Thomas Alva Edison in Hendersonville
By Dan Gibbs
Thomas Alva Edison was an American inventor and businessman and lays claim to well over 1,000 patents during his long career. He was a frequent visitor to the mountains of western North Carolina and it was his experiments with the electric light bulb that brought him to Hendersonville in early June 1906.
The Edison party arrived in two White Steamer cars which seemed to attract the most attention as they arrived in Hendersonville. His party arrived at the Blue Ridge Inn at the corner of Main Street and Third Avenue West. The French Broad Hustler in June 1906 described the scene in front of the hotel this way. “The crowd was dense in front of the hotel and the two automobiles were objects of the greatest interest. They were powerful White Steamer cars, made in Cleveland, Ohio.”
Two of his constant traveling companions were Henry Ford and Harvey Firestone, two future icons of the automobile industry, but there is no indication that they were with him when he came to Hendersonville. Ford and Firestone were often referred to as Edison’s Vagabonds.
A large vein of Zircon had been discovered in what was known as Zirconia in Henderson County and Edison’s early light bulbs contained Zircon. He was here to check out the quality of the “rare earths” as he described it. There was no indication as to whether Edison contracted with any of the local Zircon mines to use their minerals but Edison coming to Hendersonville was big news. There is an excellent article by Hendersonville Times-News columnist Tom Orr in his Ridge Lines column entitled “Edison’s visit was big news in 1906.” There is also an excellent article in