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Edison & Ford Winter Estates Blog

Edison & Ford Winter Estates Blog

Archive for the ‘Edison Botanic Research Corporation’ Category

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.


Edison Ford Chemistry Consultant to Present Lab Program

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On June 3, 2016

Richard WallaceJune 14 – 10:30 a.m.

Armstrong State University Chemistry Professor Dr. Richard Wallace will be on-site the week of June 13. As a Chemistry Consultant for Edison Ford, Dr. Wallace was integral to the restoration of the Edison Botanic Research Corporation Laboratory. Following that work, he consulted on the recently opened exhibit Edison & Rubber: A Scientific Quest.

During this visit, Dr. Wallace will work with Edison Ford staff and volunteers to integrate chemistry into educational and interactive elements of the site, as well as presenting to the public and to our summer camp participants.

Dr. Wallace will be on-hand for the Inside the Lab tour on Tuesday, June 14, at 10:30 a.m., and watch our upcoming events page as we anticipate scheduling a talk with Dr. Wallace at another time during his visit.

Edison & Ford Winter Estates is Now a National Historic Chemical Landmark

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On May 25, 2014

The work of Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone in rubber research has been acknowledged by the American Chemical Society (ACS) for its importance in chemical research. In May, the ACS recognized the Edison Botanical Research Laboratory at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates as a National Historic Chemical Landmark.

This is the first site in Florida to receive this designation to honor Thomas Edison’s contribution to the field of Chemistry. As the primary rubber research site, Edison Ford worked with two other sites which will also be designated as landmarks; Thomas Edison National Historic Park on June 6th and Henry Ford Greenfield Village on September 20th.

Edison Botanic Research Laboratory Photos 1

Edison inside the lab Compressed

Edison Botanic Lab Becomes A National Chemical Historic Landmark!

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On May 16, 2014

Lab May 2014     On May 25, 2014 from 2:00 – 4:00 p.m., Edison’s Botanic Research Laboratory will receive official national designation as a National Chemical Historical Landmark in a public ceremony presided over by the American Chemical Society (ACS) and Edison Ford.

The afternoon will include the unveiling of the plaque designating the site, continuous “Inside the Lab” tours led by curators and scientists, and lots of family-friendly chemistry demonstrations led by the Edison Ford Wild Wizard, Chemists and Scientists from ACS. The event is FREE.

Edison Ford President & CEO, Chris Pendleton, is proud of the Lab’s million dollar restoration over the past few years and the quest to understand what went on in the Lab and why the work is nationally significant.

“Because of Edison’s contribution to chemistry, we have been designated as the first site in Florida and only one of a few in the nation. We are a scientific site as well as a beautiful estate and garden,” says Pendleton.

As the primary research site, the Edison Ford curatorial team and our consultants in Fort Myers worked with two other sites, West Orange, New Jersey (Thomas Edison National Historic Park) and Dearborn, Michigan (Edison’s Menlo Park Lab at Greenfield Village) who will also be commemorated later in the year. “It was in Fort Myers that Edison was able to establish the seed collection system, raise the rubber plants, harvest them, formulate the chemical process and invent new processes and machinery to support the project,” says Edison Ford Chief Curator, Alison Giesen.


lab equipment



Edison Botanical Research Laboratory

National Historic Chemical Landmark Celebration


May 25, 2014 – Edison & Ford Winter Estates

2:00 – 4:00 p.m.

Event Open to the Public


November President’s Update Chris Pendleton, President & CEO

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On October 29, 2012

     For the past decade, the Edison & Ford Winter Estates has undertaken and completed almost $14 million in restoration to all of the Edison and Ford historic buildings and gardens. The projects have won many national awards … but we are not done yet, and the work ahead this year will be very interesting.

     This year we will focus on the Edison Ford Museum which had its earliest beginnings in the mid 1960’s when the historic site first opened to the public. The Museum building was added onto every decade to accommodate the growing collection of inventions, artifacts and program areas. Today, the building includes 15,000 square feet of gallery and exhibit space.

     Improvements will include new lighting systems (new LED gallery lighting system) and a new 50×25 foot porch which will open into the Heritage Garden on the west side of the Museum.

     As has been our practice, we will again remain open throughout the work ahead. Visitors and Members will be able to track our progress with a completion date for all of the improvements set for Fall, 2013.

     New exhibits are also in the works for the Museum to include a new Botanical Laboratory exhibit and an exhibit on Fishing & Boating.  In fact, we have already started installing components of the Botanical Laboratory exhibit with the installation this month of a very intricate ‘diorama’ of the Laboratory. The diorama is 1/18 size … and includes lab work stations, machine shop equipment, research office, darkroom and even a tiny replica of the giant goldenrod herbarium specimen from the 1920s. It was created by artist, Stephen Hayford, who began work with Chief Curator Alison Giesen more than a year ago to carefully replicate the historic operation of the building.








Hayford is a talented craftsman with a  unique skill set and has created Star Wars-themed diorama images for Lucasfilm, Ltd. and is employed by museums throughout the nation. In addition to his painstaking recreation of the Laboratory building and work areas, he also employed other specialty artists. An example is the miniature Thomas Edison working in the laboratory, another is the tiny blown glass laboratory vessels produced by miniaturist Ferenc J. Albert who also worked in the research laboratory glass industry.

     It is a fascinating project, and we plan that the completion of the entire lab exhibit will be completed by Edison’s birthday in February with other components installed in the months ahead.

     Work on the Fishing & Boating exhibit also began last year with the completion of a 15 foot replica wooden skiff which was built by Edison Ford carpenter (and shipwright) Jack Davis. He headed a group of sea scouts who learned to build the skiff using only hand tools and won the wooden boat building contest in Lee County. The exhibit will include the skiff and maps, mounted fish, equipment and of course, photos and stories about our favorite fishing families, the Edisons and Fords.

Edison’s Golden Ticket: Goldenrod | Edison Botanic Research Corporation & Lab Part II

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On August 23, 2011

In the late 1920’s, the Edison Botanic Research Corporation (EBRC) was on a mission.  Botanical specimen collectors scoured the countryside searching for trees, vines, bushes, and botanical specimens of all types so that the EBRC lab could test the potential of each plant for rubber production.

Thomas Edison, Harvey Firestone and son Roger inspect the contents of a test tube in the EBRC lab | Edison & Ford Winter Estates Archives

Which plant would produce rubber most efficiently? Believe it or not, the specimen that showed the most promise was a common weed called goldenrod.

Through careful cultivation and experimentation, Thomas Edison was able to cultivate a type of Goldenrod (Solidago Edisonia) which grew up to 12 feet high, and can still be viewed in the EBRC lab today!

A 12 foot tall strand of goldenrod | Edison & Ford Winter Estates Archives

Did you know that big changes are currently underway in the EBRC lab? Find out more in Part III of the Edison Botanic Research Corporation series.

To learn more about cultivating plants in Florida, visit the Edison & Ford Winter Estates propagating gardens.

For more information about requesting a copy of these images or any other images from the Edison & Ford Winter Estates archives, click here.

Origins | Edison Botanic Research Corporation & Lab Part I

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On August 9, 2011

Did you know that Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, and Thomas Edison collaborated on a major research initiative?

Beginning in 1927, and with a research lab being built the following year, the Edison Botanic Research Corporation (EBRC) was created to find a domestic source for organic rubber.

EBRC founders Ford, Edison and Firestone sit on the front porch of the lab circa 1930 | Edison & Ford Winter Estates Archives

Why was organic rubber so important?
Having only recently emerged from the World War I, the three friends were only too aware of the volatile market fluctuations of the international rubber market. To secure a future source for rubber, the EBRC tested a variety of botanic specimens to determine their potential for rubber production.

Interior of the lab | Edison & Ford Winter Estates Archives

In typical Edison fashion, thousands of possible solutions were tested. Which produced the most rubber?  We’ll tell you all about it in Part II of the Edison Botanic Research Corporation series.

To learn more about Edison, Ford & Firestone’s quest for rubber, check out Growing American Rubber: Strategic Plants And The Politics Of National Security by Mark R. Finlay, available in the Edison & Ford Winter Estates gift shop.

For more information about requesting a copy of these images or any other images from the Edison & Ford Winter Estates archives, click here.