Search Method: Folder/Volume Descriptions

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The editors of the Edison Papers have written a descriptive introduction to each folder or volume. In most cases there are also descriptions for series and subseries within the edition. These introductions generally include the names of companies, persons, technologies, publications, countries, and other subjects that are important or of particular interest in that group of documents (although some folder descriptions in the early years are quite spare). They also often reveal background information about or relationships between people, companies, governments, and other institutions. For example, here is the introduction to Document File Series -- 1879: (D-79-40) Telephone -- Foreign -- Europe

This folder contains correspondence, agreements, reports, incorporation papers, corporate minutes, and other documents relating to the business of the Edison Telephone Company of Europe, Ltd., a patent-holding company that was incorporated in New York in 1879, and the Société du Telephone Edison, a French-based company that was organized on January 1, 1879. Many of the documents concern attempts to consolidate three competing French companies: the Société du Telephone Edison, the Société du Telephone Gower, and the Soulerin Company. Much of the correspondence is by Theodore Puskas, Edison's agent for Continental Europe, and by Joshua F. Bailey, the European representative of the Western Electric Manufacturing Company. Related material can be found in the Edison Telephone Company of Europe, Ltd. Minute Book (Company Records Series).

As you can see, if you are searching for "France" it would be a good idea to search for "French" as well. Just as in the document search, names with diacritical marks should be entered without the marks: "Société" should be entered as "Societe."

What You Will See

A search of the text will produce a list of full titles of relevant folders and volumes. The list is arranged by the editorial order of the items as reflected in the Series Notes (and on the microfilm). Unlike other search results, in which each listed item is a link to the item's introductory text, here the link will lead to the text and list of documents. However, just as in those results, clicking on a link will open a new browser window. If you want to browse the texts, selecting the desired locations with checkboxes and clicking "Show Text" will produce a single document with the texts arranged serially.

As an example: Eager to demonstrate the danger of George Westinghouse's alternating current system, Edison was involved in the first death-penalty electrocutions. A search for "electrocution" will deliver this list (neither links nor buttons below are live and the text size is reduced for display):

Search for "electrocution"

12 Locations found
Use the checkboxes to select the locations whose editorial text you would like to see, then click the "Show Text" button; to select them all, just click the button. Clicking an individual location's name will retrieve that location's text and list of documents.

 Location information (NB042) Notebook Series -- Notebooks by Other Experimenters: N-88-05-24 (1888-1889)
 Location information (NB044) Notebook Series -- Notebooks by Other Experimenters: N-88-06-06 (1888)
 Location information (NB045) Notebook Series -- Notebooks by Other Experimenters: N-88-06-10 (1888)
 Location information (NM023) Notebook Series -- Arthur E. Kennelly Notebooks: Notebook #1 (1888-1889)
 Location information (LM111) West Orange Laboratory Records Series -- Arthur E. Kennelly Letterbooks: Letterbook #1, LM-111 (1888-1889)
 Location information (QE003) Litigation Series -- Electric Light and Power Cases: Kemmler v. Durston
 Location information (D8828) Document File Series -- 1888: (D-88-28) Electric Light -- General
 Location information (D8933) Document File Series -- 1889: (D-89-33) Electric Light -- General
 Location information (D9028) Document File Series -- 1890: (D-90-28) Electric Light -- General
 Location information (D9122) Document File Series -- 1891: (D-91-22) Electric Light -- General
 Location information (LB052) General Letterbook Series: LB-052 (Aug-Oct 1891)
 Location information (SB018) Scrapbook Series: Cat. 1077 -- Yellow Fever (1888-1889)

There is a variety of document groups represented—notebook entries, legal testimony, outgoing (Letterbook) and incoming (Document File) correspondence, and items in scrapbooks. Reading the texts for these items and examining the lists of associated documents will provide additional names and ideas for further searching. Selecting the first, fifth, and sixth items in the list above, for example, and clicking "Show Text" will retrieve:

Clicking on a location name will show that location's text and list of documents.
 (NB042)  Notebook Series -- Notebooks by Other Experimenters: N-88-05-24 (1888-1889)
This notebook covers the period May 1888-October 1889. It was used by Johannes H. Cuntz and Arthur E. Kennelly as a rough record book in the Galvanometer Room. Included are notes, tables, and calculations regarding magnetic induction, batteries, armatures, chemical meters, motors (probably for the phonograph), electrocution, multipolar dynamos, and other electrical experiments. Transcriptions of these records can be found in N-88-04-18 and N-88-06-06. Near the end of the book are 6 pages of notes by Kennelly about yellow fever, including a transcription from the Medico Chemurgical Journal.
 (LM111)  West Orange Laboratory Records Series -- Arthur E. Kennelly Letterbooks: Letterbook #1, LM-111 (1888-1889)
This letterbook covers the period July 1888-July 1889. The book contains correspondence, technical reports, and draft manuscripts by Arthur E. Kennelly. Included is material regarding a variety of electrical experiments, such as tests of meters, batteries, telegraph cable, and non-magnetic watches. There are also items relating to electrocution experiments and the control of yellow fever.
 (QE003)  Litigation Series -- Electric Light and Power Cases: Kemmler v. Durston
These volumes contain testimony by Edison and several of his associates in a habeas corpus proceeding following the conviction of William Kemmler for murder. On May 16, 1889, a judge in Cayuga County, New York had sentenced Kemmler to die in the electric chair. He was the first person to be sentenced under the state's new electrocution law, signed on June 5, 1888. Kemmler's attorneys challenged the constitutionality of the law and initiated proceedings in July 1889 against Charles F. Durston, the warden of the state prison in Auburn.

Edison, along with Harold P. Brown, Arthur Kennelly, and other associates testified. Edison had been directly involved in the events surrounding the passage of the electrocution statute. He had supported Brown's efforts to lobby New York prison officials to use Westinghouse dynamos in electrocutions. He had also allowed Brown and others to conduct electrocution experiments on animals at his West Orange laboratory in 1888. Much of the testimony in Volumes I and II relates to these experiments. There is also testimony regarding Edison's views on the physiological effects of electricity, the passage of the New York electrocution law, and Brown's campaign to use Westinghouse equipment in electrocutions. Vol. III [not filmed] contains printed documents relating to a subsequent appeal, along with duplicate copies of material found in the first two volumes. The following items have been filmed:

  • Vol. I
    • Testimony by Harold P. Brown, John H. Noble, Frederick P. Peterson, Arthur E. Colgate, Harold P. Brown (recalled)
  • Vol. II
    • Testimony by Thomas A. Edison, Arthur E. Kennelly, Theodore Lehmann, Harold P. Brown (recalled)
    • Relator's Exhibit A ["The Comparative Danger to Life of the Alternating and Continuous Electrical Currents," by Harold P. Brown]
    • People's Exhibits B-D

The search software was written by David Suarez of Innovative Systems and Solutions, Ltd.