Charles Edison
Edison in 1945
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, U.S.
Political partyRepublican (before 1940)
Democratic (1940–1962)
Conservative (1962–1969)
SpouseCarolyn Hawkins
ParentThomas Edison (father)

Charles Edison (August 3, 1890 – July 31, 1969) was an American politician. 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.

Early life

Edison c. 1900

Charles Edison was born on August 3, 1890, at Glenmont, the Edison family home in West Orange, New Jersey. He was Thomas Edison's fifth child and second from his marriage to Mina Miller. He graduated from the Hotchkiss School in 1909.[1]

In 1915–1916, he operated the 100-seat "Little Thimble Theater" with Guido Bruno.[where?] The theater staged the works of George Bernard Shaw and August Strindberg, and 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. For a number of years,[when?] 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]

Department of the U.S. Navy (1937–1940)

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 for Governor of New Jersey. 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]

Governor of New Jersey (1941–1944)

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]

Later political life

Between 1951 and 1969, he lived in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where he struck up a friendship with Herbert Hoover, who also lived there.[5] In 1962, Edison was one of the founders of the Conservative Party of New York State.[6]

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,[7] in keeping with Edison's request to drop his name after 20 years of use.

Personal life

Edison married Carolyn Hawkins on March 27, 1918. They had no children.

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.[8]

In 1948, he established a charitable foundation, originally called "The Brook Foundation", now the Charles Edison Fund.[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


  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 Archived August 1, 2014, at the Wayback Machine, 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. ^ John D. Venable, Out of the Shadow: the Story of Charles Edison (Charles Edison Fund, 1978), p. 271.
  6. ^ Niels Bjerre-Poulsen, Right Face: Organizing the American Conservative Movement 1945–65 (Museum Tusculanum Press, 2002), p. 143. (ISBN 978-8772898094)
  7. ^ History Archived July 18, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, The Fund for American Studies
  8. ^ "Join Ancestry®".
  9. ^ "Charles Edison". Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved September 23, 2007.
  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

Political offices Preceded byHenry L. Roosevelt Assistant Secretary of the Navy 1937–1940 Succeeded byLewis Compton Preceded byClaude A. Swanson United States Secretary of the Navy 1939–1940 Succeeded byFrank Knox Party political offices Preceded byA. Harry Moore Democratic nominee for Governor of New Jersey 1940 Succeeded byVincent J. Murphy Political offices Preceded byA. Harry Moore Governor of New Jersey 1941–1944 Succeeded byWalter Evans Edge Non-profit organization positions Preceded byJohn Winant President of the National Municipal League 1946–1950 Succeeded byHenry Bruère