Curious Fact of the Week: Edison's Last Breath - Atlas Obscura
Join us on an Atlas Obscura Trip in 2019 »

Curious Fact of the Week: Edison’s Last Breath

Edison's Last Breath

When Thomas Edison was on his death bed, Henry Ford reportedly made an odd request for his ailing friend. He asked that Edison’s son Charles collect Edison’s last breath, with the reason being either that Ford, a man of some curious beliefs, 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.

Edison's Last BreathGlass test tube from Edison’s bedroom (via the Henry Ford Museum)

While Charles didn’t exactly carry out that request, there was a rack of eight test tubes present in the room where Edison died that Charles asked to be closed with paraffin, according to the Ford Museum. Somehow, those eight have turned into 42 test tubes that are said to hold the “last breath” of Edison. One is on display in the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, which was given to Ford by Charles. It was found in 1951 in the cataloguing of Ford’s estate after the passing of his wife Clara, along with Edison’s shoes and hat. However, all of this was lost until 1978, when the test tube and the clothes of the electrical genius were discovered lodged under a display case in the museum.

Now the test tube is on display as a sort of relic of Edison, with just as a relic of a saint the belief in it and its symbolism being as meaningful as its truth. You can also see a recreation of Edison’s Menlo Park laboratory set up by Ford in the Greenfield Village next to the museum, another tribute by the auto innovator to his idol.  

EDISON’S LAST BREATH: HENRY FORD MUSEUMDearborn, Michigan


Curious Facts of the Week: Helping you build your cocktail party conversation repertoire with a new strange fact every week, and an amazing place to explore its story. See all the Curious Facts here>