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    Thomas Edison Archive of Handwritten Letters and Notes to Jaffrey Buchanan. Approximately 150 Autograph Letters and Notes Signed, including more than 60 signed "Edison", circa 1920s, all regarding the running of his manufacturing operations of the Ediphone (voice recorder, or phonograph) in New Jersey. According to a typed manuscript, written by Jaffrey and included with the archive, Jaffrey began working at the Edison Chemical Factory in 1910. Within a few days he was introduced to Edison and made a good impression. Edison remained involved in all details of the day-to-day operations of the factory, relying on men like Buchanan to execute his instructions and keep him informed of all necessary details. Edison kept long hours, and often preferred to work through the night; and these letters and notes were the preferred method of communication. Notes and instructions were hurriedly scripted beneath typed or written reports or on small sheets of paper, 5" x 8". The notes were sometimes as brief a single line, and as long as two pages, sometimes including mathematical notations and engineering sketches.

    According to Buchanan's typescript, Edison was a firm adherent to the empirical method in his work. All employees in positions of responsibility were required to carry a notebook in which to write down all observations (one such of Buchanan's notebooks is also included). Buchanan would have kept all of Edison's notes and letters as a way of documenting any changes or implementations in production at the factory. Edison was a keen observer, and was always looking for methods to improve production quality and reduce costs.

    A Typed Letter Signed, one page, 8.5" x 11", September 14, 1921 from Buchanan and a colleague who signs "Paullin", requesting a change in the location of the "Varnish Making Department" and providing detailed reasoning for the request, responds briefly: "Paullin Buchanan / I can't see why we can't make varnish where we do it now if room is enclosed, Double door used & air blown into room so all leaks are outward. Why Not. E"

    Another handwritten note from Edison on the same topic: "Is there any place you have in mind that would be better cleaner & less hazzardous [sic] for making varnish. Edison."

    In a 2 page letter, 5" x 8", circa 1923: "Buchanan We are losing big money on wet wood flour & we have recently bought 240 tons of union flour which ends our connection with the Mfrs [manufacturers] of wet flour. Having found another mfr who makes dry flour = Go over to our store room & see if we cant rig up a ventilating blower in stock house, this will reduce the moisture down in time so flour will go below 10% in 3 or 4 weeks if blower is kept on in daylight Every day - see me about it - E."

    ALS, 2pp, 5" x 8", circa 1925: "Buchanan / Lately we are producing some very loud fox trots. We do it by tracking the Masters very deep - The bridge walls come to a knife edge [an illustration of what he is referring to made by Edison of the ridges in a phonograph record] Now pieces of record in removing from mould break off at x and if the working mould is not cleaned and these pieces removed will in some cases give a sound on every record thereafter printed. The breaking off of these knife edges is done when record is taken off working mould E."

    Buchanan's typescript reveals that Edison insisted on approving all music that was recorded. If he did not like it, it was not recorded; as a result there were few jazz recordings made at the factory until the overwhelming demand forced Edison's hand. Buchanan's typescript provides an important framework in which to read this archive. Archive is too extensive to quote from, but careful examination would yield a narrative of progress at the New Jersey factory.

    Also included in this archive is a printed copy of Buchanan's patent for an "Elevator for Liquids", Patent No. 922,749, dated May 25, 1909 and a printed illustration of his invention. Archive should be carefully reviewed for content and condition. Overall, good to near fine, with a very few instances of chipping at margins (mentioned only for sake of accuracy).

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2008
    17th-18th Friday-Saturday
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