Edison's Fordson

Recently Discovered 1928 Fordson was Originally owned by Thomas Edison

| March/April 2004

Fordson tractor

Henry Ford is well-known as a pioneer of big industry, but another defining trait was his deep appreciation for friends and his altruistic, giving nature. Early home movies show Henry Ford cavorting with some of these close friends as they picnicked or camped in various outdoor locations. In the best-selling book, Ford, the Man and the Machine, by Robert Lacy, photographs eloquently depict 'Ford's vagabonds' usually camping out in the Smoky Mountains or the Adirondacks. These vagabonds often included his close friends and business associates such as Harvey Firestone, J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller, John Burroughs (famous naturalist), Luther Burbank - and especially his long-time acquaintance and mentor Thomas Alva Edison.

Documents also show that during his lifetime Ford also gave away 200 cars, 23 trucks and 15 tractors to associates and friends - including Edison. The Edison-Ford connection was particularly strong since Edison gave the young industrialist his first job at the Edison Illuminating Co., where he learned fundamental engineering skills and became a lifelong friend of the distinguished scientist/inventor. As a token of Ford's appreciation to his mentors, Edison and others were presented with a Fordson tractor when they were released in 1918. Reynold Wik wrote in his book, Henry Ford and Grass Roots America, that the first production Fordson made on April 23, 1918, was shipped to Luther Burbank in Santa Rosa, Calif. When it rolled into Burbank's yard, the famous botanist is said to have exclaimed: 'It's just like Ford, all motor and no frame.'

History's Mysteries

Reynolds Wik also said the second tractor off the assembly line was given to Edison. While it's not known what happened to most of these Fordson gifts, an 'Edison Fordson' was recently discovered. However, due to the date on the bill of sale, the newly found Fordson contains a bit of a mystery.

Wik claims Edison's Fordson was presented to him when the tractor was initially released in 1918, but a bill of sale indicates the recently discovered Edison Fordson was sold to Edison's son, Theodore, for $1 in April 1928. Few would doubt the tractor was given as a gift (the $1 is believed to be the bookkeeper's charge for writing the contract).

The Edison Fordson's serial number, 685593, positively indicates the tractor was manufactured in 1927, most likely in early June. However, that doesn't mean Wik's assertion that Edison was given a Fordson in 1918 should be discounted. It's very plausible that Edison received one when the Fordson was initially released in 1918 (that tractor has never been located) and yet another at the end of U.S. Fordson production.

All in the Family

Phil Bochicchio, the Edison Fordson's present owner - and one-time neighbor to Theodore Edison - explains that Thomas Edison asked that the tractor be put in Theodore's name since the scientist had no use for it: Edison was 81 years of age when the second Fordson was acquired. Theodore owned acreage close to his father's home in Whippany, N.J., and Edison intended for his son to use it around the farm for minor chores.