The Florida Life of Thomas Edison

Michele Wehrwein Albion

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Spend time with some of Florida's most famous snowbirds

"Far from being mere tourists, the Edisons were longtime and active members of the Fort Myers community. Albion richly details his life in Florida, enriching our understanding of his relationship with people outside of his labs. Always sensitive to Edison as a human being, she reveals how his time in Fort Myers was increasingly central to Edison's life."--Howard Segal, author of Recasting the Machine Age: Henry Ford's Village Industries

"Fills a significant gap in the inventor's career by using local sources as well as the extensive collection of the Edison Papers to tell the story of his work, recreation, and influence in the city where he built his winter home."--Paul Israel, author of Edison: A Life of Invention

"Albion paints a highly personal portrait of daily activities in the Edison home, including tarpon fishing, Model T expeditions into the Everglades, research with tropical plants, and a visit by the President of the United States."--Thomas Graham, author of Flagler's St. Augustine Hotels

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.

Michele Wehrwein Albion, former assistant curator and registrar at the United States Holocaust Museum, was the first professional curator of the Edison and Ford Winter estates in Fort Myers, Florida.

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Rembert Patrick Book Award - 2009

"Albion, former curator of the Edison and Ford Winter Estates, writes with an eye for extraordinary as well as ordinary details, from the difficult task of lighting Fort Myers in the late 1880's to family expeditions up the Caloosahatchee River and into the Everglades."

"Succeeds as a rich and interesting portrayal of Thomas and Mina Edison's work, recreation, and community activism in the Sunshine State."
--The Florida Historical Quarterly

"In The Florida Life of Thomas Edison, what seems like a tiny, obscure topic that would only prove interesting to utterly unapologetic history nerds turns out to be a quirky, fun, sprawling portrait of late 19th and early 20th centure life."

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