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Edison Ford Executive VP and author Mike Cosden records Otocast audio for ‘Uncommon Friends’


In 2018, the City of Fort Myers launched a free mobile app that enables residents, vacationers and other cultural tourists to learn all about the public artworks that are interspersed throughout town. Called Otocast, the app contains text and historic photos for each covered artwork. But the app’s centerpiece is an audio recording made by the artist who created the piece or someone who is intimately familiar with the artwork and the stories it recounts. By virtue of this audio component, Otocast is like having your very own tour guide who knows the coolest facts and behind-the-scenes stories about the art pieces you see all around you.

One of those artworks is Uncommon Friends. It is located at the entrance to Centennial Park East at the foot of Monroe Street.

The installation was created by D.J. Wilkins who, between 1988 and 2000 made a whopping 23 sculptures for Fort Myers at the request of its Beautification Advisory Board. This one depicts a seated Henry Ford, kneeling Harvey Firestone and reclining Thomas Edison gathered around a campfire on a 20-foot island set in the center of a 40-foot diameter pool. In the water around the island are life-size sculptures of a mother alligator and her five babies, a mother manatee and her calf, otters, 16 fish, four floating lily pad groups that are piped as fountain heads, and 12 frogs sitting on 6 small protrusions of land that also double as fountain heads.

Calling themselves the Vagabonds, Edison, Ford and Firestone embarked upon a number of widely-promoted camping trips across the country beginning in 1914. The seminal trip took place in the Everglades, and it’s that trip upon which Wilkins based his sculptural installation. And Edison Ford Winter Estates Executive Vice-President Mike Cosden has graciously provided an audio for Otocast that tells listeners more about the Vagabonds’ legendary camping trips. Mike even included music from 1929 as backdrop for his commentary in the recording!

In addition to serving as Executive Vice President of the Edison & Ford Winter Estates, Mike is a co-author of Edison and Ford in Florida, a photo anthology published by Arcadia Publishing in 2015. Mike holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Florida Gulf Coast University and a Master’s in Library and Information Science from the University of South Florida.

Of course, the Edison & Ford Winter Estates located at 2350 McGregor Boulevard in Fort Myers is a must-see destination for anyone who wants to know more about the lives and times Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. It contains more than 20 acres of historical buildings and gardens, including the 1928 Botanical Laboratory, the Edison Ford Inventions Museum and the winter homes of both inventors. Each year, more than 250,000 people visit the Estates, taking self or guided tours of the homes and outbuildings, which have been restored to reflect the period of 1929. The Edison & Ford Winter Estates is a National Register Historic Site and received the Award of Excellence for restoration from both the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Gardens Club. The site is also a Florida Historic Landmark and has been designated as a National Chemical Landmark by the American Chemical Society. For more information, please telephone 239-334-7419 or visit

If are interested in learning more about the camping trips that inspired Uncommon Friends, download Otocast and listen to Mike’s audio. It’s free, user friendly and available in the app store on your phone.

August 29, 2019.



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