Happy Birthday Cousin Thelma (August 31, 1904)

Thelma Boltin at the Florida Folk Festival: White Springs, Florida (1960)

Thelma Ann Boltin, affectionately known as “Cousin” Thelma, was a storyteller, emcee, teacher and long-time director of the Florida Folk Festival. Her dedication to sharing Florida’s folk traditions brought diverse groups of artists to the festival each year, and established the festival’s reputation for celebrating unique and varied cultures.

Born in South Carolina, she was raised in Gainesville and taught theater in schools and community centers. Here’s a clip of Cousin Thelma discussing the history of the Florida Folk Festival and various folk tales.

[audio:http://www.floridamemory.com/collections/folklife/blog/s1576_t-87-21_boltin.mp3|titles=Thelma Boltin|artists=State Archives of Florida]
Download: MP3
More Info: Catalog Record

Wakulla Springs Boat Tours Podcast

“Wakulla Springs Boat Tours Podcast”
[audio:http://fpc.dos.state.fl.us/memory/collections/folklife/mp3/podcasts/wakulla.mp3|titles=Wakulla Springs Boat Tours Podcast|artists=State Archives of Florida]
Download: MP3
More Info: Podcast

Tour boat guide Wilbert Gavin: Wakulla Springs, Florida

Tour boat guide Wilbert Gavin: Wakulla Springs, Florida

Alligators, snakes, rare birds and Native exoticism are all pinnacles of Florida’s tourism industry. Wakulla Springs State Park offers visitors the chance to experience all of these things and more under the guidance of clever and knowledgeable guides. In this month’s podcast we’ll examine the oral traditions of the Wakulla Springs boat drivers.

Sandgren family enjoys a glass bottom boats: Wakulla Springs, Florida (1946)

Sandgren family enjoys a glass bottom boats: Wakulla Springs, Florida (1946)

Glass-bottom boat tours are certainly not exclusive to Wakulla Springs. They have been a long-standing attraction in Silver Springs, Homosassa Springs and Rainbow Springs, among others. Boat tours in Wakulla Springs date back to the late 1800s. Right up through recent history, descendents of the first boatmen of the Springs have followed in the footsteps of their forefathers, and their chants, jokes and stories have been passed down through the generations.

Henry the pole-vaulting fish at Wakulla Springs: Wakulla Springs, Florida

Henry the pole-vaulting fish at Wakulla Springs: Wakulla Springs, Florida

Now keep your hands and arms inside the boat, and enjoy the mysterious waters of Wakulla Springs!

 

Welcome Back, Teachers!

The Museum of Florida History invites educators to a special event. Are you a teacher in the Leon County area? Learn about local educational resources that improve teaching and learning in all subject areas.

Thursday, August 30th        4–6 p.m.

Featuring

  • Educational materials
  • Information about onsite and outreach programs
  • Local field trip options
  • Refreshments

Exhibitors

  • Museum of Florida History
  • State Archives of Florida
  • Florida Public Archaeology Network
  • Florida Department of Education
  • and members of the Community Classroom Consortium

Hosted by the Museum of Florida History
R. A. Gray Building
500 S. Bronough St.
Downtown Tallahassee

Parking and admission are free.
For information: 850.245.6400

R.A. Gray Building: Tallahassee, Florida

R.A. Gray Building: Tallahassee, Florida

Florida and the Civil War (August 1862)

Mourning in America

Death was the real victor of the Civil War. Most families, especially in the South, lost a father, brother, son, or knew relatives and neighbors who lost a loved one. By the summer of 1862, the death toll was so overwhelming that whole communities were constantly draped in black. The Tallahassee Florida Sentinel was concerned that continual public mourning was weakening the Confederate economy:

“When so many households throughout the South are called upon to mourn the loss of Dear ones, the custom of wearing mourning clothes adds greatly to our expenditure and detracts to that extent from our ability to maintain this unequal struggle. It is unnecessary to remark that such goods are now very scarce, and costly, and many are compelled, in obedience to custom, to make sacrifices which they cannot well afford.”

Although the pervasiveness of death made all Americans citizens of what historian Drew Gilpin Faust has called “the Republic of Suffering,” shared grief could not relieve the pain of surviving family members, especially parents who lost a son.

Martha Pittman of Marianna, Florida, lost her only surviving son, John D. Pittman, on August 31, 1862, when he died of wounds received in the previous day’s fighting during the Battle of Second Manassas (Second Bull Run). John, a student at the University of Virginia when the war began, remained in school until March 1862, when he wrote to his mother that he had decided to leave the university and join the army “now that the South is in her greatest danger.” (The Confederacy had recently lost the battles of Forts Henry and Donelson in Tennessee.)

Portrait of John D. Pittman (on left) and a young man identified as "Johnson."

Portrait of John D. Pittman (on left) and a young man identified as “Johnson.”

John returned to Florida and enlisted in Marianna, joining the newly formed Eighth Florida Infantry Regiment in May 1862. His unit joined the Florida Brigade in the Army of Northern Virginia, which in August moved against the Army of the Potomac occupying positions near the old Bull Run battlefield. The only casualties suffered by the Florida Brigade, which was part of the Confederate reserve, came as a result of Union artillery fire on August 30. Unfortunately, Pittman, who had not even reached his 20th birthday, was among those few Florida wounded. He died in a field hospital the next day.

Upon John’s enlistment, Martha already mourned losing her son to war. She composed a poem “To Her Son,” writing it on a blank page in the student autograph book that John had brought with him from Virginia:

“Mother sorrowing over her son

But give him up to defend his Country

Whose dear heart is made sad,

By the Dear Son bravely gone

Mother praying for her Son

Who was all her pride and story?

Sister mourns a dear one gone

A Brother called to take up arms

Mother weeping? Over thy Son

Dearer than thyself to thee;

Will (all) by death left desolated

Tell me is it well with you

Yes tis well with the loved and lost

And not lost to us forever;

They have but before us crossed

Over the deep and shadowy river”

May 27 1862               M P

Martha Pittman

Martha Pittman

The editorial from the Florida Sentinel was first quoted in Florida A Hundred Years Ago (Samuel Procter, ed. 1963). The Pittman letter and poem are part of the Blackshear, Pittman, White, and Drew Families Papers.

Distant Storm: Florida’s Role in the Civil War, 1861-1862 (Part Two)

In commemoration of the sesquicentennial of the American Civil War, the Department of State’s State Library and Archives of Florida presents “Distant Storm: Florida’s Role in the Civil War.” Part Two, “The Confederacy in 1861-1862,” is now live on Florida Memory. The exhibit features original documents and photographs from the collections of the State Library and Archives of Florida, accompanied by a narrative on Florida’s role in the Civil War.

Confederate Columbiad guns at the entrance to Pensacola Bay (February 1861)

Confederate Columbiad guns at the entrance to Pensacola Bay (February 1861)

Florida entered the Civil War as one of the original seceding states. The second installment of “Distant Storm” begins with Florida’s role in the creation of the Confederate government and ends with Florida’s role in maintaining the Confederacy through 1862. During this period, Florida began the war at the center of the secession crisis, as Confederate and Union forces confronted each other at Fort Pickens off Pensacola Harbor.

The national focus on Florida soon shifted, however, and Florida was largely forgotten as Union and Confederate armies contested for control of Virginia and Tennessee. Florida regiments left the state to participate in the great battles to the north. The regiments, formed into the Florida brigades of the East and West, became integral units in the Army of Northern Virginia and the Army of Tennessee.

Richard B. Waller (ca. 1861)

Richard B. Waller (ca. 1861)

Back home, the state contended with economic and governmental problems that accompanied the lengthening war. Governor John Milton contended for control of the executive branch with restless members of the ongoing secession convention and had the unpleasant duty of implementing the Confederate Conscription Act, the first national draft in U.S. history.

Despite Union incursions and an ever-tightening naval blockade, Florida ended 1862 as an intact but increasingly brittle member of the Confederacy. Confederate Floridians grimly hoped that 1863 would bring the South final victory.

Happy Birthday Mary Smith McClain (August 27, 1902)

“St. Louis Blues”
[audio:http://www.floridamemory.com/audio/dl.php?track=cd5/08mcclain-goodson.mp3|titles=Mary McClain and Ida Goodson|artists=State Archives of Florida]
Download: MP3
More Info: Catalog Record, Where the Palm Trees Shake at Night: Blues Music from the Florida Folklife Collection

“Give A Poor Dog A Bone”
[audio:http://fpc.dos.state.fl.us/memory/collections/folklife/mp3/McLain.mp3|titles=Mary McClain|artists=State Archives of Florida]
Download: MP3
More Info: Catalog Record

Mary Smith McClain, also known as “Diamond Teeth” Mary for the jewels she once had embedded in her teeth, or “Walking Mary” for her notorious renditions of the “Walking Blues,” was a blues and gospel singer. Born in West Virginia, she began her singing career at the age of 13 performing in medicine shows as well as alongside the likes of her half-sister Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan. In 1960, she settled in Manatee County, Florida, married her husband Clifford, and became a devoted gospel singer.

Mary McClain singing gospel: White Springs, Florida (1983)

Mary McClain singing gospel: White Springs, Florida (1983)

Diamond Teeth Mary was rediscovered by folklorist Steven Zeitlin in the 1980s, and performed regularly at the Florida Folk Festival from 1981 until her death in 2000. Her renewed fame brought additional performances across the United States and Europe, including the Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife in Washington, D.C. She received the Florida Folk Heritage Award in 1986.

 

August 26: Women’s Equality Day

On September 12, 1972, Florida Senator Edward J. Gurney sent Roxcy Bolton a copy of the Women’s Rights Day Proclamation (now Women’s Equality Day) signed by President Richard M. Nixon. Gurney explained that he wanted her to have the document because “without your suggestion and pushing, there would not have been a Women’s Rights Day.”

Women’s Equality Day is observed nationally each year on August 26 to commemorate the day in 1920 that the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution was adopted, granting women full voting rights.

Edward J. Gurney to Roxcy Bolton, September 12, 1972

Edward J. Gurney to Roxcy Bolton, September 12, 1972

The newest film added to the Florida Memory website features a 2001 interview with Roxcy Bolton for Coral Gables Television. In the interview, Bolton talks about how her upbringing in Mississippi instilled values that paved the way for a life of determined activism. Bolton also discusses several instances from her life in Coral Gables that demonstrate her commitment to equality.

Roxcy Bolton

Roxcy Bolton

Bolton gained notoriety in Florida for establishing shelters for homeless and battered women; for gaining access for women to the previously all-male lunchrooms at Burdines and Jordan Marsh department stores; for helping to end the practice of assigning only female names to hurricanes; and for opening the influential Tiger Bay political club to women. Her many years of pioneering equal rights activism have earned her numerous awards, including induction into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame in 1984.

Please join us in commemorating Women’s Equality Day and recognizing Roxcy Bolton’s role in the Equal Rights Movement.

Learn more about Roxcy Bolton on Florida Memory.

Hurricane Andrew (August 24, 1992)

Hurricane Andrew made landfall in southern Dade County, Florida, around 5:00 a.m. on August 24, 1992. The tropical cyclone packed sustained winds of at least 165 miles per hour (mph) and caused an estimated $26.5 billion dollars in damage.

Satellite view of Hurricane Andrew sweeping across south Florida

Recorded as a Category 4 hurricane, gusts measured during Andrew approached 200 mph. The hurricane caused significant property damage from wind, rain and storm surge as it cut a path of destruction nearly 30 miles wide across southern Florida. Long after the storm disappeared Andrew’s impact was felt in the form of displacement, immeasurable human trauma and environmental change.

Andrew was the most costly hurricane in United States history, in terms of the value of property damaged, until Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans and the northern Gulf Coast in 2005.

Devastation brought on by Hurricane Andrew

The Miami-Dade County Health Department Collection, part of the Florida Photographic Collection, documents the destruction left in the wake of Hurricane Andrew in South Florida.

After All, Their Game Is Golf

On Monday, August 20, Augusta National Golf Club opened its exclusive membership to women for the first time in its 80-year history. As these photographs and film show, women have long shared men’s passion for the game of golf.

Visitors teeing off on the lawn of the Royal Palm hotel: Miami, Florida (1899)

Visitors teeing off on the lawn of the Royal Palm hotel: Miami, Florida (1899)

Woman golfer on the course: Palm Beach, Florida (1918 or 1919)

Woman golfer on the course: Palm Beach, Florida (1918 or 1919)

Maureen Orcutt (1920s)

Maureen Orcutt (1920s)

Women golfing with Dr. William E. Van Brunt in Tallahassee, Florida (1930s)

Women golfing with Dr. William E. Van Brunt in Tallahassee, Florida (1930s)

Babe Zaharias and her caddy at the golf tournament: Saint Augustine, Florida (1947)

Babe Zaharias and her caddy at the golf tournament: Saint Augustine, Florida (1947)

Cedar Key

Enjoy some of our favorite photographs of Cedar Key.

View showing high water from the 1896 hurricane

View showing high water from the 1896 hurricane

Women and girls enjoying the water (September 27, 1896)

Women and girls enjoying the water (September 27, 1896)

Main Street (September 1948)

Main Street (September 1948)

Cedar Key State Bank (ca. 1910)

Cedar Key State Bank (ca. 1910)

Employees at the Eagle Pencil Company cedar mill (ca. 1890)

Employees at the Eagle Pencil Company cedar mill (ca. 1890)

Found a great photograph of Cedar Key that we missed? Share it with us in the comments.