Florida community where Edison wintered grieves

By United Press
On October 18, 1931, Thomas Edison, pictured here in 1929, died at the age of 84. UPI File Photo
On October 18, 1931, Thomas Edison, pictured here in 1929, died at the age of 84. UPI File Photo | License Photo

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- This semi-tropical little city where Thomas A. Edison made his winter home was in deep mourning today at news of the inventor's death in West Orange.

It was here that Edison centered his "goldenrod" experiments, confident that he would make his country an independent rubber producer.


Even as word of his passing came over the wires a 10-acre tract of goldenrod, planted under his personal supervision, was in full bloom near the house where he spent 47 of his winters.

He conducted his rubber experiments in semi-secrecy, and he alone knew the history of those experiments. Technical experts planted and tended the flowers under his direction, but he did not give them the trend of his thought. Even now they do not know the exact status of his experiments, or whether he left his ideas on the production of synthetic rubber behind.


His estate here occupied 16 acres, overgrown with tropical trees and innumerable varieties of plants. And when he was in his "winter quarters" he did not seclude himself. He was an accepted part of the town -- a familiar sight riding about the streets in his 1912 model Ford with its brightly-polished radiator head.

The car was given to him 19 years ago by his friend, Henry Ford, and the great inventor refused to change it for more modern models.

Both Ford and Harvey Firestone were frequent visitors at the Edison estate and it is legendary in Fort Myers how they, especially Edison and Ford, loved to swap jests. Edison once told Ford that "you'll live a long time because you're skinny."

The inventor, even in his last years, loved a practical joke and indulged in them frequently at the expense of newspapermen and photographers who made their annual pilgrimage to his home for interviews and photographs.

Once he invited a New York reporter to the house for dinner. Before the reporter arrived, Edison personally "cooked" a piece of leather belt, serving it with the explanation that it was a choice morsel of native Florida beef.

He would pay no heed to diets mapped out by his physicians and prescribed his own meals. At public dinners he always appeared with a bottle of milk and would drink nothing else during the meal. His favorite dish was strawberries, though Mrs. Edison would not let him eat them, due to his indigestion.


Whenever the great inventor wanted solitude for meditation, he would take a fish pole and line to the banks of the Calooshatchee river, where he would sit for hours with the line in the water. He would not use a hook on it, for fear the nibbles would disturb his thoughts. He smoked black cigars and chewed tobacco, but would not smoke cigarettes or drink alcoholic beverages.

He was a staunch supporter of President Hoover and said, at election time, that the people would be "darn fools" not to elect him.

Edison liked the movies and Clara Bow was his favorite on the screen. He took frequent motor rides into the Everglades country and always was at home to his friends, especially to telegraph operators, who would visit him and tap their conversations in code on his arm.

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