Charles Edison

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Charles Edison
Charles Edison.jpg
42nd Governor of New Jersey
In office
January 21, 1941 – January 18, 1944
Preceded byA. Harry Moore
Succeeded byWalter Evans Edge
46th United States Secretary of the Navy
In office
July 7, 1939 – June 24, 1940
Acting: July 7, 1939 – January 2, 1940
PresidentFranklin D. Roosevelt
Preceded byClaude A. Swanson
Succeeded byFrank Knox
Assistant Secretary of the Navy
In office
January 18, 1937 – January 1, 1940
PresidentFranklin D. Roosevelt
Preceded byHenry L. Roosevelt
Succeeded byLewis Compton
Personal details
Born(1890-08-03)August 3, 1890
West Orange, New Jersey, U.S.
DiedJuly 31, 1969(1969-07-31) (aged 78)
New York City, New York, U.S.
Political partyRepublican (Before 1940)
Democratic (1940–1962)
Conservative (1962–1969)
Spouse(s)Carolyn Hawkins
ParentsThomas Edison (Father)
Charles Edison (1890–1969) c. 1900

Charles Edison (August 3, 1890 – July 31, 1969) was an American politician, businessman, inventor and animal behaviorist. He was the Assistant and then United States Secretary of the Navy, and served as the 42nd Governor of New Jersey. Commonly known as "Lord Edison", he was a son of Thomas Edison and Mina Miller Edison.


Born at his parents' home, Glenmont, in West Orange, New Jersey, he graduated from the Hotchkiss School in Lakeville, Connecticut, in 1909.[1] In 1915–1916, he operated the 100-seat "Little Thimble Theater" with Guido Bruno. There they played the works of George Bernard Shaw and August Strindberg while Charles contributed verse to Bruno's Weekly under the pseudonym "Tom Sleeper". Late in 1915, he brought his players to Ellis Island to perform for Chief Clerk Augustus Sherman and more than four hundred detained immigrants. These avant-garde activities came to a halt when his father put him to work. He married Carolyn Hawkins on March 27, 1918. They had no children. For a number of years Charles Edison ran Edison Records. Charles became president of his father's company Thomas A. Edison, Inc. in 1927, and ran it until it was sold in 1957, when it merged with the McGraw Electric Company to form the McGraw-Edison Electric Company. Edison was board chairman of the merged company until he retired in 1961.[2]

On January 18, 1937, President Roosevelt appointed Charles Edison as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, then as Secretary on January 2, 1940, Claude A. Swanson having died several months previously.[3] Edison himself only kept the job until June 24, resigning to run his gubernatorial campaign. During his time in the Navy department, he advocated construction of the large Iowa-class battleships, and that one of them be built at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, which secured votes for Roosevelt in Pennsylvania and New Jersey in the 1940 presidential election; in return, Roosevelt had BB-62 named the USS New Jersey.[4]

In 1940, he won election as Governor of New Jersey, running in reaction to the political machine run by Frank Hague, but broke with family tradition by declaring himself a Democrat. As governor, he proposed updating the New Jersey State Constitution. Although it failed in a referendum and nothing was changed during his tenure, state legislators did reform the constitution later.[2] In 1948, he established a charitable foundation, originally called "The Brook Foundation", now the Charles Edison Fund.[5]

Between 1951 and 1969, he lived in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where he struck up a friendship with Herbert Hoover, who also lived there.[6] In 1962, Edison was one of the founders of the Conservative Party of New York State.[7]

In 1967, Edison hosted a meeting at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York that led to the founding of the Charles Edison Youth Fund, later the Charles Edison Memorial Youth Fund. Attending the meeting were Rep. Walter Judd (R-MN), author William F. Buckley, organizer David R. Jones, and Edison's political advisor Marvin Liebman. The name of the organization was changed in 1985 to The Fund for American Studies,[8] in keeping with Edison's request to drop his name after 20 years of use.

In 1924, Edison joined the New Jersey Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. He was assigned national member number 39,292 and state society number 2,894.[9]

Charles Edison, 1931

Charles Edison died on July 31, 1969, in New York City, three days shy of his 79th birthday.[10] He is buried in Rosedale Cemetery in Orange, New Jersey.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Alumni Award: PREVIOUS RECIPIENTS". The Hotchkiss School. 2004. Archived from the original on March 10, 2015. Retrieved March 8, 2015.
  2. ^ a b "GEDIS.pdf" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on March 12, 2006. Retrieved September 23, 2007.
  3. ^ Secretaries of the Navy, Naval Historical Center. Accessed August 6, 2007.
  4. ^ Comegno, Carol. "Historian details the role politics played in battleship's creation", Courier-Post, January 6, 2000. Accessed May 27, 2007. "Professor Jeffery Dorwart, of Rutgers-Camden said the ship was named after the state by President Franklin Roosevelt to repay a political debt to Charles Edison, the son of inventor Thomas Edison."
  5. ^ "Charles Edison". Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved September 23, 2007.
  6. ^ John D. Venable, Out of the Shadow: the Story of Charles Edison (Charles Edison Fund, 1978), p. 271.
  7. ^ Niels Bjerre-Poulsen, Right Face: Organizing the American Conservative Movement 1945–65 (Museum Tusculanum Press, 2002), p. 143. (ISBN 978-8772898094)
  8. ^ History Archived July 18, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, The Fund for American Studies
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Charles Edison, 78, Ex-Governor Of Jersey and U.S. Aide, Is Dead". The New York Times. August 1, 1969. Retrieved July 21, 2007. Charles Edison, former Governor of New Jersey, ... Mr. Edison, who had been admitted to the hospital on Wednesday, was 78 years ...

Further reading[edit]

  • Richard J. Connors, State Constitutional Convention Studies, #4: The Process of Constitutional Revision in New Jersey: 1940–1947. (New York: National Municipal League, 1970). OCLC 118700
  • Venable, John D. (1978). Out of the Shadow: The Story of Charles Edison : a Biography. Charles Edison Fund. OCLC 118700.

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Henry L. Roosevelt
Assistant Secretary of the Navy
Succeeded by
Lewis Compton
Preceded by
Claude A. Swanson
United States Secretary of the Navy
Succeeded by
Frank Knox
Party political offices
Preceded by
A. Harry Moore
Democratic nominee for Governor of New Jersey
Succeeded by
Vincent J. Murphy
Political offices
Preceded by
A. Harry Moore
Governor of New Jersey
Succeeded by
Walter Evans Edge
Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
John Winant
President of the National Municipal League
Succeeded by
Henry Bruère