These documents, which cover the years 1940-1941, 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 or Ann by herself. Many of Mina's 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. A few items were written from Glenmont, the Edison home in Llewellyn Park; Detroit, Michigan; and various locations in California, which Mina visited during the summer of 1940. In addition to the letters, there is a newspaper clipping from April 26, 1940, containing a photograph of Mina presenting an ebony tree to Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida. The clipping refers to her as "Mrs. Thomas A. Edison," indicating that Mina resumed the use of the Edison name just a few months after the death of her second husband, Edward E. Hughes.
The first item is a telegram sent from Detroit on February 11, 1940 (Edison's ninety-third birthday), which comments favorably upon the movie Young Tom Edison, which had premiered the night before in Port Huron, Michigan. The next four letters were written from Seminole Lodge. Among the visitors mentioned are Ann's mother, Anna Landstrom Osterhout; Frederick A. Traut, who had commanded the naval base at Key West while Edison was working there in 1919; longtime Edison company official Harry F. Miller; conservationist and Pulitzer prize-winning cartoonist Jay Norwood (Ding) Darling; and Mina's younger brother, John V. Miller. The letters from Fort Myers and Chautauqua reveal Mina's concern about the rapidly declining health of her brother, who would die at Chautauqua on August 16. One letter expresses Mina's disappointment about the decision of her oldest son Charles to resign his position as U.S. Secretary of the Navy and run for governor of New Jersey.
Three letters from June 1940 were written during Mina's trip to California, where she visited Yosemite Park with her brother Lewis Alexander Miller. The first letter was written aboard the San Francisco Overland Limited just outside Reno, Nevada. Mina comments disapprovingly that an increasing number of women are coming to Reno for a divorce "not on account of abuse but just the idea that they love another man." The other letters, written from San Francisco and Pasadena, reveal Mina's involvement with Moral Re-Armament (also known as the Oxford Group), a movement founded by evangelist Frank Buchman. She characterizes Buchman, whom she apparently met in California, as a "remarkable man" and writes that "if we had one of his kind in every city there would be no war. . . . Every one sees the only way of peace is through this method or belief of Mr. Buchman." The involvement of Fort Myers real estate developer and family friend Jimmie Newton and Edison scholarship winner Wilbur B. Huston in Moral Re-Armament is also indicated in the letters.
The eight items written from Chautauqua contain numerous comments about the final illness, death, and funeral of John V. Miller. Other topics mentioned in the correspondence include the celebration of Mina's seventy-fifth birthday, a fire in the cottage of Chautauqua President Arthur E. Bestor, and a Moral Re-Armament speech given at Chautauqua by Episcopal Bishop George Ashton Oldham. Also included is a comment about Marcia Miller, Mina's eighty-nine-year-old aunt, who accompanied her back to Chautauqua after attending John's funeral in Akron. According to Mina, she was as "active and alert as one 60."
The eight letters written from Fort Myers in 1941 contain numerous references to Mina's plans to build an Edison Memorial Library across the street from Seminole Lodge and her frustration at the delay in getting the drawings from the architect, William Eagleton Frenaye, Jr. In a letter from April 9 Mina expresses her belief that Fort Myers is a more suitable location for the library than Rollins College since "this is the place father loved and too the people here need some culture." In the same letter, Mina opines that Edison's electric light "is the only modern thing that has not brought a curse with it. Automobiles are wonderful but abused, movies wonderful but abused, submarines wonderful but abused." The letter also contains a reference to the resignation of longtime family friend Charles Sumner Williams as chairman of the board of Thomas A. Edison, Inc., noting that "it just seems to take away the real balance wheel." Several letters mention a cold that had been troubling Mina since her arrival in Florida, as well as knee problems that prevented her from playing golf with her sisters Grace and Mary and Mary's husband, Will Nichols. Among the visitors to Fort Myers mentioned in the correspondence are Jay Norwood (Ding) Darling; Grace Miller Hitchcock's brother-in-law Lucius W. Hitchcock (said to be suffering from a gall bladder problem); Danish artist Carl John David Nordell; aviator Charles Lindbergh and his wife, author and aviator Anne Morrow Lindbergh; Jimmie Newton and his future wife, Ellie Forde; and Theodore's mother-in-law, Anna Landstrom Osterhout. Mina notes that the Lindberghs traveled to Florida in a train rather than an airplane and quotes the aviator as saying that the airplane "had become simply a commercial thing, romance gone."
Among the topics discussed in the four letters from Chautauqua are Theodore Edison's forty-third birthday; the "political troubles" of her eldest son Charles (probably a reference to Gov. Edison's struggles with Jersey City major Frank Hague); and the enlistment of her grandson John Edison (Jack) Sloane in the U.S. Army. There are also comments about the activities of various other grandchildren, nephews, nieces, and grand-nephews, who were reaching adulthood, entering the work force, and (in the case of her oldest grandson, Thomas Edison Sloane) starting families. "It does seem strange," she remarks, " to think of that generation all coming along taking up serious life. Oh, I do hope that they will all be fine people and become our leading citizens of real worth." In addition, there are remarks about the Bird and Tree Club, a lecture on "Europe's Lasts Judgment" by British journalist Samuel Kerkham Ratcliffe, and a talk by ornithologist Gladys Gordon Fry. 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.