The Florida Life of Thomas Edison

By Michele Wehrwein Albion

Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931) was America's most famous and, arguably, most prolific inventor. But few realize the extent to which he called Florida, not New Jersey, home.
 
From 1885 until his death in 1931, Edison wintered in the sleepy Gulf Coast town of Fort Myers, south of Tampa. There, he was the pride of the small town, which eagerly watched to see what magic the Wizard would conjure. The local newspaper chronicled Edison's local experiments, his establishment of a laboratory in town, and his unsuccessful efforts to electrify the area.
 
Edison's presence encouraged Henry Ford to buy the Florida estate next door. Edison's experiments with rubber from local plants intrigued Ford and Harvey Firestone, who funded Edison's research.
 
Using a wide range of little-known resources, including photographs, manuscripts, maps, and newspaper accounts, Michele Albion explores an important facet of Edison's life that is largely unknown. In doing so, she presents the full story of his professional and leisure time while on holiday. Particularly interesting is the impact his wife, Mina, had on the culture and community of Fort Myers. The Florida Life of Thomas Edison reveals how the Edisons' legacy influenced women's history, environmental history, black history, and Florida history.