Recently a researcher visited our reading room to look at the E. E. Dickinson Co. records and brought this letter to our attention. Written on March 16, 1916, from Orange, New Jersey, it is a letter signed by inventor Thomas A. Edison about his recommendation of Mr. V.L. King, who was seeking employment at the E.E. Dickinson Company, a maker of witch hazel and birch oil in Durham and Essex, Connecticut.
The E.E. Dickinson Company was established by Alvin Whittemore, who owned a drug store in Essex. By 1870, partners of Whittemore consolidated under the control of Rev. Thomas Dickinson and his family, including his son E.E. Dickinson, held the company as a family business until the 1980s. By the 1920s the company produced half of all witch hazel produced in the United States.
Archivists and historians value primary sources for their content and context — how they contribute to our understanding of historical events or a historical time. The value of a letter just because it has a famous person’s signature doesn’t usually fit in this category. It has a different sort of value, one where anything that attaches us to a famous person is automatically valuable. In any event, we are happy to know about this letter in our collection and hope you enjoy it too.