- Written by webmin
This image has been floating around the offices here at Hemmings for so long, we’re not sure who sent it to us or when. What we do know, besides the date of the photo, is that it depicts Thomas Edison (and presumably his wife Mina) within Edison’s compound in West Orange, New Jersey (now a National Historical Park).
At first, we believed this could have been an early iteration of the Locomobile that Edison converted from steam into an electric around 1902. It’s a reasonable assumption – the early Locomobile used a three-spring chassis much like the one in the photo and Edison’s electric Locomobile did appear to use a center steering tiller (early Locomobiles all seemed to use a steering tiller mounted to the right of the body).
However, the body matches neither a stock Locomobile nor Edison’s electric Loco. Instead, it matches perfectly the early Baker Electric. Indeed, Edison’s first car was reputedly a Baker Electric, and he was often photographed with the Baker at that time. Note the center steering tiller on the Baker as well.
Of course, the Baker wasn’t the only electric vehicle Edison got involved with. To promote his storage batteries, he placed them in many an electric vehicle, including those he built in about 1903 on Pan-American chassis and in the electric cars Henry Ford built more than a decade later. And as we see from the photos below, culled from the Thomas Edison National Historical Park’s website, he didn’t stop there.
With Edison’s electric Locomobile on display in West Orange, we’d like to know what became of his Baker Electric. Just about everything else he touched has been preserved, so we’d be shocked to see that his Baker hadn’t.
Also, while we’re on the topic, came across this image of Edison (actually half of a stereograph), circa 1907, over at the Library of Congress. Anybody want to take a crack at identifying the car he’s in here?
UPDATE (21.June 2011): We spoke with Leonard DeGraaf, an archivist at the Thomas Edison National Historical Park, who told us that the lead photo does exist in the park’s collection. He confirmed that the woman is indeed Mina and said the occasion for the photo was due to the Baker using Edison storage batteries. Beyond that, he couldn’t tell us much more about the Baker, though he said it’s unlikely that the Baker was the first automobile that Edison purchased. Thanks, Leonard!