History of the United States

Thomas Edison's Last Breath Is Saved in a Test Tube

Take a trip to the Henry Ford Museum of Innovation in Dearborn, Michigan, and you'll see a lot of incredible stuff: model cars and trains, sure, but also the rocker in which President Lincoln was shot and the Wright bicycle shop. But perhaps nothing within the museum's walls is more surprising than a test tube that supposedly holds Thomas Edison's last breath.

Test Tube, "Edison's Last Breath," 1931

A Memorable Friendship

The inventor Thomas Edison was a boyhood hero of Henry Ford. When Ford was in his 30s, the two met, and they maintained a very close friendship until the day Edison died. The friendship was so close, in fact, that the two bought houses next to each other in Florida, and would often go on camping trips with other notable Americans of the time. When Edison was confined to a wheelchair later in life, Ford bought a wheelchair so they could have wheelchair races. Thomas Edison once said, "As to Henry Ford, words are inadequate to express my feelings. I can only say that in the fullest meaning of the term, he is my friend."

The Final Breath

In the room where Edison died, his son Charles noticed many test tubes. "Though he is mainly remembered for his work in electrical fields, his real love was chemistry. It is not strange, but symbolic, that those test tubes were close to him at the end," Charles said in a letter, according to Smithsonian. "Immediately after his passing I asked Dr. Hubert S. Howe, his attending physician, to seal them with paraffin. He did. Later I gave one of them to Mr. Ford."

Edison's Last Breath

Key Facts In This Video

  1. A sealed test tube in a Dearborn, Michigan museum contains Thomas Edison's last breath. 00:00

  2. Thomas Edison and Henry Ford bought houses next to each other in Florida. 01:11

  3. There were many test tubes in the room in which Thomas Edison died; they were sealed and are said to contain Edison's last breath. 02:46

Written by Joanie Faletto September 21, 2017

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