Henry Ford considered Thomas Edison his personal hero and friend. Did his admiration for Edison provoke the admittedly idiosyncratic Ford to request the capture of Edison’s last exhalation when the great inventor died at 3:24 a.m. on October 18, 1931?
Acknowledging Ford’s interest in reincarnation, one source claims that “Henry Ford believed that the human soul exited the body with its last breath. Ford somehow convinced Thomas Edison’s son to sit by the dying inventor’s bedside, clap a test tube over his mouth, then plug it with a cork. Maybe Ford’s intentions were noble, and he expected future scientists to reconstitute Edison from the aether.”
The real story actually is more mundane—yet more poignant and laden with meaning. Ultimately, it is not about some bizarre capturing of a “dying breath” but, rather, about the very common process of memorializing deceased heroes. The sealed test tube, removed from the room where Thomas Edison passed away, was offered to his good friend, Henry Ford, as a symbol of Edison’s life and breath.
Image: The glass test tube from Edison’s bedroom is on display in Henry Ford Museum.