When Steve and I were in the Fort Myers/Sanibel Island/Captiva Island part of southwest Florida recently, we spent a very enlightening morning at the Edison and Ford Winter Estates, strolling around the gardens, homes and museum. I highly recommend a visit to this historic place. You’ll be inspired, and it will give you a great sense of pride that these two men were Americans who contributed their genius minds to enhancing the lives of others. Thomas Edison once remarked that he wished he could live 300 years, because he had enough ideas rolling around in his brain to stay busy for that long. In the “short” 84 years that he lived, he was granted 1,093 U.S. patents. It’s startling to think how many more could have been issued if he had lived longer. The friendship that was formed between Thomas Edison and Henry Ford (who had hundreds of patents of his own) was significant and striking in its nature.
Can you just imagine the conversations those two might have had?!
Here are just a few of the facts I learned that day:
- Thomas Edison had 6 children – 4 sons and 2 daughters – three with his first wife Mary who died unexpectedly in 1884 at the age of 29, and then three with his second wife Mina who outlived him by 16 years. But, out of those 6 children, he only had 4 grandchildren. They were the children of his daughter Madeleine who married John Eyre Sloane, so their last name was Sloane and not Edison. BUT, they all had the middle name of Edison — John Edison Sloane, Michael Edison Sloane, Thomas Edison Sloane and Peter Edison Sloane.
- Thomas Edison really hated the winters in New Jersey and loved fishing. He bought the 13-acre plot of land in Fort Myers while on a trip with his friend Ezra Gilliland, when Fort Myers only had a population of 349 people. The property had waterfront access to the Caloosahatchee River.
- Thomas Edison had a boat dock built first, so supplies could be ferried to the property, then had a house and laboratory built. He and Mina spent their honeymoon on the new estate in 1886.
- Edison only slept 4-6 hours per night. His brain was filled with too many plans, designs and notions.
- Henry Ford was an employee at the Detroit Edison Illuminating Company when he and Edison met at a conference. They partnered to develop an improved storage battery for the Model T, and later included Harvey Firestone while forming the Edison Botanic Research Corporation (EBRC) to do rubber research.
- The Ford and Edison families enjoyed a camping trip together in the Florida Everglades in 1914, and that’s when Henry Ford was introduced to the idea of owning property in the Fort Myers area. In 1916, Ford purchased the property adjoining Edison’s.
- Ford didn’t like Florida quite as much as Edison did and only visited for a couple of weeks each year. He did, however, manage to time his visits to his Fort Myers property for Edison’s birthday (February 11) for a number of years.
- Ford gave Edison a Model T, but Edison was unsuccessful in learning to drive it. A chauffeur had that honor for many years.
The docents and tour guides are extremely knowledgeable about all-things-Edison-and-Ford, particularly as it pertains to this property, so you will learn MUCH more when you visit. These are just a few interesting facts that were on my mind today.
When I think about creative people in the Bible, Noah comes to my mind for building the Ark. But, of course, God gave him the exact plans and dimensions to use. I also think of David, who creatively and expressively wrote so many Psalms (songs/poems).There were two men in the Bible who were specifically mentioned for their creative abilities — Bezalel and Aholiab. God, as is always the case, is the One Who weaves intelligence and special tendencies into each of His people. I don’t know very much about the spiritual beliefs of Edison and Ford. I hope they had faith in Jesus Christ. I am grateful for the talents God gave them and for the inventions I have in my life today as a result of their work.
30 And Moses said to the children of Israel, “See, the Lord has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; 31 and He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship, 32 to design artistic works, to work in gold and silver and bronze, 33 in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of artistic workmanship.
34 “And He has put in his heart the ability to teach, in him and Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. 35 He has filled them with skill to do all manner of work of the engraver and the designer and the tapestry maker, in blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine linen, and of the weaver—those who do every work and those who design artistic works.
36 “And Bezalel and Aholiab, and every gifted artisan in whom the Lord has put wisdom and understanding, to know how to do all manner of work for the service of the sanctuary, shall do according to all that the Lord has commanded.”
2 Then Moses called Bezalel and Aholiab, and every gifted artisan in whose heart the Lord had put wisdom, everyone whose heart was stirred, to come and do the work.