Published: Jul 30, 2013 6:35 AM EDT
Updated: Jul 30, 2013 4:49 PM EDT

FORT MYERS, Fla. - July 30th marks the 150th birthday of Henry Ford. The Edison & Ford Winter Estates is celebrating with a new exhibit, Henry Ford, 150 Years of Innovation, programs, presentations and birthday cake.

Activities include:

9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. - NEW FORD EXHIBIT OPEN in the Edison Ford Museum
10 a.m. – Antique Ford cars at the Ford Estate
10 a.m. – noon – Enjoy live Ford era music performances on the hammer dulcimer and fiddle
10:30 a.m. – Contra dance performance (visitors participation welcome)
11 a.m. – Clara Ford Rose Garden Dedication at Ford Estate
11:30 a.m. – Behind the Scenes tour of Ford Estate
1 – 3 p.m. – Gallery Talks: Henry Ford and his Inventions in the Edison Ford Museum
2 p.m. – Car Talk: The Legacy of Henry Ford’s Cars and Engines in the Edison Ford Museum

Visitors will also receive 20% off Ford merchandise in Edison Ford retail shops including the NEW Edison Ford Shoppe in Bell Tower Shops.

Henry Ford is most noted as the father of the automobile. He was one of the greatest innovators and inventors of our time holding 161 US patents. He was also a filmmaker, who was the largest producer and distributor of films; an early pioneer in sustainability and “green science” methods; as well as a collector; accomplished dancer; and marketer whose business practices set the standard for advertising and marketing today.

Ford worked for the Edison Illuminating Company in Detroit, Michigan as an engineer. Ford met Edison for the first time in 1896 at a professional convention in New York City, where he had the opportunity to share his invention of the quadricycle. Edison showed special interest in how an electric spark was used to explode the gas in the cylinder. According to Henry Ford, Edison banged his fist on the table and encouraged Ford by stating, “Young man, that’s the thing; you have it! Keep at it!”

One of Ford’s longtime vacation retreats was in Fort Myers, Florida. By the time Henry and Clara Ford purchased their Florida winter estate in 1916, they were already good friends of Thomas and Mina Edison, who owned the neighboring estate. The purchase price was $20,000 for just over three acres of riverfront gardens with a lovely Craftsman style bungalow. Ford would spend many winters here with his mentor and friend as their adjacent Florida estates would provide great getaways for the friends to relax, explore Florida, and of course, talk business and innovation.

After Edison’s death in 1931, Ford seldom came back to Fort Myers. He sold the estate in 1945 to a private owner. In 1947, Mrs. Edison deeded the Edison estate to the City of Fort Myers to be open to the public. By 1988, the Ford estate was purchased for $1.5 million and opened to the public in 1990.

The Edison Ford is open daily from 9:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. The Edison Ford is the winner of the 2009 National Stewardship Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and is an official project of “Save America’s Treasures” at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, a Florida Historic Landmark and a National Register Historic Site. For additional information call 239-334-7419 or visit the web site at www.edisonfordwinterestates.org.