Corn, not Cotton
Even though the North produced more agricultural goods than the South during the Civil War, at the beginning of the war in 1861, few observers would have predicted that the South, with its overwhelmingly agricultural economy and seemingly endless supply of slave labor, would find it difficult to provide adequate food supplies to its soldiers and citizens.
However, a number of factors produced food shortages early on in the war and especially by 1863. By then, the continuing and growing absence of men from their farms due to military service, the impressment of food and slaves for the use of the Confederate Army, a tightening Union naval blockade, and a poor transportation system combined to spark bread riots in many Southern cities and led to increased misery on the Confederate home front, where poor families struggled to feed themselves.
Steamship docked at Apalachicola (ca. 1860)
Florida was not immune from these conditions. Although the state’s location far away from the main fighting fronts meant that the vast majority of its agricultural land was untouched by the enemy, most of Florida’s white men of military age were serving in the Confederate Army outside of the state by the summer of 1862. This meant that they could not be at home working to feed their families. In addition, by 1863, most of Florida’s ports were either occupied or blockaded by the U.S. Navy, so few outside supplies reached the state. Of course, blockade-runners succeeded in bringing goods to Florida’s shores, but most of these items were either luxury goods or weapons, not provisions that could feed Florida’s poor farm families.
Given the swift decline in value of Confederate currency during the war, planters found they had to rely on the one crop that was still valuable enough in itself to be used to purchase needed supplies and the specialty goods that the blockade-runners provided. That crop was cotton.
A. Philip Randolph, the first president of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, was born in Crescent City, Florida, and grew up in Jacksonville. The son of a Methodist minister, he attended the City College of New York, and later published The Messenger, a radical black magazine.
The 1937 contract between the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and the Pullman Company cut working hours, increased pay, and improved working conditions.
Randolph was also a major influence in ending discrimination in defense plants and segregation of the U.S. military. He was director of the August 28, 1963 March on Washington, D.C. — the largest civil rights demonstration in American history.
Group portrait of members attending the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters convention in Washington, D.C.
The membership of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters included the African-American porters and maids who worked on the railway trains. Randolph, Benjamin McLaurin, and Julius and Eliza Rosier Glass were natives of Jacksonville. Julius was a fireman on the Florida East Coast Line.
Portrait of A. Philip Randolph
Steamer David Clark, St. Johns River (1880s)
The David Clark, launched in Jacksonville on February 27, 1875, was built in the Brock and Stevens shipyard, registered #6865. It traveled the Jacksonville to Enterprise (on Lake Monroe) run for the Brock Line on the St. Johns River. It was sold in auction to Captain Joseph Smith in August of 1877 because of Jacob Brock’s bankruptcy.
In October of 1889, it burned in Fernandina, Florida, and was officially listed as abandoned in 1893. The steamer had a side-wheel paddle and a tonnage of 483 gross and 442 net. It was 147.5′ long, 41.4′ wide, with a depth of 7.8′. It had 51 nominal horsepower, and could make speeds of 14 knots.
Mallory Square (1979)
Smathers Beach (1988)
Fishing at the Navy Outer Mole (1988)
Sailing at dusk (1979)
Pelican silhouette (1983)
In previous posts, we’ve discussed how we approached processing a large, very disorganized collection, talked about the nature of the collection and some of the interesting items found in it, and looked at the background and some of the beliefs of the Koreshan Unity as revealed in the collection.
Full-time processing of the collection has continued in the meantime, so let’s take a look at the very significant progress our archivists have made in transforming the collection into an easily-accessible research resource, supported in large part by National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) grant funding (www.archives.gov/nhprc).
We have largely completed processing of the Koreshan Unity’s administrative records and operating records, including general accounting and transactions, payroll, stocks, taxes, attorney fees, legal cases, insurance, will and estate records, and other records documenting the administration and operations of the organization and community.
These records include foundation documents such as original constitutions, corporation records, and early minutes of the organization. The pages below, taken from minutes in 1893, document the Unity’s adoption of a constitution in which an Archivist and an Assistant Archivist were designated as two of the seven members of the Board of Directors. It is thanks to the work of these first Koreshan Unity archivists that today’s archivists have such a valuable collection to process and make available.
We have also completed processing the files of Hedwig Michel, a German immigrant who joined the Unity in 1941 and was the last remaining member upon her death in 1982. Processing the papers of “The Last Koreshan” was complicated by the extensive intermingling of personal and organizational records. The three items below are examples of the wide variety of materials found in Michel’s files.
In his annual message to the Florida General Assembly on November 17, 1862, Governor John Milton pointed to Abraham Lincoln’s Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which proclaimed freedom for all slaves living in areas of the country still in rebellion by January 1863, as a plot to “subjugate Florida . . . and to colonize the State with negroes . . . .”
The proclamation was, Milton argued, nothing less than “the means the most terrific which could be devised to alarm the people of the South . . . .” As Milton feared, the Emancipation Proclamation came to pass on January 1, 1863, but the alarm that sounded across the South was soon compounded by the Union’s deployment of black troops against the Confederacy.
Beginning in March 1863, Florida was the site of some of the earliest operations of black regiments, which became an essential part of Union operations in the state until the end of the war.
Drawing of a black Union infantryman
As early as November 1862, black companies conducted raids against salt works and saw mills along both sides of the coastal border between Georgia and Florida. These attacks were the outgrowth of the U.S. War Department’s order of August 25, 1862. That order allowed the creation of a limited number of black units within the U.S. Army’s Department of the South, which was responsible for military operations along the coasts of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.
On February 25, 1964, Cassius Clay defeated Sonny Liston in Miami Beach to win his first heavyweight boxing title. Liston came into the match heavily favored; however, the 22-year-old Clay demonstrated superior speed and quickness against his older opponent, age 32. Liston succumbed to Clay by technical knockout (TKO) after failing to respond to the seventh round bell.
Clay – Liston I: Miami Beach (February 25, 1964)
Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali one week after his first fight against Sonny Liston. In 1967, Ali was stripped of his boxing titles when he, a conscientious objector, refused to serve in the Vietnam War. After three years away from the ring, Ali returned to boxing and claimed several more titles before retiring in the early 1980s.
Clay – Liston I: Miami Beach (February 25, 1964)
Ali is regarded by many boxing historians as the greatest heavyweight champion of all time. In addition to his many accomplishments inside the ring, Ali has created a lasting legacy as a philanthropist, social activist and cultural icon.
Before the big race moved inland to an asphalt track and became an American classic, drivers fulfilled their need for speed on the beaches of Central Florida.
The crowd assembles… (January 1952)
Gentlemen, start your engines! (ca. 1910)
Everybody gets pole position (January 14, 1905)
And they’re off! (February 1952)
Into the turn… (February 1952)
Watch out for wrecks! (February 1952)
And the winner is… Edward Knowles Rayson! (1947)
Richard Petty and friends (February 1971)
What’s your favorite Daytona 500 photo? Share it with us in the comments.
Eartha M.M. White tells this true life ghost story based on an incident from before the Civil War. The story was told to Eartha White by her mother, Clara White, who was raised in slavery on Amelia Island in Fernandina, Florida.
More Info: Catalog Record
Eartha M. M. White was a humanitarian, businesswoman and philanthropist from Jacksonville. She created educational opportunities and provided relief to African-Americans in northeastern Florida. White helped found several organizations and institutions, including the Clara White Mission, Mercy Hospital and the Boy’s Improvement Club. She was designated as a Great Floridian by the Florida Department of State in the year 2000.
Eartha M.M. White and her mother Clara White: Jacksonville, Florida (ca. 1910)
This recording was made in January 1940 as part of the Federal Writers Project. The voice introducing the story is that of Robert Cook. Cook also traveled with Zora Neale Hurston to gather folklife recordings and photographs across the state.
In Florida, the Federal Writers Project was based out of Jacksonville, and directed by historian Carita Doggett Corse. Seven recording expeditions were conducted in the 1930s and ’40s in Florida by Alan Lomax, Zora Neale Hurston, Stetson Kennedy, Robert Cook, and others.
The field recordings were made on acetate disks, usually recorded at 78 rpm. The originals are still housed with the Library of Congress.
In a tradition a century old, major league baseball teams are reporting to spring training camps in Florida (the Grapefruit League) and Arizona (the Cactus League) to prepare for the upcoming season.
Babe Ruth in a spring training game: Miami, Florida, March 16, 1920
Cleveland Indians spring training: Lakeland, Florida, between 1924-1927
Batting practice at Brooklyn Dodgers training camp in Vero Beach, between March 22-24, 1949
Spring training game in Lakeland, Florida, March 1967
Florida Marlins spring training game, 1993
Houston Astros spring training game in Kissimmee, Florida, 1980s