[This folder has not been completely edited. The documents flagged as "to be edited" do not have complete database information.]
These documents, which cover the years 1908, 1915, and 1919-1931, relate to Mina Miller Edison's involvement with the Chautauqua Institution. Among the correspondents are Arthur E. Bestor, president of Chautauqua from 1915 until his death in 1944; Cora Dunham (Mrs. Willard W.) Boyd, president of the Chautauqua Bird & Tree Club (1923-1928); Anna Hardwicke (Mrs. Percy V.) Pennybacker, president of the Chautauqua Woman's Club from 1917 until her death in 1938; Julian Gregory, an attorney who did legal work for Edison and Miller families; Richard W. Kellow, head of the Secretarial Service Department of Thomas A. Edison, Personal; and Harry F. Miller, treasurer of Thomas A. Edison, Inc. Other Chautauqua officials and employees mentioned in the documents include Luther H. Cary, head of the Press and Publicity Dept. of Chautauqua and director of the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle; Lawrence and Marian Cornell, managers of the Athenaeum Hotel; Ernest Hutcheson, dean and later president of the Julliard School, who was also associated with the Chautauqua School of Music; Roy and Garnet Johnson, caretakers of the Edison properties at Chautauqua; William L. Ransom, attorney, judge, and chairman of the Chautauqua Board of Trustees; Albert F. Stoessel, conductor of the Chautauqua Orchestra and later musical director of Chautauqua; and George E. Vincent, son of co-founder John H. Vincent, one-time suitor of Mina Miller, and president (1907-1915) and honorary president (1915-37) of Chautauqua.
Included are letters relating to fund raising campaigns, efforts to secure donations from Henry Ford and John D. Rockefeller, Jr., Mina's own contributions to Chautauqua, and her other philanthropic efforts such as her support for a memorial on the Chautauqua grounds to Rev. Jesse Lyman Hurlbut (1843-1930) and her endowment of a scholarship in honor of her aunt Emily Huntington Miller (1833-1913) to pay the expenses of a young lady attending Chautauqua each summer. The documents from 1929-1931 contain considerable discussion of the creation of a Lewis Miller Foundationa $100,000 endowment by Mina and other members of the Miller Family that was intended to be a "living memorial" to their father.
Other documents include a newspaper clipping pertaining to Mina's election to the Chautauqua Board of Trustees in 1922 (she was only the fourth woman elected to that position); correspondence with contractors Fakes-Bisbee-Robertson, Inc. and Warren Construction Co. regarding the renovation of the Miller Cottage in 1922 (disputes with the two companies over unpaid bills led to threats of a lawsuit); and letters relating to the acquisition of lots adjoining the Miller Cottage. There are numerous letters relating to the Chautauqua Hotel Co., which operated the Athenaeum Hotel and in which Miller family members owned one-third of the stock. Included are letters pertaining to unsuccessful efforts to sell the family's stock to the Chautauqua Institution in 1915 after the death of Mary Valinda Miller and to the reorganization of the company as the Chautauqua Hotel Corp. in 1931.
In addition, there are references to Mina's involvement in the Founders Day Reception during Anniversary Week in 1924 (commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Chautauqua), the infighting among members of the Bird & Tree Club that led to the resignation of its president Cora Boyd in September 1928, Mina's role on the Scholarship Committee of the Chautauqua Woman's Club, and a 1931 Woman's Club program organized by Mina at which she was supposed to speak (she was unable to do so because of her husband's final illness). There are also references to Mina's unsuccessful efforts to get Lewis Miller and John H. Vincent inducted into the Hall of Fame at New York University, along with remarks about Ellwood Hendrick's Lewis Miller: A Biographical Essay and Leon Vincent's John Heyl Vincent: A Biographical Sketch, both published in 1925. Several of the letters reveal Mina's sensitivity to insinuations in the press and elsewhere that Bishop Vincent, and not her father, was the founder of Chautauqua.
Almost half of the letters date from 1929 and many of them relate to the centenary of Lewis Miller's birth, which was celebrated at Chautauqua during Miller Week (July 21-26). The letters reveal the extent of Mina's involvement in arranging the program for the Miller Centenary, lining up speakers, preparing a souvenir booklet, and making hotel arrangements. Included are letters relating to her efforts to secure the participation of Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Adolph Ochs of the New York Times, liberal theologian Harry Emerson Fosdick, and Methodist Bishop William F. Anderson. Also mentioned is a plan for Edison, Ford, and Firestone"the camping triumvirate"to spend a week in camp near Chautauqua to honor the memory of Lewis Miller. Two letters by Howard Hyde Russell of the Anti-Saloon League discuss Miller's role in the temperance movement. Comments by President Arthur Bestor indicate that he viewed the centenary as a means of generating publicity for Chautauqua, which he believed was suffering from a lack of press attention. Other letters from 1929 contain references to Thomas's and Mina's illnesses during the summer and to the Golden Jubilee of the electric lighta five-month-long celebration that culminated with a ceremony at Henry Ford's Greenfield Village on October 21. Additional documents pertaining to the Miller Centenary can be found in Miller, Lewis and Chautauqua.
Other topics mentioned in the documents include Mina's involvement in the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle (after completing a four-year reading course she graduated with the "Edison Class" in 1930); her organization in 1928 of a reading club at Fort Myers, Florida, which she named the Valinda Literary Club in honor of her mother (members who successfully completed the courses received Chautauqua diplomas); the erection of Norton Memorial Hall in 1929 to house Chautauqua's theater and opera companies; and Mina's involvement in the Edison Scholarship contests of 1930 and1931.
Documents not selected. The Miller Family Papers record group at the Oliver Archives Center contains a considerable amount of routine correspondence and other documents not relating directly to Mina Edison. These unselected items include carbon copies of monthly and weekly bulletins from Bestor to the Chautauqua Trustees and copies of other documents not directly addressed to Mina Edison; routine meeting and program notices; correspondence regarding the arrangement and scheduling of lecturers for the Bird & Tree Club, upcoming meetings and programs, and other club activities; routine correspondence pertaining to the planning and promotion of the summer program at Chautauqua, such as the annual Flower Show; correspondence and other documents relating to the maintenance and beautification of the Miller Cottage, other buildings, grounds, recreation areas, and thoroughfares, including routine correspondence with Fakes-Bisbee-Robertson, Inc. pertaining to the renovation of the Miller Cottage in 1922; reports to stockholders, meeting notices, balance sheets, and other items pertaining to the Chautauqua Hotel Co.; correspondence relating to the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, musical events, and theatrical performances. Also not selected are the numerous testimonials and congratulatory telegrams on behalf of Lewis Miller that were sent to Mina Edison on the occasion of the Lewis Miller Centenary; typescripts of some of them can be found in Miller, Lewis and Chautauqua. Courtesy of the Chautauqua Institution Archives, Oliver Archives Center