From the Ford News Europe Blog:
While their world-changing achievements are well documented, the intense and genuine friendship between Henry Ford and Thomas Edison is less well known.
Edison was Ford’s boyhood hero, and it was a brief encounter at the 1896 Association of Edison Illuminating Companies convention in New York that would ignite the friendship that would last for the rest of their lives.
Being a total fan boy, Ford had snapped a couple of pictures of Edison and it was during the ensuing conversation that Edison, who was convinced that electric cars were the way of the future, gave Ford a few words of encouragement on his newly invented Quadricycle: “Keep at it.”
From that moment their friendship developed and between 1914 and 1924 the pair embarked on a series of road trips around the eastern U.S. in Ford cars. Joined by other famous figures, tiremaker Harvey Firestone and naturalist John Burroughs, they were known as “The Vagabonds” and spent their time as vagabonds do, challenging each other to races, tree chopping contests and even high kicking contests, while the evenings were spent telling stories around the campfire.
In 1916, Ford purchased an estate next to Edison’s winter home in Fort Myers, Florida. “The Mangoes” sat adjacent to Edison’s “Seminole Lodge,” and even today, the Estates remain the most popular historical attraction in Southwest Florida.
So close was their friendship, when Edison became confined to a wheelchair, Ford bought his own so the pair could race each other. Then in one last proof point of this incredible friendship, Edison’s son, Charles, captured his father’s last breath in a test tube and presented it to the grief-stricken Ford. He kept it close for the rest of his life.
It truly was an enduring friendship. If you’d like to learn more, look into Jeff Guinn’s celebrated book, The Vagabonds.