Beyond Tourism: Florida's Yesteryear

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Friday Finds: Videos April 30, 2010

A fun way to learn more about our state is read websites and books written for tourists. VisitFlorida.com has lots of videos created by Florida natives about Florida. Here are six videos of the hundreds available for viewing.

1. Dade Battlefield Reenactment – Lucy Beebe Tobias Dade Battlefield Historic State Park near Tampa, brings history to life with a reenactment of a battle that occurred between the Seminoles and the American soldiers during 1835. This even occurs every January. Join Lucy Beebe Tobias, our former VISIT FLORIDA Authentic Expert, as we witness a reenactment in action in this video.

2. Castillo De San Marcos – Lucy Beebe Tobias A bastion of the largest empire ever created, the Castillo was built to protect and defend Spain’s claims in the New World. Though caught in the whirlwinds of colonial warfare and intrigue, it was never defeated in battle. Its scarred walls still stand witness to over 330 years of history and culture. In this video, our Authentic Florida experts takes us through this historical site.

3. Miami Architecture – Jen Karetnick from Miami Modern, to Art Deco, to Renaissance Revival, Miami’s architectural styles define the area as much as the beaches do. In this video, take an architecture tour of South Beach with VISIT FLORIDA’s Arts & Culture expert, Jen Karetnick.

4. The Salvador Dali Museum – Jen Karetnick the Salvador Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg houses the largest collection of the surrealist’s work in the United States. In this video, Florida Arts & Culture expert Jen Karetnik takes you on a tour of these grand masterpieces.

5. The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art – Jen Karetnick in this video, join our Art & Culture Expert as she take you through the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. From the arts to the circus it has something for everyone.

6. Kingsley Plantation – Lucy Beebe Tobias the Kingsley Plantation, administered by the National Park Service, is located on Fort George Island and includes the plantation house, a kitchen house, a barn, and the ruins of 25 of the original slave cabins. The history of the island spans more than 1000 years beginning with the Timucuan Indians. Our Authentic Florida expert takes us on a video tour of this historic site.

 

Wanted Wednesdays: Santo Trafficante (1914-1987) April 28, 2010

When you think of Organized Crime what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Al Capone, Baby Face Nelson, or even The Sopranos. Florida also has had to deal with their own problems with organized crime and not just the mafia on vacation in our sunny state.

Trafficante was born in Tampa in 1914 to Mafia Don Santo Trafficante, Sr and Maria Giuseppa Cacciatore who were both born in Italy. He started working for the mob in 1953 when he 39. His father sent him to Cuba which at the time was under the power of Fulgencio Batista. While there he set up illegal casinos.

Santos Trafficante, Louis Santos, Enrique Chacon, Samuel Balto were various alibis Trafficante used to deal with his businesses both legal and illegal. Including the casinos in Cuba he was also involved in casinos and nightclubs in Tampa.

In 1959, when Fidel overthrew Batista in Cuba he shut down Trafficante’s casinos and even threw him in jail before deporting him to the United States. It was at this time it is believed that he started talks with the CIA in plots to kill Castro up until his death on March 19.

Trafficante has been charged with gambling operations, at least four Mafia slayings, illegally bribing union officials, racketeering and conspiracy, rumored to be involved in a Mafia plot to kill President John F. Kennedy, though he denied there was any such conspiracy. Over the years while he was charged with all these crimes he was either released or served little to no time.

Information comes from the Cuban Information Archives and Biography.com

 

Today in Florida’s History April 27th April 27, 2010

1863 Major General Dabney H. Maury was placed in command of the Confederate District of the Gulf today by the Confederate War Department.

1864 The U.S.S. Honeysuckle captured the British schooner Miriam in the Gulf of Mexico today.

1865 The U.S.S. Pontiac was dispatched to the eastern coast of Florida today to prevent Confederate President Jefferson Davis from escaping to Cuba.

Orange Blossom - State Flower of Florida

1909 The Florida House of representatives approved the orange blossom as the official flower of Florida today.

1929 Barbara Bancroft, the first licensed woman airplane pilot on the East Coast of Florida, today visited her hometown of Melbourne.

1929 The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union was chartered today in Jacksonville. The organization had first been organized in 1883.

 

Friday Finds April 23, 2010

Map & Imagery Library at the University of Florida– Visit the University of Florida’s George A. Smathers Library. Here you can view images of historic maps of Florida. If you like cartography be sure to check out this link.

Florida History Links– This link leads you to the Florida Department of State, State Library and Archives of Florida. It has links about archaeology, African-American history, Cemetery Records, Civil War, Documents, Historic Buildings and Sites, Historical Information, Historical Organizations, Libraries and Archives, Maps, Museums, Native American History, Newspapers, People, Photographs & Visual Images.

Do you know these people? – Florida Memory State Library & Archives of Florida needs your help. If you like mysteries check out this link and see if you can identify any of the unidentified people in these photographs.

If you can identify any of the individuals, structures or events that remain unidentified, contact us at Archives@dos.state.fl.us. Please include any documentation that might substantiate your information.

Historic Flags of Florida– “Many flags have flown over Florida since European explorers first landed here in the early sixteenth century. Among these have been the flags of five nations: Spain, France, Great Britain, the United States, and the Confederate States of America. Numerous other unofficial flags also have been flown on the peninsula at one time or another. Only a written description remains of some of these banners.”

Florida Governors– Learn about all 49 governors of Florida from Andrew Jackson before he became President to Charlie Christ. Includes links to images and biographies of each governor. Good resource for students.

WWI Induction Cards– Are you creating your genealogy or just interested in WWI history? This is the link for you. Here “the World War I service cards provide name; age; serial number; race; place of birth; and residence; for service men and women who were either from Florida or who entered service in Florida.”

 

Wanted Wednesdays: Unsolved Homicides April 7, 2010

If you’ve ever watched prime time shows such as Law & Order, Cold Case, or CSI you’ll know that homicides never close. So I went searching for the oldest open case of homicide in Florida. I found the Sims Homicide which occurred on October 22, 1966 in Leon County Florida. Here is what they know:

Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell was the first deputy on the scene 31 years ago on October 22, 1966. At approximately 11 p.m., Dr. Robert W. Sims, 42; and his daughter Joy, 12; were found dead. Helen Sims, 37, was gravely wounded by two gunshots to the head. The older Sims daughters, Virginia, 17; and Judy, 15, were not at home; both were baby-sitting. Joy Sims had been gagged with a stocking and tied up. Her mother was found on the floor; both parents also were tightly bound. Dr. Sims was killed with one bullet to the head; Joy had been stabbed seven times in the chest and abdomen. Mrs. Sims, who had been shot twice in the head and once in the leg, died later at the hospital.

Officers gathering evidence found nearly 1,000 latent fingerprints. There was no sign of forced entry; however, the door lock might have been faulty. The absence of any struggle hints that the victims may have known their killer. More than one killer may have committed the murders. There was no evidence of a struggle in the home, and it would have been difficult for one person to subdue two adults and a child alone.

Anyone who might have information that would help solve this case is urged to contact the Leon County Sheriff’s Office, (850)922-3300.

Leon County Sheriff’s Office http://lcso.leonfl.org/

There are currently 64 unsolved homicides in Florida according to The Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The Sims case being the oldest of the them.

 

Before Walmart there was Webb’s City Drug Store April 5, 2010

During the Florida Land Boom of the 1920’s a man in his twenties, by the name of James Earl “Doc” Webb, moved to St. Petersburg and opened a drug store in 1925. It would become huge before the store closed in 1979. The drugstore would cover 7-10 city blocks.

According to Holly Atkins, James got the nickname Doc because he made his own drugs such as Sorbo-Rub, Indian Wahoo Bitters and Doc Webb’s 608. This was only the beginning. His store eventually had 77 different departments including prescription department, surgical supplies, cosmetics and toiletries, Furniture City (covering seven floors!), a florist, a dry cleaning plant, a service station and automobile association, a bank service, a dance studio, an ice cream plant, a coffee roasting plant and, of course, Doc’s Original Drugstore.

When the land boom ended in Florida, a forerunner to the Great Depression, that didn’t stop James. He kept his store open and had deep discounts to keep his customers. He even held circuses and small fairs in his parking lot. He dropped some of his prices so low that Bristol-Meyers took James to court for selling their toothpaste below retail price. It went all the way to the  Florida Supreme Court where it was ruled in James favor. A few years later some distilleries also took him to court for the same reason. The court again ruled in his favor.

The drug store survives the Great Depression but according to Florida’s Lost Tourist Attractions it just wasn’t enough. St. Petersburg was losing it’s status as Florida’s tourist capital and began a long slow spiral downward. In 1974 James sold all his shares in the drugstore and retired. The company went bankrupt in 1979. What did Webb’s City Drug Store leave us with? They invented the 10 items or less speedy check out lane. I’m sure there were plenty of people with a cartload of items in the speedy checkout though.