When the U.S. Postal Service halted all mail delivery to the company on the grounds that selling the Vitalizer was fraudulent, the Thomas A. Edison Junior Chemical Company quickly went out of business. The entire fiasco left Thomas Senior more exasperated with his eldest son than ever. In an interview with New York American, Edison Senior was openly critical of his son's lack of ability and his failure to complete school. Despite the allowance that his father provided (which was only modest), Thomas Junior had to struggle to support himself and his new wife following his remarriage. His ongoing problems with alcoholism didn't help either and, given the harsh words that father and son had exchanged, they never really forgave each other.
By 1915, Thomas Junior seemed more erratic than ever. Though living on a peach farm with his wife, Beatrice, he began pestering his father for spark plugs and other supplies for a new invention "which I hope might prove of mutual benefit to us both". Since Thomas Senior was attempting to expand into the automobile industry with his ambitious new storage batteries for electric cars, his equally ambitious son decided to make his fortune as well. He also attempted to ingratiate himself with Henry Ford, a family friend, and hinted that his new invention would revolutionize the automobile industry. By 1919, Thomas Junior's wife began writing to family and friends (including Ford) describing her husband's worsening condition, with severe headaches and depression which left him incapacitated. That didn't stop Thomas Junior from unveiling his new invention: the "Ecometer". According to the proud inventor's description, his new innovation would increase fuel efficiency by 20 to 50 percent when attached to the carburetor of a typical car. Developed after seven years of hard work, Thomas Junior offered his invention to Ford for installation in all of his vehicles. This left Henry Ford in an awkward position (since he was afraid of antagonizing Thomas Senior) so he had his technicians subject the Ecometer to a full series of tests. He even loaned Thomas Junior 1.2 million dollars to form the Ecometer Manufacturing Company. Sadly, the invention did not perform as promised and Ford had no choice but to reject it (although the urban legend lives on).
The failure of the Ecometer devastated Thomas Junior, although he and his wife still attempted to interest other automobile companies. Naturally, he sank even further into depression and alcoholism and, by the time of Thomas Senior's death in 1931, Thomas Junior was reduced to working in his father's laboratory as a mere assistant. Thomas Junior's fortunes improved after a legal battle involving his various siblings. When the contest over the will was finally settled, Thomas Junior's younger brother, Charles, appointed him to a position on the board of directors for Edison's various companies. At long last, Thomas Alva Edison Junior had a chance to prove himself.
But not for long...
On August 25, 1935, Thomas Alva Edison Junior died in a hotel room in Springfield, Massachusetts. Although the cause 0f death was listed as "Coronary Thrombosism, Pulmonary Edema and Sudden Death" there were enough curious details to raise suspicions. First of all, he had registered in the room under the assumed name of "J.J. Byrne" (some newspaper obituaries listed his name as "J.J. Griffin). While known to be in poor health and suffered from high blood pressure for many years (the damage from his long-term alcohol abuse was likely a factor as well), several later Edison biographers raised the possibility that it was actually suicide. According to the most plausible story, Thomas Junior had been returning home from his brother's house in New Hampshire when he apparently became ill. To avoid public attention, he stopped off in Springfield and registered at a hotel under an assumed name. According to his two traveling companions, they called for a doctor to attend their friend but he died after two hours despite the doctor's best efforts.
Whatever the circumstances of his death, Thoms Alva Edison Junior seems to have been largely forgotten except as a footnote in his illustrious father's life story. He and Beatrice never had children of their own and his shares in the company passed to his brother. Whatever hopes he had of proving himself worthy of his name died with him. If nothing else, his sad life can be viewed as a warning of the dangers involved in trying to live up to impossible expectations.