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Brooklyn Edison Company, Edison Wonder House Records

Brooklyn Edison Company  Search this
Hall, Gretchen T.  Search this
Hall, Gretchen T.  Search this
0.15 Cubic feet ((1 box))
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
The collection consists of newspaper clippings, a guidebook titled Edison Wonder House, and photographs documenting the Edison Wonder House, a demonstration home created by the Brooklyn Edison Company in 1936 to showcase the wonders of electricity.
Scope and Contents:
The collection consists of newspaper clippings, a guidebook titled Edison Wonder House, and photographs documenting the Edison Wonder House, a demonstration home created by the Brooklyn Edison Company in 1936 to showcase the wonders of electricity.

There are ten 8" x 10" black-and-white photographs that depict the interior of the Wonder House. All of the photographs were taken by the Brooklyn Edison Company, Inc., with the exception of one which was taken by the General Electric Company. There is one 11" x 17" photograph that depicts the hostesses/guides/ who conducted tours explaining the features of the home. The photograph is annotated with the names of all sixteen women.

The guide titled The Edison Wonder House, details by home section (entrance, bathroom, kitchen, living room, and so on) the comforts of electricity. Included is a supplemental insert listing the cooperating firms that provided the building materials and accessories. The stick figure Reddy Kilowatt features prominently in the guide. Reddy Kilowatt was a cartoon figure trademark created in 1926 by Ashton B. Collins, Sr. More than 150 investor-owned electric utilities in the United States and at least twelve foreign countries licensed the use of the Reddy Kilowatt trademark.
The collection is arranged topically.
Biographical / Historical:
The Edison Electric Illuminating Company of Brooklyn was founded in 1887 to provide electricity to the homes and businesses of Brooklyn. it merged in 1919 with Kings County Electric Light and Power Company to form Brooklyn Edison. Brooklyn Edison merged with Consolidated Edison and other companies between 1936 and 1960.

In the early 1930s, the Brooklyn Edison Company created a 10 room house called the Edison Wonder House in the lobby of its showroom at Pearl Street in Brooklyn, New York. The house demonstrated the possibilities of electricity in the home. The demonstration home was not intended to be copied, but to provide future homeowners with ideas. Some special features of the house included lighting that was a sight saver, unusual clocks, a built-in aquarium, and a magic door that opened through the operation of an electrical eye.

The architect of the Wonder House was Albert Hart Hopkins of Buffalo, New York. Hopkins practiced architecture with Edward B. Green and Sons in Buffalo.
Related Materials:
Materials in the Archives Center

Reddy Kilowatt Records (AC0913)

Louisan E. Mamer Rural Electrification Administration Papers (AC0862)

Materials in the National Museum of American History, Division of Work and Industry

Brooklyn Edison Company Collection, 1926-1935

Collection contains annual reports of the Mechanical Engineering Department of the Brooklyn Edison Company, photographs, drawings, and graphs; and a 1926 pamphlet on the Hell Gate and Sherman Creek Generating Stations of the United Electric Light and Power Company.
Collection donated by Gretchen T. Hall in 2011.
The collection is open for research.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning intellectual property rights. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Electric lighting  Search this
Electricity  Search this
Electric apparatus and appliances  Search this
Articles -- 20th century
Photographs -- 20th century
Guidebooks -- 1930-1940
Brooklyn Edison Company Collection, 1936-1937, Archives Center, National Museum of American History
See more items in:
Brooklyn Edison Company, Edison Wonder House Records
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Edward J. Orth Memorial Archives of the World's Fair

Orth, Edward J.  Search this
Exhibition Collectors Historical Organization  Search this
New York World's Fair (1939-1940 : New York, N.Y.)  Search this
130 Cubic feet (417 boxes, 23 map-folders)
Collection descriptions
Archival materials
Collection documents the 1939 New York World's Fair in Flushing Meadows, New York. Also includes materials on other world's fairs, the Exhibition Collectors Historical Organization (ECHO), New York City tourism and Disney.
Scope and Contents:
The collection contains the archival materials collected by Edward Orth including postcards, newspaper clippings, exhibitor's literature, photographs, scrapbooks, tickets, pamphlets, brochures, magazines, books, and motion picture film.
The collection is arranged into ten series.

Series 1, Edward J. Orth Personal Papers, 1939-1989

Subseries 1.1: Correspondence, 1939-1989

Subseries 1.2: Other Materials, 1915-1989

Series 2, Exhibition Collectors Historical Organization Records, 1942-1990

Subseries 2.1, Organizational History, 1960-1988

Subseries 2.2: Correspondence, 1942-1990

Subseries 2.3: Classified Ads, 1956-1988

Subseries 2.4: Financial Records, 1976-1989

Subseries 2.5: Newsletters, 1969-1988

Subseries 2.6: Membership applications, renewal notices and cancellations, 1977-1987

Series 3, New York World's Fair, Inc. Records, 1900-1988

Subseries 3.1: Administrative Files, 1900-1971

Subseries 3.2: Amusement Zone, 1937-1940

Subseries 3.3: Communications and Business Systems Zone, 1939-1965

Subseries 3.4: Community Interest Zone, 1939-1940

Subseries 3.5: Food Zone, 1939-1975

Subseries 3.6: Government Zone, 1939-1940

Subseries 3.7: Production and Distribution Zone, 1939-1940

Subseries 3.8: Transportation Zone, 1939-1940

Subseries 3.9: Ephemera, 1939-1988

Series 4, Photographic Materials, 1876-1969

Subseries 4.1: General

Subseries 4.2: Amusement Zone

Subseries 4.3: Business Systems Zone

Subseries 4.4: Communications Zone

Subseries 4.5: Community Interest Zone

Subseries 4.6: Food Zone

Subseries 4.7: Government Zone

Subseries 4.8: Production and Distribution Zone

Subseries 4.9: Transportation Zone

Subseries 4.20: Miscellaneous

Subseries 4.21: Oversize

Subseries 4.22: Color Slides

Subseries 4.23: Color Transparencies

Series 5, Scrapbooks, 1938-1981

Series 6, Postcards, 1906-1985

Series 7: Publications Related to World's Fairs, 1922-1989

Subseries 7.1: Magazines, 1922-1988

Subseries 7.2: Newspaper Articles, 1935-1989

Subseries 7.3: Other Publications, 1939-1973

Subseries 7.4: Other Subjects, 1962-1989

Series 8: Materials Relating to Other Fairs, 1951-1988

Subseries 8.1: Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations/Crystal Palace Exhibition

Subseries 8.2: New York Crystal Palace Exhibition

Subseries 8.3: Centennial Exposition

Subseries 8.4: World's Columbian Exposition

Subseries 8.5: Exposition Internationale D'Anvers (Antwerp, Belgium)

Subseries 8.6: Tennessee Centennial and International Exposition

Subseries 8.7: Trans-Mississippi Exposition

Subseries 8.8: South Carolina Inter-State and West Indian Exposition/Pan-American Exposition

Subseries 8.9: Louisiana Purchase Exposition

Subseries 8.10: Jamestown Tercentennial Exposition

Subseries 8.11: Alaska, Yukon, Pacific Exposition

Subseries 8.12: Panama-California Exposition

Subseries 8.13: Bronx International Exposition of Science, Arts and Industries

Subseries 8.14: Sesquicentennial Exposition

Subseries 8.15: Barcelona International Exposition Subseries 8.16: L'Exposition Coloniale, Paris

Subseries 8.17: Olympics

Subseries 8.18: Century of Progress

Subseries 8.19: California Pacific International Exposition (San Diego)/Brussels International Exposition

Subseries 8.20: Great Lakes Exposition/Texas Centennial Central Exposition

Subseries 8.21: Exposition Internationale des Arts et Techniques dans la Vie Moderne

Subseries 8.22: Golden Gate International Exposition

Subseries 8.23: Festival of Britain

Subseries 8.24: Milan Fair

Subseries 8.25: Exposition Universelle et venti Internationale de Bruxelles

Subseries 8.26: Moscow

Subseries 8.27: Century 21 Exhibition

Subseries 8.28: Expo 67

Subseries 8.29: Long Beach, California (cancelled)

Subseries 8.30: HemisFair 68

Subseries 8.31: Expo 70

Subseries 8.32: Expo 74

Subseries 8.33: Expo 75

Subseries 8.34: American Revolution Bicentennial, 1776-1976

Subseries 8.35: Queens Bicentennial Festival

Subseries 8.36: Expo 81, (cancelled)

Subseries 8.37: Portopia 81

Subseries 8.38: 1982 World's Fair

Subseries 8.39: Louisiana World Exposition

Subseries 8.40: Olympic Games

Subseries 8.41: Expo 85

Subseries 8.42: Queens Festival

Subseries 8.43: Expo 86

Subseries 8.44: World Expo 88

Subseries 8.45: Expo 92

Subseries 8.46: Expo 2000

Subseries 8.47: Combined Fairs

Subseries 8.48: General information about world's fairs

Series 9: Ephemera, 1934-1987

Subseries 9.1: New York (arranged first by subject and then general materials)

Subseries 9.2: Other States and Countries (alphabetical by location)

Subseries 9.3: Disney and Wizard of OZ Materials (chronological order)

Series 10: Audio Visual Materials, 1939, 1964-1965

Subseries 10.1: Moving Images, 1939; 1964-1965

Subseries 10.2: Sound Recordings

Series 11: Oversize, 1835-1992
Biographical / Historical:
Edward J. Orth grew up relishing history, particularly the history of the New York World's Fair. His experience of visiting the fair as a twelve year old boy led to a life long passion of collecting. At the time of his death, he had amassed a collection that filled two houses in California. The collection not only included materials of the 1939 New York World's Fair but also documented events before and after the fair. He also collected materials from a number of other fairs. Edward Orth was also instrumental in creating an organization for people who wanted to collect information and trade artifacts and relating to world's fairs materials.

Mr. Orth was born April 19, 1927 to Andrew Joseph Orth and Florence Minnie Gordon Orth in New York. The family would later include another son George, some six or seven years younger than Edward. In the 1930's, the Orth family lived in a number of locations in New York including Ridgewood, Brooklyn, Glendale, and Queens. In 1935, the family eventually moved to St. Albans, Queens, New York where Orth lived seven miles from Flushing Meadow Park, future site of the New York World's fair.

The year 1939 was a particularly painful one for the family due to a number of deaths. Edward Orth's paternal grandmother died on April 22nd. His grandfather, Michael Orth, also passed away in April. Three months later his grandmother Gordon died on July 22th. The severe losses to the Orth-Gordon families limited many social activities; however, the family did drive by the grounds of the future site of the world's fair. For the first time Edward Orth glimpsed the Trylon and Perisphere. Later, Orth would remark that the sight appeared to be magic.

In the summer of 1939, Edward Orth went to the fair with his class at Public School 136. The next summer Edward and his father walked over to an elementary school in Hollis, Queens, New York and purchased a 10 admission ticket for elementary school students. Edward Orth saved every souvenir and every bit of information he could find about the fair. He filled scrapbooks with photographs from newspapers and the 1939 Curt Teich and Manhattan PC Company postcards that were on sale at the corner candy store. When his family moved from an apartment to a house he acquired an old world's fair bench which he kept in the backyard.

In 1941, Orth attended Newton High School in Elmhurst, and Queens, New York. The high school offered a special college preparatory technical course which involved heavy emphasis on mathematics, science, mechanical drawing and workshop courses. Such educational pursues coupled with the motion picture films which he saw at the fair, including Thomas Edison's "The City of Light", Ford Motor Company's "Road of Tomorrow", "Democracy" and General Motors' "Futurama" inspired Orth's interest in architecture and landscaping. This inspiration formed the basis of his decision to become a city planner for California.

By 1943, Orth began to explore used magazine and book stores in New York City to continue his collecting of world's fairs materials. Two days after graduation in 1945 he was enlisted in the army. Upon his discharge he resumed buying and trading worlds' fairs' postcards. From 1948-1953, Orth continued his education at the University of California and the University of Connecticut where he studied architecture and landscape design. Between these years he posted advertisements in various postcard collector clubs publications in his continued pursue of world's fairs materials. In March 1953, Mr. Orth moved to Los Angeles, California. It was during his time in Los Angeles that he really began to make contact with other World's fairs buffs and formed lasting friendships based on this common interest. By 1967, Orth and a number of his closest friends including Peter Warner, Oscar Hengstler, David Oats, Larry Zim, and Ernest Weidhaas conceived the idea of a world's fair collector's society. By the summer of 1968 this group had formally created the Exhibition Collectors Historical Organization (ECHO).

Edward Orth was always concerned about the welfare of his collection and did not want the materials to be broken into parts and sold. Instead he wanted it to go to a museum. Mr. Orth stipulated in his will that the collection would be given to the Smithsonian Institution upon his death. In 19??, Jon Zackman, former Smithsonian employee, conducted two interviews on micro cassettes. One interview was conducted with George Orth, brother of the collector. The other interview is with Peter Warner, another world's fairs collector. Orth and Warner had corresponded extensively and had traded objects. Mr. Orth primarily covered the west coast area while Peter Warner was his east coast counterpart.
Related Materials:
Materials in the Archives Center

Warshaw Collection of Business Americana (AC0060)

Larry Zim Collection (AC0519)

Materials at Other Organizations

New York Public Library

The New York World's Fair 1939 and 1940 Incorporated Records, 1935-1945, MssCol 2233
Separated Materials:
Materials at the National Museum of American History

Artifacts from the collection include several thousand souvenirs and examples of memorabilia commemorating the fair to include buttons and badges, ceramics, glassware, clothing, costume jewelry, coins and medals, commemorative spoons and flatware, toys and games, and philatelic material which are all part of the Division of Home and Community Life's holdings.
Collection is open for research but is stored off-site and special arrangements must be made to work with it. Researchers must handle unprotected photographs with gloves. Researchers must use reference copies of audio-visual materials. When no reference copy exists, the Archives Center staff will produce reference copies on an "as needed" basis, as resources allow. Viewing film portion of collection requires special appointment, please inquire. Do not use when original materials are available on reference video or audio tapes. Contact the Archives Center for information at or 202-633-3270.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.
Exhibitions -- 1930-1940 -- New York (State) -- New York  Search this
World's fairs  Search this
Souvenirs -- 1930-1940
Photographs -- Black-and-white photoprints -- Silver gelatin -- 1930-1940
Pamphlets -- 1930-1940
Guidebooks -- 1930-1940
Edward J. Orth Memorial Archives of the New York World's Fair, Archives Center, National Museum of American History
See more items in:
Edward J. Orth Memorial Archives of the World's Fair
Archival Repository:
Archives Center, National Museum of American History
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