Thomas Edison collection: Finding Aid

Finding aid prepared by Laura R. Rips.
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens
Manuscripts Department
The Huntington Library
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, California 91108
Phone: (626) 405-2191
© 2014
The Huntington Library. All rights reserved.

Descriptive Summary

Title: Thomas Edison collection
Dates: 1877-1985
Collection Number: mssEdisonThomascollection
Creator: Edison, Thomas A. (Thomas Alva), 1847-1931
Extent: 3 boxes
Repository: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Manuscripts Department
1151 Oxford Road
San Marino, California 91108
Phone: (626) 405-2191
Abstract: The bulk of this collection is made up of historical and modern ephemera related to Thomas Edison. It also contains some of Edison's correspondence, patents, and original and reproduced photographs of Edison and his associates.
Language of Material: The records are in English.


Open to qualified researchers by prior application through the Reader Services Department. For more information, contact Reader Services.

Administrative Information

Publication Rights

The Huntington Library does not require that researchers request permission to quote from or publish images of this material, nor does it charge fees for such activities. The responsibility for identifying the copyright holder, if there is one, and obtaining necessary permissions rests with the researcher.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item]. Thomas Edison Collection, The Huntington Library, San Marino, California.


Burndy Library Collection, Gift of Dibner Family, November 2006. Was MS Collection 8.

Biographical Note

Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931) is probably the best known American inventor of all time. His most famous invention was the light bulb, but he also invented the phonograph and the first practical storage battery, along with dozens of other impressive devices, for a total of 1,093 patents during his lifetime.

Scope and Content

The collection is made up of correspondence, patents, photographs, and ephemera. The correspondence includes some original and contemporary copies of Edison's letters regarding the Phonoplex System of Telegraphy, the Edison Phonograph Toy Manufacturing Co., the use of paraphenylenediamine to manufacture phonograph records, the American Fine Arts Society, and the Society for Electrical Development, as well as a letter dismissing Charles H. Davids from his post as superintendent of the West Orange laboratory. There are additional items from the Edison-Bell Phonograph Corporation, Ltd. in England, as well as correspondence between Mina Miller Edison and Lester A. Grimes regarding a signed apron made from Thomas Edison's shirt, also included in the collection.
The collection also contains some original and reproduced photographs of Edison and his associates (many with captions by Francis Jehl, Edison's laboratory assistant), and his Bronx movie production studio. There are also photographs of Charles Edison, as well as Bern Dibner with Richard G. Berger, another laboratory assistant for Edison. The bulk of the collection is made up of historical and modern ephemera, including advertisements, clippings, pamphlets, and prints. There are also three oil paintings of Edison, one of which is signed by illustrator Howell Dodd.


The collection is arranged in three boxes by item format:
Box 1 contains correspondence, autographed notecards, patents, photographs, prints, and historical ephemera.
Box 2 contains historical and modern ephemera.
Box 3 is oversize. It contains miscellaneous ephemera, oil paintings of Edison, and photographs.

Indexing Terms

Personal Names

Edison, Thomas A. (Thomas Alva), 1847-1931
Berger, Richard G.
Dibner, Bern
Dodd, Howell
Edison, Charles A., 1890-1969
Edison, Mina Miller, 1865-1947
Grimes, Lester A.
Jehl, Francis, 1860-1941

Corporate Names

Edison-Bell Consolidated Phonograph Company, ltd.
Thomas Alva Edison Foundation


Electric lighting - History
Motion Pictures - United States - History
Phonograph - History


Printed ephemera

Box 1

Correspondence, patents, photographs, prints, and historical ephemera

Folder 1

Correspondence (1883-1924)

24 items.
Folder 2

Autographed Notecards (1926)

9 items.
Folder 3

Patents (1877-1907)

9 items.
Folder 4

Photographs of Thomas A. (Thomas Alva) Edison, 1847-1931 [ca. 1887-1929]

11 items.
Folder 5

Photographic Portraits of Edison [ca. 1877-1922]

14 items.
Folder 6

Photographs with Francis Jehl's Captions (1929)

17 items.
Folder 7

Photographs of Movie Set/Production Studio [ca. 1907-1918]

4 items.
Folder 8

Photographs and Negatives of Charles A. Edison, 1890-1969 (1947)

24 items.
Folder 9

Photographs of Bern Dibner with Richard G. Berger [ca. 1956]

7 items.
Folder 10

Prints [undated]

33 items.
Folder 11

Historical Ephemera: Advertisements [ca. 1880-1919)

36 items.
Folder 12

Historical Ephemera: Clippings [ca. 1879-1928]

15 items.
Folder 13

Historical Ephemera: Patented Record [ca. 1900]

1 item.
Folder 14

Historical Ephemera: Miscellaneous [ca. 1879-1931]

6 items.
Box 2

Historical and modern ephemera

Folder 1

Historical Ephemera: Miscellaneous, Apron with Edison's Autograph [undated]

1 item.
Folder 2

Modern Ephemera: Clippings, Miscellaneous (1947-1985)

38 items.
Folder 3

Modern Ephemera: Clippings, Newspaper (1931-1985)

30 items.
Folder 4

Modern Ephemera: Magazines and Newsletters (1947-1969)

7 items.
Folder 5

Modern Ephemera: Miscellaneous [ca. 1947-1957]

16 items.
Folder 6

Modern Ephemera: Pamphlets (1947-1980)

12 items.
Folder 7

Modern Ephemera: Thomas Alva Edison Foundation Reports (1966-1969)

2 items.
Box 3


Folder 1

Miscellaneous Ephemera (1883-1964)

12 items.
Folder 2

Oil paintings of Edison [ca. 1940-1960]

3 items.
Folder 3

Photograph: Edison with Associates and Families [ca. 1908-1919]

1 item. Signed by Edison, Harrison Gilman Thompson and Elisha Evans Hudson.
Folder 4

Photograph: Large Portrait of Edison [undated]

1 item.
Folder 5

Signed Portrait of Edison to J.D. Pahlman [undated]

1 item.