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Edison & Ford Winter Estates Blog

Edison & Ford Winter Estates Blog

New Holiday Nighttime Tours at the Estates

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On December 20th

NEW Holiday Tours at Edison & Ford Holiday Nights offer visitors  a look at how the holidays were celebrated in the Edison and Ford era, as well as traditions of their families.  Estates curatorial staff researched historic sites and period materials to offer visitors a traditional holiday evening tour of the era. 

This year for the first time, Estate site historians will lead visitors on a holiday tour offering visitors an intimate look at how the holidays were celebrated in Edisons time.  Feedback from visitors and tour groups has been very positive.  The NEW Holiday Tours are at 6:30 and 7:30 PM during Holiday Nights.  
 “We have been researching materials for the holiday tour for several years and have recreated the traditions of the families reflecting their taste and sophistication while  incorporating historical decorations and information reflective of the period,” says Chris Pendleton, Estates president and CEO.  “In 1891 Mrs. Edison planned a dinner menu that included oysters, consommé, hard shell crab, applesauce, salads, ice cream, and a variety of other holiday treats.  Visitors can see foods of the 1891 menu in the Edison Dining Room, just as it would be served to their friends in Fort Myers.”

Some of the other interesting facts visitors will learn on the NEW holiday tour are:

• Thomas Edison arrived in early December 1929 to spend his first and only Christmas in Fort Myers.
• Edison was flooded with gifts from all over the world. They weren’t just from friends but people he had never met, among them publishers and clothing makers. His favorite gifts were from: Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone and President Herbert Hoover.
• The Fords never actually celebrated Christmas in Fort Myers, but it was one of their favorite holidays. Henry Ford spent generously on lavish gifts for his friends and family; such extravagant gifts included an emerald and diamond necklace for his wife Clara Ford purchased during the Christmas season of 1931.
• Henry Ford’s favorite activity during Christmas was dressing up as Santa Claus and handing out gifts to neighborhood and Greenfield Village school children in Michigan.  The children would be taken by horse and sleigh, or wagon, to Ford’s version of Santa’s workshop filled with toys, candy, and fruit.  The festivities also included a highly decorative tree, reindeer, and of course, Christmas music. 
• Thomas Edison created the first strand of electric light bulbs for use as a Christmas decoration.  In Christmas 1880 he strung a strand around his Menlo Park, NJ complex, including his Menlo Park laboratory.  People riding the nearby Pennsylvania Railroad would have been witnesses to the first Christmas electric light display. 
• Christmas lights really didn’t become popular inside individual households until the early 20th century, due to the fact that electricity was both expensive and mistrusted.  General Electric became the first company to offer Christmas lights for home use in 1903.  The lights were miniature base GE/Edison carbon filament lamps.  (Colors included red, white, blue, and green.)
• Edison invented the phonograph in 1877 and called it his baby. It was his favorite invention.  He filed the patent for it on Christmas Eve 1877.
• In the 1920’s children enjoyed classic toys as gifts such as teddy bears, dolls, books, balls, coloring books, wheeled toys, and crayons remained popular.
• Early gift wrappers had to be especially dexterous; scotch tape wasn’t invented until 1930! And it wasn’t until 1932 that the rolls of adhesive tape were sold in dispensers with cutting blades. 
• The first Christmas cards were more like postcards, which were relatively inexpensive and large enough to allow people to send succinct messages to their loved ones during the holiday season.
Edison & Ford Holiday Nights is a 35 year Southwest Florida tradition. The Estates historical buildings and acres of gardens are decorated with lights, traditional decorations and Edison and Ford inventions.  The Estates is open daily from 9 AM – 5:30 PM.  During Holiday Nights the Estates are open until 10 PM.  Holiday Nights continue through January 1, 2011 (closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day).

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