The Edisonian

Volume 6 - December 2009

Holiday Greetings!

There are many exciting things going on at The Edison Papers these days.  From Michigan to Manhattan, from Edison, NJ to Washington DC, the Edison Papers are developing new media for sharing our knowledge about innovation and one of the greatest inventors, Thomas Edison. 

The success of the Edison Papers Project depends in large part upon the generosity of our donors. Gifts permit the ongoing work of editing Edison's papers and of broadly disseminating information about the inventor, who, perhaps more than any other, helped to usher in the world in which we now live.

This year we are experiencing a few specific needs for much-needed general operating costs: the state has frozen all grant contracts leaving us short of $20,000 and we are in great need of new equipment - a laser printer and a scanner.  We also need to have our database updated to allow easier access to the digital documents available to the public through our website.

Your generous donations allow us to continue the important work of making thousands of Edison documents available to scholars and to the general public. 

We hope to see you at one of our upcoming events listed below!
Paul Israel
Edisonian Humor
Feature Document

In February and March 1884, Edison and his wife took a long vacation in Florida, during which time they spent two weeks at the Magnolia Hotel in the town of the same name.   While there, Edison apparently ordered and paid for a lunch to take with him upon his departure, but never received it. 

When he returned to New York, the hotel management remitted him the $16.75 for the phantom lunch.  In a cover letter, management expressed its regret to the inventor that "after so much trouble on your part to have a good lunch provided, that there should have been any mistake about it.  We cannot ascertain where, or to whom to attach the blame, but will see that the next time you come here your lunch will go with you."

In marginalia scrawled across the front of the hotel's letter, Edison, in a humorous vein, directed his secretary to say "that I am afraid the recording angel has a special Entry against my account for improper language upon the day of my departure[.] If I could get the 16.75 to St. Peter to balance my account then all would be well.  I thought I would leave orders to have the head waiter killed but relented[.] However next year blood will flow.

This letter, dated 3 April 1884, will be published as part of the upcoming volume 7 of The Papers of Thomas Edison.  In the online edition, the digitized image of the original can be found by clicking on "single document or folder" under the search feature and plugging in the ID number D8403ZAY.
 

 

Edison Awards
2010 Edison Achievement Award Winners
 
The 2010 Edison Awards Ceremony will be held April 29 at Capitale in New York City.  This year's Edison Achievement Award winners are:
A.G. Lafley
Chairman of Proctor and Gamble
Dr. Susan Hockfield
President of Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The awards this year seem particularly apropos in that Edison himself had a relationship with both P&G and MIT.   Early in his career, Edison installed a telegraph line between the downtown Cincinnati offices of Proctor & Gamble and the company's factory outside of town.  James Gamble, Jr., the son of one of the company's founders, believed the telegraph instrument installed in the company's headquarters was of Edison's own design.  

The inventor had a longstanding relationship with MIT.  Although he did not have a college degree himself, Edison was a strong proponent of higher education, especially in disciplines that served practical purposes, such as engineering.  After he had become a well-known inventor, Edison donated electrical equipment for instructional use to MIT.  He also sent two of his sons to school there. Read more...
Green Edison
EDISON AND THE ELECTRIC CAR
The Edison Green Award, which will be given for the first time this year as part of the Thomas A. Edison Awards, will honor Edison's own commitment to sustainable technology by recognizing the winning organization's commitment to innovation that significantly reduces or eliminates adverse impacts on the environment.

Edison's own contributions to sustainable technology might best be seen in his efforts to develop methods for converting coal directly into electricity and to develop electric cars.

In an 1884 interview Edison optimistically stated that "the great secret of doing away with the intermediary furnaces, boilers, steam engines, and dynamos [to produce electric power] will be found, probably within ten years."  He had already been working for two years to find a way to directly convert coal into electricity.  During this time he had been attempting to develop what was in essence early fuel cell technology. Read more...
 
Edison Papers Pilot GLEEDO

The Edison Papers Project is beginning a pilot program with Gleedo, a software program that allows users to share content-including videos, movies, pictures, and documents.  Gleedo will provide a convenient new way for visitors to the Edison Papers website to search the database and to use and share documents.
 
Soon, web site visitors will be able to interact live with members of the Edison Papers research team and browse the web site together. Released into Beta in October, Gleedo is free, downloadable software that lets users share their personal media and the Internet in real time. Simultaneous streaming, talk and chat features make all participants feel as if they're all in the same room. To learn more or download Gleedo, visit http://gleedo.com/download/edison.
 
New Publications
Electric Light as Both Medium and Message
 
"Medium Light: Revisiting Edisonian Modernity," an article by Lisa Gitelman and Theresa M. Collins, has been published in the July 2009 edition of Critical Quarterly.  The article explores some of the ways electrification, and specifically the electric light, defined modern media.  Gitelman and Collins argue that electric light was such a transformative technology that it, in essence, changed the very meaning of the word "media." 

Throughout much of the nineteenth century, "media" meant simply intervening substances or agencies, but after Edison's innovation, it came "to denote the varied technical forms of communication, forms which are nominally said to contain the information-the 'content'-that they communicate."  Taking their cue from Marshall McLuhan, the authors conclude that the way Edison and his associates introduced and marketed the incandescent light demonstrates conclusively that the medium had become the message.  Read more...
 
 

 

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