Spirits of Turpentine

Once Florida’s largest industry, and one of the oldest industries in the United States, turpentine was a ubiquitous ingredient in American household products including paints, medicines, hair spray, and cosmetics, just to name a few. The industry was a driving force behind the development of port cities Jacksonville and Pensacola.

Chipping a tree to make turpentine, 1930s

Chipping a tree to make turpentine, 1930s

Oleoresin, better known to turpentiners as pine resin, is a natural byproduct of certain types of pine trees that at one time proliferated in North Florida. This pine resin was extracted from the trees by laborers (mostly African-American males) and then distilled to give us turpentine or “spirit of turpentine.”

Dip testing the gum, Lake City, 1948

Dip testing the gum, Lake City, 1948

Yet, before these modern uses of distilled pine resin, it was originally used for sealing wooden ships to protect against leaks, earning the name “naval stores.” The first known European use of naval stores in Florida was in the sixteenth century by Spanish explorers, but production of the resin did not become a fruitful trade in Florida until the early 1800s.

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Temari

Temari is the traditional Japanese art of decorating spheres by winding and lacing colored threads in intricate patterns around a core ball. These Temari were made by master folk artist Kazuko Law and her daughter Chieri Esposito. They were photographed in 1985 in Gulf Breeze, Florida.

Temari made by Chieri Esposito and Kazuko Law: Gulf Breeze, Florida (April 1985)

Temari made by Chieri Esposito and Kazuko Law: Gulf Breeze, Florida (April 1985)

Temari made by Chieri Esposito and Kazuko Law: Gulf Breeze, Florida (April 1985)

Temari made by Chieri Esposito and Kazuko Law: Gulf Breeze, Florida (April 1985)

Temari made by Chieri Esposito and Kazuko Law: Gulf Breeze, Florida (April 1985)

Happy Birthday Cousin Thelma (August 31, 1904)

Thelma Boltin at the Florida Folk Festival: White Springs, Florida (1960)

Thelma Ann Boltin, affectionately known as “Cousin” Thelma, was a storyteller, emcee, teacher and long-time director of the Florida Folk Festival. Her dedication to sharing Florida’s folk traditions brought diverse groups of artists to the festival each year, and established the festival’s reputation for celebrating unique and varied cultures.

Born in South Carolina, she was raised in Gainesville and taught theater in schools and community centers. Here’s a clip of Cousin Thelma discussing the history of the Florida Folk Festival and various folk tales.

[audio:http://www.floridamemory.com/collections/folklife/blog/s1576_t-87-21_boltin.mp3|titles=Thelma Boltin|artists=State Archives of Florida]
Download: MP3
More Info: Catalog Record

Wakulla Springs Boat Tours Podcast

“Wakulla Springs Boat Tours Podcast”
[audio:http://fpc.dos.state.fl.us/memory/collections/folklife/mp3/podcasts/wakulla.mp3|titles=Wakulla Springs Boat Tours Podcast|artists=State Archives of Florida]
Download: MP3
More Info: Podcast

Tour boat guide Wilbert Gavin: Wakulla Springs, Florida

Tour boat guide Wilbert Gavin: Wakulla Springs, Florida

Alligators, snakes, rare birds and Native exoticism are all pinnacles of Florida’s tourism industry. Wakulla Springs State Park offers visitors the chance to experience all of these things and more under the guidance of clever and knowledgeable guides. In this month’s podcast we’ll examine the oral traditions of the Wakulla Springs boat drivers.

Sandgren family enjoys a glass bottom boats: Wakulla Springs, Florida (1946)

Sandgren family enjoys a glass bottom boats: Wakulla Springs, Florida (1946)

Glass-bottom boat tours are certainly not exclusive to Wakulla Springs. They have been a long-standing attraction in Silver Springs, Homosassa Springs and Rainbow Springs, among others. Boat tours in Wakulla Springs date back to the late 1800s. Right up through recent history, descendents of the first boatmen of the Springs have followed in the footsteps of their forefathers, and their chants, jokes and stories have been passed down through the generations.

Henry the pole-vaulting fish at Wakulla Springs: Wakulla Springs, Florida

Henry the pole-vaulting fish at Wakulla Springs: Wakulla Springs, Florida

Now keep your hands and arms inside the boat, and enjoy the mysterious waters of Wakulla Springs!

 

Happy Birthday Mary Smith McClain (August 27, 1902)

“St. Louis Blues”
[audio:http://www.floridamemory.com/audio/dl.php?track=cd5/08mcclain-goodson.mp3|titles=Mary McClain and Ida Goodson|artists=State Archives of Florida]
Download: MP3
More Info: Catalog Record, Where the Palm Trees Shake at Night: Blues Music from the Florida Folklife Collection

“Give A Poor Dog A Bone”
[audio:http://fpc.dos.state.fl.us/memory/collections/folklife/mp3/McLain.mp3|titles=Mary McClain|artists=State Archives of Florida]
Download: MP3
More Info: Catalog Record

Mary Smith McClain, also known as “Diamond Teeth” Mary for the jewels she once had embedded in her teeth, or “Walking Mary” for her notorious renditions of the “Walking Blues,” was a blues and gospel singer. Born in West Virginia, she began her singing career at the age of 13 performing in medicine shows as well as alongside the likes of her half-sister Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan. In 1960, she settled in Manatee County, Florida, married her husband Clifford, and became a devoted gospel singer.

Mary McClain singing gospel: White Springs, Florida (1983)

Mary McClain singing gospel: White Springs, Florida (1983)

Diamond Teeth Mary was rediscovered by folklorist Steven Zeitlin in the 1980s, and performed regularly at the Florida Folk Festival from 1981 until her death in 2000. Her renewed fame brought additional performances across the United States and Europe, including the Smithsonian Festival of American Folklife in Washington, D.C. She received the Florida Folk Heritage Award in 1986.

 

Keith Brown – “Judge Harsh Blues”

The Memphis-born bluesman Keith Brown lays down an excellent rendition of Furry Lewis’s “Judge Harsh Blues” at the 2000 Florida Folk Festival.

Earlier that year, Brown held residency at the Bamboo House in Lake Worth, and recorded his debut album Got to Keep Movin’. In addition to his music career, Keith Brown has portrayed blues legends on film, including Son House in Stop Breakin’ Down and Skip James in The Soul of a Man.

“Judge Harsh Blues”
[audio:http://fpc.dos.state.fl.us/memory/collections/folklife/blog/s1576_d-00-08_keith_brown_judge_harsh.mp3|titles=Keith Brown|artists=State Archives of Florida]
Download: MP3
More Info: Catalog Record

Miami-Dade Folklife Survey Podcast

[audio:http://fpc.dos.state.fl.us/memory/collections/folklife/mp3/podcasts/miami-dade.mp3|titles=Miami-Dade Folklife Survey Podcast|artists=State Archives of Florida]
Download: MP3

Gynin playing conga drum during Jamaican Independence Day festival: Miami, Florida

Eddie Massena from Rasta Samba Gynin playing conga drum during Jamaican Independence Day festival: Miami, Florida (1985)

As part of their research, the Florida Folklife Program selects and surveys a particular region or tradition. The Dade Folk Arts Survey was conducted from 1985-1986 by folklorists Tina Bucuvalas, Nancy Nusz and Laurie Sommers with the goal of finding folk artists to bring to the 34th annual Florida Folk Festival. Many of the recordings found in the collection are the result of fieldwork conducted by folklorists. Their findings are extensively documented through field notes, sound recordings, photographs and video.

Manolo Franco playing Venezuelan harp during a rehearsal: Miami, Florida (1985)

Manolo Franco playing Venezuelan harp during a rehearsal: Miami, Florida (1985)

This podcast contains a sampling of recordings from the Miami-Dade region as found in the Dade Folk Arts Survey.  While Latin American, Haitian and Jewish cultures were most prominently represented, the survey also covered a wide range of traditions, including shoe rag popping, Middle Eastern music, Jamaican stories and dance, and Irish fiddling.

Klezmer musician Jaime Bronsztein performing at the Traditions Festival: Miami, Florida (1986)

Klezmer musician Jaime Bronsztein performing at the Traditions Festival: Miami, Florida (1986)

We hope you enjoy the variety of traditions captured in the Dade Folk Arts Survey, and look forward to sharing more fieldwork from the Florida Folklife Collection in the future.

More Info: Podcast with Transcript

Abner Jay

Having worked in traveling medicine shows and vaudeville revues since the age of five, Abner Jay (1921-1993) rightly described himself as the “last working Southern black minstrel.”

As a solo performer, this one-man-band played banjo, bones (which he describes during the introduction to “Rattle These Bones”), harmonica, and percussion while singing traditional field songs, Pentecostal hymns, and minstrel tunes alongside eccentric original material. Abner Jay traveled down the Suwannee to White Springs from his riverside home in Georgia for the 1977 Florida Folk Festival, and gave the audience a memorable history lesson on American music.
 
“Hambone”
[audio:http://fpc.dos.state.fl.us/memory/collections/folklife/blog/s1576_t-77-289_abner_jay_hambone.mp3|titles=Abner Jay|artists=State Archives of Florida]
Download: MP3

“Rattle These Bones”
[audio:http://fpc.dos.state.fl.us/memory/collections/folklife/blog/s1576_t-77-289_abner_jay_rattle_these_bones.mp3|titles=Abner Jay|artists=State Archives of Florida]
Download: MP3

More Info: Catalog Record

Banjoist and bones player Abner Jay performs at the Florida Folk Festival: White Springs (1977)

Banjoist and bones player Abner Jay performs at the Florida Folk Festival: White Springs (1977)

60th Annual Florida Folk Festival

1976 Florida Folk Festival Program

1976 Florida Folk Festival Program

The 60th annual Florida Folk Festival will be held Memorial Day Weekend at the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park in White Springs. The Festival began in 1953 under the direction of Sarah Gertrude Knott, and hasn’t skipped a year since, placing it among the longest continuously-running folk festivals in the country.

View of trick roper Danny Coflin performing with Thelma Boltin at the 1970 Florida Folk Festival - White Springs, Florida.

View of trick roper Danny Coflin performing with Thelma Boltin at the 1970 Florida Folk Festival - White Springs, Florida.

Florida Memory offers extensive resources relating to the Florida Folk Festival, including audio recordings dating back to 1954, thousands of photos, programs from 1953-2006, video footage, and an alphabetical list of Festival performers.

The Beers family performs at the Florida Folk Festival: White Springs (ca. 1960s)

The Beers family performs at the Florida Folk Festival: White Springs (ca. 1960s)

The Florida Folk Festival is a great way to interact with, and learn about music, art, traditional occupations, and foodways unique to the state of Florida. This year, festival goers can expect performances and workshops from Arlo Guthrie, John Anderson, Billy Dean, Frank Thomas, Doug Gauss, and Amy Carol Webb and a myriad of other musicians, storytellers, dancers and artisans.

For more information, please visit the Florida Folk Festival website.

Regional food vendor at the 1978 Florida Folk Festival: White Springs (1978)

Regional food vendor at the 1978 Florida Folk Festival: White Springs (1978)

Happy Birthday Pete Seeger!

Iconic folk singer, teacher and activist Pete Seeger turns 93 this year. Although he resides in New York, his work collecting and promoting folk music inevitably brought him to the state of Florida. In 1956, he recorded an album with Florida Folk Heritage Award winner William “Washboard Bill” Cooke. Later, he befriended the Father of Florida Folk himself, Will McLean.

This rendition of the McLean-penned “Osceola’s Last Words” was recorded May 21, 1977, at the Stephen Foster Memorial Center in White Springs, Florida. Stay tuned for a podcast of the complete performance later this month.

“Osceola’s Last Words”
[audio:http://fpc.dos.state.fl.us/memory/collections/folklife/blog/s1576_t-77-285_seeger_osceola.mp3|titles=Pete Seeger|artists=State Archives of Florida]
Download: MP3
More Info: Catalog Record