Henry Ford and Thomas Edison were both iconic individuals in their own fields. Ford was one of the pioneers in the automobile industry and founded the Ford Motor Company. Meanwhile, Edison was a renowned inventor with more than a thousand patents under his name. Ford was a big fan of Edison’s works, and a chance encounter with his hero sparked a genuine and strong friendship that lasted until Edison’s death.
In 1896, Ford went to New York to attend the Association of Edison Illuminating Companies convention. At that time, he worked as a mechanical engineer in one of Edison’s subsidiary companies. During that meeting, Ford was able to pick Edison’s mind regarding his new invention — the quadricycle. Edison saw Ford’s brilliance, but he thought the quadricycle wasn’t quite complete. According to Medium, the famous inventor gave Ford a few words of encouragement that he took to heart. “Your car is self-contained–carries its own power plant — no fire, no boiler, no smoke and no steam. You have a thing. Keep at it,” Edison said.
Henry Ford and Thomas Edison's friendship grew
In 1899, Henry Ford left his job at Edison’s company and established his own business in the automotive industry. Ford Motor Company was founded in 1903, and just a few years later in 1908, the Ford Model T was released. Although automobiles from other manufacturers were already available at that time, they came at an expensive price. Per History, the Model T was the first automobile that many could afford. In fact, the majority of Americans were able to purchase the vehicle when it came out.
By that time, Ford had already made a name for himself, and it was then when his friendship with Thomas Edison solidified. Throughout the years, the two men collaborated on projects, but their relationship went beyond business, as Medium reported. In fact, when Edison’s company burned down and the insurance didn’t cover everything that was destroyed, Ford willingly loaned Edison $100,000 to cover the expenses. Between 1914 to 1924, Ford and Edison took camping trips together as well. They were joined by other prominent names, including naturalist John Burroughs and Harvey Firestone of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company.
Ford and Edison's neighboring homes
Henry Ford and Thomas Edison became the best of friends, and they even had vacation homes next to each other. In 1885, Edison bought an estate in Fort Myers, Florida, to serve as a vacation home during the winter months. The home would eventually be called the Seminole Lodge, where the Edison family lived to get away from the cold (via Edison Ford Winter Estates). In 1916, Ford purchased the neighboring property and called his estate The Mangoes. He made it a point to be present at his estate on February 11 of each year in order to celebrate Edison’s birthday.
When Edison became sick and was confined to a wheelchair, Ford supported his friend by purchasing his own wheelchair. According to Discovery, Ford challenged his wheelchair-bound friend to races. Thomas Edison died of diabetes complications in 1931. His son, knowing his father’s close friendship with Ford, got one of the test tubes in the room where he died and sent it to Ford, explaining that it contained Edison’s last breath. Today, Ford and Edison’s winter estates are still standing, and visitors are welcome to see the structures, which have been restored to their original state.
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