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 »

When the Dam Breaks…

The threat of hurricanes and tropical storms is an inescapable part of living in Florida. To experience their wrath is to confront head-on the brutal power of Nature. Ask around, and many Floridians will be able to name the larger ones they’ve witnessed or heard of. Betsy, Donna, Andrew, and Charley usually make the list.

Some of Florida’s most destructive hurricanes, however, hit the state long before the National Weather Service began assigning names to tropical cyclones. One of the deadliest of these remains known to history only as the Okeechobee Hurricane of 1928.
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“Scenes of the Everglades” (1928)

Businessman and adventurer Homer Augustus Brinkley produced “Scenes of the Everglades” in 1928 to illustrate the exotic environment found in the Florida Everglades. He later used the film in a traveling show, which included a live caged bear and Brinkley dressed as a Seminole Indian.

This film shows perhaps the earliest known moving images of the Florida Seminoles. They are shown playing their version of the southeastern Indian stick ball game, performing traditional dances and tending to the business of daily life. Most of the Seminole footage was taken at a camp known as Californee in the western Big Cypress. Also included in Brinkley’s film are scenes of wildlife, plants and views of the Florida Everglades.

“Scenes of the Everglades” is one of seven full-length films available on Florida Memory featuring footage of the Florida Everglades.

Want to learn more about the environmental history of the Florida Everglades? The University of Florida has digitized nearly 100,000 pages from their archival collections on the subject.