Part I: Series Notes

The small vertical arrows () on this page link back to the top of the "Contents" page. The link on each series and subseries title leads to the appropriate series or subseries title on the  "Volume/Folder List" page. Those titles, as well as the titles of the individual volumes and folders, are linked to their appropriate editorial descriptions ("targets"). The small horizontal arrows () next to the series and subseries titles on the  "Volume/Folder List" pages lead back to the appropriate series or subseries on the "Contents" page. Because the "Volume/Folder List" pages for Parts II-V are quite large, they are each divided into sets of three. The boxes at the top and bottom of each "Volume/Folder List"  page enable users to easily move from one page to another.


#90,646-#474,591 (1869-1892) Reel 1
#474,592-#1,908,830    (1892-1933)    Reel 2

Between 1869 and 1933 the U.S. Patent Office issued 1,093 patents to Thomas Edison. The microfilmed patent volumes are not included in the digital edition. Instead, the complete set of Edison's patents appears online at Thomas Edison's Patents.

top NOTEBOOK SERIES, 1867-1878
  1. Newark Shop Notebooks, 1871-1875
  2. Experimental Researches, 1875-1879
  3. Unbound Notebooks, Vols. 8-18, 1875-1879
  4. Miscellaneous Shop and Laboratory Notebooks, 1870-1880
  5. Pocket Notebooks, 1867-1875
  6. Unbound Notes and Drawings, 1873-1878

In the years prior to 1878, Edison and his staff kept the technical records of the laboratories and shops in a variety of notebooks, ranging from large ledger-size volumes to small pocket notebooks. They also made extensive use of miscellaneous loose sheets of paper. After moving to Menlo Park in 1876, Edison attempted to standardize the laboratory notebooks and the staff began making records in soft-cover tablets. Most of these were later disbound and their pages rearranged. Not until late in 1878 did Edison adopt the standard-size hardbound notebooks used throughout the rest of his career.

The technical notes and drawings for the years 1867-1878 cover a wide range of subjects but are predominantly concerned with telegraphy, telephony, and electric lighting. Other subjects include the phonograph, the electric pen, the electromotograph, etheric force, mining, batteries, and various electrical and chemical topics. Most of the notes and drawings are by Edison and Charles Batchelor, although much of the material on the acoustic telegraph and telephone is by James Adams and Edison's nephew, Charles P. Edison. Occasional notes and drawings were made by others, such as Edward H. Johnson, John Kruesi, and John Ott.

top PATENT SERIES, 1871-1878
  1. Patent Applications
  2. Caveats

The Patent Series consists primarily of patent applications and caveats. There are only a few such documents at the Thomas Edison National Historical Park for the 1870s. These include certified copies of seven abandoned applications relating to improvements in duplex telegraphy, two notebooks containing copies of Edison caveats, and a small number of tracings and other patent drawings.

top LITIGATION SERIES, 1875-1878
Telegraph Litigation
Telephone Interferences

The Litigation Series includes the printed records of civil court litigation concerning ownership of Edison's quadruplex telegraph patents ("Quadruplex Case") and the records of Patent Office proceedings concerning patent interferences between Edison and others over the invention of the telephone ("Telephone Interferences"). Along with testimony these records contain many exhibits, including technical drawings, agreements, patent applications and issued patents, and correspondence.

Four volumes form a set with the general title "Cases and Points" and the specific title "Quadruplex Case" on their spines. A fifth volume, entitled Telegraph Law Cases—Miscellaneous, is not part of the set but contains related litigation records. Many of the items in this volume are duplicates of documents in the Quadruplex Case volumes. They have not been reselected but are identified in the contents list for this volume. A chronological list of all the cases included in these volumes is available.

Seven bound volumes and one pamphlet of Patent Office proceedings relating to conflicting claims over telephone inventions constitute the other part of the Litigation Series. As in the telegraph litigation, the testimony of Edison and his associates and the technical drawings that were submitted as exhibits provide extensive documentation of the inventive activity in Edison's Newark and Menlo Park laboratories.


1850 1862 1868 1869 1870 1871 1872
1873 1874 1875 1876 1877 1878

The Document File is primarily, but not exclusively, a collection of incoming correspondence. The correspondence frequently contains marginal notes by Edison or one of his secretaries, indicating the nature of the reply. The folders constituting this series also contain drafts and final copies of outgoing correspondence, as well as legal, financial, and patent documents. Legal material in the Document File includes agreements, incorporation papers, powers of attorney, mortgages, deeds, and court records such as bills of complaint and answers. Financial material includes unbound accounts, bills, receipts, promissory notes, stocks, bonds, payrolls, and orders. Patent material includes issued patents, patent applications, caveats, and patent assignments. The Document File also contains a variety of other documents, such as memoranda, essays, reports, circulars, insurance policies, inventories and other lists, and, occasionally, a laboratory sketch drawn on the back of another document. Dockets by Edison and his secretaries indicating the date, author, or subject appear on the back of many of the documents. Dockets have been included only when they contain significant information not appearing on the document itself.

The materials in the Document File relate primarily to Edison's technical and business activities. The documents are organized by year. Within each year they are divided into broad subject categories, which are frequently subdivided according to individual companies. Materials relating to the promotion of Edison's inventions in foreign countries are found in folders such as "Electric Light—Foreign" and "Electric Pen—Great Britain." Some technical material can also be found in the "Patents" folders. Documents relating to more than one subject are found in "Edison, T.A.—General." Particularly after 1876, information about a technology can usually be found in "Edison, T.A.—General," as well as in folders directly related to that technology. The "Edison, T.A.—General" folder for each year also contains documents concerning personal matters and subjects that do not fall under the main subject categories. The category "Edison, T.A." is also subdivided according to specific activities such as "Clubs and Societies" and specific types of material such as "Unsolicited Inquiries" and "Bills and Receipts."

top ACCOUNT SERIES, 1869-1878
    1. Personal Accounts
    2. Family Accounts
    3. Grocery Accounts
    1. Summary Accounts
    2. Books of Original Entry
    3. Labor and Cost Accounts
    1. Summary Accounts
    2. Books of Original Entry
    3. Labor and Cost Accounts
    1. Summary Accounts
    2. Books of Original Entry
    3. Labor and Cost Accounts
    1. Summary Accounts
    2. Books of Original Entry
    3. Labor Accounts

Over seventy-five volumes at the Thomas Edison National Historical Park relate to Edison's financial and manufacturing activity during the 1870s. This material is 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 Menlo Park Scrapbooks, Volumes 1-40, are a set of fifty-seven technical scrapbooks (many of the volumes are subnumbered), plus an index volume. They are the first in a series of scrapbooks begun by William Carman and Francis Upton in 1878-1879. New books were added and old ones updated by Upton and others until 1882. The books were occasionally updated thereafter, until about 1889. There are approximately 150 scrapbooks extant from the entire series, which may have comprised over 200 books at one time.

The clippings are primarily from technical journals, although some were taken from popular magazines and newspapers. They cover a wide range of subjects, including telegraphy, electricity, electric lighting, the telephone, and the phonograph, as well as miscellaneous other technical and scientific subjects. Most of the material in Volumes 1-40 dates from the period between 1875 and 1881, although there are some clippings from as early as 1873 and others from as late as 1889.


Like the Menlo Park scrapbooks, the majority of scrapbooks in this series contain clippings from technical journals, popular magazines, and newspapers and relate to Edison, his inventions, and other technical and scientific matters in which Edison and his assistants were interested. However, the books also contain a variety of other materials. Two of the scrapbooks (Cat. 1173 and Cat. 30,096) consist predominantly of correspondence and other manuscript material relating to the operation of Edison's Newark businesses during 1874 and his tenure as electrician for the Atlantic & Pacific Telegraph Company in 1875. Another scrapbook (Cat. 1177) contains clippings of patent specifications and drawings from the annual reports of the U.S. Patent Commissioner for the years 1860-1868. There is also a book of electric pen samples (Cat. 593) and a book of catalogs and price lists from chemical suppliers (Cat. 30,102). Some of the scrapbooks also contain advertising circulars and brochures, technical notes and drawings, and samples of recording telegraph tapes and disks. One scrapbook (Cat. 1178) contains clippings about political and cultural matters.

top LETTERBOOK SERIES, 1875-1878

In 1875 Edison began using letterpress copybooks to record outgoing correspondence. The three letterbooks for the years 1875-1878 relate primarily to routine business affairs. Edison companies mentioned in these books include the Edison's Electrical Pen & Duplicating Press Company, Edison Foreign Pen Company, Edison Speaking Phonograph Company, and Edison Electric Light Company. There is also material relating to telegraphy, etheric force, the telephone, and the phonograph.

top LEGAL SERIES, 1870-1878

The Legal Series consists of two files, the first maintained by Harry F. Miller, one of Edison's private secretaries, and the second by Richard W. Kellow, one of the secretaries of Thomas A. Edison, Inc. The Miller and Kellow files contain contracts and agreements, assignments, powers of attorney, deeds, mortgages, stock certificates, and an occasional patent or caveat, along with related material such as insurance policies, copies of corporate minutes, attorneys' correspondence, bills and receipts, and miscellaneous correspondence. There are also occasional affidavits, bills of complaint, transcripts of testimony, and other litigation records.