Edison's Last Breath, Vintage 1931

Illustration for article titled Edison's Last Breath, Vintage 1931

Thomas Alva Edison was a great inventor. He imagined a future completely different from the present in which he lived, and had the genius to make it happen. (He was also the hero of an unsuccessful science fiction serial.) It's no wonder that Henry Ford had what amounted to a crush on Edison, who encouraged Ford (then the chief engineer at Detroit Edison) in his quest to create a "gas car." Ford's admiration for his hero attained almost stalker-esque proportions. Indeed, he owned what may be the ultimate Edison relic: his last breath. That's right, tucked away in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, is a sealed glass tube next to a paper wrapper labeled "Edison's Last Breath?"


Allegedly, Ford was interested in the paranormal and may have believed Edison's soul would exit his body along with his final exhalation. Imagine the scene at its harvesting. It's October 18, 1931. The Wizard of Menlo Park is dying. His concerned and loving family is gathered around the bed where the great man lies, his beloved son near his father's head, a test tube in his hand:

"Yes ... no, wait, still breathing."
"How about now?"
"NO. Look, Charles, just stopper that damn thing and tell Ford you got it."

Ford's daughter found the "last breath," along with Edison's hat and shoes, at the family home in 1950. As Cecil Adams points out, whatever essence of Edison the test tube may have contained has probably long since evaporated. Photo by Michael Zadoorian.


Chris Braak

@wnpublic: @gaygeek: @Plague: Agreed. However, I enjoyed Last Call far more than Expiration Date, and found the confluence of both of these stories in Earthquake Weather a little confusing.

Anybody have anything to say about the last one...Declare! (I think)? I haven't read that one.