Guide to the Thomas Alva Edison Photoprints
Digitized Content

Summary
Collection ID:
NMAH.AC.0299
Creators:
Keystone View Company
Shinn, Walter Scott
Underwood & Underwood, Inc.
Fotograms (New York (N.Y.)
International Newsreel Corp (New York (N.Y.)
ETL Testing Laboratories, Inc.
Dates:
1890s-1933
Languages:
English
Physical Description:
0.67 Cubic feet
2 boxes
Repository:

Scope and Contents
Scope and Contents
This collection is divided into two series: (a) Silver gelatin prints; and (b) xerographic copy prints made in the museum. The collection consists of approximately 340 photoprints (count to be verified) documenting the life of Thomas Alva Edison, especially the later period, beginning in his early fifties, continuing until his death in 1931 at age 84 (there are also later pictures, including his funeral, and awards and sculptures). The photographs are arranged chronologically and are clearly captioned with pasted labels containing dates, places, notations of circumstances and identification of persons. These photoprints show Edison, his family (including his wife and son Charles), friends, associates, and famous persons, including Charles Proteus Steinmetz, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, George Eastman, Charles Lindbergh, and Presidents Harding, Coolidge and Hoover, including scenes in New Jersey, Florida, Michigan, and other locations.
Some photographers' rubber stamps appear on the verso of prints. Photographers, studios, and agencies include Fotograms, Underwood & Underwood, Keystone View Co., International Newsreels Photos, and Walter Scott Shinn.
Many of the photographs are not original prints, but were made from copy negatives. Such copies, where fairly obvious, are identified in the Container List.Photographs are clearly captioned with dates, places, occasion and persons identified. More than 300 photoprints show Edison, his family, friends, associates, and famous persons, including Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, George Eastman, Charles Lindbergh and Presidents Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover. Locations include New Jersey, Florida, Michigan. Photographers, studios, and agencies include Fotograms, Underwood & Underwood, Keystone View Co., International Newsreels Photos, and Walter Scott Shinn.
Scope and Contents
This collection is divided into two series: (a) Silver gelatin photoprints; and (b) xerographic reference copies made in the museum. The collection consists of approximately 340 photoprints (count to be verified) documenting the life of Thomas Alva Edison, especially the later period, beginning in his early fifties, continuing until his death in 1931 at age 84 (there are also later pictures, including his funeral, and awards and sculptures). The photographs are arranged chronologically and are clearly captioned with pasted labels containing dates, places, notations of circumstances and identification of persons. These photoprints show Edison, his family (including his wife and son Charles), friends, associates, and famous persons, including Charles Proteus Steinmetz, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, George Eastman, Charles Lindbergh, and Presidents Harding, Coolidge and Hoover, including scenes in New Jersey, Florida, Michigan, and other locations.
Some photographers' rubber stamps appear on the verso of prints. Photographers, studios, and agencies include Fotograms, Underwood & Underwood, Keystone View Co., International Newsreels Photos, and Walter Scott Shinn.
Many of the photographs are not original prints, but were made from copy negatives. Such copies, where fairly obvious, are identified in the Container List.

Arrangement
Arrangement
Collection is arranged into two series.
Series 1: Silver Gealtin Prints
Series 2: Xerographic Copy Prints

Biographical / Historical
Biographical / Historical
Photographs cover Edison's later life, beginning in his early 50's and continuing until his death in 1931 at age 84. Edison with an electric car: the car is a 1914 Detroit Electric Brougham model 47, serial number 5426. It was shipped December 19, 1913 to East Orange New Jersey, with an Edison Battery but with no motor (very unusual) (according to Galen Handy, 2/09/07; see http://earlyelectric.com).
Dr. Bernard Finn, Curator of Electricity, National Museum of American History organized a traveling exhibition based on these and other photographs (most supplied by the Edison National Historic Site), "Edison After the Electric Light: The Challenge of Success," in 1986; it was circulated by the Association of Science-Technology Centers. In 1994 a revised version of the exhibition was prepared (again curated by Dr. Finn) for display in the National Museum of American History basement photography gallery; it was retitled "Edison After Forty: The Challenge of Success." In 1996, copies of the exhibit were given to museums in Japan, India, Yugoslavia, and China for circulation in those countries. Another version of this compilation had been published as "Thomas Alva Edison After Forty: The Challenge of Success in USA Today, July 1994, pp. 84-92.
Biographical / Historical
One of the most famous of all Americans in any walk of life, Thomas Alva Edison hardly needs an introduction. He was the quintessential "genius" who invented or perfected a variety of electrical and technological devices which are still fundamental features of everyday life, not only in the United States, but around the world. Many of his or his companies' "inventions," of course, built on the pioneering work of others. Another Archives Center collection, the Gordon Hendricks Collection, includes the efforts of one scholar to debunk or minimize Edison's personal role in the development of motion picture cameras and projectors.
Edison was born in Milan, Ohio, February 11, 1847, and died October 18, 1931 at 84 years of age. His Edison Electric Light Company was the predecessor of the General Electric Co. While operating this company, and later working at laboratories in Menlo Park and West Orange, New Jersey, he was credited with patents for over one thousand inventions. A bibliography follows.

Administration
Processing Information
Processed by David E. Haberstich, archivist, 1988.
Some of these photographs are fragile, with tears, ragged edges, etc. Many have labels and captions glued to the verso of the prints and should be inspected periodically. Until additional conservation measures and rehousing have been conducted, the photographs should be handled with great care. Eventually it may be useful to remove the labels from the prints; before this occurs it would be advisable to expand the Container List into an item-level list with complete transcriptions of all the labels. This work was underway at the time of this revision.
Due to the fragile nature of the original photographic prints, use of the xerographic copies in Series 2 for browsing purposes is encouraged.
Author
David Haberstich
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Collection donated by ETL Testing Laboratories in 1985.

Digital Content
More …
Bibliography
Bibliography
Israel, Paul.
Edison, A Life of Invention
. John Wiley, 1998. Recent and comprehensive.
Dyer, Frank, and Martin, T.C.
Edison, A Biography
. McGraw-Hill, 1959. The first modern researched biography; economic emphasis.
Wachhurst, Wynn.
Thomas Alva Edison, The Biography of a Myth
. MIT Press, 1981. Interesting study of the development of Edison's reputation.
Friedel, Robert; Israel, Paul; and Finn, Bernard.
Edison's Electric Light: Biography of an Invention
. Rutgers University Press, 1987. The definitive account of that invention.
Pretzer, William, ed.
Working at Inventing: Thomas A. Edison and the Menlo Park Experience
. Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, 1989. Compendium of articles about Edison at Menlo Park.

Using the Collection
Preferred Citation
Edison Photographs, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
Conditions Governing Access
Collection is open for research.
Conditions Governing Use
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Most images probably public domain due to expired copyrights.

Custodial History
Custodial History
These photographs were found in the archives of ETL Testing Laboratories and were donated to NMAH by the firm in 1985. Dr. Bernard S. Finn, curator of electricity at the museum, made arrangements for the gift. The posed nature of most of the photographs suggests that they were made for publicity purposes. ETL Testing Laboratories, Inc., is a New York testing and certification laboratory which was created in 1896 by Edison's companies for the purpose of testing electric lamps.
Transferred from the Division of Electricity to the Archives Center on February 17, 1988.

Keywords
Keywords table of terms and types.
Keyword Terms Keyword Types
Inventors -- 1900-1950 Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Electricity -- 1900-1930 Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Automobiles -- 1910-1920 Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Inventions -- 1900-1930 Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Photographs -- 1900-1950 Type Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Presidents -- United States Topic Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Harding, Warren G. (Warren Gamaliel), 1865-1923 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Hoover, Herbert, President, 1874-1964 -- Photographs Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Eastman, George Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Edison, Thomas A. (Thomas Alva), 1847-1931 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Ford, Henry -- Photographs Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Coolidge, Calvin, President, 1872-1933 -- Photographs Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid
Lindbergh, Charles A. (Charles Augustus), 1902-1974 Personal Name Search Smithsonian Collections Search ArchiveGrid

Repository Contact
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
P.O. Box 37012
Suite 1100, MRC 601
Washington, D.C. 20013-7012
archivescenter@si.edu
http://americanhistory.si.edu/archives