Several years ago, I visited the Winter Estates of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford and came away being touched not by the power and fame these two men represented in America but by something much simpler—the friendship they shared. Edison and his family spent much more time at his Ft. Myers home than the Fords did, but whenever the two were together, you get a sense that they were friends in the most sincere sense.
When Edison learned that the home next to his two houses was on the market, he immediately asked Henry Ford if he wanted to purchase it. Ford had visited Edison in Ft. Myers many times so the natural thing for him to do was to live next next door to his friend. There are countless photos that have been taken of the two men and their families together at their winter estates. On occasion, they were joined by Harvey Firestone. The three men were on a hunt for a product that would make better tires, latex gloves, and much more. We can only imagine the conversations they had together.
One particular point of interest for me was the gate that stood between Thomas Edison’s Seminole Lodge and Henry Ford’s home, which was named: The Mangoes. It was called, The Friendship Gate. You can see where the original one was located in the photo above. When Ford was in Ft. Myers, the gate was always open. When he left, it was closed and not opened again until he returned. It was symbolic of their relationship and the “welcome” they had for one another. I don’t know why this very small jester has always stuck with me, but it has. It seems that friends come and go too easily these days. I once had a college professor ask a group of us if we could name five friends that we had known for ten years. No one could do this. These men, as powerful and as famous as they were, remained friends up until Edison’s death in 1931.
Some of the last words Edison spoke were of Henry Ford. He said, “I can only say that in the fullest meaning of the term, he is my friend.”