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Thomas A. Edison

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“The new type of battery I have developed will certainly do the business"

Thomas Alva Edison, 1847-1931.  Autograph Letter Signed in pencil, Edison, two pages, no place [Orange, New Jersey], no date [January 19, 1923].  With original envelope.

In this letter marked “Personal,” Edison seeks the assistance of George F. Morrison, a director of the General Electric Company, to fulfill an order for his storage battery.  In full:  “Illinois Central Engineers been over here and want me to figure on a storage battery loco for their terminals in Chicago which they must change by law.  /  The new type of battery I have developed will certainly do the business [—] its only a question of technique[.]  Cant you send over a technical man good at figuring on this branch, I want him to do some figuring and perhaps can swing the business — it requires thirty locos[.]

The storage battery was the most successful of Edison's later inventions.  In the late 1890's, Edison sought to develop a storage battery to provide electric power for automobiles.  By 1899 he had begun work on a lightweight, long-lasting alkaline battery as an alternative to heavy lead acid batteries.  It took him a decade to develop a practical alkaline battery, however, and in the meantime gasoline powered cars were so improved that the internal combustion engine became the industry standard.  Still Edison's battery was extremely useful for lighting railway cars and signals, maritime buoys, and miners' lamps.  Ultimately the storage battery became Edison's most profitable product, and his work paved the way for the modern alkaline battery. 

Edison, of course, is a giant in American history.  The “Wizard of Menlo Park,” he was a prolific inventor who insisted that “genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration."  He obtained an astounding 1,093 patents. Among them were some of the greatest inventions of the 19th and 20th Centuries:  the incandescent light, the phonograph, and the motion picture camera.

In 1890, Edison organized the Edison General Electric Company.  Two years later, he merged his company with the Thomson-Houston Company, led by Charles A. Coffin, to form the General Electric Company, with Coffin as its president.  George F. Morrison, to whom Edison wrote this letter, was a director of General Electric from 1922 to 1942. 

Edison has boldly written and signed this letter in pencil.  The letter is evenly toned.  It has been laid down to boards from prior framing, and the previous framer has painted the boards in the upper left corner to camouflage paper loss. The second page is shorter than the first, and the letter also exhibits some minor damp staining that does not substantially detract.  Overall it is in fine condition.  The envelope is addressed in another hand.  It has normal postal markings and a bit of staining but is also in fine condition.




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