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Thomas Edison’s Congressional Gold Medal

May 21, 1928
Thomas Edison’s Congressional Gold Medal Image courtesy of Library of Congress American inventor Thomas Edison received the Congressional Gold Medal on October 20, 1928.
On this date, the House of Representatives voted to approve H.J. Res. 243, awarding inventor Thomas A. Edison a Congressional Gold Medal. In early April, Randolph Perkins of New Jersey, chairman of the Committee on Coinage, Weights, and Measures, reported the bill favorably to the House. The committee report contained a letter from Secretary of the Treasury Andrew W. Mellon. Mellon noted the lack of domestic recognition for Edison given the outpouring of international acclaim for his work in the field of electricity and its applications. “Wearing in the lapel of his coat the ribbon of the Legion of Honor of France, symbolized and honored by eight other foreign nations, the recipient of degrees from 22 colleges,” Mellon said, “Mr. Edison has yet to receive a medal at the hands of the United States.” The bill came to the House Floor with little controversy. The reading clerk read the title of the bill and the Speaker asked if there were any objections. Representative Fiorello La Guardia of New York proposed to remove the standardized section two of the Congressional Gold Medal legislation authorizing the Treasury Department to mint replica coins for general sales to the public to defray the cost of Edison’s medal. The House agreed to the proposal and passed the resolution. President Calvin Coolidge signed the legislation on May 29, 1928. Secretary Mellon awarded Edison the medal on October 20, 1928, in his laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey. President Coolidge spoke via a radio link from the White House. Nearly 50 radio stations broadcasted the ceremony. Modern Congressional Gold Medal ceremonies are typically held in the Capitol Rotunda where the President often personally bestows the medal on behalf of the Congress.

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