On this day in 1915 the Panama-Pacific International Exposition celebrated Edison Day, the 36th anniversary of Incandescent Lighting. Laura Ackley, author of San Francisco’s Jewel City: The Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915, writes:
The two friends (Thomas Edison and Henry Ford) traveled west with their families in Ford’s private rail car to enjoy the Exposition’s Edison Day, on October 21. Upon arrival, they were swept up in a series of events celebrating Edison’s achievements. General Electric had promoted the event, celebrating the thirty sixth anniversary of the incandescent electric light with an illustration titled “Edison’s Dream Come True.” It depicted Edison gazing through a window onto a cityscape made brilliant by his invention. On the night after he arrived, San Franciscans were asked to turn on all their electric lights in honor of the “Wizard of Menlo Park.” A photograph of Edison taken that night, while no doubt partially staged, was a remarkable match to the illustration.
At a banquet of telegraph operators honoring Edison, wires strung between miniature telegraph poles connected the tables, and the “speeches” were made via Morse code. M. H. de Young, a “key man” in his youth, clicked out a description of installing the first electric lights in San Francisco—at his newspaper, the Chronicle—in 1878. Edison passed over all the food that evening except apple pie and milk, of which he was famously fond.
Before his public appearance on Edison Day, he and Ford attended a luncheon at which each guest received a full-sized model of the first successful incandescent bulb. At the Inside Inn, Ford and Edison “were the center of throngs that crowded about and shook the hands of the distinguished guests in a thoroughly American, democratic manner.” That night Edison attended a dinner cooked entirely by electricity in the Home Electrical exhibit and watched illuminations that featured his likeness executed in fireworks.
Mutual friend and industrialist Harvey Firestone joined the two men in San Francisco. Mr. and Mrs. Edison took a jaunt through the city with Firestone in an open, chauffeur-driven touring car. After their visit to the Fair, Ford and Edison went north to visit agricultural scientist Luther Burbank, the “plant wizard,” at his home in Santa Rosa, then spent several days touring the Bay Area before traveling to San Diego and the Panama-California Exposition. While both Edison and Burbank had “special days” at the Fair, Ford politely but firmly declined the honor.
Pacific Service Magazine, Volume 7