Henry Ford (1863-1947)

Henry Ford, industrialist and founder of the Ford Motor Company, was born on this day in 1863. Ford maintained a winter home in Fort Myers, near his friend and fellow giant of American innovation, Thomas Edison.

Thomas A. Edison, John Burroughs and Henry Ford, Fort Myers, ca. 1914

Thomas A. Edison, John Burroughs and Henry Ford, Fort Myers, ca. 1914

Fort Lauderdale Wade-In Demonstrations

Civil rights activists in Fort Lauderdale challenged de facto segregation with a series of “wade-in” demonstrations in the summer of 1961.

Segregation impacted all aspects of daily life for African-Americans during the Jim Crow era. From movie theaters and lunch counters to swimming pools and beaches, state and local governments across the United States enforced laws predicated on the “separate but equal” clause established by the Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896).

Civil rights activists challenged legal and de facto segregation using non-violent strategies championed by organizations such as the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). One particularly Floridian method used by demonstrators was the “wade-in.”

Wade-in demonstration at a Fort Lauderdale beach, July 24, 1961

The photograph above shows activists participating in a wade-in demonstration at a Fort Lauderdale beach on July 24, 1961. The wade-ins, which lasted six weeks, helped end de facto segregation at all Broward County’s beaches. A state court judge refused to enter an injunction against the NAACP stopping the wade-ins a year after they began.

To learn more, see William G. Crawford Jr., “The Long Hard Fight for Equal Rights: A History of Broward County’s Colored Beach and the Fort Lauderdale Beach ‘Wade-ins’ of the Summer of 1961,” Tequesta 67 (2007): 19-51.

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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Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961)

Author Ernest Hemingway, born on this day in 1899, is perhaps the most famous former resident of Key West. Only one of his books, To Have and Have Not (1937) was set in the southernmost city, but Hemingway logged many hours perfecting his craft at his Whitehead Street home. An avid fisherman and boater, Hemingway enjoyed all that Key West had to offer.

Ernest Hemingway with bill fish, Key West, 1940s

Ernest Hemingway with bill fish, Key West, 1940s

Cat in front of the Hemingway House, Key West, 1993

Cat in front of the Hemingway House, Key West, 1993

National Hot Dog Month

July is National Hot Dog Month!

Summer is hot dog season. According to the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council, Americans typically consume 7 billion hot dogs from Memorial Day to Labor Day alone. That’s about 818 hot dogs consumed every second from the last week of May to the first week of September. Enjoy your summer with one of America’s favorite meals!

"Mother" Bloom serving hot dogs to servicemen at the Miami Beach Jewish Community Center, 1943

“Mother” Bloom serving hot dogs to servicemen at the Miami Beach Jewish Community Center, 1943

Gregor McGregor (Part Two)

McGregor settled in on Amelia Island after capturing the Spanish town and blockhouse at Fernandina.

After Gregor McGregor captured the small fort and block houses at Fernandina on Amelia Island in June of 1817, he sent the Spanish prisoners to St. Augustine. McGregor planned to continue his invasion of North Florida, but delayed at Amelia Island to set up a government of his own. He established a postal delivery system, acquired a printing press for a local newspaper, issued his own currency and flew his own flag, a green cross on a white background.

Gregor McGregor's flag

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