[D8805AGG], Letter from Thomas Alva Edison to Edward Hibberd Johnson, September 4th, 1888

Item

Abstract

"In this note you credit me with retaliation without giving you a chance to be heard and accuse me of knowing you in my interview with Villard, and that I should not believe every statement I hear, which statement is as follows. ### That you did before the Board of directors of the Edison Electric Light Co state, that in the phonograph did I had sold you out, Mr. Upton + Hastings is my authority 2nd that you stated to the wall street reporter of the New York Herald that in the phonograph deal I Edison had sold your property and this statement was made when I was several miles away and could not personally make any defence, another reporter visited my house, and another reporter visited Mr. Lippencott the gentleman who purchased the phonogh for an explanation, that my private secretary Mr. Tate called on you to correct the statement, that instead of correcting it you reiterated it, but after a great deal of trouble my friends cased it to be suppressed. All who talked to you stated that your trouble seemed to be jealousy of Mr. Gillilland. ### Having recited the above Let us see if I have sold you property. I will commence at the beginning and trace our relations in my own way starting with the formation of the Edison Speaking Phonograph Co $10,000 was paid in for experiments, 50000 more was to be paid under certain conditions. You were made an offices and 1200 shares if I remember right out of 25000. I had the same shares or less but was to receive a royally of 20 percent on the selling price. The 10000 paid me was expended in experimenting and $15000 more the latter out of my own pocket, no commercial instrument was made about 100 instruments was sold no royally was even paid me the original [unclear] parties wanted to be released from further payments ie $50000, a mutually releasing each other, the Co became defunct, no meetings heed for years- ### Having my hands free 8 years after the events recited I concluded to perfect the phonograph about that time the geographic became very active and promised to deprive me of the honor of the invention. I told Mr. Tomlinson to get all the data from you + Painter in regard to the old Co so that it could be rejuvinated again, he asked you to get the old phonograph people together again as time was pressing. You replied you would a delay of a month secured. Tomlinson under pressure from me makes another application from you + states that of something is not done that I will form a new Co. your reply that you will try it again, another delay and finally you reply to Tomlinson that you are overwhelmed with business + say Edison better go ahead + form his Co. You state that Painter wants to wait, I had no confidence in Painter so went ahead and formed a new Co assigning all my rights to it without prejudice to the old Company. The new Co had no money it is no part of the invention others can only derive my interest for invention others can only derive my interest for invention others can only derive my interest for invention others can only derive theirs by money hence I offered 1/3 of the whole to old stockholders for a small assessment to pay for expending which [unclear] great expenses has shown to be totally inadequate-The old stockholders refused. I was therefore obliged to do all the inventing and furnish all the money. These experiments to the first of Sept. cost 670000. In addition I had to invest $26000 more dollars of my own and $90000 of other peoples money in factories to enable me to complete with my rivals. Meanwhile the old stockholders seeing a chance from my [unclear] to get something after refusing to take any risk whatever or even rejuvinate their Co fell to quarrelling among themselves + there was a contest for control of the defunct Co, boyish attempts were made to pull me into the fight but I refused to participate and I wrote a letter to you asking that you remain neutral and that I was taking care of you. ### I was aware that you had but 1200 shares out of 25000 in the hands of such sharks as Painter + his ilk and that you would get a very small part of the 1/3rd I set apart for them, understand this 1/3 I was to give them was not because I was legally bound to give them a cent as I need a release but I gave it to them because I didn't like to see them get nothing and I great lot, hence in addition to the proportion you would get as a stockholder I reserved for you nearly as much extra as comes to Batchelor and more than Gilliland. ### Now I perfect the phonograph the newspapers make a great stir an offer is made to me for the whole capital stock of the new co. which represents only my rights as the Contract will show, I accept this offer but I still bargain with the purchases to take care of the stockholders of old defunct Co, and all the boys as I had originally planned and I even went further and increased the amount your friend Painter tries every device to break me up with the assistance of Bergmann who aids him financially he gets a majority of the stock and impudently states that he is going to Compel me to give him 1/2 of what I get. Now I want to know what warrant have you in stating that I sold your proprety on the Contrary instead of having sold your property. I had the nerve to put up 100000 on an experiment work a year night and day and create a property and give you, who have no claim whatsoever except that you was my friend, an interest which will net you many thousand dollars, in the last two years. I have given you collateral saleable for over $20,000 for no other reason than I thought you were doing more work + getting less for it than the other boys. Where do you find even amongst strong friends people who give $20000 for such objects. Have I not given away to men who I could have heard on a salary over 1/2 million dollars because I wanted them to be well off. Do you suppose that I would sell another man's property for money. ### Having said this much I will got a little further and state that you have actually done in a sense what you allege but chich I have not done-and you did it in this manner. ### As you are aware one fo the great things in the early days was the scheme of supply Edison Central Stations with motors to be worked on our light circuits, the downtown station was even located in the place it is instead of uptown for the sole reason that I feared competition with gas but hoped to meet it by selling power as by accurate canvass 750 small motors and industries requiring power were located in that district. I conducted a great number of experiments on motors and in the 1879 exhibition I exhibited a motor running lathes, sewing machines etc on the Light circuit at Menlo Park. I took out 30 or 40 patents on motors transmission of power and many devices now in general use, I also conducted many experiments on Electric Railways, built one 2 1/2 miles long and experimented with it for over a year. The data mostly at my personal expense which were about $45,000-### I pioneered the first several small stations devising from time to time such devices as would meet requirements and learn a staff of men but before I could make these stations pay big which I would have done and thus render the subsequent career of the Co an easy instead of an uphill one. I was cut off by the Co and my construction Staff scattered, you became president, I than took no further interest in the Co, after a while I hear of the formation of a Sprague Motor Co., then I hear of your selling motors to the Light Cos. Licenses at a large profit over the cost of such motors made in the shops affiliated with the Co, I thought it strange that the president of the Light Co shared use the Light Cos patents and turn around and diminish the value of the Light Cos holdings in a license Co by reason of the taking out of a large profit when the License might have got them direct for 1/2 the money family. Did you in the formation of your Sprague Co in which a large amount of stock was issued for patents which are of no eartly value to protect a business by merely an excuse to get up a Co on did you ever think of even giving the boys or myself any of it, did you even think that I have some property rights in that [unclear] not that I deserved any because I don't make myself but did it even occur to you to reciprocate, you know that your bringing Mr. Sprague in the family has been a galling thorn in the side of all the boys but they kept still because you were their friend, and as I told you two years ago in Tomlinsons office that it was only a question of time when it would break up old associations which it has about done. ### All these things have a really disappointed me and I learn from them that Rochefocoulds estimate of human nature is about correct furnishing electricity for their transmission of power plants + [unclear] RR + that the motors were our dynamos made in a different shape + called Sprague Motors that our ideas of the value of the Sprague Co and Johnsons were as wide as the poles [?] Mr Bergmann was the loudest in protesting against putting in the Sprague. Yet I am told that he stated to you he defended you. ### You have no right to risk your whole fortune in a big kite flying game and because your associates do not feel like assisting you at our expense to pull it through accuse me of stabing you in the back. ### I have written this because I cannot talk fluently." E

Date

1888-09-04

Decade

1880-1889

Type

Identifier

D8805AGG

Folder Set

D8805

Title

[D8805AGG], Letter from Thomas Alva Edison to Edward Hibberd Johnson, September 4th, 1888

Microfilm ID

121:490

Publisher

Thomas A. Edison Papers, School of Arts and Sciences, Rutgers University