Floridaphobia

Phobias are a part of the human experience. Some are reasonable or instinctive: arachnaphobia (fear of spiders), acrophobia (heights) venustraphobia (fear of beautiful women). And, well, some of the others are just strange or obscure: dendrophobia (fear of trees) or barophobia (fear of gravity).

Some even border on the illogical, such as coulrophobia (fear of clowns), automatonopobia (fear of mannequins). Others make more sense such as apiphobia (fear of bees), trypanophobia (fear of injections).

The following is a list of interesting phobias illustrated through the images of Florida Memory. Continue at your own risk; otherwise, enjoy.

Coulrophobia – Clowns

Clown behind boy eating watermelon

Coulrophobia – Fear of Clowns

Trypanophobia and Myxophobia- Injections and  Slimy Things.

Portrait of Jack Rudloe injecting an octopus

Portrait of Jack Rudloe injecting an octopus

Anthropopseudodoraphobia – People Dressed as Mascots.

Sparky, dalmation fire dog costume

Sparky, dalmatian fire dog costume

Santaphobia- Santa Claus

Lewis Yates and Santa Claus - Christmas, Florida

Lewis Yates and Santa Claus – Christmas, Florida

Hippopotomonstrosesquipedaliophobia – Long Words

Docks and buildings on Chassahowitzka River

View Over the Chassahowitzka River

Thalassophobia/Lilapsophobia – The Sea/Hurricanes

Waves hit Navarre Pier hard during Hurricane Ivan's approach - Navarre Beach, Florida.

Waves hit Navarre Pier hard during Hurricane Ivan’s approach – Navarre Beach, Florida.

Hexakosioihexekontahexaphobia- The number 666

Building of Monticello Drug Company Monticello Drug Company, maker of Cold Remedy 666.

Building of Monticello Drug Company Monticello Drug Company, maker of Cold Remedy 666.

Apiphobia – Bees

Josh Ray, 21 year old beekeeper from Chattahoochee.

Josh Ray, 21 year old beekeeper from Chattahoochee, removing beehive.

Arachnaphobia – Spiders

A Wolf spider

 

Old Sparky’s Rough Start: The Story of Jim Williams

The curious story of Jim Williams begins with an early, botched operation of  ”Old Sparky,” Florida’s electric chair, and ends on the lips of a folk singer, with plenty of  misinterpretation, heroics, and history in between.

On April 10, 1926, Jim Williams, a 25 year-old African-American man living in Palatka in Putnam County, Florida, was convicted of murdering his wife and sentenced to death by electrocution.  His execution was scheduled for June 1, 1926 the Florida State Prison at Raiford.

Electric chair at the Raiford Prison

Old Sparky at the Florida State Prison in Raiford, FL. c.1936. Photograph by Jack Spottswood.

On the day of the execution, Williams was strapped into what would become known as Old Sparky. As Williams awaited his fate, an argument erupted over who should throw the switch that would end his life. After many minutes and no resolution, prison superintendent James Simeon Blitch contacted Governor John Martin for an answer.

J. S. Blitch, superintendent at Florida State Prison

James Simeon Blitch, superintendent of Florida State Prison at Raiford, FL in 1926. Photograph by Jack Spottswood.

The problem derived from unclear language in the death warrant regarding who was to carry out the execution. The official document, signed by Governor Martin and addressed to both Superintendent Blitch and Putnam County Sheriff R.J. Hancock, gave these instructions:

“You, the said Superintendent of our State Prison, or some deputy by you to be designated, and you, the said sheriff of our said County of Putnam, unless you be prevented by sickness or other disability, shall be present at such execution. Such execution shall be carried out by you and such deputies, electricians and assistants as you may require to be present to assist…”

The warrant clearly required the presence of both men, but it did not specify which would serve as the executioner. Newspapers reported that the sheriff of the county in which the crime was committed was the official obliged to end the life of the condemned. In Williams’ case it would be Putnam County Sheriff R.J. Hancock. However, Hancock added to the confusion by sending two deputies, Walter Minton and L. Shannon in his place, and both men refused to carry out the execution. Superintendent Blitch was also unwilling to throw the switch. Given the uncertainty and confusion, Governor Martin instructed Blitch to return Jim Williams to his cell. Ultimately, despite two additional death warrants, Williams’ sentence was commuted to life imprisonment, but his story does not stop there.

 

Death Warrant of Jim Williams signed by Governor Martin

Death Warrant of Jim Williams signed by Governor Martin

Florida State Prison at Raiford, Florida, 1920s.

Florida State Prison at Raiford, Florida, 1920s.

As officials deliberated over who would serve as executioner, Williams’  sat in the chair terrified. His brush with death had a profound effect, as one would imagine. Attorney General (and later Florida Supreme Court Justice) Fred. H. Davis, said after visiting Raiford in 1927, “They can’t get him to sit in a barber’s chair because it looks a bit like the electric chair. He steadfastly refuses to undergo any tonsorial operations and I shouldn’t be surprised if it would not take the whole prison population to make him do it.”.

According to newspapers, in 1934, Williams jumped from a moving convict truck to save a woman and her child from a mad bull. He was granted a conditional pardon for his heroism and was released December 23, 1934. Although the details of his heroism are uncertain, the pardon issued by Governor Fred Cone is well-documented.

Jim Williams, who was convicted in the Circuit Court of Putnam County, at the Spring term thereog, A D 1926, of the offense of Murder and sentenced therefor to death by Electrocution and which sentence was later commuted to Life Imprisonment by the Board, should now, upon showing made, be granted a conditional pardon. It was, therefore ordered that the said Jim Williams be, and he is hereby granted a conditional pardon, effective December 23rd A D 1934.

Text of the conditional pardon issued by Governor Cone from the minutes of the the Florida Board of Pardons.

After his release, he was never heard from again. Oddities promoter Robert Ripley, creator of Ripley’s Believe It or Not, offered a $500 reward for information about the whereabouts of Jim Williams calling him “the only person ever known to have been strapped in the electric chair and escape execution.”

Florida’s “Black Hat Troubadour”, Will McLean wrote a ballad telling the story of Jim Williams. While the story is that of Williams, McLean names him incorrectly as Abraham Washington, another death row escapee. The first verse refers to Washington’s story, while the rest is that of Williams. Abraham Washington was, as McLean sings, sentenced to death by hanging shortly before a new law requiring the use of the electric chair.  The death warrant was declared void by the Duval County court because it specified that Washington was to hang, not be electrocuted, and hanging had been outlawed.  The case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.  By that time, Washington’s sentence had been commuted to life imprisonment.


Download MP3

Abraham Washington

Well there was a man named Washington, his first name Abraham
The judge said he would ride the rope into the Promised Land
Before he met his fateful doom, the hanging law was dead
They took him down to Raiford-town to the electric chair instead

They strapped him in the electric chair and so while he was waitin’
The warden and the county sheriff were talkin’ and debatin’
Which one of us must throw the switch and send this man to Hell?
But no decision could be reached; in prison he would dwell
They took him from the electric chair, his sweat had turned to blood
They told him that his life was spared and from his eyes did flood
the salty tears of gratefulness; it happens to all men
Down on his knees he made this vow to never sit again

One day a prison gang did ride by pastures that were green
A mother with her baby strolled so happy and serene
Suddenly a vicious bull did charge this freighted wife
And Abraham, he jumped the fence and saved this woman’s life

A pardon full to Washington, his first name Abraham
Who took a vow to never sit again while on this land
The last account of Washington, the day was cold and wet,
was Abraham, have you kept your vow? And he said “I ain’t sat yet.”

Florida’s Own Billy the Kid

Many people may not be aware but at the turn of the century, Florida had its very own Billy the Kid. And while he wasn’t a rustler or robber, he was a train-hopping rogue active in the Fort McCoy area who garnered attention for his activities on the Ocklawaha Valley Railroad between Ocala and Palatka in Marion County.

Map of the Oklawaha Valley Railroad from Palatka to Ocala.

Map of the Oklawaha Valley Railroad from Palatka to Ocala.

He was best known by another name: Billy, the Ocklawaha Valley Railroad Goat. The goat belonged to Lucy Calhoun, daughter of the engineer of Old No. 101 for Rodman Lumber between 1914 and 1922.  According to the tale, as a kid, Lucy’s goat got free and caught a train on the fly. Fortunately for the young rail rider, he wasn’t ditched from the shortline and was returned to Fort McCoy. From then until the rail’s decline, Billy could be found tramping on a hobo’s ticket.

Engine No. 101 with Lucy and Bertie Calhoun

Old No. 101 Engine on the Ocklawaha Valley Railroad. With Lucy Calhoun and her chief engineer father Bertie “Bud” Calhoun.

It has been suggested that Billy was among Florida’s first railway enthusiasts, but is almost certainly its first ungulate tramp. By the early 1920s, The Ocklawaha Valley railroad was abandoned and the story of Billy, the Ocklawaha Valley Railroad Goat ends there. All we can do is hope that Billy made his way to the hobo heaven of the Big Rock Candy Mountain.

Billy, the Oklawaha Valley Railroad Goat on Main St. in Fort McCoy, Florida.

Billy, the Oklawaha Valley Railroad Goat on Main Street in Fort McCoy, Florida.

 

For more information about Billy see:

Bray, Sybil Browne. Marion County Remembers: Salty Crackers; Volume 3,  (1984).

Turner, Gregg. A Short History of Florida Railroads (2003).

Cook, David. “Ocklawaha Valley RR struggles to Survive”. Ocala Star-Banner. September 18th 1994.

Harriet Beecher Stowe in Florida

Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896), famed author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) and noted abolitionist, is remembered for her New England roots and Northern perspectives. However, Stowe both influenced and was influenced by Florida.

Photograph of Harriet Beecher Stowe

Harriet Beecher Stowe

After the Civil War, in 1867, Stowe and her family wintered in Mandarin, FL on the east bank of the St. Johns River, now a neighborhood of Jacksonville.

Mandarin, FL Home Harriet Beecher Stowe and family

Mandarin, FL Home Harriet Beecher Stowe and family, between 1869 and 1878

During her Florida winters, Stowe wrote Palmetto Leaves, published in 1873, a travel memoir of her years in Mandarin. Palmetto Leaves’ literary sketches include: “A Flowery January in Florida,” “Swamps and Orange-Trees,” “The Laborers of the South,” and “Buying Land in Florida” among others.

HBS cover

Cover of the 1st Edition of Stowe’s Palmetto Leaves (1873)

Until its destruction in 1964 by Hurricane Dora, the Church of Our Saviour in Mandarin, FL housed the Stowe Memorial Stained Glass Window created by Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Harriet Beecher Stowe memorial window created by Louis Comfort Tiffany for the Chruch of Our Saviour in Mandarin, Florida

Harriet Beecher Stowe memorial window created by Louis Comfort Tiffany for the Church of Our Saviour in Mandarin, FL

 

Group f/64 and the West Coast Photographic Movement

Although the photographs on Florida Memory are often discussed for their historic value, all exhibit some level of artistic direction and formal design elements.

A group of San Francisco-based photographers known as Group f/64 were renowned for their extreme focus and depth of field. Beginning in the late 1920s, Group f/64 formed as a sub-group of the West Coast Photographic Movement, a straight photography movement that worked against the prevailing pictorialist movement which attempted to mimic gestures of Romantic and Impressionist painting. The group included Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, John Paul Edwards, Sonya Noskowiak, Henry Swift, Willard Van Dyke, and Edward Weston.

Marjorie De Hartog, Close-up view of water hyacinth in the Everglades, c.1950s. Compare with photographs of the desert flora by Imogen Cunningham.

Group f/64’s name was derived from the extremely small aperture used in their large-format photography in photographing landscapes and close-up objects. The result is a severe, almost unnatural depth and crispness unattainable by the human eye or previous photography.

Scenic view of Lake Eola Park

Scenic view of Lake Eola Park – Orlando, Florida, n.d. Compare with Ansel Adams’ sober, high-contrast landscapes.

Their impact on photography became widespread by the 1930s and can be seen in many of the photographs in the Florida Photographic Collection. While the landscapes and objects have changed, the principles remain unchanged.

W.F. Jacobs, Detail of bark of black birch O'Leno State Park, Columbia County, Florida. 1940.

W.F. Jacobs, Detail of bark of black birch O’Leno State Park, Columbia County, Florida. 1940. Compare with the almost unrecognizable, uncomfortably close-up Edward Weston photographs.

While the images shown here were not necessarily inspired directly by this group, they are suggestive of the f/64 aesthetic. These formalist, aesthetic, and stylistic approaches foster new and different ways to engage with the images.

Close-up view of Jupiter Inlet Light Station - Palm Beach County, Florida

Close-up view of Jupiter Inlet Light Station – Palm Beach County, Florida Compare with the crisp architectural photographs of Willard van Dyck or John Paul Edwards.

 

Detail of whole-shell tabby concrete at the Kingsley Plantation State Historical Site - Fort George Island, Florida, 1981.

Detail of whole-shell tabby concrete at the Kingsley Plantation State Historical Site – Fort George Island, Florida, 1981. Compare with the disorienting and sometimes misleading details of Sonya Noskowiak.

Visit the Florida Photographic Collection and search for photos from your area.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings was the first Floridian to receive the Pulitzer Prize for the Novel (later named the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction).  She won the award in 1939 for her book The Yearling.

Photograph of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings with typewriter

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (1896-1953)

In 1928, Rawlings purchased an orange grove in Alachua County near Hawthorne, FL. Located between Lochloosa Lake and Orange Lake, the site was called Cross Creek. The surrounding area served as a setting, provided the characters, and influenced the stories of most of her novels and short stories. Themes of rural Florida, the Big Scrub area, and Florida Cracker culture are prevalent in her works.

Photograph of oaks with moss over water from Cross Creek, FL

Cross Creek, FL

The plots of her novels revolved around her observations in this area: farming, hunting, the interaction with the environment and its inhabitants, moonshining, and poverty. Rawling’s depictions were so direct from her experience, people she met were named in her novels and descriptions were recognized by the locals resulting in threats and at least one law suit for invasion of privacy.

MGM set for the film adaptation of The Yearling, 1940 with Gregory Peck & Jane Wyman

MGM set for the film adaptation of The Yearling, 1940 with Gregory Peck & Jane Wyman

Her works garnered several awards including an O. Henry Award in 1932 (for “Gal Young Un”)  and the Newberry Honor in 1956 (for The Secret River). Several of her works have been adapted for stage and screen. The story rights to The Yearling were purchased by MGM and an Academy Award winning film adaptation was released in 1946, increasing her fame.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings home - Cross Creek, Florida

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings home in Cross Creek, FL

Rawlings’ Cross Creek home, where she once hosted Zora Neale Hurston, is now preserved as the Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park and has been designated a National Historic Landmark.