Farming at Fellsmere

The town of Fellsmere is located just west of Sebastian off Interstate 95 in Indian River County. It was one of many small communities wrestled from the swampy plains of South Florida in the early 20th century to serve the growing number of farmers making their living in the region.

Excerpt from a 2014 Florida Department of Transportation map showing Fellsmere and its surroundings.

Excerpt from a 2014 Florida Department of Transportation map showing Fellsmere and its surroundings.

Fellsmere was one of several Florida development projects devised by E. Nelson Fell, an engineer from New Zealand who arrived in the Sunshine State in the late 1880s. Fell and a number of other investors were drawn by the prospect of striking it rich with large citrus groves and winter vegetable farms located in the rich muck soils of South Florida. Private investors and state agencies worked hand in hand during this era to dredge canals and drain large tracts of land to prepare them for cultivation.

In 1910, E. Nelson Fell helped organize the Fellsmere Farm Company. The corporation bought up 118,000 acres of swamplands west of the Sebastian River at cheap prices and embarked on an ambitious drainage project. By the end of 1915, over 250 miles of canals had been dug, along with a protective levee system. Altogether, about 45,000 acres of farmland emerged from this phase of the project. The Company quickly began advertising the project nationwide to secure investors and residents for the new community.

Map of Fellsmere included in a 1912 booklet advertising the Fellsmere Farms Company operation, from the collections of the State Library of Florida.

Map of Fellsmere included in a 1912 booklet advertising the Fellsmere Farms Company operation, from the collections of the State Library of Florida.

Plan of the elaborate system of drainage canals planned by the Fellsmere Farms Company, taken from the 1912 promotional booklet - from the collections of the State Library of Florida.

Plan of the elaborate system of drainage canals planned by the Fellsmere Farms Company, taken from the 1912 promotional booklet – from the collections of the State Library of Florida.

The promotional literature for Fellsmere Farms Company described the project in glowing terms. A 1912 booklet spared no expense to include numerous photos of railroad and dredging equipment, proud landowners standing in plots full of healthy vegetables, and happy residents enjoying their new Florida homes. The booklet boldly boasted that a single acre of Fellsemere land could turn out as much as $500 worth of tangerines, $800 worth of strawberries, or $1,000 in celery per year!

"Beans and Cabbage - Making the Ground Produce to the Limit" - taken from the 1912 promotional booklet by Fellsmere Farms Company - from the collections of the State Library of Florida.

“Beans and Cabbage – Making the Ground Produce to the Limit” – taken from the 1912 promotional booklet by Fellsmere Farms Company – from the collections of the State Library of Florida.

As people began moving into the Fellsmere area, the Company established the services needed to support them. A school was founded in 1911 with help from the local county Board of Instruction. The Company laid out a townsite of one square mile on the eastern edge of the property, incorporating it as Fellsmere in May 1915. By 1920, the town had its own newspaper, the Fellsmere Farmer, a hotel, a post office, a bank, a railroad connecting the town with the Florida East Coast Railway, and three parks.

Street scene in downtown Fellsmere (circa 1920).

Street scene in downtown Fellsmere (circa 1920).

Several historic structures from Fellsmere’s earliest days still survive, including the original building of the Fellsmere State Bank at 56 Broadway. It was designed by Jacksonville architect C.F. Streeter and constructed in 1913. It later served as Fellsmere’s City Hall. The Fellsmere Inn, built by the original development company in 1910, still stands at 107 N. Broadway. It also went by the names “Broadway Inn” and “The White House” at various times over the years.

State Bank of Fellsmere (circa 1917).

State Bank of Fellsmere (circa 1917).

 

Hotel at Fellsmere (1912).

Hotel at Fellsmere (1912).

Fellsmere never sold enough land or crops to completely fulfill the rosy predictions put forward by its promoters. The Fellsmere Farms Company was sold and reorganized several times in the ensuing decades, and the population had only grown to a mere 400 persons by 1924. In the 1930s, much of the land was devoted to sugar cane production. Fellsmere Sugar Company, founded in 1931, was the first factory in Florida to refine sugar from locally grown cane plants. Its products were marketed under the name “Florida Crystals.”

Sugar mill at Fellsmere, home to

Sugar mill at Fellsmere, home to “Florida Crystals” (circa 1937).

Fellsmere is one of many small Florida communities whose earliest promotional materials may be found in the collections of the State Library & Archives. Visit info.florida.gov and search the Library and Archives catalogs to find more of these rare documents!

Women’s Equality Day

On Wednesday, August 26th, Florida will join the rest of the United States in celebrating Women’s Equality Day, an officially designated day observing two anniversaries in the history of women’s rights. The 26th will be the 95th anniversary of the enactment of the 19th amendment, which struck down the limitation of suffrage on the basis of sex. It will also be the 45th anniversary of the 1970 Women’s Strike for Equality, organized by the National Organization for Women (NOW) and its president at that time, Betty Friedan.

The fight for gender equality in Florida has a long history, with many bumps in the road. Today we pay homage to the women and men who stood up for equality at the ballot box, even when they faced indifference, ridicule, and outright opposition.

Ivy Stranahan, an early advocate of women's suffrage in Florida (photo circa 1890s).

Ivy Stranahan, an early advocate of women’s suffrage in Florida (photo circa 1890s).

May Mann Jennings, Florida's First Lady during the administration of her husband, Governor William S. Jennings (1901-1905). Mrs. Jennings was a co-founder of the Florida League of Women Voters (photo circa 1900s).

May Mann Jennings, Florida’s First Lady during the administration of her husband, Governor William S. Jennings (1901-1905). Mrs. Jennings was a co-founder of the Florida League of Women Voters (photo circa 1900s).

The movement to secure the vote for women was relatively unorganized in Florida until just before the turn of the twentieth century. Ella C. Chamberlain, who hailed from Tampa, attended a suffrage convention in Des Moines, Iowa in 1892, and returned to the Sunshine State eager to get something going. She sought out space in a local newspaper, only to be directed to write a column on issues of interest to women and children. Legend has it she exclaimed that the world was “not suffering for another cake recipe and the children seemed to be getting along better than the women.” She resolved instead to write about women’s rights, and to deploy the knowledge she had picked up in Des Moines.

Chamberlain was considerably far ahead of public opinion in the Tampa area of the 1890s, but she carried on her work with enthusiasm. In 1893, she established the Florida Women’s Suffrage Association, which associated itself with the broader National American Women Suffrage Association and attempted to inject women’s rights issues into the local political landscape. Susan B. Anthony herself came to know Chamberlain and her efforts on behalf of the women of the Sunshine State. For a number of years, Chamberlain sent Anthony a big box of Florida oranges during the winter as a gesture of appreciation. It was also a ploy to expose the inequality of agricultural wages in Florida between the sexes. Women typically made less than their husbands in this industry, even if they did the same work.

Susan B. Anthony, co-founder of the National Woman Suffrage association, at Rochester, New York (1897).

Susan B. Anthony, co-founder of the National Woman Suffrage association, at Rochester, New York (1897).

When Ella Chamberlain left Florida in 1897, the Florida Women’s Suffrage Association lagged and faded out, but the fight for equality continued in smaller organizations around the state. In June of 1912, a group of thirty Jacksonville women founded the Florida Equal Franchise League. Their goals were to improve the legal, educational, and industrial rights of women, as well as to promote the study of civics and civic improvements. The Orlando Suffrage League emerged in 1913, aiming specifically to get women to attempt to vote in a sewerage bond election. When the women were refused, they walked away with a clear example of taxation without representation to use in future debates.

As similar groups began popping up and communicating with one another, the need for a statewide organization became clear. In 1913, the Florida Equal Suffrage Association (FESA) was born at an organizational meeting in Orlando, with the Rev. Mary A. Safford as president and women from across the state serving as officers.

Caroline Mays Brevard, granddaughter of Florida territorial governor Richard Keith Call and a founding member of the Florida Equal Suffrage Association (photo circa 1900s).

Caroline Mays Brevard, granddaughter of Florida territorial governor Richard Keith Call, noted Florida historian, and a founding member of the Florida Equal Suffrage Association (photo circa 1900s).

FESA and its associates around the state met with mixed success. In Pensacola, for example, where the local newspaper and a number of elected officials were amenable to women’s suffrage, organizers were able to hold meetings and gain a great deal of traction. In Tampa, however, these conditions did not exist and suffrage activists found the road much tougher, at least at first.

As voting rights became a more hotly debated topic across the state and nation, demonstrations on both sides of the issue became more explicit, and admittedly quite creative. The Koreshan Unity, a religious group based in Estero, Florida, put their pro-suffrage stance in the form of a play entitled “Women, Women, Women, Suffragettes, Yes.” The Florida Photographic Collection includes images of both men and women dressing up as the opposite sex, at times to support the idea of equal voting rights and at other times to ridicule it. While humorous, the images are a reminder that for many the suffrage question was often at odds with the longstanding belief that men and women occupied distinct and separate places in society.

Students at the Andrew D. Gwynne Institute in Fort Myers stage an

Students at the Andrew D. Gwynne Institute in Fort Myers stage an “international meeting of suffragettes” (photo 1913).

Reception by

Reception by “DeLeonites” and “DeSoters” at De Leon Springs. Which side of the voting rights debate they are on is not entirely clear (photo 1917).

Photo poking fun at suffragettes by depicting women smoking and driving an automobile (1914).

Photo poking fun at suffragettes by depicting women smoking and driving an automobile (1914).

The 19th Amendment became law on August 26th, 1920, granting women the right to vote. Florida was not one of the states ratifying the amendment, and in fact it did not do so until 1969. Floridian women were undeterred by the delay, however, and women began running for the legislature the very next year. No uproar accompanied the change; the most divisive question was apparently whether women would be charged a poll tax for one or two years in 1920, since they had been unable to register the previous year. In time, women began occupying positions of responsibility in all areas of Florida government, although true gender equality was still (and yet remains) an ongoing project.

Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 1172, which was passed by Florida's Senate and House of Representatives on May 13, 1969, and approved on May 22 without the signature of Governor Claude Kirk. The resolution symbolically ratifies the 19th amendment to the federal Constitution, which granted women the right to vote nearly half a century before. Click on the document to view a larger version along with a transcript.

Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 1172, which was passed by Florida’s Senate and House of Representatives on May 13, 1969, and approved on May 22 without the signature of Governor Claude Kirk. The resolution symbolically ratifies the 19th amendment to the federal Constitution, which granted women the right to vote. Click on the document to view a larger version along with a transcript.

Women’s Equality Day is an opportunity both to reflect on the past, to celebrate the advances made thus far, and to renew our vigilance in the interest of equal rights regardless of gender. The State Library and Archives of Florida are particularly well-equipped to help you with the bit about reflecting on the past. Check out our recently updated Guide to Women’s History Collections to learn more about the materials we have for researching the history of women in Florida.

There Oughta Be a Law!

Whoever said law books are boring clearly hasn’t read many city and town ordinances from the 1800s or early 1900s. Local governments are closest to the people, so naturally the laws they create often regulate the most mundane, common behavior. You can learn a lot about a community and the challenges it faced in a particular time period by studying its local ordinances. In doing the reading, however, you’re likely to find a few that give you a chuckle. Here are a few gems from cities and towns around Florida:

 

A War Against the Half-Baked

An ordinance passed in St. Augustine in 1878 required bakers to bake their bread into loaves of uniform weight – either 8, 16, or 32 ounces. The city inspector was supposed to inspect the bread from each bakery daily, and any baker whose bread was underweight would forfeit all such bread to the city’s poor population. Ocala had a similar law in place as of 1894. No doubt the law was put into place to enforce truth in advertising about how much bread you were actually receiving when you purchased a loaf for your family.

John Ferlita with bread at his bakery in Tampa (circa 1960s).

John Ferlita with bread at his bakery in Tampa (circa 1960s).

 

Pay Up, Rover!

They say the only sure things in life are death and paying taxes. In some Florida communities, this was once even true for dogs! Jacksonville charged a tax on dog ownership as of 1859, Tallahassee as of 1884, and Pensacola as of 1873. The tax was never more than a few dollars, but that could really add up in the 19th century.

Had this Panama City pooch been subject to an annual tax, we could guess that he was on the phone with the local tax assessor lodging a complaint! (1957)

Had this Panama City pooch been subject to an annual tax, we could guess that he was on the phone with the local tax assessor lodging a complaint! (1957)

 

Oh Go Fly a Kite! (Just Not Over There)

As of 1859, Jacksonville had an ordinance on the books prohibiting anyone from flying a kite between Duval and Bay streets, or near any public wharf. Given the vintage of this law, perhaps the town council was concerned about the welfare of sailors in the nearby harbor who might be stricken or at least distracted by flying kites. At any rate, this ordinance gave the Town Marshal the authority to destroy any kite violating the law.

These folks have the right idea - flying kites at the Daytona Beach Kite Festival where there's lots of room (1993).

These folks have the right idea – flying kites at the Daytona Beach Kite Festival where there’s lots of room (1993).

 

Save the Squirrels!

As of 1884, it was illegal for anyone to use a slingshot within the City of Tallahassee. No doubt these were popular toys for youngsters and maybe even a few adults at the time. We can just imagine a huge collective sigh of relief from all the local squirrels, birds, and window panes when this law was passed.

You'd be making a face like this also if your slingshot was just taken away. This is John Ward Henderson of Tallahassee (circa 1880s).

You’d be making a face like this also if your slingshot was just taken away. This is John Ward Henderson of Tallahassee (circa 1880s).

 

Do You Have a License?

Business licensing has long been a way for local communities to keep track of who is doing business in town, and regulate their activities. The kinds of businesses being licensed tend to change with the times, so you can imagine there are a number of 19th century businesses we’d be amused to see on a license fee schedule. Here are some of our favorites from the 1907 municipal ordinances of Quincy, Florida:

Annual License Fees

– Lightning rod salesmen, $10.00
– Manager of a merry-go-round, $12.50
– Professional hypnotist, $25.00

Merry-go-rounds and other carnival rides are generally still taxed, but not usually by their specific names. Here's a merry-go-round at the Quincy Tobacco Festival (1949).

Merry-go-rounds and other carnival rides are generally still taxed, but not usually by their specific names. Here’s a merry-go-round at the Quincy Tobacco Festival (1949).

 

A No-Brainer?

You may be surprised to learn that the city council of Tallahassee felt the need sometime in the 1880s to pass a law prohibiting wooden chimneys. Seems awfully self-evident that it would be a bad idea to construct a chimney out of flammable material, right? On the contrary – many chimneys in early Florida homes (especially in the rural areas) used what was called a “stick and dirt” construction. Straight sticks laid in log cabin style made up the frame of the chimney, and then the entire structure was plastered inside and out with clay. This method worked, but for obvious reasons stick and dirt chimneys were more liable to eventually catch fire than chimneys built from stone or brick.

A stick and dirt chimney in Wakulla County (1965).

A stick and dirt chimney in Wakulla County (1965).

These are just a few of the remarkable local ordinances passed in Florida towns and cities over the years. Visit your local library to find historic codes of ordinances from your Florida community, or visit the State Library of Florida to find a selection of local laws from across the state!

Julian Bond Dies at 75

Julian Bond, a Georgia native whose civil rights activism touched lives across the United States, died Saturday night in Fort Walton Beach. He was 75.

Julian Bond speaks at Ruby Diamond Auditorium at Florida State University (circa 1978).

Julian Bond speaks at Ruby Diamond Auditorium at Florida State University (circa 1978).

Bond was an early organizer of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) at Morehouse College in Atlanta. He was one of several African-Americans elected to the Georgia House of Representatives in 1965, but white members of the Georgia House refused to seat him, citing Bond’s advocacy for nonviolence in Vietnam as evidence of disloyalty. Bond’s case eventually reached the United States Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously that the Georgia House had denied him his freedom of speech. The Court ordered the Georgia House to seat Bond, who went on to serve four terms in the Georgia House of Representatives and six terms in the Georgia Senate.

Georgia State Senator Julian Bond speaking at Miami-Dade Community College during Black History Month (1984).

Georgia State Senator Julian Bond speaking at Miami-Dade Community College during Black History Month (1984).

Julian Bond spoke on numerous occasions in Florida, encouraging young people to vote and remain vigilant in the pursuit of equality. In 1971, he and fellow SNCC organizer John Lewis toured Florida on behalf of the Voter Education Project to encourage minority voters to participate in the political process. Bond and Lewis visited nine urban centers from Tallahassee to Homestead, urging their listeners to use the power of the ballot to make their voices heard. Bond followed up the visit with other voter registration drives over the years. “The political process is inescapable in this country,” he said during one event in St. Petersburg in 1977. “You’re all born into it. And you’re in it until you die.”

The following video is taken from a 1978 edition of the WFSU-TV program “Vibrations,” in which Bond describes some of the challenges of tackling civil rights issues as a state senator. Footage from one of Bond’s Florida speeches is included.

Download MP4

More recently, in 2013, Julian Bond attended a rally of the “Dream Defenders,” whose members had just ended their occupation of the first floor of the Florida Capitol as a protest against Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law. “I say to the young people here, you’re ending a protest because you started a movement,” Bond said at the time.

Julian Bond listens as Phillip Agnew speaks during a rally of the

Julian Bond listens as Phillip Agnew speaks during a rally of the “Dream Defenders” at the State Capitol (2013).

Looking for more information on Julian Bond and his work? Look for these and other books at your local public library, or at the State Library of Florida in Tallahassee:

 

Julian Bond, Lift Every Voice and Sing: A Celebration of the Negro National Anthem (2000).

Julian Bond, NAACP: Celebrating a Century – 100 Years in Pictures (2009).

Arthur E. Thomas, Like It Is: Arthur E. Thomas Interviews Leaders on Black America (1981).

 

Off the Beaten Path of History

One of the most exciting aspects of archival research is stumbling upon records and events you didn’t know existed. Did you know, for example, that Florida sent several companies of soldiers to fight in the U.S.-Mexican War of 1846-48? The war was short-lived and Florida’s role was small, which accounts for why the episode is so seldom mentioned in histories of the state. Floridians did serve in this conflict, however, and the State Library & Archives have several excellent resources for learning more about their participation.

The chain of events leading to the U.S.-Mexican War began with the United States’ annexation of Texas as the 28th state in 1845. Mexico considered Texas part of its territory, even though its military had retreated across the Rio Grande following the Texas Revolution of 1835-36. Mexican commander Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana had even signed a treaty agreeing to Texas’ independence from Mexico.

This excerpt of an 1845 map of the United States shows the disputed region of Texas between the Nueces and Rio Grande rivers. The mapmaker chose to show the Rio Grande as the southern boundary of Texas. Florida Map Collection, State Library of Florida.

This excerpt of an 1845 map of the United States shows the disputed region of Texas between the Nueces and Rio Grande rivers. The mapmaker chose to show the Rio Grande as the southern boundary of Texas. Florida Map Collection, State Library of Florida. Click the image to enlarge it.

Mexico was experiencing internal troubles and did not immediately attempt to retake Texas after Santa Ana’s retreat. The sticking point was the exact location of the border between the two entities. The Texans claimed their territory ran as far south as the Rio Grande, since that was how far Santa Ana had agreed to retreat after the Texas Revolution. Mexico, on the other hand, claimed the border was supposed to be at the Nueces River, about 150 miles north of the Rio Grande. When the United States annexed Texas as a state in 1845, President James K. Polk claimed the Rio Grande as the true boundary. Polk sent a diplomatic mission to Mexico City to attempt to buy the disputed territory, but this strategy failed. Both the U.S. and Mexico began moving soldiers into the disputed area between the Nueces and the Rio Grande, and after a series of skirmishes in early and mid-1846 the two sides declared war.

Meanwhile, across the Gulf of Mexico, Florida had just emerged from a conflict of its own, the Second Seminole War. It had also entered the Union as a state in 1845. News of the growing troubles on the Mexican border evoked a mixture of caution and enthusiasm among Floridians. Citizens in coastal communities like Pensacola and Apalachicola feared the Mexican government might call on privateers to interfere with American ships in the Gulf of Mexico. Pensacola’s citizens held a public meeting on May 4, 1846 and resolved to form a company of volunteers from Escambia and Santa Rosa counties to march to Texas and fight. Duval County citizens petitioned Governor William D. Moseley to enlist their services for a company, even offering to purchase their own uniforms.

A petition to Governor William Dunn Moseley from citizens of Duval County asking to be chartered as a militia company (1846), in Box 4, folder 10, Territorial and Early Statehood Papers of Florida (Series 2153), State Archives of Florida.

A petition to Governor William Dunn Moseley from citizens of Duval County asking to be chartered as a militia company (1846), in Box 4, folder 10, Territorial and Early Statehood Papers of Florida (Series 2153), State Archives of Florida. Click the image to enlarge it.

Shortly after the war began in earnest, President James K. Polk called on Governor Moseley to raise five companies of volunteers to fight in the war. Ultimately, only three actually went to Mexico, but many more remained in Florida to protect the coastline and maintain a state of readiness in case they should be needed.

Documentation for these activities is meager but easily available at the State Library & Archives. Governor Moseley’s correspondence (Series 679) and the Territorial and Early Statehood Papers of Florida (Series 2153) contain documents illustrating local enthusiasm for volunteering to fight, concerns about the safety of the coastline, and the logistical headaches of fielding a state militia in the 1840s.

One particularly notable document describes the kinds of medicines that were sent to the Florida troops in Mexico. Quinine, calomel, mustard, lemon syrup, castor oil, snakeroot, turpentine, tartar emetic, paregoric, and flax seeds are among the medicines Surgeon William Tradewell reports receiving on this list.

A list of medicines drawn up by Army Surgeon William Tradewell (1847), in Box 2, folder 63, Territorial and Early Statehood Papers of Florida (Series 2153), State Archives of Florida. Click the image to enlarge it.

A list of medicines drawn up by Army Surgeon William Tradewell (1847), in Box 2, folder 63, Territorial and Early Statehood Papers of Florida (Series 2153), State Archives of Florida. Click the image to enlarge it.

To explore deeper into mid-19th century medicine, check out the Journal of Dr. John M.W. Davidson and our exhibit on Early Florida Medicine.

Documents from the U.S.-Mexican War also present an opportunity for genealogists. Generally, when a militia company formed, one of its first tasks was to create a muster roll identifying its members. These lists were vital for determining how much the unit would need in terms of supplies, arms, and pay. The roll was also often sent to the state government as part of a request for the company to be officially activated.

The State Archives holds muster rolls for the three Florida companies that served in Mexico, plus two more that served at Fort Brooke near Tampa. These rolls (found in Series 1282) list each soldier’s name, rank, age, time and place of enlistment, and other details. These documents can potentially help pinpoint the location of a Florida ancestor whose whereabouts in the 1840s have been otherwise tricky to find, if in fact he volunteered for service in this conflict.

This is just one example of the many nooks and crannies in Florida’s history that deserve more attention than they often receive. Are there interesting but obscure historical episodes associated with your Florida community? Get a conversation started about them either by leaving a comment below or sharing with us on Facebook!

Welcome to Dunedin

Floridians have a diverse collective heritage that connects the state with all parts of the world. Dunedin, a quiet city on Florida’s Gulf Coast, is a perfect illustration of this. Dunedin citizens take pride in their town’s Scottish roots, such that tartan kilts and bagpipes are as a common a sight as palm trees.

Postcard of Dunedin, Florida welcome sign on Edgewater Drive  (circa 1950s).

Postcard of Dunedin, Florida welcome sign on Edgewater Drive (circa 1950s).

In the late 1870s two Scotsmen, J.O. Douglas and James Somerville, opened a general store in a waterfront community and petitioned the government for a post office. They requested the name Dunedin, in honor of their home back in Scotland. “Dunedin” (Dun-E-din) is the Gaelic name for Scotland’s capital, Edinburgh. The legacy of these Scottish settlers can still be seen today in the names of many of the city streets. One such street, located downtown, is Douglas Avenue, which is lined with popular landmarks like the Dunedin Brewery, Florida’s oldest craft brewery.

Postcard with street scene of downtown Dunedin, Florida (circa 1940s).

Postcard with street scene of downtown Dunedin, Florida (circa 1940s).

The Dunedin Scottish-American Society promotes the city’s rich Celtic heritage by sponsoring events such as ceilidhs, or parties, with old Scottish style singing and dancing. The organization also hosts special dinners dedicated to St. Andrew, the patron saint of Scotland, and Robert Burns, the famous Scottish poet. The Scottish Country Dancers of Dunedin honor the city’s heritage by teaching traditional highland dancing. Another cultural tie with Scotland is Dunedin’s sister city relationship with the Scottish city of Sterling.

Scottish dancers at Highland Games in 1975 Dunedin, Florida.

Scottish dancers at the Dunedin, Florida Highland Games in 1975.

Scottish bagpiping and drumming are an essential part of Dunedin’s local culture. The city has a community pipe band with pipers of all ages and skill levels. Both the Dunedin High School and the Dunedin Highland Middle School have bagpipe and drum bands as well. The Dunedin Scottish Highlander Marching Band’s uniforms are tartan kilts with full military-style regalia. They play “Scotland the Brave” as the football team’s fight song, and even have traditional Scottish dancers perform with them during the halftime shows.

Hear the City of Dunedin Pipe Band play “Scotland the Brave” at the 1991 Florida Folk Festival:


Download MP3

The Dunedin Scottish Highlander Marching and Pipe bands perform at the Dunedin, Florida Highland Games in 1975.

The Dunedin Scottish Highlander Marching band performs at the Dunedin, Florida Highland Games in 1975.

One of the most prominent celebrations of Dunedin’s Scottish heritage is the annual Dunedin Highland Games and Festival which began in 1966. There are actually four Highland Games each year throughout Florida, but Dunedin’s is the largest and oldest, attracting spectators and competitors from around the world. It is a week-long festival that includes the Highland Games, Celtic music concerts, the Military Tattoo, Scottish storytelling, a 5-K run, authentic Scottish food, and even sheepdog demonstrations! During most of these events spectators witness performances and competitions in the centuries-old Scottish traditions of piping, dancing, and drumming. Scottish clans and spectators alike are encouraged to wear their tartan sashes and kilts.

A bagpiper at the Dunedin, Florida Highland Games in 1975.

A bagpiper at the Dunedin, Florida Highland Games in 1975.

The Highland Games are arguably the most popular portion of the festival. The Games are widely believed to have originated in the 11th century when King Malcolm III held a footrace to decide who would become his personal messenger. Highland Games nowadays have grown to include competitions in the heavy athletics such as the caber toss, stone put, and Scottish hammer throw, all of which can be seen in the Dunedin version of the celebration.

Competitor tossing the weight over the bar at the Dunedin, Florida Highland Games in 1997.

Competitor tossing the weight over the bar at the Dunedin, Florida Highland Games in 1997.

Competitor tossing the caber at the Dunedin, Florida Highland Games in 1977.

Competitor tossing the caber at the Dunedin, Florida Highland Games in 1977.

This is the story of just one of the many unique communities in Florida. What stories from your Florida community are documented by the records and photographs on Florida Memory? Let us know about your local traditions by sharing a comment below!

Researching the Homefront

Today’s post is part of the Florida Department of State’s Victory Florida campaign to commemorate the contributions of Floridian men and women to winning World War II. Help us get the word out by sharing this and other related posts on social media using the hashtag #VictoryFL.

Americans nationwide are preparing to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. The weekend of August 14-16 will mark the 70th anniversary of Japan’s announcement that it would surrender, while September 2nd will be the anniversary of the formal ending of hostilities.

Bird's eye view of the Victory Club of the Florida State College for Women in Tallahassee, standing in a

Bird’s eye view of the Victory Club of the Florida State College for Women in Tallahassee, standing in a “V for Victory” formation (1942).

Over 248,000 Floridians, including more than 50,000 African Americans, served in the military during the war, while the state itself served as a year-round training center with over 170 military installations. Florida’s population grew by leaps and bounds during and after the war, as many former military personnel decided to make the Sunshine State their permanent home.

It goes without saying that Florida’s military contributions to the war were vital, but Floridians on the homefront also played an essential role in achieving victory. Citizens from all walks of life – men and women, whites and African Americans, city dwellers and rural folks – poured countless hours into civilian defense programs designed to keep Florida safe and prepared for any possibility. They took stock of food, water, and medicine supplies, organized carpools and child care services for working mothers, planned recreational activities for the men and women in uniform, and even helped watch the skies and seas for signs of the enemy.

Scrap metal collection was a vital homefront program. Seen here are several Floridians in Pensacola with a large collection of scrap metal and rubber (circa 1943).

Scrap metal collection was a vital homefront program. Seen here are several Floridians in Pensacola with a large collection of scrap metal and rubber (circa 1943).

This organizational chart demonstrates the breadth of the projects undertaken by the State Defense Council and its local branches. Shown here are the various state committees, along with the organizations with which they cooperated (Box 14, Series 419 - State Defense Council Records, State Archives of Florida).

This organizational chart demonstrates the breadth of the projects undertaken by the State Defense Council and its local branches. Shown here are the various state committees, along with the organizations with which they cooperated (Box 14, Series 419 – State Defense Council Records, State Archives of Florida). Click to enlarge.

Many of these programs were administrated by Florida’s State Defense Council, a state-level counterpart of the national Office of Civilian Defense. Each county had its own defense council, with committees assigned to take on various tasks associated with civilian defense. Because these entities answered to the State Defense Council, many of their records have been preserved at the State Library and Archives in Tallahassee in Record Series 419. For the local historian working on a history of a particular Florida community or county, these records can be invaluable for understanding how local leaders helped meet the serious challenges of World War II. Genealogists may also find it interesting to learn how various relatives participated in civilian defense work. Here are some examples of the kinds of records available:

 

Personnel Lists & Organizational Charts

Each county and many cities had their own defense councils, administrated by community leaders and supported by hundreds of local volunteers. Many of the committee chairpersons were required to submit oaths of allegiance before their appointments to local leadership positions would be confirmed by the state and made official by the Governor. The local council also had to notify the state if there were any changes in personnel as the war progressed. All of this activity was documented through correspondence and lists of essential defense council leaders. Local and family historians can use this information to determine who was in charge of each area of civilian defense work during the war in a given community.

A leadership roster from the Dixie County Defense Council, showing who was in charge of the various committees. This sort of roster is available for most counties in Florida (Box 16, Series 419 - State Defense Council Records, State Archives of Florida).

A leadership roster from the Dixie County Defense Council, showing who was in charge of the various committees. This sort of roster is available for most counties in Florida (Box 16, Series 419 – State Defense Council Records, State Archives of Florida).

Chart suggesting a method for organizing civilian defense volunteers. Note that the chart provides alternative arrangements for areas with varying population density (Box 14. State Defense Council Records - Series 419, State Archives of Florida).

Chart suggesting a method for organizing civilian defense volunteers. Note that the chart provides alternative arrangements for areas with varying population density (Box 14. State Defense Council Records – Series 419, State Archives of Florida).

 

Local Programs & Advertisements

Local defense councils, especially those in Florida’s larger cities, designed intricate programs to handle basic needs like child care for working mothers, transportation, and spreading information about air raid drills, blackouts, and other safety measures. Many of the child care centers, supply distribution points, and other agencies created during the war disappeared quickly after victory, leaving little trace of their existence. The records in Series 419 can help local historians piece together what these entities were doing, where they were doing it, and who was in charge.

Example: Leaflet describing wartime child care services in Duval County established by the local school board and the Duval County Defense Council (Box 16, Series 419 – State Defense Council Records, State Archives of Florida.

 

Another example:

Flyer produced by the Dade County Defense Council encouraging citizens to volunteer (Box 12, State Defense Council Records - Series 419, State Archives of Florida).

Flyer produced by the Dade County Defense Council encouraging citizens to volunteer (Box 12, Series 419 – State Defense Council Records, State Archives of Florida).

 

Correspondence

While much of the correspondence between the State Defense Council and the local defense councils consists of routine business, some of the letters contain excellent descriptions of the work being done, and of the challenges local leaders faced in getting the supplies they needed, the information they wanted, and so on. These letters are a must for anyone working on the history of civilian defense work in a Florida community. Here is an example of one such letter to the State Defense Council from Mrs. C.C. Codrington of Lake City, who had volunteered to chair a local campaign to recruit women into the Women’s Army Corps. She describes speaking to local civic clubs about her work, working with local theater managers to show informative films, and starting work in the local high school library. Mrs. Codrington’s oath of allegiance was enclosed with the letter.

Source: Box 12, Series 419 – State Defense Council Records, State Archives of Florida.
These are only a few examples of the many gems to be found in the records of the State Defense Council at the State Archives of Florida. If you or someone you know is working on a history of your Florida community during World War II, visit us and have a look. More information on Series 419 may be obtained from the Archives Online Catalog, or you may contact the State Archives directly by email at Archives@dos.myflorida.com or by phone at (850)-245-6719.

Also, don’t forget to share this post with friends or family who may be interested in learning more about Florida’s World War II contributions. Use the hashtag #VictoryFL to help more people find this and other related posts!

Second Chances

Second chances come more easily in some cases than in others. When a 3,500-year old bald cypress tree near Longwood, Florida known as “The Senator” burned in 2012, local residents could not have imagined that any such second chance was in store for their beloved landmark. Thanks to the determination of the local community and a little luck, however, the outcome was nothing short of miraculous.

Excerpt of a map from the Florida Department of Transportation showing Longwood and the surrounding region (2014).

Excerpt of a map from the Florida Department of Transportation showing Longwood and the surrounding region (2014).

Longwood is located just north of Orlando in Seminole County. The earliest settlers arrived in the 1870s, mostly to get started in the citrus industry. One of the defining landmarks of the area was the cypress tree that would later be called the Senator. Local historians have suggested that both Native Americans and early settlers used the tree to help find their way from the St. Johns River to trading centers farther west. At its largest, the Senator was 47 feet around, 17.5 feet in diameter, and 165 feet high.

People admiring the Senator at Big Tree Park in Longwood (1946).

People admiring the Senator at Big Tree Park in Longwood (1946).

As Longwood grew and became a popular stopping point along the highway, the Senator took on a new role as tourist attraction. Several photos in the Florida Photographic Collection show visitors gazing in wonder at the majestic tree, or trying to see just how many people were required to encircle its massive base. After a hurricane snapped off 47 feet of the tree’s height in 1925, locals became very concerned about the welfare of this natural treasure. State Senator Moses Overstreet, who happened to own the land on which the tree stood, donated the acreage to Seminole County so it could be preserved. The area was called “Big Tree Park,” although the tree itself quickly became known as “The Senator” in honor of Overstreet’s generous gift.

Tourists holding hands around the Senator in Longwood (circa 1930).

Tourists holding hands around the Senator in Longwood (circa 1930).

The Senator prospered for the remainder of the 20th century, even regaining seven feet of the height it had lost in the 1925 hurricane. Tragedy struck on January 16, 2012, however, when a young woman set fire to the tree while smoking inside its large hollow base. The Senator quickly burned from the inside out, causing the trunk to collapse. All that was left standing was a charred, jagged stump. Seminole County officials closed Big Tree Park while they tried to figure out what to do next.

Two key developments combined to give Longwood’s famed Senator tree a new lease on life. Some years before the fire, a science teacher from Miami named Layman Hardy visited the Senator shortly after one of its branches had broken off and fallen during a storm. Hardy noticed several tiny buds of new growth on the branch. Realizing that these buds could be used to clone the unusually massive tree, he took them to a tree nursery owner in Lafayette County named Marvin Buchanan, who grafted clippings from the Senator’s branch onto other roots from the same species. Seven of the grafted trees survived, although their famous parentage was mostly forgotten.

Grafting has long been practiced by nurseries, farmers, and horticulturists to combine the best qualities of multiple strains of plants. Seen here is a diagram from a 1924 agricultural report explaining the best buds to be used for grafting pecan trees. See University of Florida Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin 170 (May 1924), page 181 (Available through the State Library of Florida).

Grafting has long been practiced by botanists, farmers, and horticulturists to combine the best qualities of multiple strains of plants. Seen here is a diagram from a 1924 agricultural report explaining the best buds to be used for grafting pecan trees. See University of Florida Agricultural Experiment Station Bulletin 170 (May 1924), page 181 (Available through the State Library of Florida).

When news of the Senator’s demise emerged, a forestor named Scott Sager remembered that the big tree had been grafted. Before long, Seminole County officials had arranged for one of Marvin Buchanan’s copies of the Senator to be carefully prepared, dug up, and transferred to Longwood for replanting in Big Tree Park. Seminole County schools held a contest to come up with a name for the newcomer – the name “The Phoenix” was chosen as the winner. The new tree was dedicated March 2, 2013.

Meanwhile, another project was underway to utilize wood from the original Senator. Shortly after the fire in 2012, a member of the Seminole County Historical Commission named Bob Hughes asked county officials if he could salvage wood from the fallen trunk to create a memorial. Hughes’ request was granted, whereupon he and others set up a program in which woodworking artists could apply to receive wood from the ancient tree to create works of art. There was a caveat. All artists receiving wood from the tree had to create exact duplicates of their pieces to give back to Seminole County. A total of 18 artists were chosen to participate. Their pieces, many now on display at the Museum of Seminole County History, capture the life and death of the Senator as well as a broader perspective of Florida’s natural beauty.

Several of the pieces used in the exhibit at the Museum of Seminole County History were so large they had to be brought in on flat-bed trailers. Photo courtesy of the Museum of Seminole County History.

Several of the pieces used in the exhibit at the Museum of Seminole County History were so large they had to be brought in on flat-bed trailers. Photo courtesy of the Museum of Seminole County History.

One of the most compelling displays consists of six columns of wood from the Senator’s trunk arranged in a circle representing the exact circumference of the original tree. The outer faces of the columns have been beautifully finished, while the inner faces still bear the black charring caused by the fire. Several other pieces are enclosed in a case at the center. This arrangement gives the visitor an opportunity to truly comprehend the magnitude of the historic tree by walking figuratively around and inside its former base. The full exhibit, titled The Senator’s Sculptures: Ancient Wood Reborn, will be open until September 30, 2015. Click here for details.

The centerpiece of the Museum's exhibit features six columns of wood from the Senator's trunk representing its enormous size. The exhibit remains open until September 30, 2015. Photo courtesy of the Museum of Seminole County History.

The centerpiece of the Museum’s exhibit features six columns of wood from the Senator’s trunk representing its enormous size. The exhibit remains open until September 30, 2015. Photo courtesy of the Museum of Seminole County History.

The Senator is no longer a natural beacon in Big Tree Park, but Seminole County’s citizens and leaders are clearly taking its legacy seriously. The tree’s successor, the Phoenix, is already some fifty feet tall, and the Museum of Seminole County History has found truly unique ways to articulate the majesty of the original. When it comes to second chances, a historic monument like the Senator tree could hardly ask for more.

What are the “famous” natural resources in your Florida community? What efforts have been taken to preserve them (or their memory) for future generations? Leave us a comment below, and don’t forget to share on Facebook or Twitter!

Cherry Lake

Cherry Lake is a small community located less than five miles from the Georgia State Line in Madison County. It has been home to one of the state’s most vibrant 4-H summer camp programs since 1937, but it was a hub of activity long before that time.

Excerpt from the 2013 official Florida Highway Map published by the Florida Department of Transportation, showing Cherry Lake in Madison County.

Excerpt from the 2013 official Florida Highway Map published by the Florida Department of Transportation, showing Cherry Lake in Madison County.

According to Dr. Alonzo Blalock, who grew up in the area during the mid-1800s, Native Americans originally called Cherry Lake by the name “Ocklawilla.” The terrain surrounding the lake was well-suited for farming, and as more American settlers began venturing into Florida in the 1820s and 1830s, several selected Ocklawilla as the place to make their fortunes. Lucius A. Church, a New Hampshire native and former Georgia merchant, moved into the area around 1830 and bought up two thousand acres of land for a plantation. Other early settlers included the families of William L. Tooke and Reddin W. Parramore. Both of these men were from North Carolina, but spent time in Georgia before moving south into Florida. By 1837, the local post office carried the name “Cherry Lake.” The name stems from the presence of wild cherry trees near the water’s edge, according to Allen Morris’ book of Florida place names.

Several collections at the State Library & Archives touch on Cherry Lake’s history through the years. Members of the community who served the Confederate Army during the Civil War and later received a pension from the state, for example, may be traced through our collection of Confederate Pension Applications. The application below was filed by Thomas J. Blalock, who lived near Cherry Lake when the war broke out.

Confederate pension application (1909) for Thomas J. Blalock, one-time resident of Cherry Lake (click the image to enlarge and view full application dossier).

Confederate pension application (1909) for Thomas J. Blalock, one-time resident of Cherry Lake (click the image to enlarge and view full application dossier).

Cherry Lake was also at times the headquarters of a voting precinct, and at least two militia units were formed there. The muster roll below, for example, lists the members of a company of volunteer militiamen commanded by Captain Charles Williamson. The unit formed at Cherry Lake in September 1870.

Muster Roll of Captain Charles Williamson's Company (Company K) organized at Cherry Lake, Florida in September 1870 (Box 2, folder 16 - Record Series 1146, State Archives of Florida).

Click the image to enlarge. Muster Roll of Captain Charles Williamson’s Company (Company K) organized at Cherry Lake, Florida in September 1870 (Box 2, folder 16 – Record Series 1146, State Archives of Florida).

During the Great Depression, Cherry Lake became the scene of a more profound development. As the American economy continued to spiral downward in the early 1930s, the federal government embarked on an unprecedented series of projects to jumpstart economic activity – President Franklin Roosevelt’s “New Deal.” The Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) was one of several agencies coordinating this work. In the early 1930s, FERA bought up 15,000 acres on the shores of Cherry Lake and made plans for a community to house families resettled from crowded urban areas. The idea was to develop the land into a farm and industrial plant that would sustain the inhabitants and help take pressure off the cities. By 1935, well over a hundred families had been relocated to Cherry Lake from Tampa, Jacksonville, Miami, and elsewhere. Officially, the new settlement was called the Cherry Lake Rehabilitation Project. This was later shortened to “Cherry Lake Farms,” which was the name given to the post office in December 1935.

Construction of temporary barracks at Cherry Lake Farms for incoming families (1935).

Construction of temporary barracks at Cherry Lake Farms for incoming families (1935).

The community had everything it needed – roadways, water, electricity, a meat market, a general store, public meeting spaces, and housing. FERA and the Cherry Lake settlers tried several avenues for making the community profitable. At first, they tried raising sugar cane. The project was not successful, so they moved on to raising grapes. This too failed to pass muster, but residents had some luck manufacturing furniture and small crafts. Chairs, desks, tables, and other home furniture were constructed, along with ashtrays, table pads, artificial flowers, and other articles for sale.

Sawmill #2 at Cherry Lake Farms (1935).

Sawmill #2 at Cherry Lake Farms (1935).

Life at Cherry Lake wasn’t all about hard work, of course. The residents made regular use of the settlement’s spacious auditorium, hosting plays, picture shows, and first-rate musical entertainments. According to eminent Madison County historian Edwin Browning’s account of Cherry Lake Farms, even the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and bandleaders Chick Webb and Jan Garber were featured on that stage in its heyday.

Scene from a community play at the Cherry Lake Auditorium (circa 1940s).

Scene from a community play at the Cherry Lake Auditorium (circa 1940s).

Ticket stub for an event at the Cherry Lake Auditorium (circa 1940s).

Ticket stub for an event at the Cherry Lake Auditorium (circa 1940s).

Most of the Cherry Lake infrastructure returned to private ownership during and after World War II. Many of the residents returned to their former homes or moved elsewhere. A few families stayed in the area. The state’s 4-H program began leasing a 12-acre tract of land on the west side of the lake for camp operations around 1937. That property was later acquired outright for 4-H purposes, and remains a headquarters for year-round 4-H activities today.

Attendees of the Cherry Lake 4-H camp in either 1937 or 1938. 1ST ROW L-R: Milton Cave, Melvene Smith, Gloria Bailey, N. Colbern, Bascom Coody, Willerdeen Pulliam; 2ND ROW : Faye Smith, Franklin Stokes, Ruby Stokes, Ed Smith, Jr., Louise Brown, Joe Smith Pulliam.

Attendees of the Cherry Lake 4-H camp in either 1937 or 1938. 1ST ROW L-R: Milton Cave, Melvene Smith, Gloria Bailey, N. Colbern, Bascom Coody, Willerdeen Pulliam; 2ND ROW : Faye Smith, Franklin Stokes, Ruby Stokes, Ed Smith, Jr., Louise Brown, Joe Smith Pulliam.

Are you researching the history of a Florida community? How about your family’s Florida roots? The State Library & Archives have the resources to help you find what you need. Search Florida Memory for documents and media in digital format, search the Library Catalog for rare Florida publications, or plan a visit to our research facility in Tallahassee.  Have a question about our collections? Not sure what you’re looking for? Contact us by email at Archives@dos.myflorida.com and let us know how we can help.

Florida History in a Cup

Folks, it’s HOT outside. Unless you’re lucky enough to be somewhere with lots of shade or a breeze, five minutes outdoors will put you sorely in need of a fan and a cool beverage. Iced tea is a favorite choice, of course – there’s no telling how many millions of gallons of it Floridans and visitors run through every year. Just the thought of all that refreshment brings to mind some important questions. How long has tea been consumed in Florida? And when did we make the (brilliant) decision to start drinking it ice-cold instead of warm? We turned to the resources of the State Library & Archives of Florida to get some answers, and here’s what we found:

Plate 29 from Discovering the New World, Based on the Works of Theodore de Bry, edited by Michael Alexander (New York: Harper & Row, 1976). This image was based on sketches by Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues, a member of the short-lived French colony at Fort Caroline (image originally published in 1591).

Plate 29 from Discovering the New World, Based on the Works of Theodore de Bry, edited by Michael Alexander (New York: Harper & Row, 1976). This image was based on sketches by Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues, a member of the short-lived French colony at Fort Caroline (image originally published in 1591).

First off, Europeans didn’t bring the concept of brewing tea to Florida. Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues, a member of the short-lived French colony at Fort Caroline, created a series of sketches depicting the activities and rituals of the Native Americans he encountered during the 16th century. At least one of these sketches depicts the “black drink” ceremony practiced by a number of Native Americans in the Southeast. This ritual involved brewing and consuming a drink made from the leaves of the yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria). The participants often vomited the tea afterward – hence the name Ilex vomitoria for the plant itself – but the natives believed this to be a way of purifying the mind and body.

The yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria), whose leaves were used by native Floridians to make a tea consumed as part of the

The yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria), whose leaves were used by native Floridians to make a tea consumed as part of the “black drink” ceremony (photo 1964).

Europeans weren’t too keen on the black drink ceremony, but there were other herbal concoctions they liked and copied. A Spanish physician named Nicolás Monardes, for instance, wrote extensively of the Sassafras plant, whose roots were frequently made into a tea. Sassafras tea was believed to cure a wide variety of ailments from fevers to constipation to lameness. As Europeans were gradually introduced to green and black teas from Asia, these products began showing up in shipments of goods traded at Pensacola and St. Augustine.

When Florida became a United States possession in 1821, coffee seems to have been much more popular than tea among the earliest American settlers. The State Archives of Florida holds several ledgers from Floridian general stores dating back to the 1820s, which are very useful for understanding what our forbears were buying and selling at various times. Coffee far outranked tea in popularity in the 1820s, probably because of expense, but there’s still plenty of evidence for tea consumption. Local Tallahasseans were buying teacups, saucers, teapots, and tea itself, as this page from the ledger of merchant Miles Blake shows (click/tap the image to enlarge it):

Page from the sales ledger of Miles Blake's general store in Tallahassee. This particular page details sales made in February 1828, including some tea sold to Sherod McCall. The entry is indicated by a red arrow (Page 18 of Volume 1 of Collection M96-28, State Archives of Florida).

Page from the sales ledger of Miles Blake’s general store in Tallahassee. This particular page details sales made in February 1828, including some tea sold to Sherod McCall. The entry is indicated by a red arrow (Page 18 of Volume 1 of Collection M96-28, State Archives of Florida).

The medicinal value of tea was appreciated right on through the 19th century. In the 1840s, Gadsden County physician John M.W. Davidson recorded a recipe for “beef tea” in his journal. This concoction, more of a broth than a tea, appears to have been intended for patients who had trouble eating solid foods for one reason or another. Click on the page image for a transcription of the recipe.

Page from the journal of Dr. John M.W. Davidson, with a recipe for beef tea (circa 1840s).

Page from the journal of Dr. John M.W. Davidson, with a recipe for beef tea (circa 1840s).

By the middle of the 19th century, tea consumption was becoming more popular throughout the United States. Some businessmen wondered if perhaps Asian tea plants would grow in Florida. In 1867, the Florida Tea Company published a prospectus proposing to grow tea plants on a plantation in Madison County in North Florida. The organizers claimed the enterprise would yield as much as a quarter million pounds of tea per year. It does not appear that this grand experiment was ever tried, no doubt in part because of the dire economic conditions experienced across Florida following the Civil War. Newspapers did, however, continue to report on small-scale experimental tea plots in various parts of the state.

Inside cover of the Florida Tea Company's prospectus - from the Florida Collection of the State Library (1867).

Inside cover of the Florida Tea Company’s prospectus – from the Florida Collection of the State Library (1867).

By the twentieth century, tea was much more affordable, and could be enjoyed both as a refreshing drink and as an excuse to be social. Many of Florida’s famous hotels featured elegant tea gardens, and tea parties were a favorite venue for meeting friends, neighbors, or colleagues. Even the younger set made a habit of sitting down to tea now and then.

Japanese tea garden at the Flamingo Hotel on Miami Beach (1923).

Japanese tea garden at the Flamingo Hotel on Miami Beach (1923).

Blanche and Mary Pat Weedon having a tea party in Bartow (1931).

Blanche and Mary Pat Weedon having a tea party in Bartow (1931).

As for when iced tea came into vogue, that’s a tricky question. Recipes for iced tea began showing up in print around the 1870s, but the drink didn’t really take off until it was introduced at the World’s Fair in St. Louis in 1904. Hotels offered it on their menus to refresh thirsty guests who had just come in from a day’s activities. Railroad stations often sold the drink as well. It’s not hard to imagine why it caught on especially well in the South. Iced tea offered the flavor and fulfillment of a traditional beverage with the added pleasure of refreshing coolness.

So – next time you pour yourself a glass of iced tea or make a cup of hot tea (perhaps when the weather cools down a bit), remember that you’re partaking in a long-standing tradition in Florida’s history, one that has taken many forms over the years. Bottoms up!