Last known film footage of Thomas Edison depicts 1931 Fourth of July celebration

WEST ORANGE, NJ — Thomas Edison commemorating the Fourth of July is featured in a series of recently digitized home movies that provide a rare look into the personal life of the inventor and his family. Thomas Edison National Historical Park in West Orange partnered with the Library of Congress to digitize the footage, which originally belonged to Edison’s son, Charles. 

The home movies, which range in length from one to three minutes and were photographed on 16 mm Kodak safety film, were stored in the museum collection of Thomas Edison NHP for decades before park staff worked with the Library of Congress to have them digitally restored. 

The films include the last known footage of Thomas Edison, in which he is celebrating the Fourth of July in 1931 with members of his family, including wife Mina, sons Charles and Theodore, and daughters-in-law Carolyn and Anna, at the front door of the Edison family home, Glenmont. Thomas Edison died three months later on Oct. 18, 1931. 

“Home movies can provide a much more accurate view of our past: unrehearsed and unpolished. This is especially true of the home movies of the famous. You often get to see a side of them they hide from the public lens,” said George Willeman, Library of Congress Nitrate Film Vault leader. 

Other footage in the collection show visits by Charles and Carolyn Edison to the Grosse Pointe, Mich., home of Edsel and Eleanor Ford; to Grand Canyon National Park during a vacation in the southwestern United States; and to the New Jersey shore with friends. 

The home movies also capture the construction and landscaping of Landmore, the home Charles and Carolyn Edison built in Llewellyn Park near Glenmont; exterior views of George Eastman’s home in Rochester, N.Y.; and a July 1, 1931, visit from King Prajadhipok of Siam to Thomas Edison’s West Orange laboratory and Glenmont.

“We appreciate the relationship with the Library of Congress that made the digitization of these films possible,” Edison NHP Superintendent Tom Ross said. “We thank the Library of Congress for helping us share these unfiltered glimpses of the Edison family with the world.” 

All eight films are available at https://tinyurl.com/mpjb9m5k. For more information about Thomas Edison NHP, visit www.nps.gov/edis.

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