Koreshan Unity Collection

The Koreshan Unity Collection: An Inside Look into Processing a Large Archival Collection (Part One)

Ever wonder what archivists mean when they say a collection is in process?

This is the first in a series of posts about processing a large historical records collection. Join us as we transform hundreds of boxes of disorganized, mislabeled files into an accessible, understandable, research-ready collection.

Assisted by National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) grant funding, the State Archives of Florida is processing the records of the Koreshan Unity, a late 19th/early 20th century religious utopian community whose members shared a common belief in Koreshanity.

Among the Unity’s unique beliefs was their guiding principal that the Earth existed as a concave sphere. As a result, Earth’s populace lived inside the Earth, with the planets existing in the center of the sphere where the Earth’s core would otherwise have been.

Poster depicting Koreshan beliefs

Poster depicting Koreshan beliefs


The Koreshan Unity collection contains many thousands of documents and photographs illustrating the members’ beliefs and the expression of those beliefs in their communal lifestyle. The collection accumulated for a century throughout the Unity’s existence. In 2008 and 2009, State Archives staff traveled to Estero, Florida, to evaluate the collection and identify materials of historical importance to be transferred to the Archives. Here is what we found in Estero:

Koreshan Unity Archives as stored in the College of Life Building: Estero, Florida

Koreshan Unity Archives as stored in the College of Life Building: Estero, Florida


With extensive assistance from Koreshan State Historic Site staff, archivists prepared and transported the historical records to Tallahassee so they could be preserved and made accessible.

Because the Koreshan Unity collection provides a unique look into both the archival process and Florida history, we’ve decided to share this journey with blog readers and patrons of the State Archives of Florida. Watch for future posts for more on the history of the Unity, collection processing activities and interesting finds in the collection.


John Gorrie and Mechanical Refrigeration

Perhaps no one is more responsible for the growth of southern Florida’s population than
Apalachicola’s Dr. John Gorrie.

Wealthy industrialists certainly played an important role, financing and building railroads, hotels and golf courses to entice hordes of tourists to venture south during the winter months. But what about the sweltering summer heat? Boosters pined for a solution that could perhaps convert winter tourists into permanent residents.

Portrait of Dr. John Gorrie

Portrait of Dr. John Gorrie

Enter Dr. John Gorrie. His contribution came, appropriately, at the beginning of summer, in May of 1851, when he patented an ice-making machine. Gorrie’s goals were medicinal, and his machine helped to lessen the suffering of yellow fever victims.

The invention of mechanical refrigeration also became the basis for air-conditioning in the 20th century. If not for Gorrie’s invention, Florida may have remained a winter destination instead of a year-round paradise.

Model of the first ice machine displayed at the John Gorrie Museum: Apalachicola, Florida (1955)

Model of the first ice machine displayed at the John Gorrie Museum: Apalachicola, Florida (1955)

Yuk it up, Sunday is World Laughter Day!

Dr. Madan Kataria first introduced this day in 1998 to broaden understanding and friendship throughout the world. The celebration of World Laughter Day is meant to be a positive manifestation for world peace and to build up a global consciousness of brotherhood and friendship through laughter.

The observance takes place annually on the first Sunday of May; it has now spread to 65 countries and led to the creation of thousands of laughter clubs.

U.S. Senator George A. Smathers sharing a laugh with Governor Collins and President Kennedy.

We all know laughter is contagious. Walt Disney said, “Laughter is America’s most important export.”

Portrait of 2 1/2 year old Greg Hansen - Tallahassee, Florida.

To see more photographs guaranteed to make you smile, visit the Florida Laughing exhibit on the Florida Memory website.

Happy Birthday Pete Seeger!

Iconic folk singer, teacher and activist Pete Seeger turns 93 this year. Although he resides in New York, his work collecting and promoting folk music inevitably brought him to the state of Florida. In 1956, he recorded an album with Florida Folk Heritage Award winner William “Washboard Bill” Cooke. Later, he befriended the Father of Florida Folk himself, Will McLean.

This rendition of the McLean-penned “Osceola’s Last Words” was recorded May 21, 1977, at the Stephen Foster Memorial Center in White Springs, Florida. Stay tuned for a podcast of the complete performance later this month.

“Osceola’s Last Words”

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Download: MP3
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Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues and Theodor de Bry’s Images of Florida Indians

Artist and cartographer Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues (1533-1588) accompanied René de Laudonnière (ca. 1529-1574) to Florida in 1564. Laudonnière hoped to established a French settlement in the vicinity of the River May (St. Johns River), first explored by Jean Ribault (1520-1565) in April 1562. By June of 1564, the French had constructed Fort Caroline near the mouth of the St. Johns River.

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