American inventor (1847-1931); invented or perfected many of the 20th century’s most ubiquitous devices, including the light bulb, the phonograph, and moving pictures.
An incredible lot of eight typed and handwritten notes and letters from Thomas Edison. All are connected with the business operations of Edison’s recording company, Thomas A. Edison, Inc. The first two items are signed contracts, both of them with John Loesche who served as a “recording expert” with the company. The first is from 1917, the latter from 1923. Loesche must also have been a musician, as he is mentioned as having acted as a pianist and instrumentalist on several tracks released by the company. Both are signed by Edison as “Thos A Edison”.
Contract #1: Dated February 28th, 1917. West Orange, 1917. Contract, three pages. In very good condition. Three typed pages on three paper-clipped sheets of unruled 8” x 13” paper. A contract template with contractual specifics written in ink. The third page includes the signatures of Walter Miller (head of the Recording Division), John Loesche, and Thomas Edison. Edison’s signature appears in blue ink, the others in black. Folded thrice, with age-toning throughout. Small edge tears appear along the horizontal folds at the left edge on all three pages (not affecting signatures). Rusty paper clip mark at the bottom left of the first page.
Contract #2: Dated March 5th, 1923. West Orange, 1923. Contact, three pages. Three typed pages on three paper-clipped sheets of unruled 8” x 13” paper. A contract template with contractual specifics written in ink. The same three signatures as on contract #1 appear on the third page of this contract, all in black ink. Folded thrice. Light age-toning throughout, one small instance of soiling on page one, and marks from rusty paper clip appear at the bottom left of the first page.
Also included are five handwritten notes from Edison to Walter Miller, a recording expert who headed the New York recording division of the company. All five have a number stamp for a filing system (Miller’s?) that appears to be chronological. The earliest is assigned the number “35”, the latest “474”.
ALS #1: A signed handwritten note from Edison to Miller dated June 30, 1913 signed “Edison”. It concerns the need to re-record four tracks because the “moulds all spoilt”. The stamp for Edison’s secretary William Henry Meadowcroft appears twice. This note has been pasted to a larger sheet, the other side of which appears a list of recordings “Passed By Mr. Edison” and dated 6/27/13. Several notations in pencil appear, as well as a typed note from a Mr. Hayes to a Mr. Cronkhite. In very good condition.
ALS #2: An undated handwritten note by Edison in pencil. Probably from the 1912 or 1913 (based on number notation). Transcript: “Walter Miller / Please select from Victor / & Columbia about / 20 tunes etc by / jewish Talent singers / etc each record / a separate [sic] artist / I will listen & pick / out the best talent / & these people we / can use to make / [page 2] jewish records / as its unlikely / any are tied up / to other companies / Return report – / Edison.” Between 1906 and 1907 Edison’s company released several records of specifically jewish artists, so this ALS could date to that time.
ALS #3: An autograph letter signed by Thomas Edison, written on two sheets of 5” x 8” ruled paper. The letter reads: “Walter, Your recently made over a record without orders, that record is in Cut Out List we are going to issue it practically unsaleable – Why don’t you select a lot of good instrumental and when you want something to fill in time of musicians Take one of these good ones and then we will have something to sell– / E“. An appended note mentions a record pressing for “Crimson Blushes / Mazurka”, which was pressed in 1913. The note has a red numeric file stamp “148”. Very good
Also included is a third sheet of the same size labeled “Not on Cut list when made” followed by a list of several recordings made by the Recording Division of Edison’s Company. This was apparently appended to Edison’s note, and appears to be in his hand, though it is not signed.
ALS #4: A typed memo from W.H. Miller to “Mr. Folsom,” dated 10-9-23, with an autograph note signed “E” by Thomas Edison added at the bottom of the page. Edison’s note, a response to the memo suggesting a new name for “American Symphony Orchestra,” reads in part: “That’s a good name of our Orchestra and not Symphony Orch which we never had or could have used but which I hope we can when [illegible]. E”. In very good condition.
ALS #5: An undated handwritten note from Edison to Miller, initialed “TAE” by Edison. Edison has appended a newspaper clipping concerning a Polish-born opera singer (“Leon Cortilli”, actually Leo Kortili). Transcript: “Walter Miller / Here may be a / man for Polish / Records, only / songs well known / in Poland. Wanted/ those which Polander [sic] / in this country / should like & in their / own language / TAE”. While undated, text from the newspaper clipping indicates that this is likely from 1924 or 1925.
Also included is a typed letter signed on Edison’s behalf to Henry Kost, dated October 19, 1923. Kost, who had submitted a test recording to the recording division of Thomas A. Edison, Inc., is informed that the Music Committee has refused “their permission to record any of your work.” Kost has returned the letter to Edison’s office with his own additions to the page, including a caricature of himself recording a song while two small figures in the background comment “He should sell fruit.” A note at the bottom of the page in Kost’s hand reads: “Kindly advise me what was wrong with my singing as this will help me to make corrections in my practice. Thank you.”