United States Circuit Court, Northern District of Ohio. United States of America vs. General Electric Company et al. : miscellaneous documents
Hagley Museum & Library
Manuscripts & Archives Department
P.O. Box 3630
Wilmington, DE 19807-0630
0.4 linear ft.
On March 3, 1911, the Department of Justice began proceedings against General Electric and 34 other companies, charging violations of the Sherman Anti-Trust Act in the manufacture and sale of electric lamps. The years between 1896 and 1911 were a period of exceptional progress in the electric light industry, particularly in the development of new filaments such as tungsten and improved lighting systems of all types. By 1896 the General Electric Company was already the industry leader, based on its control of key patents and a strong commitment to research. In that year it signed a cross-licensing agreement with its chief competitor, the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company, with whom it already had formed price-fixing agreements. General Electric also organized and dominated the Incandescent Lamp Manufacturers Association. In 1901 a number of small companies, mostly in the Midwest, whose combined production nearly equaled that of GE, agreed to combine, but General Electric successfully negotiated an arrangement whereby it would control the new combination in return for advancing it working capital. The National Electric Lamp Company was incorporated as a holding company on May 3, 1901. While managed by the independents and advertised as a competitive company, it was controlled by GE and worked in harmony with it. By 1910 General Electric had 42% of the market, National 38%, and Westinghouse 13%. General Electric initially contested the government's case, but eventually admitted the government's facts were true and denied that they were a violation of the law. During this interval, GE acquired full control of National, and its agreements with Westinghouse expired. A decree finding for the government was filed on October 12, 1911. It ordered GE to take over National and dissolve it, to discontinue its arrangements with Westinghouse and desist from price-fixing. However, it did not restrict a manufacturer's right to acquire patents nor set any limits on the terms by which they did so. As a result, General Electric emerged from the suit with its market share intact and continued to dominate the industry. The collection consists of about 125 documents, chiefly background material in the Justice Department's case against General Electric. The bulk of the documents concern the role of patents in the combination. Among the documents are: correspondence, 1908-11, 60 items, chiefly between the Department of Justice (Victor N. Roadstrum) and the General Electric Co. (Hinsdill Parsons), and also correspondence with Thomas Commerford Martin (National Electric Light Association), A. Parker-Smith (New York patent attorney), the United States Patent Office, the Consolidated Electric Lamp Co., Mazda Publishing Co., and Novelty Incandescent Lamp Co.; also, copy of letter of William H. Taft while President to Frank Y. Gladney (St. Louis), 1910, concerning Gladney's book, RESTRAINTS OF TRADE IN PATENTED ARTICLES (St. Louis, 1910); lists of General Electric Co. stockholders, with addresses, amount of stock held, and date acquired; Victor N. Roadstrum, "Memorandum in re So-Called 'Incandescent Electric Lamp' Combination", 94 pp.; patents for incandescent electric lamps, 1888-1905, issued to Arturo Malignani, 1895, John W. Howell, 1897, George R. Lean and John R. Massey, 1896, Arnold J. Spiller and John R. Massey, 1895, Henry D. Burnett and Samuel E. Doane, 1894, Thomas A. Edison, 1891, 1905, Mark H. Branin, 1895 and Alessandro Cruto (Turin, Italy), 1888. Also included are: "Memorandum as to Basis on Which Patents were Sustained", 1909-10, 7 pp., involving General Electric Co., Germania Electric Lamp Co., Consolidated Electric Lamp Co., Hill-Wright Electric Co.; John Cromwell Lincoln, president of the Lincoln Electric Co., "Synopsis of the information Regarding the General Electric Company and Westinghouse Company", 1911, 6pp.; copy of letter of Alessandro Cruto to the editor of LA LUMIÉRE ÉLECTRIQUE (Paris, 1891, regarding his invention of an incandescent electric lamp in 1888; Department of Justice, "Report on Operations of So-Called Electrical Trust", 1911, 77 pp.; report of meeting of the Association of Licensed Manufacturers of Incandescent Electric Lamps, 1909, 30 pp. (printed); Frank Y. Gladney, counsel for the United States Incandescent Lamp Co., "An Examination of the License Agreements Pertaining to Incandescent Electric Lamps Executed by The General Electric Company & Others", 1904-09, 114 pp. (printed); and miscellaneous correspondence, memoranda concerning patents, and statistical data, 1904-12 and undated, including correspondence of Franklin S. Terry (Cleveland, Ohio), and A.W. Burchard and Robert H. Read, both of General Electric Co. (Schenectady, N.Y.).