Part II: 1879-1886
Part II documents a most intensive period of experimentation and invention in Edison's life. Of particular interest is Edison's work in electric lighting. Beginning in 1879, when he invented a practical incandescent lamp and generator, Part II traces historic developments of Edison's electric lighting system, whose success depended not only on Edison's technological genius but on his gifts as a manufacturer and businessman as well. The Edison Papers has the definitive documentary history of the invention, manufacturing, promotion, and marketing of Edison's revolutionary electric lighting system.
Over 200 laboratory notebooks illustrate the daily record of Edison's experimentation with electric lighting. The development of electric lighting entailed new methods of team research, and Edison's papers document the innovative research techniques established at the Menlo Park laboratory and Edison's other workplaces. Other records in the Edison the Papers detail the manufacturing and marketing aspects of Edson's genius. The business records of the Edison Electric Light Company, which funded the electric lighting experiments, and the various subsidiary companies established to introduce and manufacture the system, testify to the importance of commercial considerations in Edison's experimental plans and research methods.
Edison himself set up industrial shops to create the lamps, dynamos, and other components of the electric lighting system; and he formed the Thomas A. Edison Construction Department to promote central electric lighting stations in the United States. Other companies were established to develop international markets. The business correspondence, legal records, and promotional literature found in Part II display the extraordinary efforts that Edison undertook on behalf of his lighting projects.
Also recorded in Part II are Edison's interests in the commercial development of his other inventions. The Edison Ore Milling Company, part of Edison's interest in discovering a rich source of platinum for his electric lamp, formed the basis for his famous, if ultimately unsuccessful, ore milling operation of the 1890s. There are voluminous records on Edison's inventive contributions to the electric railway, telephone apparatus, and new telegraph devices.
In addition, a more personal side of this prolific inventor is revealed. Of special significance is the only known extant Edison diary, kept during the courtship of his second wife (Mina Miller). The death of his first wife, Mary Stilwell, and the education of his children are also chronicled in this edition of the Edison Papers.