Wow! Our team at Falconer Electronics was recently blessed with an amazing opportunity. Ted Arnn, a great-nephew of Thomas Edison and his wife Mina Miller Edison, provided us with an outstanding interview.
We were absolutely thrilled with this opportunity. Ted Arnn is kind, gracious, humble and funny. Also, he shared numerous fascinating stories on the Edison Family from a first-hand perspective.
Learning about a historic figure and entrepreneurial legend like Thomas Edison from a living relative was certainly informational, educational and most of all extremely exciting. In fact, Ted Arnn shares bloodlines with a list of hugely successful individuals.
In addition, the women of the Miller family also went on to find great success. Therefore, our discussion primarily focused on Ted Arnn’s aunt, the incredible Mina Miller Edison.
The Edison Family & Chautauqua Institution Connection
Our path started by connecting with the team at the Chautauqua Institution Archives. From there, Chautauqua Institution archivist, Jonathan Schmitz recommended reaching out the great-nephew of Thomas and Mina Edison, Ted Arnn.
Ted Arnn immediately replied to our request for an interview and graciously accepted. Furthermore, Ted Arnn far exceeded our expectations with thorough answers, hysterical stories and the generosity of his time.
Below we share pieces of that interview. Enjoy!
Interview with Ted Arnn
Question 1: What was your mother’s relationship with Mina?
Answer: Ted shared how his mother Nancy Miller Arnn was extremely close to her aunt Mina Miller Edison. Nancy lost both of her parents before the age of 18. Nancy then moved in with Mina at the Edison home in West Orange, New Jersey. After Thomas Edison died in 1931, Mina brought Nancy to Chautauqua Institution for the summer. As a result, Nancy ended up spending nearly every summer at Chautauqua Institution with Mina.
Question 2: What do you think was Mina’s Proudest achievement?
Answer: Mina accomplished plenty in her lifetime. The Bird, Tree & Garden Club at Chautauqua was what Mina was most proud of. Mina was very interested in nature and birds.
Question 3: Do you have any stories or do you know any characteristics of Mina’s Parents, Lewis, and Valinda Miller?
Answer: Lewis was a successful inventor of agriculture and farming machinery. For example, Lewis Miller invented the Buckeye mower which allowed increased safety and efficiency for farmers.
Also, after Lewis died, Valinda and a couple daughters opened a finishing school in their home. They also invested in a company that eventually became Quaker Oats and made them a million dollars in the process. So needless to say, entrepreneurship ran deep with the highly ambitious women of the Miller family.
Question 4: What do you believe would be some of the accomplishments Mina would achieve if she were alive today?
Answer: Ted responded that Mina “certainly wouldn’t be sitting around on the porch sipping tea, that’s for sure.” She would be heavily engaged in pursuing her passions.
Another excellent example of Mina’s relentless determination occurred during the 1930’s. Chautauqua Institution severely suffered financially during the Great Depression and Mina decided to take action. As a result, Mina put up the funds by purchasing bonds to prevent the Hotel Antheneum from falling into receivership. This relentless determination of Mina reflects as Thomas Edison said, “If there is a way to do it better, find it”.
Question 5: What characteristics of Mina should young women entering college or their careers know about Mina that would be helpful?
Answer: Our takeaway from this question to Ted:
- Take advantage of every opportunity
- Get Involved
- Follow Your Passion
- Break Barriers
For example, Mina was an extremely positive role model for Ted Arnn’s mother Nancy Miller Arnn. Nancy earned her degree in three years from Radcliffe University (now part of Harvard University). Furthermore, she graduated Magna Cum Laude.
Question 6: Was it emotional for you and your sister Kim to sell the Miller Cottage?
Answer: No, because it went to a great owner. It is almost 100% all back to how it was when Mina was there.
Question 7: Do you still spend summers at Chautauqua Institution?
Answer: “Yes. I continue to spend every summer at Chautauqua Institution.”
Question 8: What brings you back every year? What do you look forward to the most?
Answer: Ted shared all of the many tremendous opportunities that Chautauqua Institution offers every summer. The lectures. The culture. Theater performances. The Playhouse. Religious services.
Most of all Ted cherishes the strong friendships. “All of the amazing relationships that I have built over the years from a child at Chautauqua all the way through adulthood.” He shared these wonderful relationships go back to the days of being a sailing counselor where he gained numerous friendships built with individuals from all over the world.
Question 9: How do you handle the role as a descendant of the founder of Chautauqua Institution?
Answer: “Extremely humbling.” Ted also shared that it is a responsibility that he strives to live up to.
Question 10: As a relative of Mina, what would you like for someone to know about her legacy?
Answer: Ted explained that Mina was extremely organized. She married Thomas Edison at the young age of 20. Upon marrying Thomas Edison, she immediately took on the role of a mother of Edison’s three children. The oldest only 8 years younger than Mina herself. Mina became the “home executive” of the Edison estate. She managed six staff members that took care of the Edison home.
In addition, he was not a pushover. Mina grew up in an extremely wealthy home. Her father, industrialist Lewis Miller created a vast fortune as an inventor and entrepreneur. Due to growing up with a famous father, the fame of Thomas Edison did not faze her. Furthermore, she embraced Edison’s fame and made herself part of his business.
In conclusion, we extend a HUGE thank you to Ted Arnn for taking the time out of his busy schedule to share these fun stories with us. We wish Ted continued success.
Lastly, thank you for reading our Interview with Ted Arnn. As a U.S. manufacturer of electrical products since 1985, gaining a deeper understanding of the great entrepreneur Thomas Edison and his wonderful wife Mina Miller Edison was thrilling for our team.