• Heavy Machine Shop

    Thomas Edison

    National Historical Park New Jersey

Lewis and Mary Valinda Miller

Lewis Miller, Mina's father.

Lewis Miller, Mina Edison's father.

NPS Photo

Mina Miller Edison's family was quite different from that of her husband. Her great-grandfather had served for the Continental Army at Valley Forge. Her mother supported the Women's Christian Temperance Union. Her parents were devout Methodists.

Lewis Miller was born in Stark County, Ohio in 1829 and educated at Plainfield Seminary, Illinois. He married Mary Valinda Alexander in 1852. He earned 92 patents on agricultural equipment, his most famous invention being the Buckeye Mower and Reaper. Unlike his future son-in-law, Miller believed passionately in formal education and served as president of the board of education in his adopted hometown of Akron, Ohio.

 
Mary Valinda Miller, Mina Edison's mother.

Mary Valinda Miller, Mina Edison's mother.

NPD Photo

In 1872, Miller had an idea to combine the evangelical camp meeting with Christian education. Two years later, along with the Reverend John Heyl Vincent, he founded the Chautauqua Institute in upstate New York. Miller wrote, "The original scheme was a Christian educational resort . . . [where] pleasure, science, and all friends of true culture should go side by side with true religion." He served as its president from 1874 until his death in 1899 at age 70. The Chautauqua Institute inspired several traveling lecture shows at the turn of the century. It still flourishes today and is open to visitors of all faiths.

Lewis and Mary had eleven children. As a result Glenmont, the Edison family estate, often hosted Mina Edison's many nieces and nephews, who attended schools on the east coast. Mary died in 1912 at age 82.

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Did You Know?

megalethoscope

Did you know before Edison invented the phonograph people entertained themselves with a device called the megalethoscope. This device was used to view photographs through a large lens, which creates an optical illusion to create dramatic visual effects.