Document with Edison’s Bold “Umbrella” Signature

Signed by Thomas A. Edison

Item: 20517
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EDISON, THOMAS A. (1847-1931). American scientist; inventor of sound recording, electrical illumination, motion pictures and other epoch-making developments. DS. (“Thos A. Edison”). ½p. Postcard format. Orange, New Jersey, (December 22, 1928). In pencil. A postcard receipt from Boston’s Stone & Webster Engineering Corporation that had been sent with a book of color photographs documenting its design of Maryland’s Conowingo Dam that harnessed the Susquehanna River’s hydroelectric power. At its completion in 1928, the dam was the second largest hydroelectric plant in the United States behind the one at Niagara Falls. Stone & Webster was founded by two MIT-educated electrical engineers and specialized in hydroelectric plants and utilities. The firm remained a leader in those sectors until a bribery scandal led to its downfall and sale to The Shaw Group in 2000.

Edison, who held 1,093 patents at the time of his death, is credited with ushering in the age of electricity. Backed by financiers J.P. Morgan and the Vanderbilts, he developed operable electric lighting as well as alkaline batteries to power another one of his inventions, the phonograph, developed as a result of Edison’s attempts to convert telegraphed messages into recorded sounds. Additionally, he spent much time attempting to link his phonograph to moving pictures, and invented a camera and viewing machine that made silent movies commercially viable.

Edison has obligingly written his unique “umbrella” signature and added the location of Orange, New Jersey in pencil after the printed “Receipt Acknowledged.” His famous laboratory and his residence, Glenmont, were located in West Orange. There is no postal cancellation to confirm that the card was sent through the mail and an unidentified hand has penciled in the date in the lower left corner, identifying the signer as “The great inventor.” Extremely fine.

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