Four-page autograph Nikola Tesla letter fetches $340,000 at auction
Tesla these days is known as a brand of EV that is storming the world, but 120 years ago, Nikola Tesla was one of the most important innovators on the planet. Evidence of the gravitas of the Tesla name was on full display at an auction at Remarkable Rarities (RRAuctions) this week when a four-page autograph letter by Tesla fetched US$341,295.
The letter was written to New York Sun editor Paul Dana on 25 February 1901, and discusses Tesla’s place among America’s most important inventors, obviously hoping to generate some column inches in what was then an important part of the media landscape, alongside the broadsheet New York Times and the New York Herald Tribune. The New York Sun was published from 1833 to 1950.
The letter reads in full:
“My dear Mr. Dana,
“That was very nice! The telephone has always fascinated me by its beauty but the manifestations of force in a rotating magnetic field have impressed me still more. The incandescent lamp I think is devoid of all poetry. You give me the advantage in many ways. Bell had before him the Reis telephone (1834) which was transmitting musical sounds and he had a narrow escape in the patent litigation in which it was contended that had a screw in the Reis telephone been sufficiently tightened the Bell telephone would have resulted. Edison on the other hand had the patents of King and Starr on the incandescent lamp (1848?). I was more fortunate than either of them for there was no rotating field before I invented it.
It is interesting that Bell stopped virtually short with his fundamental patent whereas Edison and myself developed our inventions along many lines. In a practical performance, Edison's work must stand first. I discuss this subject freely feeling sure of your friendship. There is however another advantage in my favor. The telephone means convenience, the incandescent lamp comfort but power means bread and butter. The amount of capital now going in this direction is enormous. You can do a great deal with, say, ten thousand dollars in putting up telephones or electric lights, but in power transmission such a sum is just about a drop in a bucket.
The telephone will remain forever useful and so, probably, will my invention for it permits the use of the sun's energy in the simplest and most economical manner and also because it is hard to imagine a simpler machine than my motor with an armature driven without mechanical and electrical contact. But the incandescent lamp will soon be doomed and Edison's work in the field will have only a historical value.
Suppose now that my light beats Edison's light and that with my system of wireless transmission I dispense with wires in telephonic communication – what a nice editorial you would write!