the volume. Some books contain entries for two or more discrete time periods or companies. One account book (Cat. 1184), for example, contains entries for the firm of Edison & Murray (1874-1875) and for the Edison Manufacturing Co. (1876-1877).
Among the account books at the Edison National Historical Park is a series of pocket notebooks, called stockroom books, which record the movement of tools and supplies around the workshops. The stockroom books have not been selected. Examples of stockroom records, however, can be found mixed with unrelated material in other account books, such as PN-71-10-30.
Important information about Edison's manufacturing and financial activities can also be found in other series. The Document File is a rich source of information about the Edison companies. Legal and financial agreements, orders and delivery records, bills and receipts, and business correspondence can be found in this series. The Document File also contains statements and other unbound account sheets. Additional information about the financing of Edison's companies can be found in the Legal Series and the Litigation Series.