Another Day, Another …

By: Jake Jakubuwski

Copyright, 2013. All rights reserved


“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” – Thomas A. Edison

 When I first moved to Florida in the early 60’s, one of the jobs that I had was as a tour guide at the Edison Home and Botanical Gardens in Fort Myers. This was Edison’s “winter” vacation home and next door to the Edison Home, Henry Ford had an estate. 

Harvey Firestone, George Westinghouse and John Burroughs, who was a famous naturalist and essayist, also had homes in and around Ft.Myers.

 During the first part of the twentieth century,Ft.Myers was a favored winter vacation spot for many of the industrialists and corporate leaders inAmerica. But, as far as I know, Thomas A. Edison was the only one of the group that actually brought his “work” with him when he came to Fort Myers. In fact, he literally brought his home with him as a prefabricated home that was shipped in by steamer and assembled on the shores of the Caloosahatchee River; just to the west of the original “downtown” Ft.Myers. Along with assembling his home, he built his laboratory and planted his gardens.

 His laboratory was where he conducted his experiments when he was in town; and the gardens were used to grow many of the plants, flowers and trees that he used in his various experiments.

 One of the “highlights” of the Edison tour was a visit and limited exploration of his laboratory where you could see many of the bottles, test tubes and other paraphernalia and machinery that Edison (and his “workers”) used to “discover” and perfect many of his ‘inventions”.

 Interestingly, Edison never saw himself as a scientist but more as a discoverer and manufacturer. His approach to inventing something (Like the tungsten filament for the electric light bulb) was to keep trying different things until he found one that worked.

 He tested over a thousand different materials — from bamboo to goldenrod — as a filament for the light bulb before he discovered that tungsten was the material he was looking for. His “track record” of things that didn’t work was, by far, larger then the things he discovered that did work.

 With just the light bulb alone what would have happened if he gave up his search at the 999th failure?

 Anyway, when one of my “customers” emailed me the above quote as a sig line to their email, I thought back to those days when I would guide “snowbirds” through the home and gardens and give them the “spiel” about Edison and his life in Fort Myers.

 Among the many things thatEdison invented was a form for a concrete house that, according to the patter we learned, was complete down to fireplace mantels and decorative filigree around the doors.Edison developed that idea for his buddy, Ford — who was trying to find a quick and easy way to build housing for his employees as a means of stonewalling the unions that were trying to organize his factories.

Edison’s phonograph became one of the most sought after “luxuries” in homes from the very wealthy to the hard scrabble coal miner inWest Virginia.

His stock ticker changed the face of stock market trading. He patented a better way to preserve fruit, an automatic chemical telegraph which might be considered a forerunner of the fax machine.

He held patents (1,093 of them) for movie projectors, electric motor brakes, vacuum pumps, the electro-magnetic railway (Remember streetcars?), electric meters and more.

 The point?

 Edison left school while in the third grade and began selling newspapers on the railway cars of  his day. He grew to be a man who simply did not believe that something could not be done and was willing to fail at his attempts to make something work until he found the solution he was looking for.

 In my opinion, that’s grit, creativity, determination and believing there was no such concept as “It can’t be done.”

 An interesting observation is this: Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone and John Burroughs each had the same number of hours in their day as we have in ours.

 What are we doing with our allotment of time?


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