Part V: 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.



This series contains correspondence, financial records, and other documents relating to the members of the Edison and Miller families. Most of the items pertain to the activities and interests of Edison's second wife, Mina Miller Edison, and to the maintenance of Glenmont, the Edison home in Llewellyn Park, New Jersey.

These standard-size (6" x 9") notebooks were used primarily by Edison, but there are occasional notes by other experimenters as well as numerous references to employees who assisted him in his work. The thirty-seven books for 1911-1916 consist primarily of notes and drawings pertaining to the development and manufacture of Blue Amberol and Diamond Disc records. There are also entries regarding storage batteries and chemical experiments. Seventeen notebooks from January 1917-January 1918 relate primarily to research performed for the U.S. Navy during World War I. Much of this work was done in connection with submarine detection. The remaining thirty-one notebooks begin in May 1918, following Edison's return to West Orange from a three-month stay in Key West, Florida. In addition to military-related experiments, there are notes concerning salts and solutions for use in primary batteries, the processing of lithium ores, the construction of disc record blanks, and chalk telephone (electromotograph) experiments.
These standard-size (6" x 9") notebooks were used by Edison and other experimenters. Some of the notebooks are entirely or primarily by Edison. Other notebooks, generated after a pattern of tests had been established, are primarily or entirely by Edison's assistants. The first three groups pertain to phonograph records. The notebooks in Group 4 were used during World War I for experimental work for the U.S. Navy and other war-related research conducted under the auspices of Edison. Group 5 contains data on battery cell tests performed at Edisons request, while Group 6 consists of miscellaneous experiments. Among the employees whose work is represented in these notebooks are Walter N. Archer, E. Rowland Dawson, William Deans, William W. Dinwiddie, William A. Hayes, Archiebald D. Hoffman, Absalom M. Kennedy, Sherwood T. Moore, Harold H. Smith, George J. Werner, and Henry G. Wolfe.
These standard-size (6" x 9") notebooks are arranged into eight groups. Included are books relating to experiments on cylinder and disc records, the home projecting kinetoscope and kinetophone (motion pictures with sound), and storage batteries. Some of the books were used during World War I for experimental work for the U.S. Navy and other war-related research. There are also books of chemical experiments and a few books pertaining to electric vehicles and miner's safety lamps. Among the Edison employees whose work is represented in these notebooks are Leroy E. Briggs, Peter C. Christensen, Charles T. Dally, Frank Detlef, Jr., William W. Dinwiddie, Elmer E. Dougherty, Zachariah P. Halpin, John A. Hanley, George E. Hart, William A. Hayes, C. Frank Hunter, Miller Reese Hutchison, Absalom M. Kennedy, Ludwig F. Ott, and Selden G. Warner.
These notebooks, which generally measure 4" in width and 6" in length, were used by Edison to record ideas about business matters, experiments to be tried, and other tasks to be performed. The books relate to a variety of topics, including primary and storage batteries, disc and cylinder records, cement, and motion pictures. Thirteen books for 1916-1918 pertain primarily to submarine detection experiments and other research performed for the U.S. Navy during World War I. In addition to technical notes and drawings, there are notes about inventions to be patented, songs and recording artists, phonograph and record sales, advertising ideas, legal and patent matters, costs and salaries, and personnel issues.

These 142 patent application folios cover the years 1911-1930. They contain not only formal applications submitted to the U.S. Patent Office but also preliminary notes and drawings by Edison; draft specifications in Edison's hand and others with his notations; communications between Edison and his patent attorneys; and related correspondence authored by or sent to Edison, his associates, and his companies. In addition to the applications that were ultimately approved by the Patent Office, there are numerous folios relating to applications that were eventually abandoned. Another set of application files for Edison's U.S. patents can be found in the National Archives (Record Group 241, Records of the Patent Office) and is available on microfilm.

1911 1912 1913 1914 1915
1916 1917 1918 1919

This series consists primarily of incoming letters (many with notations by Edison), but there are also drafts and copies of outgoing letters, interoffice communications, and a variety of other documents. The subjects cover the complete range of Edison's businesses and technologies as well as his personal affairs, reminiscences, and opinions about contemporary issues. The correspondents include Edison company officials, laboratory staff, business associates, family friends, and members of the general public. There are also numerous letters to and from important public figures such as President Woodrow Wilson; future presidents Warren G. Harding, Herbert Hoover, and Franklin D. Roosevelt; Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels; U.S. Senators George William Norris, Benjamin R. ("Pitchfork Ben") Tillman, and John Sharp Williams; industrialists Andrew Carnegie, Harvey Firestone, Henry Ford, and John D. Rockefeller; cartoonist Bud Fisher; science fiction writer Hugo Gernsback; and many other notable individuals including Nicholas Murray Butler, Arthur Brisbane, John Burroughs, Dale Carnegie, John Dewey, Samuel Goldwyn, Samuel Insull, Philip La Follette, Otto Kahn, Helen Keller, Rollin Kirby, Guglielmo Marconi, Walt Mason, William Gibbs McAdoo, Frances Perkins, Gifford Pinchot, David Sarnoff, and Upton Sinclair.

The documents are arranged by year and are subdivided within each year according to broad subject categories. Many of the subjects relate to Edison's technologies and their associated businesses, such as cement, motion pictures, storage batteries, and phonograph. Major themes in the years up to 1915 include corporate reorganization, the introduction of the disc phonograph, and early demonstrations of the kinetophone, or talking motion picture. After the outbreak of World War I in Europe in August 1914, Edison's attention shifted sharply, and there are large quantities of documents pertaining to his rapid production of coal-derived organic chemicals for military and industrial purposes, his role as president of the Naval Consulting Board, and his experiments on submarine detection and other war-related problems for the U.S. Navy.

Other folders contain documents relating to Edison's ongoing interests, from book and journal orders to mining and minerals. There are also folders with correspondence on legal, financial, and patent matters. Documents pertaining to Edison personally, including his homes, friends, and relatives, can be found in "Edison, T. A.," "Family," "Fort Myers," "Glenmont," "Personal," and "Visitors," as well as in more specific folders such as "Ford, Henry" and "Camping Trip."

Numerous items authored by Edison or bearing his marginalia can also be found in the Naval Consulting Board and Related Wartime Research Papers (Special Collections Series), Harry F. Miller File (Legal Series), and Richard W. Kellow File (Legal Series).


The thirty-three letterbooks in this series contain tissue copies of Edison's outgoing correspondence for the period March 1911-June 1918. The last book also contains a few letters from August 1918, January-March 1919, and September 1919. There are no extant letterbooks for the period after September 1919. Most of the letters in the first five books are by Edison and his secretary, Harry F. Miller. The correspondence in the remaining books is primarily by Edison and William H. Meadowcroft, writing as "assistant to Mr. Edison."

Many of the items in the earliest books relate to the commercial and technical development of Edison's alkaline storage battery and its use in automobiles, trucks, locomotives, safety lamps for miners, and country house lighting. There are also numerous letters pertaining to Edison's phonograph and motion picture businesses. Included are items regarding the introduction of the Diamond Disc phonograph and the Blue Amberol cylinder record in 1912 and the selection of suitable music and recording artists—a process in which Edison was closely involved. Other letters deal with the development of the home projecting kinetoscope and educational films.
The letters written after the outbreak of World War I discuss the effects of the war upon the American chemical industry, the disruption of markets for the carbolic acid (phenol) that Edison used in the manufacture of phonograph records, and his experiments toward producing synthetic phenol as a substitute for imported carbolic acid. There are also numerous letters pertaining to Edison’s move into the chemical manufacturing business; the construction of benzol absorbing plants in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and Woodward, Alabama; the erection of additional plants for the manufacture of aniline and other chemicals at Silver Lake, New Jersey; and the sale of his surplus stocks of benzol, toluol, and other chemical products. The letters from 1915-1918 contain many references to Edison's role as the head of the Naval Consulting Board and his increasing preoccupation with war-related research for the U.S. government.

In addition, there are letters dealing with Edison's ore milling technologies and their application to sites in Colorado; the cement business and his continuing interest in poured concrete houses; his personal and family affairs, including his friendship with Henry Ford, John Burroughs, and Harvey Firestone and his vacations and camping trips with them; and his opinions and prejudices about a variety of social, religious, political, and economic issues.

Copies of Edison's outgoing correspondence can also be found in the Edison General File and in the Naval Consulting Board and Related Wartime Research Papers (Special Collections Series).


There are a variety of special collections in the archives of the Thomas Edison National Historical Park, ranging from single items to substantial groups of personal papers. The Special Collection Series for Part V consists of selections from two record groups: (1) the Naval Consulting Board and Related Wartime Research Papers; and (2) the Chemical Production Records.

This collection contains correspondence, technical notes, and other documents pertaining to Edison's role as chairman (later president) of the Naval Consulting Board as well as his personal experimental work for the U.S. government. Included are documents revealing his sometimes contentious relationship with the Navy bureaucracy and the acrimonious debate over the location and purpose of the proposed Naval Research Laboratory. The correspondents include Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, numerous officers of the Army and Navy, and civilian officials in the War and Navy departments. Also included is correspondence with other inventors on the Naval Consulting Board such Leo H. Baekeland, Peter Cooper Hewitt, Hudson Maxim, Thomas Robins, and William L. Saunders.
The documents in this collection relate primarily to Edison's six chemical plants at Silver Lake, New Jersey. Five of these plants were constructed at the beginning of World War I to manufacture phenol and other chemicals in short supply because of the war. There is also material regarding the benzol plants that were built under Edison's supervision at the works of the Cambria Steel Co. in Johnstown, Pennsylvania and the Woodward Iron Co. in Woodward, Alabama (a cooperative venture with the Japanese firm of Mitsui & Co.). Numerous related documents can be found in the "Chemicals" folders in the 1914-1917 Edison General File and in the Harry F. Miller File (Legal Series).
top LEGAL SERIES (REELS 282-283)

This series consists of agreements, assignments, licenses, deeds, mortgages, and other legal documents, along with related correspondence and financial records that were collected or created for legal purposes. The files were maintained by Edison's personal secretaries Harry F. Miller and Richard W. Kellow, as well as by his brother-in-law John V. Miller, who assumed Kellow's role after 1921.

This file contains contracts, financial material, correspondence, interoffice communications, and other legal and business records that were maintained by Miller in his capacities as Edison's personal business secretary (1908-1917) and as an official in several Edison companies. The dated items cover the years 1911-1923. There are also a few undated ledger sheets that are probably from 1907. The documents are arranged in three groups that parallel the arrangement of the archival record group at the Edison National Historic Site.
The first group contains correspondence relating to the construction of benzol plants in Pennsylvania, Alabama, and Nova Scotia. The second group consists primarily of correspondence and related agreements pertaining to the production and sale of phenol, aniline, and other organic chemicals during World War I. In addition, there are agreements and correspondence regarding the settlement of a 1909 royalty dispute between Edison, the Allis-Chalmers Co., and other companies using Edison's crushing roll technology, along with documents concerning Edison's personal finances including his stock and bond holdings, loans made to him by his chief engineer Miller Reese Hutchison and his friend Henry Ford, and his gift of $100,000 in Edison Storage Battery Co. stock to his son Charles. The third group contains a variety of documents pertaining primarily to Edison's personal legal and financial affairs. There are also balance sheets showing the capital stock and net worth of Thomas A. Edison, Inc., the Edison Phonograph Works, and the Edison Storage Battery Co.
This file contains agreements, bills of sale, leases and deeds, tax forms, patent assignments, and related correspondence that were maintained by Kellow in his capacity as secretary of Thomas A. Edison, Personal. Included are items pertaining to royalty payments, Edison name use, real estate, relations between Edison and his companies, and individuals who believed they had anticipated Edison in some invention. The documents cover the years 1911-1930, with the majority dating from the period that Kellow served as secretary (1917-1921). The subjects covered include a $1.2 million loan from Henry Ford for the expansion of Edison's storage battery plant; the Ecometer Manufacturing Co., an unsuccessful business venture of Thomas A. Edison, Jr.; the removal of historic items from the West Orange laboratory and other locations for use in Henry Ford's proposed Edison museum; and the formation of Edison Botanic Research Corporation to find new sources of rubber. Also included are Edison's personal income tax return for 1914; a 1919 report to the New Jersey Bureau of Industrial Statistics with information about the capitalization, labor force, and function of the West Orange laboratory; a 1919 report to the Internal Revenue Service indicating the capitalization and income of Thomas A. Edison, Inc., and seventeen other Edison companies; a descriptive list, prepared in 1923, of all of Edison's patents; and estimates of the monetary value of his patents at the time of their transfer to his companies in 1926.

The documents in this series cover the years 1886-1946, although most are from 1911-1931. They consist primarily of letters to and from Edison's second wife, Mina Miller Edison. Other correspondents include Thomas Edison, the six children from his two marriages, and various members of the Miller family. The correspondence contains numerous references to Thomas Edisons health, travel, and work; his homes in West Orange, New Jersey, and Fort Myers, Florida; his parental and spousal roles; and the roles of his sons in his companies. In addition to correspondence exchanged by family members, there are letters from clubs, societies, and other organizations in which Mina Edison was involved; requests for financial assistance; appeals to influence her husband; and thank-you notes. Also included are items pertaining to the estates of Thomas and Mina Edison. The documents are arranged in two groups that parallel the two archival record groups at the Edison National Historic Site.

The documents in this group were donated to the Edison National Historic Site during the 1990s by the Charles Edison Fund, Newark, New Jersey. The correspondents include the three children of Mina Edison—Madeleine (Sloane), Charles, and Theodore; her stepchildren Marion (Oeser), Thomas Jr., and William; her mother, Mary Valinda Miller; her sisters Grace Miller Hitchcock and Mary Miller Nichols; and her sister-in-law Louise Igoe Miller. There are also letters by nephew Robert Anderson Miller, Jr., and nieces Rachel Miller and Marian Nichols. The non-correspondence includes a twenty-page typescript by Harvey Firestone containing reminiscences of his 1918 camping trip with Edison; and an unsigned copy of the last will and testament of Mina Edison, along with lists of relatives, former employees, and other individuals who were to receive money, souvenirs, or other gifts.
This group consists primarily of letters authored by or sent to Mina Miller Edison that were removed from the Edison General File during the 1990s. Included is correspondence with her mother Mary Valinda Miller, her brothers Edward, Ira, John, and Lewis; her sisters Grace Miller Hitchcock and Mary Miller Nichols; and her sister-in-law Louise Igoe Miller. There are numerous items pertaining to the estate of Mary Valinda Miller, who died in October 1912, and to the family's longstanding interest in the Chautauqua Institution. Some of the letters concern the maintenance of Glenmont, the Edison home in Llewellyn Park, New Jersey, and Seminole Lodge, the family's winter home in Fort Myers, Florida. A 7-page essay written in 1929 expresses Mina's "mixed feelings" about the movement of the Menlo Park laboratory to Henry Ford's Greenfield Village. There is also a series of fourteen letters covering the period 1910-1917 from naturalist and family friend John Burroughs.

These sixteen scrapbooks contain clippings from newspapers, popular magazines, and technical journals, along with other printed matter and occasional manuscripts. One book is devoted entirely to Edison's European vacation, while several others document his attempt to introduce talking motion pictures in the United States and Asia. One book relates primarily to daughter Madeleine Edison, including her 1914 wedding to inventor John Eyre Sloane. Two volumes pertain to the fire of December 9, 1914, that destroyed or damaged more than half of the buildings in the West Orange laboratory complex. There are also four scrapbooks covering the two years preceding the entrance of the United States into World War I. In addition to articles specifically about Edison and the Naval Consulting Board, there are more general discussions of submarine warfare, the progress of the war, and its impact on the American economy. Also included are numerous interviews with the press, in which Edison voiced his opinions about a wide variety of topics, including war and preparedness, Henry Ford's controversial peace plan, the presidential elections of 1912 and 1916, women's suffrage, temperance and prohibition, cigarette smoking, health and diet, musical tastes, popular culture, and religion.


This series consists of clippings sent to Edison by clippings services, along with others that were collected by his staff or subsequently added to the collection by archivists. They are primarily from newspapers and popular magazines, but there are also clippings from Edison company publications, technical journals, and other printed sources. The articles pertain to a variety of subjects, including the development and promotion of Edison's inventions, the activities of his companies, his role on the Naval Consulting Board, and the personal affairs of Edison, his wife Mina Miller Edison, and other family members. In addition to brief newspaper accounts, there are a few longer articles and profiles based on in-depth interviews with Edison, written either by journalists or by Edison's assistants. Also included are advertisements for Edison products and obituaries of Edison family members and former associates.