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

Edison & Ford Winter Estates Blog

Edison & Ford Winter Estates Blog

Mina, Clara and Edison Ford Volunteers

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On August 28th

     “Mina Edison  and Clara Ford Teas” have many reasons to be successful, but the greatest reason is the interest, talent and commitment of a great group of Edison Ford Volunteers.

Several months ago, Jan MaGirl and Clara Schmidt who are longtime Edison Ford docents, presented a “conversation lecture program” at the monthly volunteer meeting that was based on the historic reflections of Mina and Clara on their life, fame and fun.  It was a rousing success.

clara and mina tea august 2015     Both Jan (Mina Edison) and Clara (Clara Ford) have been studying the famous families for many years and have visited other Edison and Ford sites around the nation.  They are friends, just like Mina and Clara, so it is a wonderful exploration into the two legendary women with a modern twist.  To make it more interesting Jan MaGirl is married to Jamie MaGirl, who is also an Edison Ford lab docent and frequently portrays Thomas Edison.  Clara Schmidt’s husband in real life is named Doug, but her historical husband, Henry Ford, just happens to be portrayed by Edison Ford former historian Doug Jaureguy.  There are lots of interesting connections.

Jan and Clara are still exploring history of the women, their families and the national and international history that played such an important part of their legacy in Florida.  Chief Curator, Mike Cosden, and his department are constantly providing research findings, photos, and facts as the program develops.  Holly Shaffer, co-manager of the Volunteer Program, feels that “This event is unique for it provides an intimate glimpse into the lives of the Estates’ leading ladies.”

Tea Talk with Mina Edison and Clara Ford

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On August 26th
Edison Caretaker's House

Edison Caretaker’s House

Available for Groups … Limited Seating

      The new monthly program, “Tea with Mina Edison and Clara Ford”, is one of the hottest new offerings at Edison & Ford.  In fact, so hot, that it’s Sold Out for Saturday, August 22nd with a wait list and Saturday, September 26th is filling up fast.

For groups of 15 or more, special dates can be arranged by calling Edison Ford at 239-334-7419.  In October and November, the Teas will move to Thursdays to increase the availability of this popular new program.

The Teas have been featured in the News-Press, Gulf and Main Magazine and Lifestyles Southwest Florida.  Why the success?  Mina and Clara will tell you that is fun to get together with a small group around a table, sip Mina’s tea, nibble on sweets, and hear about life from the two great ladies.  From time to time, their husbands will drop by to chat, along with visits from the gardener, or other historically interesting friends. During Mina’s time, she created the Round Table at the Estates to chat with community friends and leaders. This great idea will expand over time.

 

Happy Birthday, Mina Miller Edison!

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On July 6th

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 & Ford Holiday Nights: December 9 – January 1

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On September 14th

Spend the holidays with one of Southwest Florida’s holiday traditions, the 35th annual Edison & Ford Holiday Nights at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates in Fort Myers.  Edison & Ford Holiday Nights attracts visitors from throughout the world annually to view the lights and seasonal decorations that fill 20 acres of gardens, and the recently restored Edison and Ford historic homes. 
 
The theme for Edison & Ford Holiday Nights has always been a combination of historical decorations amidst the orchids, exotic trees and plantings that fill the gardens.  Visitors will have the option of a self guided tour or guided tour (6:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.).  Guided tours include the historic homes, gardens, lab and museum with an historic site interpreter and are available on a first come, first serve basis.  
 
This year there will be events including the artist and craftsmen exhibits and appearances in the “Creative Cottage” as well as book signings and demonstrations located in the Edison Caretaker’s House;  nightly entertainment by local school and community groups; Santa visits; Horse and Wagon Rides; and a “Children’s Tree Trail.”  The “Trail” will be a veritable forest of lighted trees with handmade ornaments from Lee County students and is FREE to the public. 
 
During the holidays the homes of Thomas and Mina Edison and Henry and Clara Ford will be open nightly from 5:30 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. The event also includes special exhibitions, nightly performances of dance, instrumental and choral music (by area groups and schools) and holiday items in the “Creative Cottage”, Museum Store, Garden Shoppe and the historic Ford Cottage Shoppe.  The Estates Museum and Edison’s Lab will be open nightly as well as the Estates Banyan Café for refreshments.  Tickets for a self guided tour are $15 for adults and $1 for children (6-12); guided tours are $20 for adults and $11 for children (6-12).  Groups may schedule guided or unguided tours from 5 p.m. – 7 p.m. and will receive discounted group rates.  In addition, the Estates will be offering Lee County residents special “hometown discounts” on December 9, 10, 11, 12, 2010.

Garden Hat Project to benefit Edison & Ford Winter Estates Education Programs

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On February 9th

Mina Edison loved hats as did many of the fashionable ladies of her time.  They were beautifully adorned with lace, feathers, jewels, veils and other additions which were crafted of straw, organdy, felt and other materials. 

In honor of the first Garden Brunch at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates, February 12 several notable women in the community have decorated hats.  The hats will be on display at Saks Fifth Avenue, Bell Tower Shops from February 5 – 10, 2010.  In addition to this display, Saks Fifth Avenue has collected vintage hats from the 1920’s –1960’s that will also be on exhibit.

The hats will be on display at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates on February 11 and will be auctioned off February 12 at the Brunch with Mrs. Edison, Living with a Genius event at the Estates

In addition to the hat auction, Brunch with Mrs. Edison, Living with a Genius will include brunch amidst the beautiful historic plantings and theatre in the gardens by professional actress, Nan Colton. Living with a Genius is a witty, one–woman show that engages the audience in what it is like to live with a genius – in this case Mina Edison and husband, Thomas Edison.  Colton is well known for her charming representation of historic women and includes storytelling and audience involvement.  Two performances are scheduled:  February 12 and 13 at 11AM and attendees are encouraged to wear hats!

Reservations are required by calling 239-334-7419.  Estates Members $50, nonmembers $60.  The project benefits the Estates Education Program.

Edison & Ford Winter Estates Programs – February 2010

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On January 28th

February at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates is highlighted with Thomas Edison’s Birthday Celebration, Estates Antique Car Show, Brunch with Mina Edison and the continuation of Sneak Peek Tours as well as a variety of other special programs throughout the month.  The February schedule of programs and events include:

Registration for Edison & Ford Winter Estates Inventor’s Summer Camp begins

The Estates Inventor’s Summer Camp is back again this year and the Wild Wizard is here all summer long.  Camp begins on June 8, 2010 and runs through August 13, 2010.  Camps are open for grades 1 – 6 and sessions are separated by grade levels.  Campers will make movies, become science detectives, launch objects into orbit, construct bridges and animate their own short films.  Registration forms are available on line at www.efwefla.org or are available at the Estates.  Estates Members $200; non members $230.  For more information on specific topics, dates and times contact the Estates Education Department at 239-334-7419.

Sneak Peek Tours February 4, 11, 18 & 25, 10:30 AM

NEW, behind-the-scenes tours inside the Edison and Ford homes open to the public and Estates members.  These unique tours are offered at no cost to Estates members and $40 for non members.  In addition, lunch will be served inside the Edison Caretaker’s House following the tour for $15 per person.  Due to the intimate nature of “Sneak Peek Tours”, space is limited and registration is required. 

Home Schoolers:  “Movie Making Secrets” February 5, 1 PM – 3 PM

Home schooled students will act, direct, operate a camera and build a set while learning about Edison’s contributions to the movie industry.  The programs follow the Lee County mandated program and addresses environmental science, history and reading SOLS.  Pre-visit curriculum materials will be mailed to registered families.  Registration is required.  Cost:  Estates Members $5; non members $15 (one adult, one child), additional $5 per child.

Antique Car Show  February 6 , 10 AM – 2PM

Nearly 100 antique car collectors will display their antique cars throughout the Ford Estate. Other activities during the day include live music, food available for purchase on the Ford Cottage Terrace, Mr. & Mrs. Ford leading informal tours of the Ford Estate.  Cost is FREE to Estates Members and $5 for non members. 

Antique Car Show Model T Tour and Lecture February 6, 11 AM & 1 PM

Learn the history of Henry Ford and his automobiles first-hand through the Estates collection.  Participants will tour the Ford Estate and meet antique car owners who will provide interesting information specific to their Ford.  Estates Members FREE; non members $5, lecture included in the price of Antique Car Show admission.

Naples Historical Society Presentation February 6, 2 PM, Estates Museum

Elaine Reed and John Mayer of the Naples Historical Society will present “Tales from the Past,” a history of the City of Naples.  They will discuss the pioneers and other colorful characters that put Naples on the map.  Estates Members FREE; non members $12 adults, $6 children ages 6 – 12 and includes admission to the Estates Lab and Museum. 

Etiquette at the Estates February 6, 11 AM – 1 PM, (Children ages 6 -12)

Etiquette at the Estates teaches children proper introduction, handshakes and dining etiquette during a three-course meal.  The classes will be taught by etiquette expert Suzanne Willis who has been teaching similar classes throughout the nation.  Registration is required. Cost:   Estates Members $40; non members $50.

New Volunteer Orientation February 9, 10 AM

Join Estates staff to learn about volunteer opportunities, Estates policies and general Museum information.  This is a mandatory training for all new Estates volunteers but potential volunteers are welcome. 

Edison’s 163rd Birthday Celebration and Book Signing February 11, 10 AM

Celebrate Edison’s birthday at the Estates with the staff, distinguished guests and Edison Park Elementary School students who will perform music from the Edison era.  Performance begins at 10:00 AM with cake to follow. The birthday celebration is FREE to the public.  In addition, Tom Smoot, Jr., author of The Edisons in Fort Myers; John Sheppard, author of One Man’s Family in Early Fort Myers; and Alan S. Maltz, author of Visions of Beauty Fort Myers, Sanibel & Beyond will be available to sign their books throughout the morning in the Estates public Heritage Gardens. 

Brunch with Mrs. Edison “Living with a Genius” February 12 & 13, 11 AM

Storyteller, writer, playwright and professional actress, Nan Colton, will bring to life the remarkable and charitable Mina Edison with unforgettable tales of “Living with a Genius”.  Brunch will be served in the beautiful Estates gardens. Hats are encouraged!  Reservations are required, seating is limited.  Estates Members $50; non members $60.  Group rates available.

Docent Training February 18, 9AM

New Estates volunteers who are interested in becoming Edison & Ford porch docents, Lab and Museum docents, or group tour docents of the Estates grounds must attend this mandatory meeting.

Art in the Gardens “Butterflies at the Estates” Exhibit February 28 – June 2010

In the heritage gardens at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates, Lee county students create an environmentally interactive artwork exhibit using recycled materials to make life-like garden art. The exhibit is sponsored by The Foundation of Lee County Public Schools, ArtFest, and Truly Nolen.  The exhibit is FREE to the public.

Brunch with Mina Edison – “Living with a Genius”

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On January 22nd

Due to popular demand, additional dates have been added for the upcoming theatre in the gardens program, Brunch with Mrs. Edison “Living with a Genius” at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates.  The additional dates are February 12 & 13 at 11 AM. 

Storyteller, writer, playwright and professional actress, Nan Colton will bring to life the remarkable and charitable Mina Edison with unforgettable tales of “living with a genius.”  The performance will be presented under a tent at the Estates Moonlight Garden and includes brunch and mimosas amidst the beautiful historic plantings. Hats and gloves are encouraged!  

“Living with a Genius” is a witty, one woman show that engages the audience in what it is like to live with a genius – in this case, Mina Edison and her husband, Thomas Edison.  Colton is well known for her charming representation of historic women which includes storytelling and audience involvement. 

On February 12th, the event will include a show and sale of hats designed by southwest Florida artists and personalities.  The hats will be on display at Saks Fifth Avenue at Bell Tower, Fort Myers on February 4 – February 10.

Reservations are required, seating is limited.  Estates members, $50; non-members $60.  Group rates are available.  For additional information and reservations call 239-334-7419 or visit the web site at www.efwefla.org.

Edison & Ford Winter Estates Programs – January 2010

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On December 22nd

January at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates is highlighted with Sneak Peeks, Rain Barrel Workshop , the annual Estates Tropical Florida Bridal Fair as well as a variety of other special programs throughout the month.  The January schedule of programs and events include:

Edison & Ford Holiday Nights, Through – January 2, 5:30 PM – 9 PM

The Estates holiday tradition continues with “Edison & Ford Holiday Nights,” southwest Florida’s 34 year annual event.  The winter homes of the Edison and Ford families will be seasonally decorated with the “favorite things” of the Edison and Ford families.  The Edison Botanic Lab and Estates Museum will be open every evening with special exhibits as well as nightly holiday performances by area students and groups.  Group rates are available to groups of 20 or more people with advance reservations.  For more information call 239-334-7419. 

Home Schoolers: “Eager Engineers,” January 8, 1 PM – 3 PM

Home schooled students and their parents will be inspired by Henry Ford’s inventions and learn how simple machines become complex machines, as well as the science of building bridges.  The programs follow the Lee County mandated program and addresses environmental science, history and reading SOLS.  Pre-visit curriculum materials will be mailed to registered families.  Registration required. Estates Members $5; non members $15 (one adult, one child) additional $5 per child. 

Etiquette at the Estates:  Mina & Mimi’s Manners, January 9 & February 6, 11 AM

Mina Edison, wife of Thomas Edison, was a gracious hostess and interested in the well being of children and the community.  Following in this tradition, Etiquette at the Estates, includes one day (two hour) lessons in etiquette and social skills.  Children will learn proper introductions, handshakes and dining etiquette during a three course meal.  Class will be taught by Suzanne Willis who has been teaching similar classes at the Ritz-Carlton hotels throughout the nation.  Registration is requires.  Estates Members $40; non members $50. 

Wild Wizard Lab Show, “Eager Engineers,”  January 10, 2 PM

The Estates Wild Wizards present a series of lab experiments exploring some of Mr. Edison’s and Mr. Ford’s illuminating inventions.  Join the Wizards and explore how simple machines become complex machines as well as the science of building bridges.  Fun for all ages.  Estates Members are FREE, non members: $10 adults, $5 children and includes Estates Lab and Museum admission.

New Volunteer Orientation,  January 12, 10 AM

Join Estates staff to learn about volunteer opportunities, Estates policies and general Museum information.  This is a mandatory training for all new Estates volunteers but potential volunteers are welcome.

Sneak Peek Tours for the Public, January 14, 21, & 28, 10:30 AM

This season a NEW behind-the-scenes tour inside the Edison and Ford homes open to the public and Estates members.   These unique tours are offered at no cost to Estates members and $40 for non members.  In addition, lunch will be served riverside by the Ford Estate following the tour for $15 per person.  Due to the intimate nature of “Sneak Peek Tours,” space is limited and registration is required.  To become an Estates member call the Estates Membership office to receive free admission to the Estates and hundreds of museums and gardens throughout the United States, discounts and an inside look into the homes of two of the nations greatest inventors and their families. 

Docent Training, January 21, 9 AM

New Estates volunteers who are interested in becoming Edison & Ford porch, Lab and Museum docents, or group tour docents of the Estates grounds must attend this mandatory meeting.

Rain Barrel Workshop, January 23, 9 AM

Harvesting rainwater by using rain barrels has been around for thousands of years. Thomas Edison used cisterns and water tanks throughout his Fort Myers estate to help irrigate his gardens and to use for drinking water.   Join the Estates Horticulturist, Debbie Hughes and Tom Becker, Florida Yards and Neighborhoods for a unique approach on uses and construction of rain barrels and a tour of the Estates.  In addition southwest Florida artist, Marie Dyer will give a demonstration on painting your rain barrel to create a beautiful addition to your landscape.   Registration is required.  Estates Members $50; non members $55 and includes a rain barrel. 

Estates Tropical Florida Bridal Fair, January 24, 1 PM – 5 PM

The second annual Estates Tropical Florida Bridal Fair will be held on the beautiful grounds of the Ford Estate, southwest Florida’s premier wedding location.  With breathtaking water views, historic gardens and romantic sunsets the Estates is a perfect location for your special day.  Over 40 wedding professionals will be available to assist you as well as a bridal fashion show, dancing demonstrations, catering showcase and much more.  Cost: $5, FREE to brides.  Event is sponsored by Edison & Ford Winter Estates, Creative Events/Taylor Rental, Fort Myers, and Studio Six Eleven.

photo courtesy of Jamie Lee Photography

Coming in February: 

“Brunch with Mrs. Edison:  Living with a Genius,” February 19 & 20, 11 AM

Storyteller, writer, playwright and professional actress, Nan Colton will bring to life the remarkable and charitable Mina Edison with unforgettable tales of “living with a genius.”  Brunch will be served in the beautiful Estates gardens and garden hats are encouraged.  Reservations required, seating is limited.  Estates Members $50; non members $60.  Group rates are available.

Horse and Wagon Rides with Santa and The Edisons

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On December 21st


Holiday Wagon Rides at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates depart from the historic Ford Estate and tour the nearby old Edison Park neighborhood during the annual Edison & Ford Holiday Nights event. From December 21 – December 23 visitors can enjoy a wagon ride with Santa Claus and December 26 & 27 guests can ride with Thomas and Mina Edison. The cost is $5 for adults and $3 per children ages 12 and under. Visitors will be delighted with the meandering tour of the old neighborhood with the two stately French horses.

Edison & Ford Holiday Nights is an annual lighted event at the historic Estates of the two inventors. The event continues through January 2, 2010 (closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day).

Group rates for Edison & Ford Holiday Nights are available in advance by calling 239-334-7419. In addition to touring the 20 acres of beautifully decorated gardens, historic homes, Edison Lab and Museum, food and beverages are available for purchase on the river, there is nightly music in the Estates Heritage Gardens and Creative Cottage is open featuring area artists, authors and craftspeople for one-of-a-kind gifts.

by Rebecca Jones, Estates Collections Information Specialist

Southwest Florida is home to the winter estates of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. Best known for his work with electricity and the light bulb, Edison also created early Christmas lights. The Edison & Ford Winter Estates is celebrating Edison’s concept in a different way with a different look this December. In fact, local residents will remember seeing lights of many colors in years past on the Estates grounds. And looking even further back, Thomas and Mina Edison would have used multi-colored lights to decorate for the holidays in the late 1920s and early 1930s.

More than 120 years ago, Thomas Edison created the very first strand of electric light bulbs for use as a Christmas decoration. During Christmas 1880, he strung these strands around his Menlo Park complex in New Jersey, including on the outside of his famous laboratory. Those who passed by via a nearby railroad would have had the privilege of glimpsing the first holiday electric light display.

In 1882 Edward Johnston, Edison’s friend and partner in the Edison Illuminating Company, put together the first strand of electric Christmas tree lights by hand. He wired eighty red, white, and blue bulbs together, and strung them around his Christmas tree at his home in New York City. Interestingly, the tree was not only lighted; Johnson also rigged it to revolve.

In 1894 President Grover Cleveland displayed the first electrically lighted White House Christmas tree, which was lit with numerous small multi-colored lights. The first White House Christmas tree received a lot of press and helped spur the popularity of Christmas trees in private homes.

However, electricity was still expensive and only in minimal usage in private homes at the turn of the century. Businesses took the next step in promoting the use of Christmas lights. In the late nineteenth century, businesses began using Christmas lights in window displays. At this time, the services of a “wireman” (similar to our modern-day electrician) were necessary to wire the lights to an existing outlet.

Because electricity was both expensive and mistrusted, it took another ten years for Christmas lights to become popular in the home. In 1903, General Electric offered kits of electric Christmas lights to the public for the first time. These lights included miniature base GE/Edison carbon filament lamps. The kits included blue, green, red, and white bulbs.

In 1919, General Electric first introduced the cone shaped Christmas light, which became the industry standard until the 1970s. The Edisons would have used these popular lights to decorate their homes for the holidays.

In 1927 General Electric and the associated Edison Electric distribution companies began to sponsor neighborhood “decorating with color-light” contests as a marketing tool. This strategy was quite successful. By the end of the 1920s communities all over the United States began to hold decorating competitions featuring multi-colored lights. You can imagine the Edison and Ford Estates and the surrounding neighborhood homes brightly lit with multi-colored Christmas lights during this time.

This year, historic McGregor Boulevard Royal Palms will be decorated with colorful holiday lights. The two Estates will include colored lights and historic decorations as well as some high tech lighting examples that Edison would have enjoyed, such as new LED versions and laser projections in the trees.

Edison & Ford Holiday Nights will be held from December 11 – January 2, 5:30 PM – 9 PM, closed Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  Tickets are $15 adult, $1 for children 6 – 12 years, $8 for students (13 – College – with College ID). Group reservations and prices are available with advance scheduling by calling 239-334-7419

The Estates is open daily from 9:00 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.  The Estates was awarded the National Trust for Historic Preservation Award in 2008 and is an official project of “Save America’s Treasures” at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a Florida Historic Landmark and a National Register Historic Site.  For additional information call 239-334-7419 or visit the web site at www.efwefla.org.