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Inventor Thomas A. Edison Responds to His Son’s Note About a Speaking Request
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Complete Transcript

                                                                        Mar 3/23

Father –

        Oh lookit!!

I suppose they want me on the theory that “a man can always talk best when he aint bothered by facts and information” as Kin Hubbard says.

However “my attainments in the field of electrical engineering” are such as should be the envy of any college president.

[Thomas A. Edison endorsement at top:]

Charlie / you might put you foot in it. / E

THOMAS A. EDISON. Autograph Endorsement Initialed, on Charles Edison, Autograph Letter, to Thomas A. Edison, March 3, 1923. 1 p., 5 x 8 in.

Inventory #26773       Price: $2,500

Historical Background
In this brief note to his father, 32-year-old Charles Edison seems to be referring to a speaking request he has received because of “my attainments in the field of electrical engineering.” He quotes early twentieth-century cartoonist and humorist Kin Hubbard (1868-1930), who introduced the “Abe Martin” cartoons in The Indianapolis News in December 1904. The Abe Martin cartoons went into national syndication in 1910, eventually appearing in two hundred U.S. newspapers.

The Abe Martin character made witty jokes and uttered homespun sayings in a country vernacular. His sayings, such as “Nobuddy can talk as interestin’ as th’ fellers that’s not hampered by facts er information” and “Now an’ then an innocent man is sent t’ th’ legislature,” became part of the popular culture of the times.

In response, his father, the famous inventor, might be referring to a common riddle, “How do you close a door and keep it open at the same time?” The answer: “Put you foot in it.” Perhaps he was suggesting that Charles Edison could try public speaking without devoting himself to it.

Thomas A. Edison (1847-1931) was born in Ohio and grew up in Michigan. He read widely under his mother’s instruction, and began conducting experiments as a child. He became a telegraph operator as a teenager and moved to Louisville, Kentucky, in 1866, where he was an employee of the Western Union. He received his first of 1,093 patents in 1869. He moved to New York City and founded a company with fellow telegrapher and inventor Franklin Leonard Pope. Edison established an industrial research laboratory in 1876 in New Jersey, with proceeds from the sale of his quadraplex telegraph. There, many employees carried out research and development under his direction. Among his most prominent inventions were the incandescent light bulb, the phonograph, and a motion picture camera. In 1878, he formed the Edison Electric Light Company in New York City with several financiers and first demonstrated his incandescent light bulb on December 31, 1879. During World War I, Edison conducted research in Florida to find a domestic source of natural rubber.

Charles Edison (1890-1969) was born in New Jersey as the fifth of Thomas A. Edison’s six children, and the second with his second wife. Charles Edison graduated from the college preparatory Hotchkiss School in Connecticut in 1909 and later attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1915-1916, he operated the “Little Thimble Theater,” but his father soon put him to work. He led Edison Records for a number of years. He married Carolyn Hawkins on March 27, 1918, but they had no children. In 1927, he became the president of his father’s company Thomas A. Edison, Inc., and operated it until 1957, when it merged with the McGraw Electric Company to form the McGraw-Edison Electric Company. He served as chairman of the board of the merged company until his retirement in 1961. President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Edison as Assistant Secretary of the Navy in January 1937 and as Secretary of the Navy in January 1940. He resigned in June to run for governor of New Jersey as a Democrat. He won election and served one term from 1941 to 1944.

Condition: Fine; pin holes to upper left corner; small slice to left edge.

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