Give the Gift of History

This holiday season you can give the gift of history to your loved ones with a print from the State Archives of Florida. We have something for everyone: film lovers, history buffsmusic enthusiasts and more.

For your cartographically inclined friends and relatives, the recently digitized Florida Maps Collection from the State Library of Florida has almost 300 maps that date from the 16th century to the present.

Map mantle

After purchasing a print from Florida Memory, you can have it custom framed at a shop in your community. (Please note: Florida Memory does not provide matting or framing services.)

Order by Friday, December 8, 2017, to guarantee delivery in time for Christmas.

Use the online shopping cart to order prints and high-resolution scans of photographs and maps. Audio recordings and videos can be ordered by email, phone or mail. Happy shopping!

Familiar Faces on Florida Memory

Every October, archives across the United States celebrate Archives Month. This year, the State Archives of Florida is focusing on how archives change lives. Join us throughout the month as we share stories about the impact the Archives has had on staff and patrons like you!


As our blogs this month have demonstrated, sometimes you can find more in the Archives than you anticipated. Recently, the State Archives received an email from Orestes Ortega III giving names to previously unidentified faces—his grandparents and aunts. After seeing the photograph on Florida Memory, he wanted to share with us the history of his family’s journey to the United States. Together with his aunt Maritza, who is shown in the photograph, Mr. Ortega shared their family’s story with us.

Explaining the photograph’s significance to him, Mr. Ortega says, “My grandmother showed me this photograph when I was a boy and it is well-known in our family. It is something of a point of pride for my grandparents. This image has always been so important to me. Their decision to leave in such crazy circumstances, a pregnant wife, two small girls, and a rickety little boat, has always inspired me. I am here today because of the moment in that photograph.”

The Ortega family and Armando Rodriguez wait on a Coast Guard boat at Key West (April 11, 1961).

The Ortega family and Armando Rodriguez wait on a Coast Guard boat at Key West (April 11, 1961).

This photo shows the family of Cuban mechanic Orestes Ortega, Sr. (wearing a hat) waiting in a Coast Guard boat with ex-Castro captain Armando Rodriguez (seated back). Ortega’s oldest daughter, Maritza (far left holding a doll), his wife, Aracelia (who is five months pregnant with the couple’s son, Orestes Ortega, Jr.), and youngest daughter, Meca (center) joined him to escape from the rising political instability of mid-century Cuba. Ortega and an old mariner named “El Isleño” hid a small boat, Jocuma (pictured), near a dock and waited for the right time for the Ortega family to leave the island. One evening in April 1961, Ortega decided to take his chances. This would be their third attempt to escape from Cuba. With El Isleño’s help, Ortega placed his young family and some supplies into the small boat before setting off for the United States. They left Cuba around 6:00 pm as the sugar mill horn blew. The drifters spent two nights at sea, and on the third day Ortega saw something on the horizon. Their boat had been badly damaged, they were running out of food, and their compass was damaged. Luckily, what Ortega saw was an American-owned oil platform. After landing on the platform, they were transported to South Florida to start their lives in the U.S. This image was captured on April 11, 1961.

What have you discovered in the Archives? Share your story with us in the comments below. If you come across an unidentified person you recognize in our collection, please email and include a link to the image.

Found in Translation: A WWI Veteran Steps Out of the Past

Every October, archives across the United States celebrate Archives Month. This year, the State Archives of Florida is focusing on how archives change lives. Join us throughout the month as we share stories about the impact the Archives has had on staff and patrons like you!

Florida Memory recently digitized the State Archives of Florida’s collection of World War I service cards. Soon after the collection went online, one of the service cards emerged as the key to uncovering more about the life and death of forgotten WWI veteran, Manuel Cabeza.

With assistance from archivists at the State Archives of Florida, researchers were able to confirm that Cabeza, the victim of a 1921 lynching in Key West, was a natural born citizen of the United States and an honorably discharged veteran of the U.S. Army.

Manuel Cabeza

Manuel Cabeza’s World War I service card.

While investigating the unsolved murder, researchers contacted the State Archives seeking documentation of Cabeza’s military service. After translating the last name from Spanish to English, “cabeza” means “head” in English, archivists located a copy of Manuel “Head’s” World War I service card. It is hopeful that this documentation will aid in the effort to place a proper U.S. government headstone on Cabeza’s grave.

Are you researching your family history? Our collection of WWI service cards isn’t the only great resource we have for genealogists. Check out our Guide to Genealogical Research at the State Archives of Florida to learn more about our most frequently used resources.

Florida Memory Wall Calendar

Show your love for Florida Memory, and your four-legged friends, by requesting a Paw Prints: Florida Pets, Remembered wall calendar! This complimentary 15-month (Oct. 2016 – Dec. 2017) calendar features photographs from the State Archives’ collections depicting special moments between Floridians and their pets. Each image has been carefully tinted to recapture the original living colors of its time.

The calendar features 15 unique images.

The calendar features 15 unique images.

Individuals and organizations alike may request our calendar. Send your request to, or contact the State Archives Reference Desk at 850.245.6719. Quantities may be limited depending on supply availability. All items are shipped free of charge.

Looking for more ways to help spread the word about Florida Memory? Visit our promotional items page to request posters, mousepads, CDs and brochures.

We Need Your Help Transcribing

Interested in volunteering with Florida Memory? We’re looking for digital volunteers to transcribe county histories, which will make information more easily accessible for researchers using our website.

Our newly digitized collection, WPA County Histories, contains brief county histories and related notes collected or written during the Great Depression by agents of the Works Progress Administration’s Historical Records Survey. Encompassing 63 of Florida’s 67 counties, these documents are incredibly valuable reference guides for researching the history of particular Florida counties. Unfortunately, these documents aren’t searchable unless they are transcribed, which is where you come in! By helping us, your transcriptions will be benefiting researchers everywhere who use Florida Memory to learn more about the history of the Sunshine State.

The process of transcription is simple. These instructions will give you an understanding about the steps involved in transcribing the documents.

First, go to the WPA County Histories collection and choose from the list of counties. You can select a county you’re familiar with or choose one you know nothing about.

Select a Florida county from the map.

Select a Florida county from the map.

After choosing a county, find a document in need of transcription. These documents will have a “Transcribe This Item” tab.

Under the document you will see a “Transcribe This Item” tab when documents have not been transcribed.

Once you have chosen a document, you can begin to transcribe it. Remember to transcribe the item exactly as it appears. Any change or corrections to spelling should be encased in brackets [ ].

Sample text from a WPA document.

A transcription of the above WPA document. Note the spelling corrections appear in brackets.

A transcription of the above WPA document. Note the spelling corrections appear in brackets.

Upon completion, click on the “Transcribe This Item” tab to find information about saving your transcription and how to submit it to us. Transcriptions should be saved and submitted as a plain text file using text editors such as Notepad for Windows or TextEdit for Mac OS X.

View of the "Transcribe This Item" tab with instructions for digital volunteers.

View of the “Transcribe This Item” tab with instructions for digital volunteers.

Please be aware that although the WPA field workers included extensive citations for the factual information contained in these county histories, these historical narratives were produced in the 1930s by federal government employees, and might reflect the inherent social biases of the era.

Florida’s First Publix

When most Floridians think of Publix, they imagine the grocery store chain with origins in Winter Haven. But did you know that Publix Super Market got its name from another business? In a speech given by Publix founder, George Jenkins, which was later published as The Publix Story, he explains his inspiration for the name of his company. He says, “The name ‘Publix’ was borrowed from a chain of theaters which was operating throughout Florida at the time. Most of them were closing up, and I liked the sound of the name so I just took it for my store.”

The theater chain was Publix Theatres Corporation, which operated at least 19 theaters in Florida during the mid-1920s and the early 1930s. Although the success of Publix Theatres in Florida was short-lived due to the stock market crash of 1929, Publix had a significant influence on Florida’s theater market because of the high standards the company established and the availability of their theaters.

During the 1920s, the United States saw an increase in chain stores. It started with grocery stores, and moved to drug stores, gas stations and clothing stores before eventually reaching the entertainment market. Companies would begin locally and sometimes develop into national companies, which was the case with Publix Theatres.

The Olympia Theater in Miami (1926) was owned and operated by Publix Theatres.

The Olympia Theater in Miami (1926) was owned and operated by Publix Theatres.

In 1925, Publix Theatres was founded in New York City as an affiliate of Paramount Studios. By 1929, Publix had the most powerful theater company in the United States because they modeled their business after large corporations. With 1200 locations, there were Publix theaters in large cities like New York City and Chicago, in addition to theaters in the South, Midwest and Northeast.

The Florida headquarters for Publix was located in St. Petersburg because of the city’s proximity to other Publix locations. Theater sites included the Florida Theatre in St. Petersburg and Jacksonville; the Olympia, Fairfax, Hippodrome and Paramount in Miami; the Stanley, Ketler and Arcade in West Palm Beach; the Tampa Theatre in Tampa; and locations in Gainesville, Daytona, Lake Worth and Palm Beach, to name a few.

Entrance to the Fairfax Theatre in Miami (1929).

Entrance to the Fairfax Theatre in Miami, which was acquired by Publix Theatres in 1929 along with eight other theaters in Miami.

With such a large presence in Florida’s theater market, Publix set the standard high for its competitors and for itself. Not only were the theaters opulently decorated, each one was also equipped with air-conditioning. The Florida Theatre in St. Petersburg was the first air-conditioned building in the Suncoast region. During the theater’s grand opening on September 10, 1926, the sold out crowd was reported to have covered their shoulders to keep from freezing. Likewise, a training school was organized for those interested in theater management, and training manuals were created for employees so they could learn how to provide patrons with a courteous and entertaining experience. Publix Theatres provided a space for local communities to come together for events that went beyond watching movies. There were ukulele contests, traveling vaudeville shows, as well as special tea and wafer events.

With the stock market crash, Publix was unable to pay the mortgage debts for its locations around the United States. By 1935, Publix was bankrupt. Many of the theaters owned by Publix were sold, including the theaters in Florida. Sparks Theaters of Lakeland took possession of a number of theaters previously owned by Publix, including the Florida Theatre in St. Petersburg.

The stage in the Tampa Theatre.

The opulently decorated stage at the Tampa Theatre.

The change in owners didn’t mean the end of all theaters formerly under Publix. The Florida Theatres in Jacksonville and St. Petersburg hosted Elvis concerts in August of 1956, as did the Olympia Theater in Miami. Many of the theaters are now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Florida Theatre in Jacksonville and the Tampa Theatre in Tampa.

Although Publix Theatres only spent a short time in the Sunshine State, the influence of the company lives on in Florida. Throughout the state you can still visit a Publix, but instead of watching a film you’re shopping for groceries.  What are your favorite memories as a theatergoer in Florida? Share with us by leaving a comment below, or by posting this blog on Facebook or Twitter.

Shop on Florida Memory

Did you know that you could shop for historic photographs, videos and audio recordings on Florida Memory? You don’t have to wait for Cyber Monday to buy gifts for your loved ones, you can do it all year long! Place your order by December 10th and receive your purchase in time for Christmas.

Ordering online is made easy. Browse the collection and select the historic photographs, videos and audio recordings you want to purchase.

Photographs can be purchased through our online shopping cart system. Simply go to the photograph you want to purchase and click the blue “Buy Now” tab above the photograph. Follow the prompts to select the size and options, and then add to cart. To purchase your selected items, go to your shopping cart in the top right-hand corner of the webpage and follow the prompts.

Videos and audio recordings may be purchased by email, phone, or mail-in orders.