[LB028694], Letter from Thomas Alva Edison to Edison Electric Illuminating Co (New York), John Irvin Beggs, March 20th, 1889


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[LB028694], Letter from Thomas Alva Edison to Edison Electric Illuminating Co (New York), John Irvin Beggs, March 20th, 1889

Editor's Notes

[Tate marginalia: "This letter was not sent to Mr. Beggs but retained in this office." A.O. Tate] "The letter from President Spenser Trask, of the Edison Electric Illuminating Co., of New York, under date 15th inst. Addressed to yourself, a copy of which was forwarded to me, regarding a contemplated new station in the first district, and soliciting explicit answers to a number of questions for presentation to the Company's Board of Directors, has brought to my mind a train of circumstances which, while never entirely forgotten, have been for a number of years partially obscured by affairs of greater importance, and reference to them on my part has been withheld by the hope, which I have always harbored, that some day those familiar with the subject and having power to act would revert to the period I touch upon and cause justice to be done me for the assistance I at that time voluntarily extended to a Company which after demonstrating the practicability of my system of underground incandescent electric lighting, was unable to earn an amount sufficient to cover its legitimate operating expenses. The probes of its professed guardian- the same by the way who a short while before had heralded the discovery of a weak spot in that portion of my own intellect which has to deal with commercial affairs-failed to discover the weak spot in the system known as the First District, and while I naturally felt timid to approach a subject which, I had been informed upon such excellent authority, nature had failed to equip me to consider intelligently, my desire for the success of our initial electric lighting station finally over-[unclear] all other feeling and I set out earnestly upon a voyage of discovery on my own account. It took me but a short time to arrive at the conclusion that the entire fault lay in the direct management of the station; that the position of Superintendent was occupied by an incompetent man, and that a change ensuring a proper administration of this office would not only render the station self-sustaining, but would bring to the stockholders a return for the money they had invested. I selected a man, had him placed in charge and personally agreed to pay him Ten Thousand Dollars as soon as he had succeeded in making the station earn a dividend of five per cent on $1,000,000.00. The result of this arrangement is expressed in the report of the Treasurer of the Company under date July 17th, 1885 an extract from which I quote: ### 'I take pleasure in announcing that a quarterly dividend of one per cent being the first dividend on the Capital Stock of this Company, is payable on August 1st, 1885.' ### EXTRACT FROM MINUTES ### 'The President then exhibited a detailed report of the earnings and expenses of the Company, showing that the net earnings for the six months ending June 30th, 1885, after paying all expenses of every description, were $25,660.00 [?]. The President further stated that the Company is now absolutely free from floating debt of any kind, the debt incurred in increasing the capacity of Pearl Street station having been entirely paid from my earnings, and that after such payment, and after the payment of all outstanding accounts for current supplies &c., there remained from the earnings a sum of $10.539.40 cash on hand applicable to dividends." ### The Sum of $10, 539.40 applied as above on dividends was just a fraction more than the amount ($10,000) which I had a few months previously paid out of my own pocket to the man of my selection [unclear] accomplished these results. ### Upon several occasions I have in a jocular way referred to this matter in the presence of some of my good friends, who upon a like number of occasions have promised to secure an adjustment in my behalf, but whether they consider that a self imposed obligation, viewed in that strictly commercial lights which alone render subjects visible to them, presents too absurd an appearance [unclear] serious consideration, or whether they have simply taken advantage of my own forbearance, I cannot say. I only know that nothing has ever been done towards recognizing the service which I rendered them at a time when they sorely needed assistance. ### Time and again since the occurrence of the above events, I have furnished those who then sat in judgment upon me and rendered their intelligent verdict, with fresh evidence of the utter lack of the 'commercial' development of my character, most notably in connection with the new lamp. After experimenting for a year and a half, at my own expense, I presented them with a lamp which enabled them to obtain fifty per cent more light from a given amount of power- the net result of which so far as I am personally concerned being almost the ruination of my health from overwork, and to my factory an increased cost of manufacture and the consequent reduction of its earning capacity. ### In mentioning these events I do not desire in any way to convey the impression that I am unwilling to render you at the present time any assistance which lies in my power, nor do I mean to indicate the development of a purely commercial side to my character. Neither do I wish to force appreciation upon those who cannot comprehend an unselfish action, but my time, to myself, at least, is valuable, and I am engaged upon work, which in my own poor judgment is important, and in laying it aside to give further attention to the affairs of your company, which I will gladly do to any extent circumstances may require, I consider the occasion a fitting one to place on record a few incidents which have been brought to the surface of my memory by your President's letter referred to in the commencement of this communication." Yours very truly, [signed] TAE [Tate marginalia: "This letter was not sent to Mr. Beggs but retained in this office." A.O. Tate]





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