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Edison & Ford Winter Estates Blog

Edison & Ford Winter Estates Blog

Edison & Ford Winter Estates Celebrates Henry Ford’s Birthday

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On July 9th

The Edison & Ford Winter Estates will celebrate the 147th birthday of Henry Ford on Friday, July 30 at 10 AM.  The celebration will include cake and a “Sneak Peek” tour of the Ford Estate with Henry Ford.  Admission is FREE to Estates members; non members $20 adults, $11  children 6 -12, children 5 and under are free.  Admission includes a guided tour or self guided tour and audio wand of the historic homes, gardens, lab and Museum. 

“Ford’s birthday marks a very important day in American history, and we invite the public to share in the celebration…. Learn about Henry Ford…. And visit the beautiful winter homes of one of America’s greatest industrialists,” says Chris Pendleton, Estates president & CEO.  “Ford’s remarkable history spanned decades and totally changed our way of life.”

Ford facts include:
• Henry Ford grew up on a typical nineteenth-century farm in Dearborn, Michigan. At an early age he demonstrated an interest in mechanics and a dislike for farm work.
• Ford married Clara Bryant in 1888. He would later refer to Clara as “the Believer” for her faith in and support of his ideas.
• In 1891 Ford became an engineer for the Edison Illuminating Company, and was soon promoted to Chief Engineer. This position allowed him time to experiment with the internal combustion engine. Ford idolized Thomas Edison and met him during an 1896 company convention in New York, where Ford relayed his ideas for the engine. Ford recalled the importance of Edison’s encouragement: “[O]ut of the clear blue sky the greatest inventive genius in the world had given me complete approval.”
• In 1896, at the age of 33, Ford completed the Quadricycle, a self-propelled vehicle with four wire wheels which was steered with a tiller and had two forward speeds. Ford traveled around Detroit in his “horseless carriage,” to the amazement, as well as disdain, of its citizens.
• The Ford Motor Company was incorporated in 1903 with the Model A. In 1908 Ford introduced the Model T, realizing his lifelong dream of a vehicle that was easy to operate and maintain and able to handle the rough roads of the era. The Model T quickly became a huge success, with more than 10,000 sold in 1909.
• Ford is considered the father of modern manufacturing. As the popularity of the Model T escalated, Ford devised a system that combined division of labor, standardized and interchangeable parts, and the assembly line. This revolutionized automobile production by reducing the amount of time involved in automobile manufacturing and consequently lowering production costs. Mass production was born. By 1913 some 1000 cars were produced in a typical eight-hour shift.
• By the late teens, Ford was an American celebrity and the public could not seem to get enough of him. Ford came into his office one day and said, “You know, I think I ought to get a pair of whiskers. Everybody seems to spot me.”
• In 1914 Ford made his first visit to Fort Myers at the invitation of his friend Thomas Edison. From there the two embarked on an Everglades camping trip. Calling themselves “the Vagabonds,” Ford and Edison, along with Harvey Firestone and John Burroughs, would make many more camping trips throughout the next fifteen years. In 1916, Ford purchased his Fort Myers retreat, The Mangoes, for $20,000 and enlarged it by adding two family and staff wings.
• Ford was seriously interested in unifying urban and rural industry. He encouraged the idea of using agricultural products for industrial purposes. For example, Ford experimented with an automobile trunk made from soybean-based plastic. He was a partner in the Edison Botanical Research Lab located on Estates’ property.
• In the mid-1920s the New York Times estimated the assets of the Ford Motor Company at $1.2 billion, or about $13 billion today. Ford himself drew an average of about $4.5 million per year during this decade, or about $50 million in today’s dollars. Said Ford, “I’m in a peculiar position. There is nothing I want that I cannot have. But I do not want the things that money can buy. I want to live a life, to make the world a little better for having lived in it.”
• In 1928 Ford established and endowed The Edison Institute in Dearborn, MI (now The Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village), an indoor/outdoor museum created to illustrate and preserve the American experience and celebrate American ingenuity.
• In 1929 Ford threw a lavish party in Dearborn in honor of the fiftieth anniversary of Edison’s invention of the incandescent lamp. Ford presented his friend with a detailed reconstruction of Edison’s Menlo Park and the original 1887 Fort Myers laboratory at The Edison Institute. Edison became misty-eyed and remarked that “the memories of eighty-two years were flooding back.” Ford told reporters at the event, “We are ahead of all other countries today, simply and solely because we have Mr. Edison.”
• Ford loved dancing and in the 1920s began a massive effort to revive old-fashioned dancing. He sponsored a national tour of dancing master Benjamin Lovett. Dancing was also an important part of Ford’s social life in Fort Myers.
• Henry Ford earned the American Legion Distinguished Service Medal for his efforts on behalf of disabled veterans in both World Wars. In 1997, Life Magazine named him one of the “100 People Who Made the Millennium,” and in 2000 Time Magazine named him one of the “100 Most Important People of the Century.” In 2000 Forbes Magazine called him the “#1 Industrialist of the Century.”
• Ford returned to The Mangoes only sporadically after Thomas Edison’s death in 1931. In 1945 he sold it to Thomas and Gladys Biggar. In 1988, the City of Fort Myers purchased Henry Ford’s estate for $1.5 million, restored it to its historic appearance and opened it to the public in 1989.
• Henry Ford’s Fort Myers estate is open daily and now managed by the Edison & Ford Winter Estates, Inc., a non-profit organization.
• On July 30, 2007 a statue commemorating Henry Ford’s achievements and time in Fort Myers was created by D. J. Wilkins and donated by Orvall McCleary to the Estates.

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