Thomas Edison Thanks Congress for Awarding Him the Congressional Gold Medal for “inventions that have revolutionized civilization”

In this letter to the Representative who introduced the resolution to award the medal, he expresses gratitude and calls the medal a “distinguished mark of approbation.”

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“The introduction by you in the House of Representatives of a bill to award a gold medal to me culminated last Saturday night in the presentation of the medal…I cannot let this occasion pass without expressing to you the deep gratification I feel…”

On May 21, 1928, the House of Representatives voted...

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Thomas Edison Thanks Congress for Awarding Him the Congressional Gold Medal for “inventions that have revolutionized civilization”

In this letter to the Representative who introduced the resolution to award the medal, he expresses gratitude and calls the medal a “distinguished mark of approbation.”

“The introduction by you in the House of Representatives of a bill to award a gold medal to me culminated last Saturday night in the presentation of the medal…I cannot let this occasion pass without expressing to you the deep gratification I feel…”

On May 21, 1928, the House of Representatives voted to approve House Resolution awarding inventor Thomas A. Edison a Congressional Gold Medal. In early April, Rep. Randolph Perkins of New Jersey, chairman of the Committee on Coinage, Weights, and Measures, reported the bill favorably to the House. The committee report contained a letter from Secretary of the Treasury Andrew W. Mellon. Mellon noted the lack of domestic recognition for Edison given the outpouring of international acclaim for his work in the field of electricity and its applications. “Wearing in the lapel of his coat the ribbon of the Legion of Honor of France, symbolized and honored by eight other foreign nations, the recipient of degrees from 22 colleges,” Mellon said, “Mr. Edison has yet to receive a medal at the hands of the United States.”

The bill, which honored Edison for “inventions that have revolutionized civilization,” came to the House Floor with little controversy. The reading clerk read the title of the bill and the Speaker asked if there were any objections. Representative Fiorello LaGuardia, later to become the legendary Mayor of New York, proposed to remove the standardized section two of the Congressional Gold Medal legislation authorizing the Treasury Department to mint replica coins for general sales to the public to defray the cost of Edison’s medal. The House agreed to the proposal and passed the resolution, as did the Senate. President Calvin Coolidge signed the legislation on May 29, 1928. Secretary Mellon awarded Edison the medal on October 20, 1928, in his laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey. Coolidge spoke via a radio link from the White House and nearly 50 radio stations broadcasted the ceremony. The Edison Company filmed the broadcast for posterity, a film that still exists.

This is Edison’s response to Congress, addressed to Perkins who had introduced the bill to award him the medal. Typed letter signed, on his laboratory letterhead, October 27, 1928, to Perkins. “The introduction by you in the House of Representatives of a bill to award a gold medal to me culminated last Saturday night in the presentation of the medal which was subsequently conferred by Congress. The presentation ceremonies were very impressive, and I am great appreciative of the honor thus conferred on me. I cannot let this occasion pass without expressing to you the deep gratification I feel in your advocacy of the measure through which I have been awarded such a distinguished mark of approbation.”  Backed to a light board.

It’s highly unusual to find a letter from a recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal to the Congressman responsible for the bill – in effect to Congress itself – expressing gratitude, this being our first ever.

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