Lot 428

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Thomas A. Edison Signed Photo Showing Lamp Powered by Rechargeable Storage Battery

A vintage silver gelatin photograph, n.d. but ca. 1923, boldly signed by American inventor Thomas A. Edison (1847-1931), as "Thos A Edison" at upper left. The signature features a looped "T" with a dramatically elongated tail. The photograph is signed in stone by Edison's official photographer Lewis Lueder, as "Lueder" at lower right, and stamped "Lewis Lueder / Commercial Photography / 17 Ashwood Terrace / W. Orange, N.J." verso. The approximate date comes from a pencil inscription verso, "76 years old." (Edison had turned 76 in February 1923.) Expected wear including wrinkles, isolated foxing and ink scatter, and minor warping from mounting residue verso. Slight cropping to the upper left corner mentioned just for accuracy. Else very good. 7.625" x 6.625." Provenance: From the 19th-20th Century Historic Photography Collection of Dr. Joseph T. Pollock.

A signed photograph of Edison holding just a battery--and not a more desirable lamp--sold at RR Auction (Amherst, New Hampshire) for $32,000 in December 2011. Our photo shows Edison with a light bulb, which is arguably his most significant invention among many.

The photograph shows Edison closely examining one of his inventions, the Edison Cap Lamp, which consisted of a portable headlamp connected to a rechargeable storage battery. The same image of Lewis Lueder's photograph can also be seen in the Historical Photograph Collection (Digital Archive on NPGallery) hosted by the Thomas Edison National Historic Park in West Orange, New Jersey.

Edison had developed the first incandescent lamp in 1879, the same year he demonstrated his electric light bulb at Menlo Park. 35 years later, the inventor was approached for help in developing a personal use electric mine lamp, or miners safety lantern, for use in the flourishing yet increasingly dangerous mining industry. Mine safety proponents George H. Deike and John T. Ryan, Sr., who had founded the Mine Safety Appliances Company in 1914, asked Edison to design a safe, portable, and reusable mining headlamp to reduce the danger of slips, trips, and falls in the mines, and prevent deadly gas ignition fires. The first prototype of the Edison Cap Lamp was introduced around 1915. It consisted of a 6-candlepower lamp that was powered by a 12-hour rechargeable storage battery in a protective steel case worn at the miner's belt. A flexible cord connected the lamp to the battery. Safety mechanisms prevented lamp filaments from igniting if the bulbs broke underground in gas-laden mines. Several versions of the Edison Cap Lamp were approved by the U.S. Bureau of Mining and rolled out by 1917.

Thomas A. Edison was America’s most prolific, and arguably its most important, inventor. His 1,093 patents span the fields of electricity, printing, telecommunications, and motion picture and sound recordings, as well as a myriad of other technologies. Edison’s legacy consists of his two laboratories in Menlo Park and West Orange, New Jersey and in 300+ international companies that capitalized on his inventions.

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.


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February 1, 2023 11:00 AM EST
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University Archives

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Bid Increments
From: To: Increments:
$0 $99 $10
$100 $299 $20
$300 $499 $25
$500 $999 $50
$1,000 $1,999 $100
$2,000 $2,999 $200
$3,000 $4,999 $250
$5,000 $9,999 $500
$10,000 $19,999 $1,000
$20,000 $49,999 $2,500
$50,000 + $5,000