Edison & Ford Winter Estates Blog - Edison & Ford Winter Estates Blog

Edison & Ford Winter Estates Blog

Edison & Ford Winter Estates Blog

John Burroughs and the “Vagabonds”

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On June 7, 2018

John Burroughs and Thomas Edison

In 1914 popular writer and naturalist John Burroughs arrived with his friend Henry Ford to visit Thomas Edison for the first time at his estate in Fort Myers. Having grown up working on a family farm in New York, Burroughs had long cultivated an interest in nature and enjoyed the outdoors. Burroughs was a member of early expeditions with Ford and Edison into the Everglades, where the group enjoyed discovering nature and some time away from hectic everyday life.

These early Everglades adventures evolved into camping trips across the country, many of which included John Burroughs. The inquisitive Thomas Edison spent many hours enjoying nature with Burroughs, tapping into the naturalist’s vast knowledge of plants and animals.

Burroughs chronicled the trips in scrapbooks which included journals and photos of the self-described “vagabonds.” Visit our “Into the Wild” exhibit in the Edison Ford museum to learn more.


What is a Boondoggle?

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On September 23, 2016

If you are looking for an unusual gift for yourself or others, then the old fashioned heritage craft known as a boondoggle will fit the bill.

Boondoggle are woven from sabal palm and legend has it that they ward off lightning strikes and bring good luck to the household. They were a traditional wedding present, and they are just plain beautiful.

The Edison Ford stores have boondoggles for sale in all of the locations, Museum Store, Ford Cottage Shoppe and the Edison Ford Shoppe at Bell Tower Shops. They are made by local crafts person and a beautiful addition to any home or building.


Mangoes for Everyone

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On September 16, 2016

By now everyone knows that Henry and Clara Ford owned a Florida estate named “The Mangoes,” for the allée of mango trees that lined their property and the Edison Estate along McGregor Boulevard. The Edison family added innumerable orchids in the mango trees on this area of their property, which they called “Orchid Lane.”

Today Edison Ford continues the tradition begun by the Edison and Ford families. In fact, there are 17 different mango varieties on the property (including the “old Florida turpentine mango”).

group with debbie and mangoes in bucketsEdison Ford collaborates with ECHO (Educational Concerns for Hunger Organization) in North Fort Myers. ECHO Farm Manager, Tim Watkins, and interns assisted Senior Horticulturist, Debbie Hughes gather turpentine mangoes (approximately 1,000). ECHO Nursery grows the seeds as rootstock, grafts mango varieties to the rootstock, and distributes grafted fruit trees to needy communities around the globe to help grow their own. Edison’s old mangoes have made their way around the world.

Garden staff gathers fruit from the property and will sell what is available in the Museum Store. Because mangoes ripen differently, it’s always good to call ahead to see what is ripe and available for sale. This time of year, there is starfruit, and eventually Meyer lemons, calamondins, key limes, and limequats seasonally. For more information on what’s available call, the Museum Store at 239-334-7419.

Edison Ford Museum – Past, Present, and Future

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On July 16, 2016

museum past and presentA Museum celebrating Thomas Edison’s life, work and interests was a dream of Mina Edison even before she donated the Edison Estate to the City of Fort Myers on February 19, 1947. In fact, she had created the museum plan to include inventions, exhibits of science, and natural history, and a library for their interests in science and the arts.

museum layout

Click for enlarged view

By early 1960, this plan began to take shape with the creation of the first main room of The Edison Museum. It was built directly behind Thomas Edison’s workshop and garage (today this is the Museum Store). Today, this area is dedicated to inventions of both Edison and Ford and exhibits related to their work and the site.

By 1970, the second addition to the Museum was built as the collection of both original artifacts and inventions was supplemented with other related objects. Today, this area houses the Into the Wild (camping) exhibit, an exhibit from the Smithsonian, the children’s exhibit room, the Family & Friends exhibit, and the Music & Movies gallery.

By 1985, more space was needed and so the final large wing was added. Today, this houses the gallery for special exhibits, a film and lecture hall, and the exhibit dedicated to the rubber research.

When the non-profit organization, Edison & Ford Winter Estates, assumed responsibility for the site in 2006, the Museum was in the schedule for development and growth. After all of the restoration of the historic buildings and gardens was completed, that $14 million overall project culminated with the restoration of the Edison Botanic Research Laboratory in 2010. All 12 historic buildings have been restored as well as the gardens. So now our focus will be to bring the Edison Ford Museum up to the same level of excellence but use contemporary materials.

With the help from donors like Sally Johnson, GE, and others, the Museum work has been started. This summer, the initial area of the original museum will receive updated exhibits and new rubber flooring. Similar to the flooring already in use in the rubber exhibit, it ties in perfectly to the rubber research conducted on the site by Edison, Ford and Firestone. Work will be phased so that the Museum can remain open and continue throughout the summer months.

Please refer to the graphics and diagrams on this page, but better yet, come back throughout the summer months to check on our progress.

More and More Chinese Travelers Coming to Edison Ford

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On April 28, 2016

chinese inside the lab With the help of the Lee County Visitor and Convention Bureau (VCB) and Visit Florida, more Chinese travelers (individuals and groups) are visiting Edison Ford. The VCB is also facilitating visits from traveling journalists.

Sunny International, a tour operator from Miami, regularly brings groups on Mondays and Thursdays each week. chinese group on edison porchDuring a recent visit, a group posed for a photo in the Edison Botanic Research Laboratory with Edison Ford Historian, Patrick Deja, who is fluent in Chinese. Members of this group told Patrick and CEO Chris Pendleton that “Edison and his industries and workers brought much progress to the world and China. Chinese admire his work greatly.”

Traveling journalists from several publications are visiting Edison Ford to help spread the word in China about this great travel destination.

Visit Florida has conducted extensive research on Chinese tourism and shared some of that research with Edison Ford. According to Visit Florida, studies show that China is the world’s fastest growing economy with explosive growth in the number of Chinese travelling abroad over the past several years.

Edison Ford also collaborated with the VCB and Visit Florida to translate and create guide maps and tour scripts in Chinese. The maps are available for Chinese visitors and the scripts are available for tour leaders and visitors with special needs.

chinese guide

chinese map

Quadricycle Replica Update

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On April 26, 2016

quadricycle machiningFor the past year, Edison Ford staff has been building a replica of the original Ford Quadricycle. The Quadricycle’s current phase has primarily consisted of heavy machining. Edison Ford Automotive Curator, James Moss has been purchasing raw material and transforming this into viable components for the engine. With the flywheel complete, James has ordered material for a 6-inch pulley and plans to have the entire crank shaft assembly ready by mid-April in order to work on the cylinders.

The goal is to have the engine finished by the end of summer.


Historic Newspapers Added to Edison Ford Digital Archives

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On February 24, 2016

Mrs Koelber historic newspapersA large collection of historic newspaper scans was recently donated to Edison Ford. Mrs. Koelber allowed the Edison Ford staff to scan a collection of historic newspaper articles (including Fort Myers News-Press and others) relating to Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Edison & Ford Winter Estates, and local icons such as Tootie McGregor and Jacob Summerlin. Curatorial staff scanned over 50 pages into the digital archives of Edison Ford, which will be used for research purposes.

Ford Quadricycle Progress and Update

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On February 22, 2016

quadricycle volunteerThanks to the creative oversight of Automotive Curator Jim Moss, Registrar Matt Andres and a very talented group of volunteers, the pieces and parts of the replica Henry Ford 1904 Quadricycle are being produced and will be ready for assembly (like the crank shaft below). Although this sounds easy, it really isn’t because the machinists, mechanics and engineers are building the Quadricycle from scratch in machine shops throughout the region.

quadricycle crank shaft feb 2016Pictured is part of the crank shaft and the volunteer who is creating this in his own shop, Walter Newell. The group expects to have the Quadricycle finished before the end of 2016. Contact Registrar Matt Andres in the Curatorial Department if you would like to join the group which meets monthly.

quadricycle crank shaft 2


Quadricycle Replica Progress

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On January 25, 2016

quadricycle ilustrationUnder the direction of Edison Ford Automotive Curator, James Moss, a team of staff and highly skilled volunteers are creating a working model of Henry Ford’s first automobile – the  quadricycle. In fact, the project has moved along so well, that the team is taking on building the wooden body of the vehicle with the carpentry staff of Edison Ford.

Contact Edison Ford Chief Curator, Mike Cosden at mcosden@edisonfordwinterestates.org or call 239-334-7419 for more information.

The “Believe It or Not” Bridge

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On January 23, 2016

edison bridge lamp postIronically, when completed in 1931, the Edison Bridge had no electric lights. City officials were further embarrassed in 1935, when a nationwide Ripley’s “Believe It or Not” cartoon lampooned the bridge. With the help of Florida Power & Light, over 50 lampposts were added in 1937, creating a fitting tribute to the inventor which it memorialized.

An original Edison Bridge lamppost is on display at the Edison & Ford Museum.