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Florida, which joined the union as the 27th state in 1845, is nicknamed the Sunshine State and known for its balmy climate and natural beauty. Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon, who led the first European expedition to Florida in 1513, named the state in tribute to Spain’s Easter celebration known as “Pascua Florida,” or Feast of Flowers. During the first half of the 1800s, U.S. troops waged war with the region’s Native American population. During the Civil War, Florida was the third state to secede from the Union. Beginning in the late 19th century, residents of Northern states flocked to Florida to escape harsh winters. In the 20th century, tourism became Florida’s leading industry and remains so today, attracting millions of visitors annually. Florida is also known for its oranges and grapefruit, and some 80 percent of America’s citrus is grown there.
Date of Statehood: March 3, 1845
Population: 18,801,310 (2010)
Size: 65,758 square miles
Nickname(s): Sunshine State
Motto: In God We Trust
Tree: Sabal Palm
Flower: Orange Blossom
- Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés established the first permanent European settlement in the United States at St. Augustine in 1565.
- Before he was president of the United States, General Andrew Jackson led an invasion of Seminole Indians in Spanish-controlled Florida in 1817. After Florida became a U.S. Territory in 1821, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams appointed Jackson its military governor.
- Constructed over a 21-year period from 1845 to 1866, Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West was controlled by Federal forces during the Civil War and used to deter supply ships from provisioning Confederate ports in the Gulf of Mexico. The fort was also used during the Spanish-American War.
- In 1944, airman and pharmacist Benjamin Green from Miami developed the first widely used sunscreen to protect himself and other soldiers during World War II. He later founded the Coppertone Corporation.
- John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth when he blasted off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral on February 20, 1962. Seven years later, Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon after Apollo 11 was launched from the nearby Kennedy Space Center on July 16, 1969.
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Florida, constituent state of the United States of America. It was admitted as the 27th state in 1845. Florida is the most populous of the southeastern states and the second most populous Southern state after Texas. The capital is Tallahassee, located in the northwestern panhandle.
Geographic location has been the key factor in Florida’s long and colourful development, and it helps explain the striking contemporary character of the state. The greater part of Florida lies on a peninsula that protrudes southeastward from the North American continent, separating the waters of the Atlantic Ocean from those of the Gulf of Mexico and pointing toward Cuba and the Caribbean Sea beyond. Florida shares a land border with only two other states, both along its northern boundary: Georgia (east) and Alabama (west). The nearest foreign territory is the island of Bimini in the Bahamas, some 50 miles (80 km) to the east of the state’s southern tip. Florida is the southernmost of the 48 conterminous United States, its northernmost point lying about 100 miles (160 km) farther south than California’s southern border. The Florida Keys, a crescent of islands that forms the state’s southernmost portion, extend to within about 75 miles (120 km) of the Tropic of Cancer. Florida’s marine shoreline totals more than 8,400 miles (13,500 km), including some 5,100 miles (8,200 km) along the gulf among U.S. states, only Alaska has a longer coastline.
The state lies close to both the geographic and population centres of the Western Hemisphere, in a position that not only commands one entrance to the Gulf of Mexico but also overlooks a strategic crossroads between North and South America and historic routes to the European and Mediterranean worlds. The Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León landed there in 1513, named the territory La Florida (meaning “The Flower” in Spanish), and claimed it for Spain. Florida played a prominent role in the historic struggles of European powers to control the Americas and the Caribbean. St. Augustine, founded in 1565 on Florida’s northeastern coast, is the oldest European settlement within what were to become the boundaries of the continental United States.
The climate and scenery of the “Sunshine State” have long attracted enormous numbers of visitors. Tourism has surpassed agriculture and manufacturing as the main component of Florida’s economy, and the prospect of employment in the state’s rapidly growing service sector has simultaneously drawn many immigrants, mostly from Latin America. Consequently, Florida has regularly ranked among the states with the fastest-growing immigrant population. Area 65,757 square miles (170,311 square km). Population (2010) 18,801,310 (2019 est.) 21,477,737.
Florida - HISTORY
2nd Saturday Family Program
Check out the Museum of Florida History's next in-person 2nd Saturday Family Program, From Waterways to the Moon—Traveling in Florida, on June 12 starting at 11:00 a.m. From Florida’s First People using dugout canoes to travel along waterways, to early tourists rumbling along in their new automobiles, all the way to thunderous rocket launches from Merritt Island, transportation has played a large role in shaping our state’s history and its people. This month's program features a tour through the museum to look at some of the different transportation methods the state has seen. Following the tour, guests can make their very own model rocket.
Beyond the Vote: Florida Women’s Activism
On August 26, 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment granting women the right to vote officially became a part of the U.S. Constitution. The Museum is excited to commemorate the legacy of this milestone event with Beyond the Vote: Florida Women’s Activism, an exhibit showcasing the history of women’s activism in Florida. The exhibit discusses the women’s club movement, the suffrage movement, and explores other major reform efforts, such as environmental preservation, civil rights, women’s rights, and more. It concludes with a brief look at women’s activism today. Beyond the Vote contains more than 80 artifacts, as well as photographs, and video and audio clips that help to interpret Florida women’s activism.
20th of May— Emancipation in Florida
Join the Knott House Museum and the John G. Riley Museum on Thursday, May 20, 2021 for the virtual celebration of 20th of May. This online commemoration will be presented on the Knott House Museum's Facebook page. Learn more about this event and other community activities here.
On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing enslaved people in the rebelling Southern states. More than two years later, on May 10, 1865, Union General Edward McCook arrived in Tallahassee to take possession of the city from Southern forces. General McCook established his headquarters at the Hagner House, now known as the Knott House. On May 20, he declared the Emancipation Proclamation in effect. Former slaves celebrated this announcement with a picnic at Bull Pond, today's Lake Ella. Annually since 1865, communities in Tallahassee have celebrated May 20th as Emancipation Day.
Digital Learning Resources
The Museum of Florida History presents the annual summer reading program during the month of July. The 2021 theme, Tails and Tales, explores Florida’s animal kingdom both on land and in the water. Children are encouraged to read historically accurate fiction and nonfiction books and participate in hands-on activities to learn about Florida’s wonderful fauna. Kids who “tame all the tales,” by reading six or more books from the list, receive a special certificate signed by Secretary of State Laurel M. Lee and the Director of Museum Operations Lisa Barton.
Find additional information about the program and download a copy of this year’s list here.
Florida's Territorial Bicentennial
Florida—the ancestral homeland of varied indigenous peoples—became a United States Territory in 1821, thus ending more than 250 years of Spanish and British rule. To engage the public in learning more about this important transitional time in Florida’s history, the Florida Department of State (DOS) will highlight its territorial and early statehood period resources in 2021.
NORTH CENTRAL FLORIDA HISTORY
North Central Florida heritage and history will be your constant companion as you travel from Monticello near the Georgia border, to Tallahassee, Gainesville and Cedar Key.
This is a rural region with small southern towns and statues of Confederate soldiers in the town squares and ancient oak trees draped with Spanish moss.
This region has some of the best college football in the United States with the Florida Gators, Florida State Seminoles and Florida A&M Rattlers.
North Central Florida hugs the Georgia border like a baby hangs onto its mother. In his book "Becalmed In The Mullet Latitudes", Al Burt named this part of the state Florgia.
The name Florgia still fits after all of these years - half Florida, half Georgia.
Most of the Florida natives in these counties are descended from early settlers who came down from Georgia and South Carolina after the Civil War.
They were confederate veterans and sympathizers. The modern descendants of these early settlers are known for their Southern Hospitality.
It's common when your visit is over for your hostess to say "Y'all come see us again, y'hear?".
This land is still Georgia heritage country. Florgia is the home of the famous Florida Cracker. When I moved to Florida almost 50 years ago, this region along with Northwest and Northeast Florida, dominated state politics.
A legislator from a lightly populated north Florida county had as much power as one representing millions of people in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties.
The entire state was controlled by these old-time southern segregationist Democrats. About 20 of these good ole boys always voted together. ਏlorida history refers to these folks as "The Pork Chop Gang".
The gang was good at bringing home the bacon to their small north Florida communities. North Central Florida heritage and history still honors the names of these old politicians.
By the 1970's enough Yankees had moved to south Florida that the old system crumbled. The Florida legislature passed laws that apportioned seats according to population. The old days of "one district-one vote" were gone forever.
The balance of power shifted toward the population centers of south Florida. That's where the power remains today.
Tallahassee is the state capital and the home of the Florida State University Seminoles and the Florida A&M University Rattlers.
Gainesville is the home of the University of Florida Gators. ਊn important part of North Central Florida heritage is pride in their nationally ranked football teams.
Historical Events in Florida From 10,000 B.C. to the Present
A primer on the history of Florida from 10,000 B.C. to the present.
Hop aboard the Florida "way-back" machine to visit rousing eras of wooly mammoths, Native Americans, brave conquistadores, pirates, pioneers, geniuses, millionaires, astronauts and heroes. Here are a few of the most significant historical events in Florida.
10,000-8,000 B.C. -- Move over mastodons and gigantic armadillos. Humans are afoot, heading from what is now Georgia to Florida.
8000 B.C.-1500 A.D. -- Tribes from the Caribbean and Mexico join migrants from the north to settle, fish, trade and worship the sun.
1513 -- He came, he saw . he left. Juan Ponce de Leon makes the first European landfall somewhere in the vicinity of St. Augustine, claiming La Florida for Spain.
1516-1542 -- More Spanish explorers come to see what all the excitement is about. Ponce de Leon returns, this time to the West Coast where natives greet him with poisoned arrows.
1559 -- He came, he saw . he tried to stay. Tristan de Luna establishes Florida's first settlement at today's Pensacola Beach. Starvation ensues and de Luna departs.
1564 -- Frenchman Rene de Laudoniere comes, sees . and stays, some 40 miles northwest of St. Augustine, near the mouth of the St. Johns River in what is now Mayport, at a settlement known as Fort Caroline. This makes the Spanish very nervous.
1565 -- He came, he fought, he stayed. Spain sends Pedro Menendez de Aviles to rid Florida of the French. He establishes the town of St. Augustine, America's first permanent European settlement.
1600-1700 -- Spain is on a mission to "educate" (convert to Catholicism) Florida's native people. Its priests build more than 30 missions along the northeast coast and westward near Tallahassee and St. Marks.
1698-1723 -- Spain sets up camp in Pensacola, which later gets ping-ponged from Spain to France, back to Spain, back to France, back to Spain.
1738 -- Fort Mose, the nation's first black community, is established near St. Augustine in time to defend it against the British.
1763 -- At the end of the Seven Years' War, England gives Cuba to Spain in exchange for St. Augustine, whose citizens pack up for Cuba.
1776-80 -- Florida, now British, supports the Motherland during the American Revolution, providing a safe haven for thousands of Tories.
1783 -- St. Augustine is again swapped, ending up once more in Spanish hands.
1785-1795 -- Spain relinquishes St. Augustine and Pensacola to England.
1803 -- The United States of America claims West Florida and its capital Pensacola as part of the Louisiana Purchase.
1813 -- England is not so keen on giving up Pensacola and Gen. Andrew Jackson arrives to drive the British out.
1818 -- Jackson's actions spark the first of two skirmishes with the Seminole Indians.
1821-1823 -- Jackson becomes Florida's provisional governor when the U.S. purchases Florida and its capital St. Augustine from Spain. Tallahassee becomes the new capital.
1830-1840 -- Boom! Florida's first flush of settlers arrives by steamboat and the population grows from 15,000 to 34,000.
1835-1842 -- Seminole Wars, the sequel.
1845 -- It's official: Florida becomes the 27th state with 66,500 people.
1861-1865 -- It's official: Florida becomes a non-state when it secedes from the Union. Florida provisions Confederate troops with salt, beef and bacon during the Civil War.
1878 -- Tourism dawns at Silver Springs when Hullam Jones glues a window to the bottom of a rowboat and invents the glass-bottom boat.
1883-85 -- Florida gets railroaded. Henry Plant lays tracks on the West Coast, Henry Flagler on the East Coast. Along with the railroads sprout luxury hotels and a new era for Florida travel.
1887 -- Eatonville becomes the first incorporated municipality in America governed by its own African-American population.
1898 -- Florida prepares for the Spanish-American War with forts and army camps.
1904-1912 -- Flagler rides the rails to the end of the line, extending his tracks the 156 miles from Miami to Key West.
1908 -- Jacksonville becomes Florida's Hollywood, where producers make early movies -- years ahead of Hollywood.
1928 -- Transportation makes another forward lurch with the opening of the Tamiami Trail from Tampa to Miami.
1946 -- Jackie Robinson scores a homerun for his people in Daytona Beach as the first African-American to join an all-white team.
1947 -- Score one for Mother Nature: President Harry Truman dedicates Everglades National Park.
1959 -- Fidel Castro's assumption of power results in the first influx of Cuban immigrants to Florida.
1961 -- Transportation looks skyward as Cape Canaveral sends its first manned vessel into space.
1971 -- The mouse is loose. Walt Disney World opens outside Orlando.
1980 -- Nearly 125,000 more Cuban immigrants arrive in the Mariel boatlift.
1982 -- President Ronald Reagan signs the Miccosukee Constitution, making Miccosukee Indian territory independent from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
1984 -- Florida returns to the rails: Miami debuts its $1 billion Metro rail system.
2000 -- Score one more for Mother Nature: President Bill Clinton authorizes a massive project to restore the fragile eco-system of the Everglades, which have existed and nourished life since the beginning of time in Florida.
Florida - HISTORY
People have inhabited the land of Florida for thousands of years. When Europeans first arrived, Native American tribes lived throughout the land. Some of these tribes included the Apalachee in the Florida panhandle, the Calusa in the south, the Mayaimi who lived around Lake Okeechobee, and the Tocobaga who lived in the middle of the state. Many of these original tribes died out due to diseases brought by the Europeans.
Space Shuttle Discovery from NASA
The first European to visit Florida was Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon who arrived in 1513. He was searching for the legendary Fountain of Youth. He returned again in 1521 with around 200 settlers hoping to establish a colony. However, he was attacked by the local natives and died later from a wound in his leg. Other Spanish explorers followed hoping to discover gold in the region including Panfilo de Narvaez in 1528 and Hernando de Soto in 1539.
The first European settlement in Florida was established by French Protestants in 1564. They were led by French explorer Rene de Laudonniere and built Fort Caroline near current day Jacksonville. A year later, in 1565, the Spanish built a fort at St. Augustine. St. Augustine is the oldest permanent settlement in the United States. From there, Catholic priests began to build missions throughout Florida.
The Spanish ruled Florida up until 1763. After the Spanish lost the Seven Years' War to the British, they gave up control of Florida. The British ruled the land for the next 20 years until the end of the American Revolution in 1783. At that time Spain regained control of Florida as a result of the Treaty of Paris.
Miami skyline by Marc Averette
In the 1800s, the Seminole Indians of Florida fought a number of wars with the United States Army. The First Seminole War took place in 1817 when Andrew Jackson led an invasion into Florida against the Seminoles. The invasion was partly in response to the Seminoles helping runaway slaves escape from their owners. After this invasion the United States took control of part of Florida.
The Second Seminole War was fought from 1835 to 1842 and the Third Seminole War from 1855 to 1858. These wars were fought because the Seminole did not want to give up their lands and move to Indian Territory.
The United States took control of Florida from Spain as part of the Adams-Onis Treaty of 1819. In 1821, the Territory of Florida was established and Andrew Jackson became the first governor of Florida. Florida's population grew over the next several years and soon it was large enough to become a state. However, slavery was allowed in Florida and many northern states did not want another slave state to join the Union. As part of a compromise, Iowa was admitted as a free state at the same time and, on March 3, 1845, Florida became the 27th state.
When Abraham Lincoln became president in 1861, Florida seceded from the Union and joined the Confederacy. During the Civil War, Florida served as a supply route for the Confederate Army. Although there were few major battles in Florida, there were many smaller skirmishes as the Union attempted to blockade the state to prevent supplies from reaching the South. The only major battle was the Battle of Olustee fought in 1864. After losing the Civil War, Florida was readmitted into the Union in 1868.
Cinderella's Castle by ShajiA
For over 150 years, the Florida Historical Society's mission has been to collect, preserve and publish materials relating to the rich and diverse history of our state. The research library was officially begun in 1905 and consisted of only a few library resources. One of the first items donated to the FHS research library was a first edition of La Florida del Inca, owned by none other than Florida East Coast Railway magnate Henry M. Flagler! Over the years the Society has amassed a sizable collection of rare and out of print books, maps dating back to the 1500s, and tens of thousands of photographs and postcards from around the state. Our normal operating house are Tuesday - Thursday from 9:00am - 1:00pm, Friday and Saturday appointment only. We ask that patrons first inquire about a research appointment however, before visiting the library.
The FHS Library of Florida History
The first library collection was housed in the Cordova Hotel in St. Augustine, before moving to Jacksonville, Gainesville and Tampa over the course of the next few decades. In 1997, the Library of Florida History was established in Historic Cocoa Village in Brevard County, where we still reside today. Our library is housed withing a historic post office, originally constructed in 1939 by the WPA. We offer patrons the opportunity to conduct in-house research during normal business hours. No research fee or membership is required to conduct research at our facility, however, due to the rarity of many of the materials in the collection, and the volume of research requests received, we request that patrons first schedule an appointment with the archivist ahead of a visit so that we can pull the material for you.
The scope of the collections housed at the FHS Library consist of any type of documentary materials relating to Florida's history and pre-history. We have over 8,000 bound library volumes in our general collection. The Library also has a collection of rare books including original territorial-period government publications, first edition, or limited printed fiction and non-fiction titles, as well as early Spanish period narrative histories of Florida. The archival collection consists of over 10,000 print photographs organized by subject and by county. The Ada E. Parrish Postcard Collection is comprised of over 15,000 postcards organized geographically. We house over 1,000 early Florida maps, including a collection of 19th century plat maps, early colonial period (1500-1800) maps, county soil surveys, and many other types. The Library also has a collection of historic newspapers including the Jacksonville Times Union from 1917-1918, as well as sporadic other papers from various state and local newspapers covering the mid-19th century to the late-20th century.
The collection reflects the types of materials which are donated to the Society. We do not actively collect, nor do we house any historic obituaries, census enumerations, or other systematic records. To find historic obituaries you will need to consult regional historical societies, or individual local newspaper archives. Birth and death records can be obtained through the Florida Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Statistics.
Original copies of the Florida State Genealogical Society's Pioneer Descendant certificate program applications are housed at the FHS Library. They can be accessed by appointment.
Most materials housed at the Florida Historical Society Library can be searched via our online catalog. However, for detailed inquires regarding the collection, please contact the archivist.
Florida History: The real origin of “Florida Cracker”
About 20 miles east of Lake Wales, just up the road from Highway 60, Lake Kissimmee State Park recreated an 1876 cow camp in the heart of Central Florida.
A decade after the Civil War, Florida was sparsely populated, made dirt poor by conflict and defeat. Tourism and citrus hadn't yet overtaken the cattle industry, which had started in the 16th century with the original Spanish explorers and their Andalusia cows.
Nearly 150 years later, Florida ranks 13th in beef cows and 18th in total cattle, with 1.63 million head as of 2018.
In the reenactment, characters with names such as Rooster and Skeeter, drink black coffee from tin cups, pump water by hand, stretch out in rope-and-log beds and whine about their $1.50-a-day pay.
For centuries, cows were not shepherded herds. They were "free range." Florida had no fences. But it did have cow hunters.
A team ranging from one person to 25 would work through the trees and scrub, riding a lithe "marsh tackie,'' a diminutive horse bred in Spain to be lean and sure-footed.
The whip rarely touched the cow usually it just gave the animal a little encouragement. Legend says the crack of the whip is the source of the nickname "cracker," although many old-time Floridians now complain the term has become derogatory.
The hunters would round up maybe 500 to 700 dogies, then get them across the Kissimmee River valley in an arduous 45-day journey from Okeechobee to Paynes Prairie, south of Gainesville.
From there, some cows were fattened before being loaded onto trains for slaughterhouses in Georgia or other northern destinations. The rest were herded down to the docks at Punta Rassa, north of Fort Myers, where they were loaded onto barges for Cuba, where a healthy cow brought $6 to $14, a pretty price at the time. $14 in 1876 is about $340 now.
Reenactments are on weekends, Oct. 1 through May 1, except Christmas. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, check with the park to see if all features are open. (863) 696-1112.
READER REWIND: What airport memories do you have? Share yours with us by leaving a voicemail at (850) 270-8418.
Next week: Gamble Mansion
From a reader: Hi Eliot, I loved your article on the names of airports! As a frequent traveler I used to memorize the symbols. I always thought of MCO as Mickey Mouse! Having lived in Panama City Beach for 15 years, I can tell you the name of the Airport was much debated. Whoever you spoke to did not know what they were talking about! ECP stands for Emerald Coast Panama City. The Emerald Coast is Destin. The airport was built in far western Bay County, almost on the line with Walton. Easy access to both Panama City Beach and Destin. Thanks for the fun! - Linda Z., Palm Beach
Landmarks, Historical Sites and Points of Interest in the Sunshine StateAfrican American History in the Keys Spanish Colonial Sites in Pensacola Smalltown Downtowns Family-Friendly Lighthouses The Culture of the Forgotten Coast True Ghost Town Tales Native American History The Maritime Heritage Trail
The first people to live in what is now Florida arrived more than 12,000 years ago. They hunted small animals and gathered wild plants for food. Over the centuries, Native American tribes including the Timucua, Apalachee, Calusa, and Creek lived in the area.
Spanish conquistador (that’s Spanish for “conqueror”) Ponce de León sailed to Florida in 1513 searching for gold and silver. He didn’t find it, but he did discover fertile farmland and lots of coastline—excellent for shipping. No wonder Great Britain, France, and Spain all tried to establish settlements in Florida. In 1763, the British took control of Florida from Spain in exchange for the land that is now Havana, Cuba. But just two decades later, as part of the peace treaty that ended the Revolutionary War, Spain took charge again. That didn’t last long—new U.S. settlers began flooding in, and in 1821, Spain gave up Florida to the United States in exchange for Spanish rule over Texas. Florida officially became the 27th state in 1845.
Today Native Americans called Seminoles still live in Florida. The people come from a combination of tribes who migrated to the area in the 1700s to avoid conflict with the Europeans and with other tribes.
WHY’S IT CALLED THAT?
Florida’s original Spanish name is La Florida, which means “place of flowers.” Some historians think Ponce de León chose the name to honor the blooming flowers he saw there, or in tribute to Spain’s Easter celebration called Pascua Florida, or “Feast of Flowers.”