There is some mystery about an aspect of famed inventor Thomas Edison’s death. No, not how or when or where; we know that Edison died at his West Orange home on Oct. 18, 1931, of complications of diabetes. The mystery revolves around Edison’s last breath.

Was it captured by his son, Charles, in a test tube? Was it sent to his mentor, Henry Ford? Does it now reside in the museum that bears Ford’s name? We know that Edison and Ford were close; Ford at one time worked at one of Edison’s companies where the two met and Edison encouraged Ford to pursue his internal combustion engine. The two later formed (with Harvey Firestone) the Edison Botanical Research Corporation. Ford and Edison had winter homes near each other in Florida and took frequent camping trips together. Ford was such a fan of Edison’s that he recreated the inventor’s Menlo Park lab in Greenfield Village which is next to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI.

According to Atlas Obscura, Ford wanted Edison’s last breath either because he “thought that the soul would leave with that last breath and he could somehow resurrect him, or he just wanted a final memento of the man who had so inspired him in his own career of invention.” Alas, it seems as if the story is probably apocryphal. According to Wagon Pilot, Charles Edison Charles was in the room when his father died, but in a letter, Charles wrote that he “noticed one of Edison’s test tube racks sitting open on a table. He asked the doctor to seal the tubes with paraffin wax. Thus, the contents of the test tube is merely the ambient air from the room and not strictly Thomas Edison’s last breath. Charles indicates he gave a tube to Henry Ford as a memento.”

So, the test tube on display at the Henry Ford Museum probably just has stale air in it.

The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Bill Doyle. Any opinions expressed are Bill Doyle's own.

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