Photograph of Thomas Edison - Fort Myers, FL - April 20, 1926

By Barrett Nicpon; posted May 21, 2017

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While not exactly an insulator, I thought this was an interesting enough find to immortalize it here where some folks might appreciate it.

I picked up a car load of old stuff from a couple long-time antique collectors were trying to downsize. Among the items purchased was a small black, cloth-bound photo album that was dust-covered and perched on a shelf in the owner's garage, next to some old wood working tools. When I picked it up to leaf through it, the owner told me I could take it with me as I'd already bought a number of other items. He couldn't recall where he had obtained the album from, so unfortunately all provenance was lost. A casual glance revealed mostly old vacation photos from someone's trip to Florida in the 1920s, so at the time I wasn't too interested in the subject matter. Upon seeing some old photos of the interiors of some early power houses, though, I couldn't resist taking him up on the offer.

Fast forward a couple months to when I was visiting a friend with a strong interest in historical steam power and especially in the instruments used to furnish old power house and control panels. I brought the album along for him to take a look at the power house shots. Imagine my surprise when he casually mentioned that one of the photos in the album seemed to be of none other than Thomas Edison! Sure enough a quick glance showed that the photo was labelled "Thos Edison, Fla 1926" on the front, and "Thos A. Edison at A C L Ry station Fort Myers Fla. April 20/26" on the rear. A quick google search indicates the railway acronym is for the Atlantic Coast Lines Railway. I had completely missed the photo in my nothing more than casual glance through it. Alongside this solitary photo of the man himself were a few photos of his family home, and a family beach house also located in Florida. Whoever owned the album must have known the man personally, and perhaps visited him on a trip to Florida. Since Edison did live in Ontario for a time, perhaps an old friend from here went down for a visit, took the photos and brought them back home. From there they wound up in a musty garage for a few decades, collecting dust.

Now that's some real history! I'm doubtful this is a known photograph of the man. While I'll never know the full story on how it came to be in that garage, or who the person was who assembled all the photos, I can at least relish the fact that it's now in safe hands for a spell. The great part is how candid a shot it seems to be. Are the people facing away from the camera friends of Mr. Edison? Are they getting into the car? Loading luggage? Is one of them the original owner of the album itself? Or, is this just a random encounter between a few train station bystanders and the great Thomas Edison? Maybe they're trying to coax a word or two, or perhaps a handshake, out of the man who helped bring forth one of the greatest forward leaps in technological history.