Photo Mystery Monday: November 16, 2015

This is one in a series of posts inviting our users to learn how to get the most information out of historic photos. We’ll post a new photo mystery every Monday, and then follow up with more information about the image on Friday. Get the conversation started by commenting on the blog and sharing it with your friends and family.


Be a photo detective! What is going on in this picture? Do you have a guess as to what year it might be? Where in Florida could this be?

What people, objects and activities do you notice?

Try an artist’s trick. Divide the photo into four quadrants and study each section. What new details do you see?

Based on what you have observed, what can you infer from this photograph? What questions do you have?

Come back on Friday when we will update the post with more identifying information!

For Teachers: Photo interpretation is a great critical thinking activity for students. The Photo Analysis Worksheet from the National Archives lets you use any photo as an opportunity to analyze primary source documents.


UPDATE: Auto-to-airplane transfer stunt at Daytona Beach

This photograph was taken on December 1, 1921 at Daytona Beach.

The Mabel Cody Flying Circus featured night-flying, wing-walking, auto-to-airplane transfers, single- and double-parachute drops, and acrobatic loop-to-loops. Mabel Cody (who was not officially a pilot) was hired by fairs and promoters like George E. Merrick to attract crowds and potential land and home buyers.

Mabel Cody is flying above Sig Haugdahl in his Frontenac automobile. Stuntman Louis “Bugs” McGowan is transferring from the car to the plane.

Louie “Bugs” McGowan, Sig Haugdahl and Mabel Cody

Follow the Liter

Have you ever wondered why we buy gasoline by the gallon, but purchase soft drinks in liter bottles? Or why track runners often race for a number of meters, yet long jumpers measure their achievements by feet and inches?

The United States has been flirting with the idea of adopting the metric system of measurement since 1866, but even today we remain on the fence. We use the old English standard in some cases, and the metric system in others. When a push to “go metric” surfaced in the 1970s, Florida’s state leaders launched a major campaign to prepare the public for the big change. The movement to go metric fizzled after a while, but it produced some interesting documents at the time, and even today it affects how students are taught units of measurement in math and science classes.

Brochure from the Florida Department of Education designed to help students learn the metric system (circa 1980). Click to view the entire brochure (Box 3, Folder 35, Florida Metric Council Planning Files - Series 1811, State Archives of Florida).

Brochure from the Florida Department of Education designed to help students learn the metric system (circa 1980). Click to view the entire brochure (Box 3, Folder 35, Florida Metric Council Planning Files – Series 1811, State Archives of Florida).

It all started in 1975, when President Gerald Ford signed the Metric Conversion Act into law, establishing a national policy for the increased use of the metric system. Congress had authorized the change over a century before, but decades of custom and familiarity had kept most people using the old English standard system. Increasingly, however, other countries with which the U.S. was doing business were switching to metric. Even the United Kingdom, where the English system had originated, dropped the old measurements in favor of metric in 1965. Upon signing the Metric Conversion Act, President Ford noted that over 90 percent of the world’s people were using metric – this law would make it easier for Americans to stay competitive in science and global trade.

Page from the brochure shown in the previous image. Metric conversion advocates stressed the convenience of the system's reliance on units of 10.

Page from the brochure shown in the previous image. Metric conversion advocates stressed the convenience of the system’s reliance on units of 10.

In January 1976, Florida Commissioner of Education Ralph Turlington and Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Doyle Connor presented a draft resolution to the Governor Reubin Askew and his Cabinet calling for a steering committee to study the problems and requirements of metric conversion. The Cabinet approved the resolution, and in October 1976 the Florida Metric Council held its first meeting. The Council was made up of representatives from Florida’s schools, farmers, consumers, engineers, manufacturers, and other groups that would be greatly affected by the change.

One of the most critical aspects of the Council’s work was to figure out how to educate both children and adults about the purpose of switching to the metric system and how to convert traditional measurements into metric units. Council members believed this was essential for obtaining public support for the move. With this aim in mind, the Florida Metric Council partnered with a variety of state agencies to develop guides for the public, which explained the rationale for metric conversion and provided tips for doing the necessary math in daily activities like shopping and cooking.

A brochure (circa 1980) developed by the Florida Cooperative Extension Service to help everyday Floridians understand how metric conversion would affect common activities like shopping and measuring materials around the house (Box 139, Folder 12, Koreshan Unity Papers - Collection N2009-3, State Archives of Florida).

A brochure (circa 1980) developed by the Florida Cooperative Extension Service to help everyday Floridians understand how metric conversion would affect common activities like shopping and measuring materials around the house (Box 139, Folder 12, Koreshan Unity Papers – Collection N2009-3, State Archives of Florida). Click to view the entire brochure.

Some folks believed metric conversion would solve a lot of problems. Since the metric system is based on units of 10, mathematical computations of distance, mass, and speed would be easier to compute. Manufacturers would also save time and money by using a single set of measurements to label packages and parts.

Others were more skeptical. Some people questioned the expense involved in a wholesale conversion to metric. Just replacing the speed limit signs, for example, was expected to cost somewhere around $200 million nationally. Others simply saw no reason for the United States to abandon a system that had been working so well for so long.

State Senator Dick Langley of Clermont argues against metric conversion, claiming that only drug dealers and communists would support the bill because drugs were sold in metric units and communist countries used the metric system. Senator George Kirkpatrick waves a small American flag over Langley's head (1984).

State Senator Dick Langley of Clermont argues against metric conversion, claiming that only drug dealers and communists would support the bill because drugs were sold in metric units and communist countries used the metric system. Senator George Kirkpatrick of Jacksonville waves a small American flag over Langley’s head (1984).

In Florida, as throughout the nation, mixed support for metric conversion led to mixed results. For example, Florida was the first state to require speed limits to be posted in both miles per hour and kilometers per hour on state highways. Those signs only lasted a year, however, before public disapproval led the Department of Transportation to scrap the program.

A more permanent legacy of the metric conversion debate is the way in which students are taught weights and measures in school. Even with the widespread preference for standard units of measurement like inches, pounds, and gallons, some aspects of life and work require knowledge of the metric system. This is especially true in the medical and scientific fields, where internationally-recognized standards are the norm. Florida teachers now prepare their students by teaching both systems of measurement, as well as the methods for converting from one to the other.

Which system of measurement do you use the most? Did you learn to use both systems when you were in school, or just one? Share your experiences by leaving us a comment on the blog below!

Rhea Chiles Dies at 84

Rhea Chiles, First Lady of Florida during the governorship of her late husband Lawton Chiles, has died at the age of 84. Before, during, and after her term as First Lady, Chiles demonstrated a profound commitment to bettering the lives of Floridians through her educational and cultural pursuits.

Rhea and Lawton Chiles walking during Chiles' campaign for the governorship of Florida (1990).

Rhea and Lawton Chiles walking during Chiles’ campaign for the governorship of Florida (1990).

One of Chiles’ most unique contributions was the idea for Florida House, a sort of showcase for the Sunshine State located in downtown Washington, DC. In the late 1960s, while the Chiles family was visiting Washington, one of Rhea and Lawton’s young children asked if the family could visit Florida’s embassy. The parents explained that only nations had embassies, not states, but Rhea became intrigued by the idea of having a state “embassy” in Washington.

Rhea Chiles at home in Lakeland (1971).

Rhea Chiles at home in Lakeland (1971).

Lawton Chiles was elected U.S. Senator for Florida in 1970, which offered Rhea the opportunity to turn her vision into a reality. During the Chiles’ first year in Washington, Rhea discovered a building at 200 East Capitol Street that was badly in need of repair, but was well positioned to become the “embassy” she had in mind for Florida. She set to work raising funds from friends back home, along with $5,000 of her own money, and soon the old building was given a new lease on life as Florida House. The building was dedicated in 1973, and continues to serve as a center for exhibiting Florida’s history, culture, and achievements.

Florida House in Washington, DC (circa 1970s).

Florida House in Washington, DC (circa 1970s).

As First Lady, Rhea Chiles turned her attention mainly to the welfare of Florida’s children. She and Governor Chiles were instrumental in establishing the Lawton and Rhea Chiles Center for Healthy Mothers and Babies, now a component of the University of South Florida’s College of Public Health. The Center focuses on maternal and child health research and education.

Mrs. Chiles also helped develop S.W.A.T. (Students Working Against Tobacco), a statewide network of youth-led anti-smoking organizations. The campaign is widely credited with reducing the number of teenage smokers in Florida, and has served as a model for similar programs around the United States.

Only months before Governor Lawton Chiles’ death in 1998, Rhea Chiles established a foundation in his memory, dedicating it to bettering the lives of Florida’s children by providing public awareness and support for children’s programs across the state. She also established a community cultural center called the Studio at Gulf and Pine, located on Anna Maria Island in Manatee County, where she resided at the time of her passing.

Photo Mystery Monday: November 9, 2015

This is one in a series of posts inviting our users to learn how to get the most information out of historic photos. We’ll post a new photo mystery every Monday, and then follow up with more information about the image on Friday. Get the conversation started by commenting on the blog and sharing it with your friends and family.


What people, objects and activities do you notice? What year do you think this is? Let us know in the comments! Don’t be afraid to state the obvious. Noticing details can lead to greater insight. What can these details tell you about life in Florida at the time the photo was taken?

Try an artist’s trick. Divide the photo into four quadrants and study each section. What new details do you see? Based on what you have observed, what can you infer from this photograph? What questions do you have?

Come back on Friday when we will update the post with more identifying information!

 

For Teachers: Photo interpretation is a great critical thinking activity for students. The Photo Analysis Worksheet from the National Archives lets you use any photo as an opportunity to analyze primary source documents.


UPDATE: Florida in WWII

As many have observed, this photograph is of African American soldiers, circa 1943, at Camp Gordon Johnston during World War II. These soldiers are shown outside of their barracks. As Kim Atkins noted in the comments below, this photograph shows the soldiers relaxing. Notice the smile on the central standing soldier’s face and the man coming through his legs with an even bigger smile on his face!

On the duck sign, the number “816” indicates the unit number. As an amphibious track company, Unit 816 would be training for beach arrival on an enemy shore. Beaches and marshes provided the perfect classroom for preparing soldiers to engage in amphibious warfare.

For more information on Florida in WWII, check out our new online exhibit here.


 

The Old General Store

Think back to the 19th century for a moment, a time before the Internet, big box stores, or even paved highways. Where did Floridians of that era get the goods they couldn’t produce at home? Even without our modern conveniences, families still managed to get their hands on books, manufactured cloth, metal goods, and countless other products that originated from far away. For most 19th and early 20th century Floridians, many of these goods came from a general store.

W.E. Daniels' General Store in Arcadia (circa 1890s)

W.E. Daniels’ General Store in Arcadia (circa 1890s)

The general store – sometimes called a dry goods store or emporium or some other name – had a little bit of everything. Foodstuffs like cheese, crackers, hardtack, wheat flour, rice, coffee, and sugar were available, as were household goods like pots and pans, lamps, nails, utensils, furniture, tools, and even stoves!

In some communities, if there wasn’t a separate feed store in business, the general store might also be the go-to place for farming supplies and equipment. Shovels and rakes, seed, almanacs, feed, rope, and any number of other useful essentials could be found lining the shelves.

It also wasn’t uncommon for other businesses to set up shop in a corner of the store or in a second-story office. Doctors, dentists, lawyers, post offices, and even banks made their homes in general store buildings. All this activity and commerce made general stores popular places for meeting, socializing, and conducting business of all kinds.

Advertisement for the firm of T.T. Harrison in Eureka, Florida - printed on page 83 of H.D. Bicaise, A Guide to the Land of Flowers (Charleston: Parry, Cook & Co., 1878). Copies of this and a number of other 19th century Florida guidebooks are available at the State Library of Florida.

Advertisement for the firm of T.T. Harrison in Eureka, Florida – printed on page 83 of H.D. Bicaise, A Guide to the Land of Flowers (Charleston: Parry, Cook & Co., 1878). Copies of this and a number of other 19th century Florida guidebooks are available at the State Library of Florida.

A few sample transactions from the ledger of a general store operated by the Orman family in Apalachicola. Purchases listed include brandy, country butter, beef, white beans, whiskey, matches, molasses, corn, bacon, soap, and pure white lead. These purchases were recorded on August 2, 1853 (Box 2, Orman Family Papers - Series 1844, State Archives of Florida).

A few sample transactions from the ledger of a general store operated by the Orman family in Apalachicola. Purchases listed include brandy, country butter, beef, white beans, whiskey, matches, molasses, corn, bacon, soap, and pure white lead. These purchases were recorded on August 2, 1853 (Box 2, Orman Family Papers – Series 1844, State Archives of Florida).

The shopping experience was often a bit different than the self-serve method we use today. The proprietor or his/her clerk generally waited on each customer, pulling the requested items one by one and marking them down in a ledger to calculate the price. Locals usually had a line of credit with the store, which they used to charge purchases until they could obtain the necessary cash to pay off their bill. In 19th century Florida, many families outside of town relied on selling surplus cotton, corn, hides, or other products to provide the cash they needed. Once they received the proceeds, they were able to settle their bill. Sometimes families sold or traded their farm products directly to the store as part of their method of payment.

Interior of the T.J. Beggs & Co. General Store in Madison (1900).

Interior of the T.J. Beggs & Co. General Store in Madison (1900).

For historians, the records from these general stores are invaluable for studying the lives of everyday families in 19th century Florida. By looking at what people were buying and selling, we can get a better idea of what the average household contained, what folks were eating, what kinds of medicines were popular, and so on. For genealogists, there’s always the chance of coming across purchases made by a relative, which can provide a unique perspective into that ancestor’s daily life. The State Archives holds ledgers and papers from several general stores around the state, and they are available for use in our research facility in Tallahassee.

Even today, the general store lives on in popular memory as one of the key institutions of the standard 19th century Florida town. A number of general stores survived into the 20th century, and a few have even made it into our own times. Others have been replicated as part of tourist attractions and museum displays.

John Henry Pittman and his wife at the counter of their general store in Two Egg (circa 1970).

John Henry Pittman and his wife at the counter of their general store in Two Egg (circa 1970).

Bradley's Country Store on Centerville Road in Leon County. The structure was built in 1927, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984 (photo circa 1990).

Bradley’s Country Store on Centerville Road in Leon County (still in operation). The structure was built in 1927, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984 (photo circa 1990).

Is there a general store in your Florida community? If so, what are your favorite items to purchase when you’re visiting? Post a comment below, and don’t forget to share this post on Facebook so friends and family can join in the conversation.

Photo Mystery Monday: November 2, 2015

This is one in a series of posts inviting our users to learn how to get the most information out of historic photos. We’ll post a new photo mystery every Monday, and then follow up with more information about the image on Friday. Get the conversation started by commenting on the blog and sharing it with your friends and family.


What people, objects and activities do you notice? What year do you think this is? Let us know in the comments! Don’t be afraid to state the obvious. Noticing details can lead to greater insight. What can these details tell you about life in Florida at the time the photo was taken?

Try an artist’s trick. Divide the photo into four quadrants and study each section. What new details do you see? Based on what you have observed, what can you infer from this photograph? What questions do you have?

Come back on Friday when we will update the post with more identifying information!

 

For Teachers: Photo interpretation is a great critical thinking activity for students. The Photo Analysis Worksheet from the National Archives lets you use any photo as an opportunity to analyze primary source documents.


UPDATE: No-Shave November!

Just in time for Movember, this photo from 1959 shows a man without a beard being “punished” for fun due to his lack of facial hair. As Nancy Holaday noted, some of the men are smiling, including the beardless man.

Claude Kenneson observed that the men were wearing buttons, and Betty Dees on Facebook noticed a George Clooney look alike on the left.


 

Room and Board

During the 19th century, developers, railroad magnates, and other enterprising businessmen peppered Florida with hotels to house the state’s growing number of visitors. These establishments ranged from modest inns to palatial resorts built by the likes of Henry Flagler and Henry Plant. But where could you stay if you couldn’t afford a room in one of these hotels? Or, what if you were traveling for work and just needed a place to crash rather than to be entertained? The answer for many visitors was to stay in a boarding house.

A boarding house in Crescent City, Putnam County (circa 1870s).

A boarding house in Crescent City, Putnam County (circa 1870s).

Boarding houses were the go-to low-cost accommodations for locals and visitors traveling around Florida in the 1800s. They could be standalone businesses, or they might be combined with a post office, a general store, or some other business. Some Floridians even operated boarding houses out of extra rooms in their private homes.

North Miami Avenue in Miami (1896). The building second from the left contained a store owned by T.N. Gautier on the ground floor and a boarding house on the second floor run by Gautier's wife.

North Miami Avenue in Miami (1896). The building second from the left contained a store owned by T.N. Gautier on the ground floor and a boarding house on the second floor run by Gautier’s wife.

McCord family home in Tallahassee, circa 1910. The McCords took in boarders at this time.

McCord family home in Tallahassee, circa 1910. The McCords took in boarders at this time.

Boarding houses were advertised just as widely as hotels, but they had a few differences. The furnishings in the rooms were usually simpler, and there were generally fewer amenities and services. Proprietors often served meals family style, with boarders eating together at a single table rather than in their own private groups. That’s not to say the food was dull – far from it. While Florida’s boarding houses might not have been serving four-course meals with all the trimmings, guidebooks and advertisements reveal that the quality of the food was a critical component of a house’s reputation. Advertisements often referenced the house’s “excellent table,” or listed the fresh foods served daily.

Mrs. Crook's Boardinghouse in Winter Haven (1912).

Mrs. Crook’s Boardinghouse in Winter Haven (1912).

The trade-off for offering limited services, of course, was the lower price tag for a stay at the boarding house. At Fernandina in 1884, for example, a night at the Egmont Hotel cost $4, while a night at most of the town’s boarding houses was only $2. On top of that, many proprietors would cut boarders a deal if they committed to a week’s stay. A $2 difference may seem negligible today, but keep in mind we’re talking about 19th century dollars. Adjusted for inflation, that $2 jump in price for a night at the Egmont represents about a $50 price difference! No wonder so many folks were staying at Florida’s boarding houses when they traveled.

Advertisement for the Hernandez House in St. Augustine, printed on page 104 of H.D. Bicaise, A Guide to the Land of Flowers (Charleston: Parry, Cook & Co., 1878). A copy of this guidebook is available in the State Library's Florida Collection.

Advertisement for the Hernandez House in St. Augustine, printed on page 104 of H.D. Bicaise, A Guide to the Land of Flowers (Charleston: Parry, Cook & Co., 1878). A copy of this guidebook is available in the State Library’s Florida Collection.

Boarding houses remained popular into the 20th century, although new establishments eventually superseded them as the primary low-cost lodging options. Motels and campgrounds became especially popular with automobile owners, who were looking for cheap and convenient options along the roadways.

The Miller family of Toledo, Ohio at a tourist camp in Sarasota (1929).

The Miller family of Toledo, Ohio at a tourist camp in Sarasota (1929).

Do you know of any boarding houses that once existed in your community? When were they in operation? Get in the conversation by commenting below and sharing this post with your friends and family on Facebook and Twitter.

Photo Mystery Monday: October 26, 2015

This is one in a series of posts inviting our users to learn how to get the most information out of historic photos. We’ll post a new photo mystery every Monday, and then follow up with more information about the image on Friday. Get the conversation started by commenting on the blog and sharing it with your friends and family.

What people, objects and activities do you notice? What year do you think this is? Let us know in the comments! Don’t be afraid to state the obvious. Noticing details can lead to greater insight. What can these details tell you about life in Florida at the time the photo was taken?

Try an artist’s trick. Divide the photo into four quadrants and study each section. What new details do you see? Based on what you have observed, what can you infer from this photograph? What questions do you have?

Come back on Friday when we will update the post with more identifying information!

 

For Teachers: Photo interpretation is a great critical thinking activity for students. The Photo Analysis Worksheet from the National Archives lets you use any photo as an opportunity to analyze primary source documents.


UPDATE: Pig on the beach!

This photo shows the crowds enjoying the outdoors at the beach in Seabreeze, Daytona in 1904. Many are watching a pig in the surf in the far-off distance at the right.

Some people seem to be dressed for swimming. Others are wearing ties and fancy hats. Among the horse-drawn carriages there is at least one automobile. 1903 was the first year of the Ormond-Daytona Beach Race. In 1903 and 1904, several world speed records were set.


 

Photo Mystery Monday: October 19, 2015

This is one in a series of posts inviting our users to learn how to get the most information out of historic photos. We’ll post a new photo mystery every Monday, and then follow up with more information about the image on Friday. Get the conversation started by commenting on the blog and sharing it with your friends and family.

Be a photo detective! What is going on in this picture? What clues do you see? Where in Florida could this be?

What people, objects and activities do you notice? Let us know in the comments! Don’t be afraid to state the obvious. Noticing details can lead to greater insight.

Try an artist’s trick. Divide the photo into four quadrants and study each section. What new details do you see? Based on what you have observed, what can you infer from this photograph? What questions do you have?

Come back on Friday when we will update the post with more identifying information!

 

For Teachers: Photo interpretation is a great critical thinking activity for students. The Photo Analysis Worksheet from the National Archives lets you use any photo as an opportunity to analyze primary source documents.


UPDATE:

This photo shows a safe being delivered to the Polk County Bank in Bartow by means of an ox team pulling a flatcar over temporarily laid railroad tracks.

Reader Patsy Glasscock noticed details such as the prevalence of men wearing hats, the difference between the men in more casual clothes compared to those in business attire, the lack of women in the photo and the presence of a child.

Several readers mentioned the gap in the rails on the dirt street, indicating that the track was temporary. Jon Hoppensteadt observed that no one in the photo was armed, indicating that the safe was probably empty.

We had originally had this photo dated some time in the 1800s. As Jo Reimer noted, the Polk County bank was organized in 1886. Thanks to diligent research by blog readers, and with confirmation from our Archives Historian, we’ve updated the catalog record.

Thanks all, and join us next Monday for a new photo!


Photo Mystery Monday: October 12, 2015

This is one in a series of posts inviting our users to learn how to get the most information out of historic photos. We’ll post a new photo mystery every Monday, and then follow up with more information about the image on Friday. Get the conversation started by commenting on the blog and sharing it with your friends and family.


Be a photo detective! What is going on in this picture? Do you have a guess as to what year it might be? Where in Florida could this be?

What people, objects and activities do you notice? Try an artist’s trick. Divide the photo into four quadrants and study each section. What new details do you see?

Based on what you have observed, what can you infer from this photograph? What questions do you have?

Come back on Friday when we will update the post with more identifying information!

For Teachers: Photo interpretation is a great critical thinking activity for students. The Photo Analysis Worksheet from the National Archives lets you use any photo on Florida Memory as an opportunity to analyze primary source documents.


 UPDATE: This photo shows actress Ann Blyth swimming in the underwater set during filming of Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid at Weeki Wachee in 1948.

Astute blog reader Susan noticed the contrast between the squeaky clean set and the natural background. Here’s a view of the set before it was lowered into the water.

And we had a real mermaid join us in the comments!

Thanks everybody!