Post-War Aviation in Florida

The years following World War II saw a transformation in aviation from military use to civil, commercial and, notably, agricultural applications. Agriculture has long been the foundation of Florida’s economy, and in the post-war era, a key technological advancement began to emerge within the industry: aerial agriculture. Aerial application of pesticides and seeding became prevalent in Florida as military airfields, such as Brooks Army Airfield in Brooksville and Pompano Air Park in Ft. Lauderdale, were adopted for civil use and as war surplus biplanes, such as the Stearman, were re-purposed for agricultural use. Within this rise in civil and agricultural use, State Aviation Director William C. Lazarus saw a need for tighter controls on aviation at the state level, in the form of licensing and regulation of airports, and lobbied for legislation to achieve this aim.
 
The State Airport Licensing Act (Chapter 24046, Florida Laws 1947), a bill to provide state licensing and regulation of airports, was passed to encourage and develop aeronautics in Florida and effected uniformity of the laws and regulations relating to the establishment and development of airports in accordance with federal aeronautics laws and regulations. The proposed rules and regulations set forth by the State Improvement Commission in 1947 were circulated to owners of existing private airports for their input.

Crop dusting in Florida.

Airport Licensing Rules and Regulations set forth in accordance with State Airport Licensing Act of 1947 (Series S 284, box 1, folder 18, item 21).

Correspondence received in reaction to the rules and regulations gives insight into the pursuit of civil and agricultural aviation in Florida, given firsthand from stakeholders and enthusiasts in the industry. A.H. Lane, manager of Davis Seaplane Base, wrote the following to William Lazarus:

Letter from A. H. Lane expressing concern over aviation regulations, 1947 (Series 284, box 1, folder 18, item 7).

Florida is an air minded state. The airmen seem much interested in the facilities and uses of aircraft, especially the new members of this group. This has convinced me that it is a good state in which to operate. Seaplanes are popular here due to so many lakes and costal [sic] waters available for landings.

Just when civil aviation needs a boost and operators, working at prewar prices and post-war costs are going “under,” it seems that in order to promote aviation it is necessary for all of us to get on one side and push.

Further, Lane’s letter emphasizes the role of crop dusting pilots in Florida’s agricultural sector and expresses anxieties over the impact of regulation on their business:
Dusting pilots have done much to control pests and in so doing have helped the industrial areas. They have enough to contend with now, even with CAA rules waived. They are a hard working group and 2.30 – 2.31 – 2.32 are unnecessary added complications.
We must keep all landing spots open and free to the flying public if we are ever to see personal aircraft become popular.
Lane wasn’t alone in his concern over the act’s impact on agriculture. Many crop dusting companies wrote in objection to regulations on the width of airstrips (a newly imposed minimum of 300 feet.) Crop dusters argued that a strip of this width would not be feasible in rural areas and that dusting planes had to land and take off close to the fields. A letter from J. R. McDaniel of McDaniel Dusting Service described in detail the procedures of crop dusting and expressed concern over the plight of the farmer in Florida as related to regulations set forth on crop dusting:
 

Letter from J.R. McDaniel to William C. Lazarus, outlining concerns about the impact of the State Airport Licensing Act on crop dusting procedures, page 1 (Series S 284, box 1, folder 21, item 6).

 

Letter from Delta Air Lines Dusting Division to William C. Lazarus expressing concern over sections of the State Airport Licensing Act that would affect crop dusting operations (Series S 284, box 1, folder 21, item 7).

Many companies also expressed criticism of the gross weight limit of two tons put forth for use of Class I airports under the initially proposed rules and regulations. At the outcry of corporations such as United States Sugar and Showalter, as well as special interest organizations, the commission dropped the regulations that limited gross weight of airplanes on certain airports.

Letter from U.S. Sugar to William C. Lazarus expressing concern over regulations on the weight of aircrafts (Series S 284, box 1, folder 18, item 11).

Letter from H.W. Showalter, Jr. expressing concern over regulations on the gross weight of planes, 1947 (Series S 284, box 1, folder 18, item 12).

Despite public concerns over the regulations’ impact on agriculture, the State Airport Licensing Act was in many respects lenient so as to encourage aviation in the state. No approvals were required for the sites of existing airports, meaning airstrips used by farms and other private operations were grandfathered into the act.

Master list of privately owned airports and seaplane bases, 1947, page 1 (Series S 284, box 1, folder 7, item 3).

Licensing for new airstrips was decidedly inexpensive. The section of the act providing for the licensing of airports deemed that a fee not to exceed $50.00 (the equivalent of $561.00 in 2017) would be charged for the approval of airport licensing, while renewals of licenses were not to exceed $10.00.

Airport licenses issued from 1947 to 1948 (Series S 284, Box 1, Folder 8, item 14, page 2 of 5).

Correspondence relating to the submission of these fees to the Florida State Improvement Commission gives a rare glimpse into the operations of now-defunct private aeronautic small businesses, such as Stone and Wells Flying Service of Jacksonville.

Letter, Stone and Wells Flying Service to Florida State Improvement Commission, enclosing licensing fee for temporary airports at Jacksonville Beach and Fernandina Beach (Series S 284, box 1, folder 54, item 7, page 1).

Flight chart for temporary airport locations in Jacksonville Beach and Fernandina Beach (Series S 284, box 1, folder 54, item 7).

 
Though there are new laws and regulations governing aviation in Florida, the State Airport Licensing Act was one of the first laws to require the inspection, approval, registration and licensure of air strips and airports and to regulate air traffic. Cited as the first law in the history note of most sections of the current Florida Statutes on regulation of Aircraft and Airports, the Act has shaped many of today’s laws governing aviation.
 
Records from series S284 Aviation Division Administrative Records, 1947-1959, give rare insights into the post-war history of aviation in Florida, including licensing of private and commercial airstrips and airports, airport rules and regulations, and regulations regarding crop dusting. License and master airport lists included in this series contain valuable information for genealogists whose families may have been involved in aviation in Florida. Historians with an interest in aviation in Florida will find this series as well as collection M82-133 William C. Lazarus Papers, of use in their research.
 
Sources: 
 
S284 Aviation Division Administrative Records, 1947-1959, Box 1, State Archives of Florida, Tallahassee, Florida.
 
Brown, W. J. (1994). Florida’s Aviation History: The First One Hundred Years. Largo, FL: Aero-Medical Consultants.
 

Not on MY Biscuit!

Do you use butter in your home, or do you prefer margarine? The stakes involved in this question may seem rather low, but that’s not how dairy farmers saw things when margarine came on the scene in the 1870s. They were accustomed, after all, to selling most of the nation’s butter that wasn’t being produced at home. In Florida and elsewhere, the question of whether and how to regulate margarine ultimately fell to lawmakers to decide, resulting in a real 19th century “bitter butter battle.”

Edvis Newton stands with a Kraft margarine display at a Jitney Jungle store in Tallahassee (1947). Who knew such a popular product had such a contentious history?

Edvis Newton stands with a Parkay margarine display at a Jitney Jungle store in Tallahassee (1947). Who knew such a popular product had such a contentious history?

A French chemist named Hippolyte Mège-Mouriès invented margarine in the 1860s in response to a contest sponsored by Emperor Napoleon III to develop a suitable substitute for butter. The emperor hoped the winning substance could be used by the lower classes and the French military. Mège-Mouriès called his solution “oleomargarine.” The “oleo” part came from the Latin oleum (oil), since one of the major components of the product was beef tallow. The “margarine” part of the name came from the margaric acid used in creating the compound. The term “margaric” is adapted from the Greek word márgaron, meaning “pearl” or “pearl-oyster,” since the fatty acid naturally forms small white pearl-shaped droplets.

Mège-Mouriès patented his new product and marketed it under the trade name “margarine.” The idea caught on well enough to cross the Atlantic Ocean, and by 1871 inventors were already seeking patents for margarine production processes in the United States. Meatpackers were some of margarine’s most enthusiastic proponents, since the new product gave them something profitable to do with the animal fats leftover from processing meat. Dairy farmers, on the other hand, saw margarine as a threat to their hold on the butter market. They were joined in their opposition by others who were concerned that improperly concocted margarine could be dangerous to human health.

The question of what to do about butter and its imitators began landing in state legislatures across the nation, and in 1881 it was Florida’s turn to debate the matter. The following law passed the Senate and Assembly and was approved by signature of Governor William D. Bloxham on February 17, 1881:

AN ACT to prevent the selling as Butter of Oleomargarine or any Spurious Preparations purporting to be Butter.

The People of the State of Florida, represented in Senate and Assembly, do enact as follows: SECTION 1. That any person or persons who shall knowingly and willingly sell or cause to be sold as butter any spurious preparation purporting to be butter, whether known as oleomargarine or by any other name, shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction shall be fined in a sum not to exceed one hundred dollars, or be imprisoned in the county jail for a period of time not to exceed thirty days, or by both fine and imprisonment, at the discretion of the Court.

SEC 2. Any keeper of any hotel or boarding house who shall knowingly and wilfully, without giving notice to guests at the table, supply oleomargarine or other spurious preparation purporting to be butter, for the use of guests, shall be subject to the same penalty.

That’s a stiff punishment for passing fake butter!

No margarine here! Young Margie Davis is seen here churning butter the old-fashioned way (date unknown).

No margarine here! Young Margie Davis is seen here churning butter the old-fashioned way (date unknown).

Taken in context, Florida’s treatment of margarine was not so unusual. Congress adopted a law in 1886 regulating the definition of butter and imposing a tax on oleomargarine at two cents per pound. State governments developed a whole range of solutions to the butter battle, including restricting producers from coloring margarine to resemble butter. Without coloring, margarine typically has a whitish tint, resembling lard more than butter. Delaware, Illinois, and Michigan all passed laws establishing this sort of color restriction. New Hampshire opted for the opposite tactic. Its legislature required margarine producers to color their products pink, so consumers would realize they weren’t eating real butter.

Despite all the fuss, consumers gradually warmed up to the idea of using margarine, especially in situations when meat, milk, and butter were in short supply. City dwellers who lacked easy, inexpensive access to farm-fresh butter tended to favor the margarine substitute, and it served as a vital commodity during both world wars. By the 1950s, most of the earlier restrictions on margarine had been dropped.

Margarine has also served at times as creative inspiration. Census and Social Security Death Index records indicate that Florida has been home to many people with some variant of the term “oleomargarine” in their names over the years. The words “Oleo” and “Margarine” were quite common by themselves as names in the early decades of the 20th century, while our research has turned up one case in Duval County of someone with “Oleo Margarine” as their full given name.

These days, butter and margarine get along living side by side in refrigerators all across Florida. Even this recipe card for Florida Orange Meringue Pie offers the cook a choice of which to use (circa 1950s).

These days, butter and margarine get along living side by side in refrigerators all across Florida. Even this recipe card for Florida Orange Meringue Pie offers the cook a choice of which to use (circa 1950s).

If this hasn’t convinced you of food’s vital role in history, check out our new primary source set for teachers titled The History of Foodways in Florida. Its purpose is to empower teachers to use food traditions as a lens for studying history with their students, but anyone is welcome to enjoy the historic documents and media it provides.

A Bill to Protect Skunk Apes

On October 13, 1977, House Bill 58, titled “An act relating to anthropoid or humanoid animals, prohibiting the taking, possessing, harming, or molesting thereof…,” passed through the House Criminal Justice Committee.

Sightings of apelike creatures were booming in the 1970s, particularly in South Florida. In response, Representative Hugh Paul Nuckolls of Fort Myers sponsored a bill to protect the Florida version of these mysterious creatures, the Skunk Ape. Nuckolls introduced the measure after a similar bill (HB 1664) failed to pass during the previous legislative session.

Representative Hugh Paul Nuckolls, Tallahassee, 1980

Representative Hugh Paul Nuckolls, Tallahassee, 1980

Unfortunately, House Bill 58, also known as the Hugh Paul Nuckolls Skunk Ape Act, died without passing and Skunk Apes remain without legislative protection in Florida.

"A Bill to Protect Skunk Apes..." (1977)

The Skunk Ape Act stimulated interesting conversation among the legislators who considered legal measures to protect Skunk Apes in Florida. Click on the thumbnails below to read a partial transcription of deliberations concerning House Bill 58.

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Sabal Palm Designated State Tree (June 11, 1953)

On June 11, 1953, the Florida legislature designated the Sabal Palm (Sabal palmetto) as the state tree of Florida. The Sabal Palm—also known as cabbage palm, cabbage palmetto, palmetto, and countless vernacular terms throughout the southern United States and the Caribbean—has provided food, shelter and inspiration to Floridians for thousands of years.

Cabbage palm (Sable palmetto) in Levy County, Florida

Cabbage palm (Sable palmetto) in Levy County, Florida

From: General Acts and Resolutions Adopted by the Legislature of Florida... (1953), 405-406.

From: General Acts and Resolutions Adopted by the Legislature of Florida… (1953), 405-406.

Florida Seminoles and Miccosukees, like indigenous Floridians before them, construct traditional housing using leaves and trunks from the Sabal Palm. These structures, known as “chickees” in the Mikasuki language, are an important symbol of modern Florida Indian culture.

James Billie’s chickee: Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation (1989)

James Billie’s chickee: Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation (1989)

Swamp cabbage is a popular Florida dish made from the hearts of Sabal Palms. Swamp cabbage can be prepared and served in many ways, but it is usually fried, stewed or boiled for canning.

Agnes Cypress making swamp cabbage: Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation (1984)

Agnes Cypress making swamp cabbage: Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation (1984)

Landscape artists, from the Hudson River School’s Martin Johnson Heade to Albert Ernest “Bean” Backus and the Florida Highwaymen, have found inspiration in Florida’s state tree.

Florida Highwaymen artist R. L. Lewis: Tallahassee (2006)

Florida Highwaymen artist R. L. Lewis: Tallahassee (2006)

Thank you, Sabal Palm, for your service to the state of Florida!

Found a great Sabal Palm photo that we missed? Share it with us in the comments.

Stray Livestock Liability Laws

Cattle drive at Bartow (1890s)

Cattle drive at Bartow (1890s)

On June 7, 1949, the Governor of Florida, Fuller Warren, approved Senate Bill No. 34, which required owners of livestock to prevent their animals from “running at large or straying upon public roads.” Under its provisions, ranchers could be held liable for damage done to property or persons by free roaming livestock.

From: General Acts and Resolutions Adopted by the Legislature of Florida... (1949), 545.

From: General Acts and Resolutions Adopted by the Legislature of Florida... (1949), 545.

The act empowered law enforcement officers to “impound livestock running at large,” and to fine delinquent owners the cost of caring for detained animals. If livestock were not claimed within three days of apprehension, the animals would be sold to the highest bidder. If no buyers came forward, the animals could be slaughtered and disposed of at the discretion of local authorities.

Cattle on their way to Tampa: Kissimmee (1904)

Cattle on their way to Tampa: Kissimmee (1904)

The act encouraged ranchers to build fences and contain wandering livestock. Sometimes known as the fence law, historians consider Senate Bill No. 34 the final measure in closing the open range; in particular it ended the centuries-old practices that gave rise to calling Florida cattle workers “cow hunters.”

J.H. Campbell driving cattle: Hardaway (1939)

J.H. Campbell driving cattle: Hardaway (1939)

When Senate Bill No. 34 became law, many in the Florida cattle industry already supported fence laws. From the 1920s to the early 1940s, ranchers were required to treat cattle for ticks. Outbreaks of tick fever could be devastating, and fences made the required roundups easier and less costly. Although Florida was declared tick free in September 1944, outbreaks occurred again in the late 1940s, 1957 and 1960.

Tick inspection station at the Baker County line (ca. 1930)

Tick inspection station at the Baker County line (ca. 1930)

In the second half of the 20th century, the expansion of citrus cultivation, increased development, and tick scares combined to end the reign of Florida’s cow hunters. Senate Bill No. 34 symbolized the close of the Florida frontier.

Mocking Bird: Bird of Matchless Charm

Florida mockingbird and poinsettia blossoms
State bird of Florida
Young Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos): Cape Canaveral, Florida

The Mocking Bird was designated as the State Bird of the State of Florida on April 23, 1927.

Senate Concurrent Resolution No. 3 read, in part:

“WHEREAS, The Legislature of the State of Florida has thrown the arm of its protecting care around the Mocking Bird by the enactment of suitable legislation and,

WHEREAS, The melody of its music has delighted the heart of residents and visitors to Florida from the days of the rugged pioneer to the present comer, and

WHEREAS, This bird of matchless charm is found throughout our State, therefore

Be It Resolved by the Legislature of the State of Florida:

Section 1. That the Mocking Bird be and it is hereby designated as the State Bird of the State of Florida.”

 

Thanks, Mocking Bird, for 85 years of dedicated service as the state bird of Florida!

Florida Repeals Anti-Dueling Law (1832)

On February 8, 1832, Florida’s Territorial Legislature repealed an anti-dueling law. This measure effectively legalized dueling in the Florida territory. The prevalence of dueling attests to the nature of violence and elite masculinity in the antebellum south.

Placard for duel

Placard for a duel, Tallahassee, Florida (1839).

In the above placard, William Tradewell challenged rival politician Leigh Read to a duel. Read had previously made a series of inflammatory remarks about his opponent, causing Tradewell to demand an apology. Though the two never squared-off, both men became known for repeatedly resorting to violence as a means of solving disputes.
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