Thomas Edison Extols Late Father-in-Law, Chautauqua Co-Founder Lewis Miller, In Special 1929 Remarks

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Mina’s devotion to her father, Lewis Miller, co-founder of the Chautauqua Institution, is well known, and no one did more to secure his legacy at Chautauqua. But how did her husband, Thomas Edison, feel about Lewis Miller? The words that best answer that question are respect, admiration and affection.

On the 100th anniversary of Miller’s birth, Edison was interviewed in the garden at the Miller Cottage together with his friend, Henry Ford. Edison said this about his deceased father-in-law:

“He grew up in the school of ‘hard knocks,’ acquired a liberal education, invented some of the most useful labor saving machines which had ever been brought out up to that time, contributed probably more to the cause of popular education than any other teacher of his time and helped to introduce more innovations into the schools of higher education than many college presidents. He had an extraordinary amount of energy and was one of the most industrious of men, constantly working out something constructive. He did not believe that recreation consisted in wasting valuable time in doing nothing or useless things, but taught, both by precept and example, that true recreation consisted rather in a change of useful occupation. He would work hard all day at the factory designing new machines and new ways of making them and then go home and spend half of the night working out some new scheme in education. All through the year, he was busy with making and improving harvesting machinery, and with his wide civic interests; at the same time he was working just as hard to find a great summer institution and build it up till it became largely what it is today. He loved doing things like Chautauqua.

“If inventing and manufacturing were his vocation, education was his avocation, and he surely accomplished as much, if not more, in the time he spent at the latter as he did at the former.

“He should have been a professional educator, for it was this that he loved best to do; and what a wonderful university president he would have made, with his great organizing and administrative ability, his originality and fearlessness of thought and his great capacity for selecting the right men for important positions and then to keep the working together in peace and harmony.

“He was one of the kindest and most lovable men I ever knew, and spent his life trying to make it possible for all mankind to reach the higher planes of living.”

Jonathan Schmitz

The author Jonathan Schmitz