In and Around Hannibal: March 2, 2013

by Rita Hooper 

I’ll be home by the time you are reading this column, but continuing on with my travelogues, I visited the Edison and Ford Winter Estates in Ft. Myers, Fla.

As I had visited the homes several years ago, I only did the museum on this trip. When I was in school, the inventors in America and the Golden Age of industry were of particular interest to me. Edison, you may remember, was the inventor of the incandescent light bulb. Just think how that invention changed not only our country but the world.

Born in Ohio in 1847, he moved to Michigan when about seven and set up his first chemical lab in his home when he was 10 years old.

He learned telegraphy from the father of a young boy he saved from being struck by a train. By the time he was 19, he was a telegraph operator for Western Union in Boston.

In 1868, he received his first patent for an electrical vote recorder. The politicians were  more than skeptical of this; he soon learned that public demand for his inventions was required for anything he was to invent in the future.

A year later, he was involved with stock tickers and inventing other related devices. He made the first successful device known as a typewriter! He later went on to invent items for the entertainment field including the phonograph and motion picture camera.

He was involved with iron ore mines and established the Portland Cement Co. and made the first one-piece cast home of cement…need to establish demand for his cement!

We are indebted to Edison for the telephone and x-ray floroscope among his other inventions.  During World War II, he worked for the federal government on more than 20 different projects.

He was also intrigued with plants; the bamboo growing in the Ft. Myers area enticed Edison into buying property there in 1885. He had thought he might be able to use bamboo for the filament in light bulbs and planted 13 different kinds of bamboo in the garden as part of his experimentations but alas bamboo was not the answer.

Ford later sought to find a plant that would make rubber – an ever increasing need since the invention of the car by his good friend Henry Ford.

Ford bought the sister house to Edison’s right next door in Ft. Myers. Edison thought he had it when he discovered the latex properties of ordinary, grows everywhere goldenrod but again that was an invention that didn’t pan out.

His friend, Harvey Firestone, gave him a four foot banyan tree in 1925. The banyan tree produces a white, milky sap (latex) that can be used to create rubber.

That little four foot tree now covers almost an acre in diameter. There are now 13 types of ficus trees, of which banyan is part, on the Edison Estate.  Edison’s interest in botany never wavered and his gardens and botany experiments are legendary.

Edison, Ford, Firestone and another man by the name of John Burroughs, a writer who lived in the Catskills, became known as the vagabonds.

They made several camping trips including one through the Adirondacks and New England by car. Camping means they slept outdoors in tents. However they also carried an entourage of cooks, chauffeurs and other household help with them.

Edison navigated by compass and had little use for sticking to roads. One car was outfitted with a special box that carried the supplies and looks similar to a modern day RV.

Burroughs knew much about the natural plants of the east coast and was a most welcome addition to the band of merry men!

Edison died at the age of 84, having been awarded 1,368 patents. There is a lot to be thankful to him for and I recommend a visit to Ft. Myers, Menlo Park, N.J. and Schnectady, N.Y. for some hands on learning. Ft. Myers even has a special tour for young folks…might be a warm alternative to Disney!

Check out the Hannibal library and the Internet to learn more about him and the other inventors of our great country!

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The Auxiliary of the Hannibal American Legion will be holding their annual stuffed pork chop dinner March 3, beginning at noon until sold out. Pre-sale tickets are available by calling the Legion, but tickets will be available at the door.

The Enoch Thomas Cluster of the United Methodist Churches have begun their Lenten services. All services are held at 5 p.m. with refreshments following. This Sunday, the service will be at Hannibal Center, March 10 at Martville, March 17 at Hannibal and the Palm Sunday, March 27 service will be at Bowen’s Corner featuring the annual Choir Festival.

The Senior Nutrition Program meets at the Senior Center, next to the Library on Oswego Street Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Lunch is served at noon but they are open by 10 a.m. for coffee, news and games. Give Rosemary a call and make your reservation now at 564-5471.

Monday’s menu is tomato-basil soup and egg and olive sandwiches; Wednesday is BBQ pork ribs and baked beans; and Friday is hearty beef stew and coleslaw.

Also on Monday, they will have a presentation on diabetes and blood pressures will be taken.  Bingo will be played after lunch on Wednesday.

The Hannibal Ecumenical Lenten Soup Suppers begun. The next one will be March 5 at the Hannibal United Methodist Church on Route 3 in the village at 6 p.m. The last one will be at Our Lady of the Rosary March 19. There is no cost for these dinners and everyone is encouraged to participate.

The Hannibal Methodist Church is serving a free lunch (donations for this ministry accepted though) Thursdays at 11:30 a.m. Don’t eat alone, come on down and join the fun and fellowship.

Nominees for the library’ Woman of the Year are Jean Derby, Kim Sitzer Heins, Ann Mahaney, Brittany Pickel, Linda Remig, Shelly Stanton and Kelly Taylor.

The voting on the nominees will end Saturday, March 16. The award ceremony for the winner will take place Saturday, March 23 from 2 to 3 p.m.

The Tri-County Singers will be performing the cantata “Upon this Rock,” under the direction of Terry Pawlenko, Saturday, March 16 at 6:30 p.m. at the Hannibal Methodist Church. Refreshments will be served following.

If you know that your organization is planning an event and you don’t see it in the Hannibal column, please e-mail me or give me a buzz.

This column is meant to keep those in Hannibal, Florida, Arizona and points in between and around the globe posted on what’s shaking in our fair community. Some of us still like to get the news the ole fashioned way!

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