Part II: 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.


top NOTEBOOK SERIES, 1879-1886 (REELS 29-45)


The Menlo Park Notebooks cover the period 1878 to 1882. Some of the books also contain entries from 1883, 1884, and 1885. These books are the principal sources for documenting the invention and development of Edison's system of electric lighting and power. They also contain much material about the telephone, as well as scattered entries detailing work on electric railways, batteries, ore separation, telegraphy, and various other technologies. The books generated during the first year of work on the electric light are primarily by Edison, Charles Batchelor, and Francis Upton. The names of other laboratory assistants frequently appear as witnesses. As the staff of the laboratory expanded, many other individuals began making entries in the notebooks. The Menlo Park notebooks are numbered from 1 to 249. Approximately 70 books are missing from the set.

top NEW YORK NOTEBOOKS, 1884-1886

These notebooks were used at Edison's New York City laboratory, which was located above the offices of Bergmann & Company at Avenue B and 17th Street. Most of the books date from 1885, but some also include entries from 1884 and 1886. Most of the notes, drawings, and calculations are by Edison. There are also some entries by John F. Ott, Ezra T. Gilliland, H. DeCoursey Hamilton, Montgomery Waddell, and other laboratory assistants. The books contain material about electric lighting and power, telephony, telegraphy, mining, the phonograph, and various other technologies. Several books contain entries pertaining to Edison's search for a new force and his attempt to convert heat directly into electricity.


These notebooks were generated at Edison's winter home in Fort Myers, Florida, which he constructed shortly before his marriage to Mina Miller in February 1886. The books cover the period March-May 1886. One book also contains entries from May 1887. Most of the entries are by Edison. There are some entries by Mina Miller Edison, whose name also appears in these books as a witness. The books contain material about phonoplex and multiple telegraphy, electric lighting, electric railways, spectroscopy, and numerous other technologies. There are also entries pertaining to Edison's search for a new force and his attempt to convert heat directly into electricity. One book contains notes about the layout of the grounds at the Fort Myers home.


These notebooks cover the period June-December 1886 and contain notes, drawings, and calculations relating to experiments performed at Edison's lamp factory in Harrison, New Jersey. The entries are by Edison, Mina Miller Edison, John F. Ott, and Ezra T. Gilliland. One book was used to record notes and drawings pertaining to telephones, phonographs, and a railway telegraph and telephone. All of the other notebooks relate to lamp experiments, but one also includes drawings of Edison's phonoplex.

top POCKET NOTEBOOKS, 1878-1886

These notebooks include a set of six journals used by Charles P. Mott to record daily activities at the Menlo Park Laboratory from March 1880 until March 1881. The other pocket notebooks are by Edison and Charles Batchelor and relate to electric lighting, telephony, telegraphy, the phonograph, hearing aids, and other topics.


These scrapbooks contain notes and drawings that were used by Edison's attorneys and draftsmen to work into formal patent applications. Most of the documents pertain to electric lighting, but there are also entries relating to telephony, telegraphy, electric railways, and other topics.


The loose pieces of paper comprised by this set contain technical notes and drawings by Edison, Charles Batchelor, John F. Ott, and other laboratory assistants. The documents relate primarily to electric lighting. Other topics include telephony, telegraphy, and electric railways.


The technical documents in this set are too large to fit in standard-size document folders. Most of the notes and drawings relate to electric lighting. A few concern telephones, electric railways, and other topics.


Included in this set are undated technical documents by Edison, Charles Batchelor, and other laboratory assistants. The notes and drawings relate primarily to electric lighting. Other topics include telephony, telegraphy, and electric railways.
top PATENT SERIES, 1879-1886 (REEL 45)

The Patent Series consists primarily of material relating to Edison's domestic and foreign patent applications. This material is organized into three categories: (1) Patent Application Files, (2) Patent Application Casebooks, and (3) Patent Application Drawings. The Patent Application Files contain specifications and related drawings, along with correspondence between Edison's attorneys and the U.S. Patent Office. The Patent Application Casebooks contain copies of the claims for Edison's U.S. patent applications for the period 1878-1884. The Patent Application Drawings consist primarily of tracings from the drawings that accompanied Edison's patent applications.

top LITIGATION SERIES, 1879-1886 (REELS 46-48)

The Litigation Series contains the printed records of civil court litigation, along with the records of Patent Office interferences, which are similar in many respects to litigation. During the 1880s Edison was involved in several patent interferences relating to his work in electric lighting. Of particular importance is the interference with William E. Sawyer and Albon Man relating to Edison's early work on electric lamps, which was later entered into the record in a patent infringement suit brought by the Edison Electric Light Company against the United States Lighting Company. Together, the patent interferences provide valuable information about Edison's work in electric lighting and power, electric traction, and duplex telegraphy, as well as documentation about the operation of the Menlo Park Laboratory.


Bound Dynamo Cases
Other Bound Interferences
Unbound Interferences


The printed court records for the period 1879-1886 pertain to two separate cases. The earliest case involves a suit brought against Edison in 1880 by Lucy Seyfert, the wife of an investor who had loaned Edison money. The testimony in this case provides insight into Edison's relations with his financial backers and his financial difficulties during the mid-1870s.

The patent infringement suit against Sawyer and Man—Edison Electric Light Company v. United States Electric Lighting Company—was the most important piece of electric light litigation brought by the Edison interests and the only electric light suit initiated prior to 1887. Included as exhibits in this case are parts of the printed record from the 1881 patent interference, Sawyer and Man v. Edison, and from two contemporary electric light cases: Consolidated Electric Light Company v. McKeesport Light Company (the "McKeesport Case") and Edison Electric Light Company v. Westinghouse, Church, Kerr & Company (the "Trenton Feeder Case"). These records constitute a particularly valuable source for documenting Edison's work in electric lighting.

top DOCUMENT FILE SERIES, 1879-1886 (REELS 49-79)
1879 1880 1881 1882
1883 1884 1885 1886

The Document File is primarily, but not exclusively, a collection of incoming correspondence. The correspondence frequently contains notes by Edison or one of his secretaries, indicating the nature of the reply. The folders comprised by this series also contain drafts and final copies of outgoing correspondence, as well as legal, financial, and patent-related documents. Legal material in the Document File includes agreements, incorporation papers, powers of attorney, proxies, depositions and other legal statements, and, occasionally, civil court records such as summonses and satisfactions of judgment. Financial material includes financial reports, unbound account sheets, bills, receipts, promissory notes, stocks, bonds, payrolls, and orders. Patent-related material includes patent applications, caveats (preliminary applications), and patent assignments. The Document File also contains a variety of other documents, such as memoranda, essays, reports, circulars, inventories and other lists, test reports, and, occasionally, a laboratory sketch on the back of another document. Dockets and endorsements frequently appear on the back of the incoming correspondence. They have been included only when they contain significant information not appearing on the document itself.

The materials in the Document File for 1879-1886 relate primarily to the invention and development of Edison's incandescent electric lighting system. Included is material dealing with both the technical and business aspects of electric lighting and power. Many of the documents pertain to the establishment of manufacturing and operating companies in the United States, Great Britain, France, Chile, and other countries in Asia, Europe, and South America. There are also numerous documents relating to Edison's platinum search, to his development of an ore separator, and to the establishment and operation of the Edison Ore Milling Company, Ltd. There is some material relating to the experimental electric railway at Menlo Park.

In the folders for 1879-1882 there are a considerable number of documents pertaining to Edison's work on the telephone, particularly the establishment and consolidation of companies in Great Britain and France. For the years 1880-1882 there is a long run of correspondence between Edison and John Michels, the editor of Science. The folders for 1885-1886 contain correspondence concerning the development of Edison's phonoplex system of railway telegraphy. There is also a small amount of material relating to other forms of telegraphy and a few documents about the phonograph.

The documents are arranged by year. Within each year they are divided into broad subject categories such as electric light, telegraph, and telephone. These categories are frequently subdivided according to individual companies (for example, "Electric Light—Edison Electric Light Co"). Sometimes a company folder is further subdivided according to function (for example, Electric Light—Edison Electric Light Co—Engineering Department"). During the period 1883-1884 the Thomas A. Edison Construction Department installed central stations throughout the Northeast and Midwest, and documents relating to these stations can be found in folders such as "Electric Light—TAE Construction Dept—Stations—Massachusetts—Brockton." For the years 1883 and 1884 there is also an extensive collection of outgoing correspondence from the Construction Department and other Edison companies, which can be found in "Edison, T.A.—Outgoing Correspondence." Documents relating to more than one subject or pertaining to personal matters or to topics not falling under the main subject categories can be found in the "Edison, T.A.—General" folders.

top LETTERBOOK SERIES, 1879-1886 (REELS 80-85)


These letterbooks contain tissue copies of Edison's personal and business correspondence. Although there are occasional letters in Edison's hand, most of the material is in the hand of Edison's various secretaries. The books relate primarily to electric lighting, but they also include material about other inventions such as the electric pen, the electric railroad, the phonograph, the phonoplex, and the telephone.


The volumes in this set do not fall within the main run of letterbooks. Included are two letterbooks containing copies of cable messages. The cables relate primarily to foreign electric light orders and to the telephone business in Great Britain. Two letterbooks contain personal and business correspondence by Samuel Insull, Edison's personal secretary. There are also two letterbooks pertaining to the development and promotion of Edison's system of phonoplex telegraphy and telephony. The remaining letterbooks contain correspondence and other documents relating to the business of the Edison Ore Milling Company, Ltd.; the Edison Shafting Manufacturing Company; and the Thomas A. Edison Construction Department.
top LEGAL SERIES, 1879-1886 (REEL 86)

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. Both files contain agreements, assignments, powers of attorney, deeds, mortgages, stock certificates, and other legal documents. Included also are financial documents, such as bills, receipts, promissory notes, accounts, and stock transfers; some correspondence; and miscellaneous company records, such as memoranda, reports, and lists of stockholders. Most of the documents in the Miller File date from the nineteenth century. The preponderance of material in the Kellow File dates from the twentieth century. The few documents relating to the period 1879-1886 were not selected. However, a selection from this file appears in subsequent parts of the edition.

The documents in the Miller File for 1879-1886 relate primarily to electric lighting, electric traction, ore milling, phonoplex telegraphy, and telephony. Many of the items refer to the establishment and operations of the Edison Electric Light Company, the Edison Ore Milling Company, the Edison Telephone Company of London, and other Edison companies.

top ACCOUNT SERIES, 1879-1886 (REELS 87-88)
  3. FORT MYERS ACCOUNTS, 1885-1887
  4. COMPANY ACCOUNTS, 1878-1886

The books in the Accounts Series are organized into four categories. The Personal and Laboratory Accounts contain records of Edison's laboratory expenditures and of monies received from his inventive work. Miscellaneous house accounts can also be found in these volumes. The one item selected in the Family Accounts is a pocket-size notebook used by Mina Miller Edison to record personal expenses, including those relating to her marriage to Edison. The Fort Myers Accounts record expenses relating to the purchase and furnishing of Seminole Lodge, Edison's winter home in Fort Myers, Florida. Among the Company Accounts are two books containing weekly statements of laboratory expenses submitted to the Edison Electric Light Company. There is also a ledger of accounts payable and receivable for the Thomas A. Edison Construction Department.


The Menlo Park Scrapbooks were begun in 1878 and 1879 by William Carman and Francis Upton. During the 1880s new books were added to the set, and older ones were periodically updated. The first fifty-seven scrapbooks (Volumes 1-40) are in Part I. The remaining scrapbooks (there were probably about 150 books at one time) contain clippings from the years 1880 and 1881, along with scattered clippings from the years 1882-1889. Most of the books are less than half full, and they relate primarily to technical and scientific matters that were peripheral to Edison's own work.

Only four scrapbooks, which contain significant material pertaining to Edison's activities, have been selected. Two of the books relate to Edison's exhibit at the Paris Electrical Exhibition of 1881. One deals with Edison's patent litigation and with other patent-related matters. The remaining scrapbook contains miscellaneous clippings about Edison. Most of the clippings in the Menlo Park scrapbooks are from technical and scientific journals, although some are from popular magazines and newspapers.


Four of the scrapbooks in this series contain clippings from newspapers and technical journals and relate to the business and technical aspects of electric lighting and the electric railroad. There is also one scrapbook containing correspondence and other documents pertaining to Edison's work on electric railroads, particularly the experimental railroad built at Menlo Park. Another scrapbook consists of reports regarding potential central station locations in Michigan and Canada.


There are a variety of special collections in the archives of the Thomas Edison National Historical Park. They range from single items that do not fit into the main record groups to extensive collections that were donated to, or purchased by, the ENHS. Selections from six collections appear in Part II: (1) Thomas A. Edison Diary, (2) Charles Batchelor Collection, (3) Francis Robbins Upton Collection; (4) John Kruesi Collection (added in 2008); (5) Joseph De Mott Fredericks Collection (added in 2009); Martin N. Force Collection (forthcoming).


This diary, which covers the period July 12-21, 1885, is the only known volume kept by Edison specifically to record thoughts and feelings of a personal nature. Included are observations by Edison on art, literature, and religion, along with comments about his dreams, his health, and his feelings toward his future wife, Mina Miller, and toward his daughter, Marion.


This extensive collection consists of the personal, laboratory, and business records of Charles Batchelor (1845-1910), one of Edison's closest associates during the 1870s, 1880s, and early 1890s. The documents are arranged in seven series: (1) Journals; (2) Notebooks; (3) Patents; (4) Unbound Documents; (5) Letterbooks; (6) Accounts; (7) Scrapbooks.
Journals, 1877-1908
These volumes contain a daily record of Batchelor's personal and professional activities during much of the period between 1877 and 1908. The entries deal extensively with Edison, his inventions, and his businesses. The last book in the set contains reminiscences by Batchelor about several of Edison's principal inventions.
Notebooks, 1874-1909
These books contain notes and drawings relating to experiments conducted by Batchelor, Edison, and others during the years 1874-1909. The two earliest books deal with a wide range of topics including electric lighting, the electric pen, the phonograph, telegraphy, and telephony. The remaining books are primarily concerned with electric lighting experiments. A few notebooks also contain entries pertaining to ore milling and miscellaneous other technologies from the late 1880s through the first decade of the twentieth century.
Patents, 1872-1880
The one item selected in this series is a volume containing printed copies of Edison's British patents for the years 1872-1880. The patents relate to several inventions, including printing, automatic, and multiplex telegraphs; the electric pen and autographic press; the telephone; electric lighting; and polyform. Many of the specifications are accompanied by drawings.
Unbound Documents, 1871-1905
The correspondence and other unbound documents relate primarily to Batchelor's work with Edison during the period 1878-1898. Most of the material concerns Batchelor's activities during the 1880s as manager of the Edison electric light interests in France (1881-1884) and as manager of the Edison Machine Works (1884-1888). A few documents pertain to Batchelor's work as Edison's principal laboratory assistant and to the operations of the Edison Phonograph Works. Important correspondents include Edison, Francis R. Upton, Jay Gould, Henry Villard, and Cyrus W. Field. Included among the correspondence are a substantial number of letters about the phonograph, which were sent to Edison in 1878. In addition to the correspondence, there is a considerable amount of technical material, much of it in Edison's hand. Included also are agreements by Edison for rights to his electric pen, phonograph, and telephone, along with additional agreements concerning royalties owed to Batchelor for his assistance in developing these inventions; some financial documents, mostly relating to Batchelor's personal finances; and a memoir by Batchelor, written about 1905, regarding Edison's early work on incandescent lighting during the fall of 1878.
Letterbooks, 1875-1890
These letterbooks contain copies of Batchelor's personal and business correspondence. Many of the letters pertain to Edison, his inventions, and his businesses. Among the topics discussed are the removal of Edison and his laboratory to Menlo Park in 1876, the operations of the electric pen business, and work on telegraphy and telephony during the mid-1870s. Included also are letters dealing with Edison's electric lighting experiments, the operations of his various electric light companies, and the electric lighting business in Europe. The last book concerns the equipping of Edison's West Orange laboratory.
Accounts, 1878-1888
The one item selected in this series is an account book containing financial records of Charles and Rosanna Batchelor. The entries relate to Batchelor's accounts with Edison, the Edison Lamp Company, the Edison Machine Works, Bergmann & Company, and other domestic and foreign lighting companies. Included are records of patent royalties, stock dividends, and other payments resulting from Batchelor's interests in Edison's companies and inventions.
Scrapbooks, 1876-1893
The clippings and other items in these scrapbooks relate primarily to Edison and his inventions during the years 1876-1893. Most of the clippings in the first book deal with Edison's telephone and phonograph. The clippings in the remaining books relate primarily to Edison's work on electric lighting. There are also a few clippings pertaining to other topics such as the opening of Edison's West Orange laboratory, his work on ore milling, and the development of the improved phonograph. The last scrapbook contains letters and cables from 1881 and 1882 relating to the Paris Electrical Exhibition of 1881 and to electric lighting in Europe.


This collection contains the personal, laboratory, and business records of Francis Robbins Upton (1853-1921), who played a major role in the development of Edison's incandescent lighting system. Among the earliest documents are three notebooks. One was kept by Upton during the summer of 1878 while he was a student of Hermann von Helmholtz. The others were used during the fall of 1878 while he was conducting a literature search for the Edison Electric Light Company. The remainder of the collection consists of correspondence and other unbound documents. Upton's correspondence from the period 1878-1880, written primarily to members of his family, is an invaluable source of information about the early stages of the incandescent lamp. The later material deals primarily with the business of the Edison Lamp Company, of which Upton was general manager. The post-1900 items include a note from Edison about the fire at the Edison Phonograph Works, Upton's notes about Edison for a speech at the first Edison Pioneers' meeting in 1918, and a membership list of the Pioneers.

top JOHN KRUESI COLLECTION, 1875-1905 New!

This collection contains photocopies of documents relating to John Kruesi (1843-1899), a Swiss-born machinist who served as foreman of the Menlo Park machine shop, general manager of the Electric Tube Company, and superintendent of the Edison Machine Works in Schenectady, N.Y. The selected items consisted primarily of correspondence from Edison to Kruesi.


This collection contains photocopies of documents relating to Joseph De Mott Fredericks (1876-1964), who worked for the General Electric Company from 1891 until 1941. The selected items date primarily from the 1880s and relate principally to Edison's search for bamboo and other fibers for use as filaments in his incandescent lamp.


This collection contains documents relating to Martin N. Force, who worked in the Menlo Park Laboratory during the 1870s and 1880s.

The Primary Printed Series contains printed documents that were issued by the various Edison companies and their competitors. Most of the items are advertising circulars, promotional brochures, and instruction manuals. A few other items such as annual reports, company by–laws, and incorporation papers are also included.




top COMPANY RECORDS SERIES, 1879-1919 (REELS 96-97)

The Company Records consist primarily of minute books, bulletins, canvass books, and other bound items relating to the various Edison companies. Included among the documents for 1879-1886 are extensive runs of the bulletins issued by the Edison Electric Light Company and the Edison Company for Isolated Lighting. Included also are the minute books of the Edison Ore Milling Company and the Edison Telephone Company of Europe.





The vouchers in this series record the payment of bills and other expenditures by Edison. Correspondence, notes by Edison, and other material similar to that found in the Document File Series are occasionally attached to the vouchers and bills.


These documents, found or recovered after the microfilm edition Thomas A. Edison Papers, Part I (1850-1878) had been published, were filmed on the last reel of Thomas A. Edison Papers, Part II (1879-1886). The documents have been integrated into their appropriate places in the digital edition. A more complete description of the contents of the Supplement can be found by clicking on the link above.