While researching the 1910 Hudson currently on loan, the Seal Cove Auto Museum’s Director of Education, Bill Barter, discovered a fascinating connection to the Jackson Laboratory, the renowned research facility on the other side of the island in Bar Harbor. This connection hinges primarily around the namesake of the Lab, Roscoe Jackson, as well as the Ford family, all summer residents of Mount Desert Island.
Edsel Ford’s wife, Eleanor, was the cousin of Roscoe Jackson’s wife Louise. Their uncle, Joseph Hudson, was a childless bachelor and the founder of the Hudson Department Stores in Detroit. He was the head of his extended family and provided the start-up funding for the Hudson Motor Car Company which was named for him. Richard Webber, cousin of both Eleanor and Louise, became President of the Hudson Department Stores upon Joseph’s death. Roscoe Jackson provided funding for, and later served as President of, the Hudson Motor Car Company.
At some time prior to 1927, Ford, Jackson, and Webber became acquainted with Clarence C. Little, President of the University of Michigan. Little had attempted to establish an independent cancer research facility, first as President of the University of Maine and later at the University of Michigan, with limited success. In the three Detroit businessmen Dr. Little found the financial support he needed to establish his laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, on land donated by George B. Dorr.
Scientific research began on July 1, 1927 at the University of Michigan, supported by monthly checks from the three families totaling $3750. By the time of Jackson’s death from influenza in Europe, most of the research activity had moved to Bar Harbor. Although the original plan had been to name the facility for George Dorr’s father, it was named the Roscoe B. Jackson Memorial Laboratory when Jackson’s widow Louise chose to continue her husband’s pledge of financial support.
The three families continued their support, with brief reductions and suspensions during the Depression and World War II. Eventually Edsel Ford’s contributions were assumed by The Ford Foundation; Louise Jackson (Louise O’Brien after her re-marriage) and Richard Webber continued their support at least through and after the 1947 Bar Harbor fire that destroyed the facility.