Florida’s First Automobiles

Florida Memory is now digitizing two ledgers containing Florida’s earliest automobile registration records, dating from 1905 to 1917. Although the project is still in progress, we have already found some fascinating information to share in celebration of Collector Car Appreciation Day on July 10th.

Ranson E. Olds in the Olds Pirate racing car on Ormond Beach (circa 1896).

Ranson E. Olds in the Olds Pirate racing car on Ormond Beach (circa 1896).

 

In the 21st Century, vehicle registration seems like a given. After you buy a car, you register it and display the license plate issued to you. It hasn’t always worked that way, however. Florida first began requiring residents to register their vehicles in 1905. Because the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles did not yet exist, it was the responsibility of the Department of State to issue the registrations for automobile owners. Auto owners would send an application to the Department of State with the make, model, horsepower, and factory number of their car, as well as the name and address of the individual(s) or business to which the vehicle was to be registered. All of this information was recorded in a ledger, along with a registration number assigned by the Department. Once the registrant received the certificate, the registration number had to be displayed on the rear of the vehicle. The earliest license plates were often handmade by the owner out of wood, metal, or leather.

Example of the ledger entries for new automobile registrations with the Florida Department of State in February 1909. This excerpt shows registrants from Miami, Seabreeze, Daytona, Pensacola, and Pine Barren (Volume 1 of Record Series 644, State Archives of Florida).

Example of the ledger entries for new automobile registrations with the Florida Department of State in February 1909. This excerpt shows registrants from Miami, Seabreeze, Daytona, Pensacola, and Pine Barren (Volume 1 of Record Series 644, State Archives of Florida).

An automobile registration issued to L.A. Wilson of Tampa in 1909 by Florida Secretary of State Clay Crawford (Volume 1 of Record Series 644, State Archives of Florida).

An automobile registration issued to L.A. Wilson of Tampa in 1909 by Florida Secretary of State Clay Crawford (Volume 1 of Record Series 644, State Archives of Florida).

Many of the automobiles listed in these records were manufactured by familiar companies like Buick, Ford, Cadillac, and Olds. However, many early vehicle manufacturing companies remain unheard-of, and even bizarre, to the modern car owner. For example, did you know that the White Sewing Machine Company also produced automobiles? Although the company originally prospered as a manufacturer of sewing machines, it also produced agricultural machines and engines, which led to its involvement in the automobile industry.

Barney Oldfield sitting in his Blitzen Benz on Daytona Beach (circa 1910).

Barney Oldfield sitting in his Blitzen Benz on Daytona Beach (circa 1910).

Claude Nolan Cadillac dealership in Jacksonville (circa 1910s).

Claude Nolan Cadillac dealership in Jacksonville (circa 1910s).

By 1900 the White Sewing Machine Company had produced four types of steam-powered cars, inspired by a semi-flash boiler invented by founder Thomas H. White’s son and heir, Rollin White. One of these steamers, a Touring Car style, was the first car registered in Florida to Standard Oil co-founder and influential Florida railroad tycoon, Henry M. Flagler. Flagler spent the latter half of his life developing Florida into an “American Riviera”by constructing railroads and hotels, donating to hospitals and schools, and building up communities like Palm Beach and Miami.

Henry Flagler being transported by pedi-cab in Palm Beach (circa 1900s).

Henry Flagler being transported by pedi-cab in Palm Beach (circa 1900s).

Famous names appear frequently in the registration records, but automobile ownership expanded quickly beyond the wealthiest upper crust of Florida society. Electricians, surgeons, attorneys, merchants, and many others are represented in the collection also. Genealogists will find the records useful for discovering early auto owners among their Floridian ancestors. Local historians will be able to find out who had the first registered vehicles in their communities. Automobile enthusiasts will now have a wealth of data about the earliest cars on the road in Florida, including many of the race cars that once zoomed along Daytona and Ormond beaches. In case you were wondering, for example, the average horsepower rating of a registered Florida vehicle in 1905 was a whopping 10.5!

 

Men in a Buick race car on Daytona Beach (circa 1900s).

Men in a Buick race car on Daytona Beach (circa 1900s).

The Florida Automobile Registration Records will be fully digitized this fall, and will be permanently displayed on our Collections page. Follow the Florida Memory Blog to get the latest information on this and other projects underway at the State Library and Archives of Florida!

Dr. Buena V. Elmore and Albert Cayson in the first registered automobile in Blountstown, nicknamed the

Dr. Buena V. Elmore and Albert Cayson in the first registered automobile in Blountstown, nicknamed the “chicken killer” (circa 1905).

The Yamato Colony

The southern half of Florida’s Atlantic coast is one of the most densely populated portions of the state. It’s hard to imagine a time when this was not the case, but at the turn of the 20th century, the population in this area was comparatively tiny. In 1905, Fort Lauderdale had a population of only 219 persons. Miami had fewer than 5,000 residents, even counting the suburbs. West Palm Beach was home to about 1,300.

Investors were eager to get more settlers moving into the area to farm and generate economic activity. With help from Florida’s Bureau of Immigration, they cast a wide net, seeking new residents from around the country and abroad. Jo Sakai, a Japanese man who graduated from New York University in 1903, was one of those who answered the call. In 1904, Sakai and others would establish a colony near present-day Boca Raton called Yamato.

Excerpt from a 1915 map of Florida published by the Southern Railway Company, showing the location of Yamato (indicated by a red arrow). Map courtesy of the State Library's Florida Map Collection.

Excerpt from a 1915 map of Florida published by the Southern Railway Company, showing the location of Yamato (indicated by a red arrow). Map courtesy of the State Library’s Florida Map Collection.

Jo Sakai had come to the United States after graduating from Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan. After studying finance at NYU, he was attracted to Florida by advertisements from Florida’s Bureau of Immigration and the Model Land Company promising plentiful land and profitable farming opportunities. The Model Land Company was a corporation set up by developer and railroad tycoon Henry Flagler to manage the massive grants of land given by the State of Florida as an incentive for building the Florida East Coast Railway.

Sakai inspected the land available for sale and purchased one thousand acres from the Model Land Company near modern-day Boca Raton. The idea was that he would establish a colony of workers, develop a successful farming operation, and pay for the land over time. As an incentive, the Model Land Company agreed to front the money for the colony’s equipment and housing.

Jo and Sada Sakai (circa 1910).

Jo and Sada Sakai (circa 1910).

Jo Sakai left for Japan in March 1904 to seek willing individuals for the new proposed farming colony. By autumn he had several takers, but they had to carefully disguise their intentions to avoid disruption by the Japanese Foreign Ministry. To reduce suspicion, Sakai’s colonists told the government they needed their exit permits and passports so they could study in the United States. Once in the U.S., the colonists traveled to Florida on Henry Flagler’s dime, another sign of how eager developers were to get South Florida’s economy going. By the end of 1904, a dozen colonists were ready to work.

The Japanese newcomers called their new home “Yamato,” an ancient name for Japan itself. Getting the farming underway was slow at first. The soil was fertile, but it had never been cleared before. Months of manual labor went into preparing only a few acres for cultivation. The inhospitable climate and mosquitoes didn’t help matters.

One of Yamato's earliest pineapple fields (1906).

One of Yamato’s earliest pineapple fields (1906).

Over time, however, the Yamato colony began to grow. In 1907, the Florida East Coast Railway established a train station at Yamato, near where Yamato Rd. (State Road 794) now crosses the railroad tracks in Boca Raton. The local post office, which had previously been called “Wyman,” was renamed “Yamato.” Settlers began sending word to Japan for their wives and families to join them in Florida. Jo Sakai’s wife Sada arrived in 1906, making her the colony’s first woman, and in 1909 their daughter became the first child born in the new settlement.

Settlers gathered at the Yamato train depot on the Florida East Coast Railway, established in 1907 (photo circa 1911).

Settlers gathered at the Yamato train depot on the Florida East Coast Railway, established in 1907 (photo circa 1911).

Pineapples were the first major crop grown in Yamato, but a blight in 1908 all but ended that strategy. The colonists began growing winter vegetables like beans, onions, and especially tomatoes. Although the colony remained active for several decades, it was never very large. A number of residents branched off into other fields of work over time, and by the 1930s there were only about 20-25 Japanese farmers living in Yamato.

The last group of children to attend school at the Yamato schoolhouse. After the school closed in 1922, children from Yamato attended classes in Boca Raton (photo circa 1922).

The last group of children to attend school at the Yamato schoolhouse. After the school closed in 1922, children from Yamato attended classes in Boca Raton (photo circa 1922).

Anti-immigrant sentiments did not directly disturb the colonists’ work, although a number of the settlers were unable to legally become U.S. citizens until the 1950s. World War II presented the colony’s toughest challenge, one it would not survive. Shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, a federal judge ordered that Japanese-owned lands at Yamato be turned over to the United States government. Some of the land went toward building an airfield for Boca Raton, and a large portion ultimately became the site of Florida Atlantic University.

Boca Raton has all but absorbed what remained of Yamato after the war, but some former residents took steps to keep the colony’s memory alive. George Morikami, who by the 1960s had bought up a considerable amount of land, granted a parcel to Palm Beach County in 1973 for a park. On June 25, 1977, the Morikami Museum of Japanese Culture opened along with the park. The museum seeks to inculcate an appreciation for Japanese culture through exhibits, authentic Japanese ceremonies and demonstrations, and other educational experiences.

A Japanese tea ceremony at the Morikami Museum in Delray Beach (circa 1980).

A Japanese tea ceremony at the Morikami Museum in Delray Beach (circa 1980).

A Brief History of the Bathing Suit

On July 5th, 1946 the bikini hit shelves and changed Florida’s beaches forever. In honor of the 69th anniversary of this momentous event, we’re taking a look at the history of the bathing suit!

The first stop on our timeline is in the 18th century (though there’s proof people were using bathing suits as far back as Ancient Rome). According to Smithsonianladies often wore “bathing gowns” in the water, which was just what it sounds like, a long dress meant to modestly cover women, even when wet. It is thought that women even put weights in the dress so it wouldn’t float up!

This modest bathing fashion continued well on into the early 20th century, as these Florida photos demonstrate:

Lady in white reclining on the beach - Palm Beach, Florida

Lady in white reclining on the beach — Palm Beach (1896).

 

People at the beach - Palm Beach, Florida

People at the beach – Palm Beach (ca.1900s).

 

Quartette of northern visitors - Daytona Beach, Florida

Quartette of northern visitors — Daytona Beach (1909).

Bloomers, adapted for water, worn with tunics and black stockings became popular around the turn of the 20th century. However they were made of heavy material such as wool or flannel, that made it difficult for women to comfortably navigate the water.

Young woman in a bathing suit

Young woman in a bathing suit (1916).

 

Myrtle Ola Roth and sister Allie Harold at the beach - Miami Beach, Florida

Myrtle Ola Roth and sister Allie Harold at the beach — Miami Beach (ca.1920s).

 

People on the beach - Daytona Beach, Florida

People on the beach — Daytona Beach (1909).

 

SCANDAL! In 1907, Annette Kellerman, famed for becoming the first woman to swim across the English Channel, was arrested in Boston for wearing a one-piece, form-fitting suit.  The arrest was not an isolated incident and what followed was women’s bathing suits showing more and more skin on beaches across the world.

 

Young women enjoying a day at the beach together - Miami Beach, Florida

Young women enjoying a day at the beach together — Miami Beach (1925).

 

Publicity photograph regarding bathing suit restrictions - Miami, Florida

Publicity photograph regarding bathing suit restrictions — Miami (ca.1920s).

 

In 1938, the strapless bathing suit made its first debut in Miami Beach.

 

Strapless bathing suits making their debut - Miami Beach, Florida

Strapless bathing suits making their debut — Miami Beach (1938)

 

And then came the “bomb” that would change swimming fashion forever. On July 5th, 1946 the bikini made its explosive debut at a Paris fashion show. French engineer Louis Réard invented the scandalous two-piece, midriff-bearing bathing suit, rumored to be named after the recent atomic bomb tests at Bikini Atoll, because it too would explode.

 

Elsie Anderson and Florence Lainhart - West Palm Beach

Elsie Anderson and Florence Lainhart — West Palm Beach (1946)

 

The bikini took some time to catch on, but soon it was all over beaches and a part of popular culture (More from the Florida Photographic Collection).

 

Sarasota Sun-Debs being given lessons in descending stairs at Lido Beach, Florida.

Sarasota Sun-Debs being given lessons in descending stairs at Lido Beach (1949).

 

Four bikini clad women frolicking on the beach - Pensacola, Florida

Four bikini clad women frolicking on the beach — Pensacola (1969).

 

Today, bathing suits come in all shapes, patterns and sizes. Whatever suit you like best, summer is a great time to put it on and enjoy one of Florida’s many beaches, rivers, springs, and lakes!

Ladies pose on Miami Beach wearing swimsuits made of straw, tarpon shell, gold mesh, palm fronds, alligator hide, rubber, coral, starfish, and seashells (1937).

Ladies pose on Miami Beach wearing swimsuits made of straw, tarpon shell, gold mesh, palm fronds, alligator hide, rubber, coral, starfish, and seashells (1937).

A Cloud of Suspicion

As the United States moved closer to breaking ties with Germany and its allies during the First World War, citizens across the country took steps to separate themselves from all things German. Foods with ties to German culture received new names. Hamburgers became “liberty sandwiches.” Sauerkraut became “liberty cabbage.” Teaching the German language, playing German music, and even speaking in German were banned in some areas. Violators of these restrictions often found their loyalty to the United States questioned.

Anti-German sentiment was far-reaching, and Florida was not immune. In 1910, Germans made up 10.7 percent of Florida’s total white population of foreign birth or parentage, second only to Cubans in number. German and German-American immigrants had established farms and businesses across the state. German-American clubs had sprung up in Jacksonville, Tampa, and even smaller towns like Arcadia and Daytona. Members of the German-American community often denounced the war and spearheaded efforts to raise money for organizations like the International Red Cross, but they still frequently came under suspicion.

German American Club building in Tampa (circa 1912).

German American Club building in Tampa (circa 1912).

In Tampa, for example, the German-American Club was ultimately forced to dissolve, and its building was attacked by vandals. Saint Leo Abbey, a German Benedictine monastery located at San Antonio just to the north of Tampa, was home to Florida’s only German-language newspaper until its editor was arrested and held until the end of the war. The Legislature even passed a law in 1917 requiring all aliens to register with local authorities.

An early photo of Saint Leo Abbey in San Antonio, north of Tampa (circa 1920s).

An early photo of Saint Leo Abbey in San Antonio, north of Tampa (circa 1920s).

German-American businesses were often seized by the federal government to prevent their profits from aiding Germany, and to stamp out any attempt to use them as a front for German espionage. The German-American Lumber Company, a thriving Pensacola-based concern involved in Florida’s yellow pine industry, fell victim to this practice in 1918. The company’s leaders attempted to avoid interruption of business by transferring control to native Pensacola attorney and board member W.A. Blount. The strategy failed. On March 23, 1918, company president H.G. Kulenkampff was arrested as an “enemy alien,” and control of the lumber company was transferred to a new board of directors appointed by the federal Custodian of Alien Property, A. Mitchell Palmer. When the war ended, the reorganized “American Lumber Company” was put up for sale. Because Germany agreed by treaty to compensate its nationals for property confiscated by the United States during the war, the federal government did not compensate the original German owners of the German-American Lumber Company for their losses. No records indicate whether they ever received any compensation at all after the war.

Engine #7 of the German-American Lumber Company at Millview (1915).

Engine #7 of the German-American Lumber Company at Millview (1915).

Even the loyalty of some of Florida’s most respected German-Americans was called into question. Joseph L. Earman, chairman of the State Board of Control, wrote to naval authorities at Miami in 1918 requesting an investigation into the loyalty of Dr. Edward Conradi, president of the Florida State College for Women. Conradi, while born in Ohio, was of German parentage, and Earman believed an investigation was in order because of the “all important” nature of his work. Earman admitted that Conradi’s teaching was excellent and that the college had prospered under his leadership. “At the same time,” he wrote, “patriotism is above all in these trying times.”

Dr. Edward Conradi, president of the Florida State College for Women during World War I (photo circa 1925).

Dr. Edward Conradi, president of the Florida State College for Women during World War I (photo circa 1925).

Letter from State Board of Control Chairman Joseph L. Earmon to Lieutenant C.A. Muller of the Seventh Naval District, requesting an investigation of Dr. Edward Conradi, president of the Florida State College for Women - Box 2, folder 17, Correspondence of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, 1882-1922 (Series 249), State Archives of Florida.

Letter from State Board of Control Chairman Joseph L. Earmon to Lieutenant C.A. Muller of the Seventh Naval District, requesting an investigation of Dr. Edward Conradi, president of the Florida State College for Women – Box 2, folder 17, Correspondence of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, 1882-1922 (Series 249), State Archives of Florida.

Anti-German sentiment began to fade after the war, and Floridians of German heritage were able to openly celebrate their culture once again. Today, German-American clubs and societies thrive throughout the state, including in Miami, Jacksonville, Cape Coral, Lake Worth, Casselberry (Orlando area), and St. Petersburg. Traditional German food, music, and dancing are popular components of multicultural celebrations, and some communities even hold events specifically honoring German culture. The annual Oktoberfest events held in cities such as Palm Beach and Tampa are good examples.

Performers dancing at an Oktoberfest celebration in Lantana (1986).

Performers dancing at an Oktoberfest celebration in Lantana (1986).

What cultural influences have made an impact on your Florida community? Leave us a comment below or on Facebook, and search the Florida Photographic Collection for more photos of multicultural celebrations.

Juneteenth and Emancipation Day in Florida

June 19th is celebrated in many parts of the United States as “Juneteenth,” to commemorate the end of slavery after the Civil War. Many Floridians, however, celebrate a separate Emancipation Day on May 20th. So… which date is correct, May 20th or June 19th? In taking a look at the history of these celebrations, we see that the answer is… both.

African-American women stand in front of a car decorated for an Emancipation Day parade in Lincolnville (circa 1925).

African-American women stand in front of a car decorated for an Emancipation Day parade in Lincolnville (circa 1925).

In today’s world, news of a single event can be transmitted across the planet in seconds. Social media, satellite telecommunications, and the Internet in general have all but erased the meaning of distance when it comes to getting an important message from point A to point B.

This was not the case in 1865, when the Civil War was coming to an end. Many telegraph lines had been destroyed during the conflict, and news about the war was often either incorrect or contradictory. Neither the end of the war nor the end of slavery was absolutely confirmed until Union troops arrived in each locality to receive the surrender of their Confederate counterparts. This process happened in stages, with areas farther west learning the news weeks after the folks closer to the east coast.

In Florida, the process began in May 1865. Union General Edward M. McCook arrived in Tallahassee to receive the surrender of Florida’s Confederate troops on May 10th. On May 20th, McCook formally announced President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation from the steps of the Knott House, effectively ending slavery in the state. As a result, many Floridians celebrate May 20th as Emancipation Day.

Reeactors recreate Edward M. McCook's announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation on the steps of the Knott House in Tallahassee. This was the 150th anniversary of the original announcement (2015).

Reeactors recreate Edward M. McCook’s announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation on the steps of the Knott House in Tallahassee. This was the 150th anniversary of the original announcement (2015).

News of emancipation and the war’s official end did not reach Texas until the next month. On June 18th, Union General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston with 2,000 soldiers to occupy Texas. The following day, June 19th, he announced the Emancipation Proclamation from the balcony of the Ashton Villa. Consequently, emancipation is generally celebrated in Texas on June 19th.

Juneteenth celebrations are not limited to Texas, however. The tradition of celebrating the end of slavery on June 19th has spread to many communities in other states, including some in Florida. There has even been a movement to make June 19th a national holiday for commemorating emancipation.

Union soldier reenactor with children during the 2015 Emancipation Day Celebration at the Knott House Museum in Tallahassee.

Union soldier reenactor with children during the May 20, 2015 Emancipation Day Celebration at the Knott House Museum in Tallahassee.

Search the Florida Photographic Collection to find more photos of emancipation celebrations across the Sunshine State!

 

 

The Armed Occupation Act of 1842

Land records are some of the most useful items in a genealogist’s toolbox. They pinpoint specific people in specific places at specific times, and can serve as a stepping stone to other historic records that illuminate the lives of our ancestors. Sometimes land records can tell us a lot about a given moment in the broader history of Florida as well. The records associated with the Armed Occupation Act of 1842 are an excellent example.

By the end of the Second Seminole War, which lasted from 1835 to 1842, the number of Native Americans in Florida had dwindled considerably. Many had died in battle, and over 3,800 were forcibly removed to reservations out west. The few Seminoles who stayed in Florida retreated into the southernmost reaches of the territory. Eager to prevent any further conflict between the remaining natives and white settlers, Congress passed the Armed Occupation Act in 1842, which was designed to encourage settlers to populate the Florida peninsula. The idea was that if these settlers were limited by law to those who were able to bear arms, the territory would have the makings of an army at the ready if disturbances were to arise in the future.

A depiction of the Battle of Okeechobee during the Second Seminole War (1837).

A depiction of the Battle of Okeechobee during the Second Seminole War (1837).

Under the conditions of the act, any single man 18 years of age or older or any head of a family could apply for up to 160 acres of land through the government land offices at Newnansville and St. Augustine. If the settler established a home within a year, lived on the land for five consecutive years, and cleared and enclosed at least five acres of the granted land, he or she would receive title to the entire parcel for free. As each would-be settler selected his or her land and applied to the government land office for a permit, he or she would file an application affirming that they met the lawful requirements to receive it. These applications are excellent for genealogists because they identify the settler’s name, marital status, length of residence in Florida, and the location of the land desired. This is especially helpful information for those looking to identify the pioneer settlers among their Florida ancestors. Many of the settlers who took advantage of this law were from other parts of the United States, including ex-soldiers from the Second Seminole War. Consequently, in many cases these records are the first piece of a family’s paper trail in Florida.

Armed Occupation Act permit application for Elias Hart of Alachua County. Hart made his application as a single man aged over 18 and able to bear arms. The application reveals he had been in Florida since September 1818, and that he was requesting the right to settle a parcel of land near the Annutteliga Hammock in present-day Hernando County. This document was digitized by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and accessed through the LABINS database.

Armed Occupation Act permit application for Elias Hart of Alachua County. Hart made his application as a single man aged over 18 and able to bear arms. The application reveals he had been in Florida since September 1818, and that he was requesting the right to settle a parcel of land near the Annutteliga Hammock in present-day Hernando County. This document was digitized by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and accessed through the LABINS database.

A number of prominent Florida citizens received land under the Armed Occupation Act of 1842. Ossian B. Hart, governor of Florida from 1873-1874, received 160 acres of land along the Indian River just south of Fort Pierce. Douglass Dummett, who had arrived in Florida with his father in the 1820s, received land on Merritt Island, which he used to establish an orange grove whose fruit was reputed to be unusually hardy in the face of cold weather. A “castle” of a house was later built on the Dummett property by an Italian duke (more on Dummett Castle here). Mills Olcott Burnham, a Vermont native who moved to Florida in the 1830s seeking better health, received land near Ankona, also south of Fort Pierce. Burnham was a pioneer in pineapple cultivation, as well as a keeper of the Cape Canaveral lighthouse for over two decades.

Ossian B. Hart, 10th governor of Florida (1873-1874) and a beneficiary of the Armed Occupation Act (painted circa 1870).

Ossian B. Hart, 10th governor of Florida (1873-1874) and a beneficiary of the Armed Occupation Act (painted circa 1870).

Captain Mills Olcott Burnham of Cape Canaveral, businessman, pineapple farmer, and lighthouse keeper (circa 1880).

Captain Mills Olcott Burnham of Cape Canaveral, businessman, pineapple farmer, and lighthouse keeper (circa 1880).

So how do you go about using these documents? The State Library & Archives hold microfilm copies of these permit applications, along with an index (Record Series 1305). Also, the Department of Environmental Protection has digitized the originals as part of the LABINS database (click here to view it). To search the permit applications, set the “Document Type” field to “AOP” and add in the first and last names you wish to look up. Keep in mind that spellings for a single name can vary over time, so be prepared to try a few different versions of names if necessary. We recommend not filling out any other fields for this particular kind of search in LABINS.

To search for an ancestor's Armed Occupation Act permit in LABINS, select "AOP" from the Document Type menu and fill out the  name fields. Sometimes given names have variable spellings - consider searching for last names only at first.

To search for an ancestor’s Armed Occupation Act permit in LABINS, select “AOP” from the Document Type menu and fill out the name fields. Sometimes given names have variable spellings – consider searching for last names only at first.

If you find you have ancestors who received land through the Armed Occupation Act, you’ll likely also find them in the 1845 Election Returns, which are available digitally on Florida Memory. They may also appear in a number of records available for research in person at the State Library & Archives in Tallahassee. Check out our Guide to Genealogical Research for more details.

This return from Florida's 1845 statehood election records the votes of citizens voting at the home of Mills Olcott Burnham of St. Lucie County. Burnham served both as a voter and a poll inspector.

This return from Florida’s 1845 statehood election records the votes of citizens voting at the home of Mills Olcott Burnham of St. Lucie County. Burnham served both as a voter and a poll inspector.

Call Me Maybe?

The first known telephone in Florida was installed in Jacksonville in 1878, only two years after Alexander Graham Bell successfully completed the first telephonic conversation at his laboratory in Boston.

First telephone in Lake City

 

Signal Corps telegraph and telephone office: Jacksonville, Florida (1898)

Signal Corps telegraph and telephone office: Jacksonville, Florida (1898)

 

Woman at telephone switchboard: Coleman, Florida (1906)

Woman at telephone switchboard: Coleman, Florida (1906)

The first telephones came to Miami in 1898. The 25 subscribers included Henry M. Flagler, Julia Tuttle, Flagler’s Royal Palm Hotel and the Miami Metropolis.

The first service operated from a switchboard at the rear of a drug store closed every evening when the first operator, Miss Eunice Coons left for the day.

Occasionally the owner, John Dewey, would keep the telephone system open late to play a musical program for all subscribers.

Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Company: Miami, Florida (ca. 1925)

Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Company: Miami, Florida (ca. 1925)

The telephone quickly became an indispensable part of American work and culture. And of course, the teen social life.

“Kaye Batchelor, elected 1957 May Queen by fellow high school students this morning, grabbed the phone to tell her family.” (1957)

 

Shella Alexander using the telephone at his home in Tallahassee (1959)

Shella Alexander using the telephone at his home in Tallahassee (1959)

 

Pine Crest School students using a pay phone: Fort Lauderdale, Florida (ca. 1966)

Pine Crest School students using a pay phone: Fort Lauderdale, Florida (ca. 1966)

Pay phones expanded the reach of the telephone.

Phone booth users at the beach (1984)

And now the cell phone means we never have to be out of touch.

St. Petersburg Times reporter Lucy Morgan with video camera and phone.

 

Cattle rancher Tom Everett, Sr. speaking on his cell phone in Sumter County, Florida (2006)

Cattle rancher Tom Everett, Sr. speaking on his cell phone in Sumter County, Florida (2006)

What’s next for the telephone?

A State Park Under the Sea

One of the greatest strengths of Florida’s state park system is its diversity. Between the caves, springs, towering forests, picture-perfect beaches, and historic structures, there’s a park to suit almost every interest. Heck, Florida is even home to the nation’s first underwater state park, located down in the Florida Keys. Read more »

The Legend of Sam Story

At least as late as 1956, a simple stone marker stood near the confluence of the Choctawhatchee River and Bruce Creek, inscribed with the words “Sam Story, Cheif [sic] of the Euchees 1832.” The Euchees (or Yuchis) are not well documented in history, but some segment or segments of the tribe appear to have arrived in the Florida Panhandle by the end of the 18th century. John L. McKinnon’s History of Walton County, originally published in 1911, provides the most detailed account of the Euchee Indians and Sam Story available. It’s based on information the author learned from his father, who was one of the original pioneers of Walton County and may have met Sam Story. Read more »

Land by the Gallon

An Iowa man once came to Florida after buying a plot of land and, after having seen what he had purchased, said “I have bought land by the acre, and I have bought land by the foot; but, by God, I have never before bought land by the gallon.”

He was one of many who bought land in South Florida at the turn of the 20th century during one of Florida’s biggest land booms. Spurred on by the expansion of the railroad and ambitious plans to drain the Everglades for development, land speculators bought up thousands of acres of swampland and prepared to sell it to investors and settlers from the Midwest and Northeast. Some historians refer to this feverish period of land speculation as the “swamp boom,” and the folks involved as “swamp boomers.” Read more »