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Edison & Ford Winter Estates Blog

Edison & Ford Winter Estates Blog

Happy Birthday, Mina Miller Edison!

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On July 6, 2012

In honor of Mina Edison’s 147th birthday, here are some fun facts!

  • Born July 6, 1865 in Akron, Ohio, Mina Miller was the seventh of eleven children.
  • Her father, Lewis Miller, was an inventor, manufacturer and co-founder of the Chautauqua Institute.
    • The Chautauqua Institute, an outdoor camp founded in 1874, offered cultural, religious, educational and musical programs.  It quickly became an American Institution.
    • Lewis Miller’s inventions helped to revolutionize agriculture and included early mowers and harvesters.
  • Mina attended a ladies finishing school in Boston, MA in 1885, studying music – one of the things that would later attract Thomas Edison to her.
  • Also in 1885, mutual friends Ezra and Lillian Gilliland introduced Mina to Thomas Edison, where she was playing piano and singing.  Thomas described Mina as “a yardstick for measuring perfection.”
  • Thomas and Mina married on February 24, 1886 and honeymooned in Fort Myers, staying at a local hotel.
  • Mina and Thomas had three children: Madeleine, Charles and Theodore.
  • Describing herself as a “home executive,” Mina closely managed two homes and their staffs.  She also raised her three children with Thomas and helped raise Thomas’s three children from his first marriage.
  • Mina was active in a number of civic and charitable organizations and co-founded the Fort Myers Round Table, an influential group of community leaders.
  • Mina was also instrumental in beautifying the city (through various garden clubs and beautification councils) and assisting the city’s less fortunate.
  • A dedicated conservationist long before the word entered popular vocabularies; Mina was a member of the National Audubon Society and the Chautauqua Bird & Tree Club.  Mina also became close friends with renowned cartoonist and conservationist, Jay “Ding” Darling.
  • Thomas Edison passed away in 1931 after 45 years of marriage to Mina.  Even after her husband’s death, Mina continued to visit Fort Myers and stay closely involved with the local community.
  • In 1935, Mina married a childhood friend named Edward Hughes.  Hughes passed away in 1940, and Mina resumed using the Edison surname.  She continued wintering in Fort Myers throughout this time.
  • In 1947, she deeded Seminole Lodge to the City of Fort Myers to serve as a botanical garden and preserve the legacy of her late husband.  Mina passed away in the same year.

Suggested materials on Mina Edison: DVD: Mina Miller Edison – The Wizard’s Wife, The Edisons of Fort Myers: Discoveries of the Heart by Tom Smoot

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.