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Famous Marriages Thomas Edison and Mina Miller Part 1

About the marriage between inventor Thomas Edison and Mina Miller, history of their courtship.

ANATOMY OF SOME CELEBRATED MARRIAGES

Thomas Edison and Mina Miller

Courtship: The death of Thomas Edison's first wife, Mary Stilwell, in August of 1884 precipitated a change in the man that had been imminent for years. No longer a maverick inventor, Edison had become a man of national stature and considerable means; in fact, he was a millionaire. Accordingly, when he began to search for a new wife six months after Mary's death, he was looking for a sophisticated, bright-minded belle who was a member of chic society--everything that the simple, good-hearted Mary had not been.

Living in an apartment near Gramercy Park in New York, Edison made regular trips to Boston in the winter and spring of 1885; there he stayed at the home of his friends Mr. and Mrs. Gilliard. The Gilliards always made sure that some eligible young lady was visiting at the same time, and she would be paraded before the illustrious inventor. Many of these ladies made the mistake of heaping elaborate praises on his head or fawning over him because of his celebrity status. Edison despised this. Half-deaf, bug-eyed, plagued with halitosis and dandruff, Edison could be a bit disconcerting to a young woman, as he customarily thrust his pale face very close to the girl's in order to hear her words.

One 18-year-old Ohio lass, who kept perfect self-composure upon meeting the great man one night in early 1885, soon became his second wife. Mina Miller, daughter of Lewis Miller, the wealthy farm-implement manufacturer and cofounder of the evangelistic Chautauqua Association, reportedly played the piano and sang for the entertainment of the Gilliards's guest that night, and by his own account, Edison was "staggered" by the young woman. While no musical heavyweight, Mina performed with zeal and engaging self-confidence, and when Edison fixed her with a protracted stare, she coolly and directly returned the gaze. Miss Miller was described at this time as a voluptuous beauty, with "rich black hair and great dazzling eyes."

Shortly after this first meeting, Edison ordered two photographs of himself to be sent to Mina in Boston. Later that winter Edison journeyed to Florida in search of a vegetable fiber to use in his incandescent lamp. Marion, Edison's 13-year-old daughter from his first marriage, accompanied her father on the trip and reported that he spoke incessantly of the perfection of Miss Mina Miller throughout their travels. Edison found his own version of paradise in Fort Myers, then a small village, and apparently decided that he must do three things: build a winter home in Florida, marry Mina, and bring her to his tropical Eden. Once back in New York, Edison--normally a workaholic--was obsessed with his new love. He wrote in his diary at this time: "Saw a lady who looked like Mina. Got thinking about Mina and came near being run over by a streetcar. If Mina interferes much more will have to take out an accident policy."

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