[This folder has not been completely edited. Letters are currently being added, and documents identified as "to be edited" may not have images or complete database information. In addition, the information in the folder target (editorial description) may not be up-to-date.]
These documents consist primarily of letters by Charles Edison (1890-1969) addressed to his parents, Thomas A. and Mina Miller Edison. Also included are several telegrams signed jointly by Charles and his wife Carolyn Hawkins Edison (1883-1963), whom he married in March 1918. In addition, there are telegrams from Charles to Carl H. Wilson and Stephen B. Mambert of Thomas A. Edison, Inc. (TAE Inc.) announcing the marriage; a newspaper clipping about the marriage; and a printed transcription from John D. Venable's Out of the Shadow: The Story of Charles Edison (1978) of a letter from December 6, 1917, in which Charles expresses his determination to marry Carolyn. There are also a few letters from Charles to his younger brother Theodore, written while Charles was a student at The Hotchkiss School and MIT. Letters exchanged between Charles and his sister Madeleine are organized separately (click here for the editorial description and document list) as are letters from Carolyn Edison to Mina Edison (click here for the editorial description and document list) .
The selected items, many of which are undated or only partially dated, cover the years 1906-1930. The earliest document is an undated itinerary of towns visited by Thomas Edison and his party during an automobile trip to North Carolina in May 1906 to search for cobalt for use in the inventor's storage battery; included are comments by Charles, who accompanied his father on the trip, about the various towns he visited. There is also a mock play, probably written during the period 1907-1909, spoofing Edison family life. Also included is a humorous piece, dating from the same period and entitled "Royal Bulletin No. 1" and "Royal Bulletin No. II," announcing a visit to the Edison laboratory and factories by "The King" and "The Queen" (Hotchkiss School Headmaster Huber Gray Buehler and his wife).
The early correspondence relates primarily to Charles's student years at MIT. Also included are intermediate (informal), semi-annual, and annual progress reports for the period November 1909-January 1912 indicating poor performance by Charles in many of his courses. An undated letter to his parents, probably written late in 1912, announces his desire to drop his courses and take a leave of absence from the university. Other early letters pertain to his trip to Arkansas in the summer of 1911, his work at the Boston Edison Co. in 1912-1913, his trip to the Pacific Coast during the summer of 1913, and his brief business association with the Upton brothers (sons of longtime Edison associate Francis R. Upton) in San Francisco.
Many of the subsequent letters relate to Charles's involvement in his father's business enterprises. Included are references to the commercial and technical development of the phonograph, motion picture, storage battery, radio, and cement businesses. Of particular significance is a six-page letter written on September 12, 1921, in which Charles attempts to repair the strained relationship with his father that resulted from the massive layoffs at TAE Inc. There is also correspondence from the late 1920s regarding the Edison scholarship contest and the development of an acid-lead starter battery for Henry Ford. Some letters concern the quality of motion picture screenplays and the manufacture of radio and phonograph cabinets. The letters from the 1930s include comments about the reaction of Edison Industries to the Great Depression. A letter from April 1, 1931, discussing Charles's recent trip to England to pursue a lawsuit against John F. Monnot's Edison Accumulators, Ltd., for illegal use of the Edison name, contains numerous observations about the British legal system.
Also included are comments about the work, travel, health, and diet of Thomas Edison and his homes in West Orange, New Jersey (Glenmont), and Fort Myers, Florida (Seminole Lodge). There are remarks about Woodrow Wilson's presidential campaigns, shortages during World War I, meetings of the Edison Pioneers, and the dedication of "Slabsides," the home of naturalist John Burroughs. In addition, there are references to the romance between Madeleine Edison and her future husband, John Eyre Sloane, and to a portrait of Carolyn Edison, painted in 1923 by artist Alfred Kellogg. Some of the letters and telegrams were written while Charles and Carolyn were on vacation in Arizona, Florida, Indiana, Nova Scotia, and Virginia.
The letters are from Books #19 and #20 on the Charles Edison Fund microfilm and from three correspondence books, not on the microfilm, bearing the titles "Charles & Carolynn Edison's Letters to Mother & Father," "Mina Edison's Letters," and "Original Telegrams. Thomas Edison's Children." All of the letters have been selected except for a few items in Book #19 written by non-family members. Click here for a list of all the correspondence books on the microfilm. Click here for a list of boxes with correspondence not on the microfilm. In addition to the 228 items presented here, there are 89 letters to and from Charles Edison in the Family Records Series in Part V of the Thomas A. Edison Papers microfilm edition. Another folder in that series contains four letters exchanged between Charles and Thomas Edison. Five letters by and to Charles Edison can be found among the family letters at the Edison-Ford Winter Estates. In addition, there are numerous letters by Charles Edison in the David E. E. Sloane Collection.
Please note: Many of the images in this folder were scanned from microfilm owned by CEF or from original documents in the possession of CEF. Some of the letters on the microfilm were subsequently donated to the Thomas Edison National Historical Park. These items are so indicated in the document information frame above each image. Courtesy of the Charles Edison Fund and Thomas Edison National Historical Park.