Preserving the Sounds of the Sunshine State

Today, we are highlighting one of the State Archives’ exciting endeavors: audio digitization.

Since 2003 the State Archives has digitized thousands of audio recordings in the Florida Folklife Collection. The goal of this effort is to preserve Florida’s folk culture and make it accessible to educators, researchers, and Florida folk enthusiasts around the world. The Collection includes interviews, field recordings and performances gathered by folklorists from the Florida Folklife Program and recordings from the Florida Folk Festival dating back to 1954.

Reel-to-reel tapes from the Florida Folklife Collection. Content includes interviews and field recordings by the Florida Folklife Program and performances from the Florida Folk Festival.

Reel-to-reel tapes from the Florida Folklife Collection. Content includes interviews and field recordings by the Florida Folklife Program and performances from the Florida Folk Festival.

Audio recording formats in the Folklife Collection consist of reel-to-reel tapes, cassette tapes, digital audio tapes (DATS), compact discs (CDs), and digital audio files. They are kept in a temperature and humidity controlled environment in the Archives’ stacks to minimize deterioration.

A reel-to-reel tape, cassette tape, digital audio tape (DAT), and CD from the Florida Folklife Collection.

A reel-to-reel tape, cassette tape, digital audio tape (DAT), and compact disc (CD) from the Florida Folklife Collection.

Although it may resemble Don Draper from AMC's hit show Mad Men, this is a Thoro Test reel-to-reel box holding a recording from the 1959 Florida Folk Festival.

Although it may resemble Don Draper from AMC’s hit show Mad Men, this is a Thoro Test reel-to-reel box holding a recording from the 1959 Florida Folk Festival.

A box of cassette tapes from the Florida Folklife Collection representing the diverse cultures of Florida.

A box of cassette tapes from the Florida Folklife Collection representing the diverse cultures of Florida.

To bring you these recordings, the original source materials must be transferred from their analog medium to a digital file. This process requires legacy audio equipment, like reel-to-reel tape machines and cassette decks, to play the audio recordings, and new digital technology, such as analog-to-digital converters, high quality sound cards, and audio computer software to capture the sound digitally.

The Ampex ATR-102 is used to playback reel-to-reel tapes for digitization.

The Ampex ATR-102 is used to playback reel-to-reel tapes for digitization.

The Tascam 112MK II (top) is used to playback cassette tapes and the Tascam DA-20MK II (bottom) is used to playback digital audio tape for digitization.

The Tascam 112MK II (top) is used to playback cassette tapes and the Tascam DA-20MK II (bottom) is used to playback digital audio tape for digitization.

The resulting digital audio file is an uncompressed 96 khz 24 bit WAV file. This file specification is a national archival standard, chosen for its ability to capture all frequencies in the human hearing range.

The Apogee Rosetta 200 converts analog audio (e.g. reel-to-reel tapes) to digital audio.

The Apogee Rosetta 200 converts analog audio (e.g. reel-to-reel tapes) to digital audio.

The Lynx AES16 sound card allows for a high quality digital audio transfer from the Apogee Rosetta 200.

The Lynx AES16 sound card allows for a high quality digital audio transfer from the Apogee Rosetta 200.

These high quality files are called “preservation masters” and are stored without undergoing any editing whatsoever. The idea is to preserve all sonic qualities (good and bad) of the original recording. Some recordings undergo minor editing for listenability when making access copies (e.g. CDs) for users, and mp3 versions for the Florida Memory website and Florida Memory Radio.

For more information about digitization at the State Archives of Florida, check out our Digitization Guidelines.

 

Animated Map Series: Jacksonville

Florida Maps: Then & Now is an animated map series from the State Library and Archives of Florida. The project uses Google Earth to create animated videos with historic and modern maps, photographs, and primary source documents from our collections.

This episode features historic maps of Jacksonville.

If you have trouble viewing the video, download it here.

Transcript

Welcome to Florida Maps: Then & Now, an animated map series from the State Archives of Florida. This episode highlights historic maps of Jacksonville.

Long before concrete and steel spanned the St. Johns River near downtown Jacksonville, the Timucuan chief Saturiwa (Sat-ur-e-ba [IPA: Sæt-ur-ih-bah]) presided over the area shown on this map, from the confirmed Spanish Land Grant of Ezekiel Hudnall. This Westward bend in the St. Johns sits upstream from the French built Fort Caroline, destroyed and then rebuilt by the Spanish and christened Fort San Mateo in the 1560s.

By the 18th century, just decades after diseases and slave raids vanquished the Timucua, Seminole cattlemen drove their herds across the river at this narrow spot along the St. Johns River. Called Waca-Palatka (wack-a-pill-at-ka [IPA:Wak-ʌ-pæl-ɑt-kɑ]) by the Seminoles, and Cow ford by English speaking settlers, the area served as a natural point to wade and ferry cattle to eager buyers. The Americans renamed the area Jacksonville in the 1820s after Andrew Jackson, hero of the First Seminole War and the territory’s first governor.

Jackson’s policies eventually led to the removal of Seminole Indians from the area, and forced those few that remained in Florida into the deep recesses of the Everglades. Jacksonville became the hub of commerce in Northeast Florida by the time of the American Civil War. After the war, Jacksonville continued to grow and expand on both sides of the St. Johns River.

Commercial needs in the 20th century dictated the deepening of the St. Johns. Docks and piers proliferated along the water’s edge, as well as seawalls to hold back the water from the growing city. This Eastward facing point is now the site of EverBank Field—the home of the Jacksonville Jaguars, the Gator Bowl, and the annual Florida-Georgia rivalry game.

For more information and other animated maps: Florida Maps: Then & Now

William “Washboard Bill” Cooke

Washboard Bill was born in Dupont, Florida on July 4, 1905. He was known as a percussionist, rooted in the minstrel tradition, as well as a captivating storyteller. During much of Cooke’s childhood, his mother operated a juke joint in Dupont. The young Cooke would secretly stay up past his bedtime listening to the music emanating from his mother’s establishment. These experiences shaped Cooke’s interest in music, and greatly influenced his rhythmic style later on in life.

Close up of William

Close up of William “Washboard Bill” Cooke

At age six, Cooke began working for a local sawmill, making 25 cents per day, after his mother fell on hard financial times. In 1916, Mrs. Cooke closed her juke joint, and sent her children to live on their grandfather’s farm in Sanford, Florida. As times grew tougher and the Great Depression set in, Cooke grew weary of his life on the farm, and decided to leave home. For ten years, he led the life of a hobo, traveling by train all over the East Coast.

William

William “Washboard Bill” Cooke poses with his washboard and cymbals

Although Cooke spent the majority of his younger years traveling outside of Florida, he still maintained a connection with the state, generally spending his winters in West Palm Beach. Between 1947 and 1963, he performed with a group called the West Palm Beach Washboard Band. They played in venues everywhere from the streets to the estates of the Rockefellers and Kennedys. In 1956, he recorded Washboard Country Band with Sonny Terry and folk legend Pete Seeger. Cooke moved to West Palm Beach permanently in 1973. He performed in Florida and throughout the country until his death in 2003. For his musical and historical contributions, Cooke received the Florida Folk Heritage Award in 1992.

Portrait of street musician William

Portrait of street musician William “Washboard Bill” Cooke on Clematis Street in West Palm Beach, Florida.

In 1988, Cooke recited a personal narrative, A Hobo’s Birthday, for the Palm Beach County Folk Arts in Education Project, conducted by the Florida Folklife Program. Cooke’s story offers a fascinating account of life as a hobo during the Great Depression. His travels and experiences give the listener a vivid portrayal of transient life on the railroad tracks, and of the character Washboard Bill.

Podcast: A Hobo’s Birthday by William “Washboard Bill” Cooke

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For more information, please see:

Interview with Washboard Bill Cooke (and) Washboard Bill Cooke story: A Hobo’s Birthday

Animated Map Series: Key Biscayne

Florida Maps: Then & Now is an animated map series from the State Library and Archives of Florida. The project uses Google Earth to create animated videos with historic and modern maps, photographs, and primary source documents from our collections.

This episode features historic maps of Key Biscayne.

Transcript

Welcome to Florida Maps: Then & Now, an animated map series from the State Archives of Florida. This episode highlights historic maps of Key Biscayne.

Key Biscayne is a long barrier island that sits just offshore of metropolitan Miami. This map, from the confirmed Spanish Land Grant of Mary Ann Davis, shows Key Biscayne long before dredging altered its shoreline, and causeways linked it to the mainland.

From the earliest days of Spanish exploration, the island, whose southern tip is known as Cape Florida, served to warn mariners about the impending danger of shallow water and treacherous reefs. In the early 19th century, shortly before Florida became a territory of the United States, escaped slaves and free blacks, known as Black Seminoles, fled to Key Biscayne. For them, the island served as a point of departure. They sought freedom in the Bahamas and elsewhere in the British Caribbean—removed from the institution of slavery, which was rapidly extending its reach into the Florida peninsula.

The United States built the first lighthouse on Key Biscayne in 1825. On July 23, 1836, during the Second Seminole War, Seminole warriors attacked and burned the lighthouse. It was rebuilt 10 years later. The lighthouse was attacked again during the Civil War, this time by Confederates hoping to prevent Union forces from using the light to guide blockading ships patrolling the coast.

The Northern and middle sections of the island witnessed significant development in the 20th century. The development of homes sites, channels for luxury boats, and a golf course, combined with natural erosion and efforts to deepen the Port of Miami, give the island its present shape. Today, the Southern third of Key Biscayne is part of the Bill Baggs Cape Florida State Park.

For more information and other animated maps: Florida Maps: Then & Now

Animated Map Series: Ft. Lauderdale

Florida Maps: Then & Now is an animated map series from the State Library and Archives of Florida. The project uses Google Earth to create animated videos with historic and modern maps, photographs, and primary source documents from our collections.

This episode features historic maps of Ft. Lauderdale.

 

Transcript

Welcome to Florida Maps: Then & Now, an animated map series from the State Archives of Florida. This episode highlights historic maps of Fort Lauderdale.

Lounging green Iguanas, discarded pets imported from another land, bake in the sun, contrasting against the white limestone rocks along the New River in modern downtown Fort Lauderdale. This map, from the confirmed Spanish Land Grant of Lewis Frankee, shows the area at a much earlier time, when the winding river was frequented only intermittently by Seminole Indians and shipwreck victims.

William Cooley was one of the first American settlers to arrive in the area after Florida became a territory of the United States in 1821. He served as the local Justice of the Peace, established a farm, and operated a trading post along the river that came to be known as Cooley Hammock. Several members of Cooley’s family were victims of the violence that marked the outbreak of the Second Seminole War. On January 4, 1836, Seminole and black warriors attacked the Cooley family, killing his wife and children. The attack reportedly came as a result of Cooley’s inability to bring to justice white settlers that murdered a prominent Seminole leader.

Later in the war, the United States Army built a fort on the site and named it Fort Lauderdale. Seminole families took up residence near Cooley Hammock following the end of the Seminole Wars. Among the first white settlers to arrive in the area after the Seminole Wars was Frank Stranahan. He established a trading post on the New River and traded with the Seminoles. Seminole families visited Stranahan’s store to trade animal hides for goods they could not produce themselves, such as firearms, ammunition, cloth, and metal pots.

The arrival of Henry Flagler’s railroad in the late 1890s set the course for the rapid development of the area in the early 20th century. In the 1920s, work began on nearby Port Everglades. Engineers dug an entrance channel that opened the New River to large, oceangoing vessels. Today, the port welcomes cruise ships and commercial freighters from around the world. Several historic structures remain intact today in downtown Fort Lauderdale, including the New River Inn, built by Philemon Bryan and Edward T. King in 1905, and the Stranahan House, built in 1901 to replace the original trading post.

For more information and other animated maps: Florida Maps: Then & Now

 

Animated Map Series: Jupiter Island

Florida Maps: Then & Now is an animated map series from the State Library and Archives of Florida. The project uses Google Earth to create animated videos using historic and modern maps, photographs, and primary source documents from our collections.

This episode features historic maps of Jupiter Island.

 

Transcript

Welcome to Florida Maps: Then & Now, an animated map series from the State Archives of Florida. This episode highlights historic maps of Jupiter Island.

Jupiter Island is often cited as containing some of the most expensive real estate in the entire country. With modern property values in mind, it is hard to imagine one person owning the whole island. However, that was exactly the case for Eusibio M. Gomez. This map shows land granted to Gomez by the Spanish government in the early 19th century. The grant included all of modern day Jupiter Island, from the St. Lucie River to the Jupiter Inlet.

At the time of first contact with Europeans and Africans, Jupiter Island and the surrounding area was inhabited by Native Americans known as the Jaega. To the South lived the Tequesta, and to the North the Ais. In the 17th century, the Spanish attempted to Christianize the indigenous populations South of the St. Lucie River, but with little success. One of the best accounts of the area during the colonial period came from a shipwrecked Quaker merchant named Jonathan Dickinson. In September, 1696, Dickinson and his traveling companions became marooned on Jupiter Island. The locals quickly took possession of the contents of their disabled vessel, and directed the passengers and crew towards their village. Dickinson described the scene:

“After we had traveled about five miles along the deep sand, the sun being extremely hot, we came to an inlet. On the other side was the Indian town, being little wigwams made of small poles stuck in the ground, which they bended one to another, making an arch, and covered them with thatch of small palmetto-leaves… Night came on; the moon being up, an Indian, who performeth their ceremonies stood out, looking full at the moon making a hideous noise, and crying out acting like a mad man for the space of half an hour; all the Indians being silent till he had done: after which they all made fearful noise some like the barking of a dog, wolf, and other strange sounds.”

Eventually, the tired and weary travelers were escorted to St. Augustine. The Spaniards arranged for passage to Charleston, and then Philadelphia, their original destination.

Little development took place on Jupiter Island until the 20th century, when the land was transformed from a narrow sandbar, skirted on the West by mangroves and on the East by the rolling Atlantic, to a haven for the wealthy, dominated by beachfront estates.

For more information and other animated maps: Florida Maps: Then & Now

Animated Map Series: Matanzas River

Florida Maps: Then & Now is an animated map series from the State Library and Archives of Florida. The project uses Google Earth to create animated videos using historic and modern maps, photographs, and primary source documents from our collections.

This episode features historic maps of the Matanzas River, near St. Augustine.

 

Transcript

This map, drawn by surveyor Robert McHardy, shows the confirmed Spanish Land Grant of Joseph M. Hernandez along the Matanzas River, a plantation he dubbed “Mala Compra.” The river along the bottom, or West, edge of the map derives its name from events that took place at a nearby inlet in 1565, when Spaniards under the command of Pedro Menendez de Aviles massacred French Huguenots associated with the Fort Caroline settlement.

This map stands out among the hundreds in the Spanish Land Grants collection because it shows the location of several structures. The small buildings that surround the large house on the left, or North, side of the grant may represent cabins inhabited by African-American slaves owned by Hernandez. The two “big houses” on the property likely housed Hernandez and his family. Hernandez, a Spanish citizen of Minorcan descent, owned several tracts of land in East Florida. Typical of other planters in the area, his slaves cultivated cotton and sugar for export, and vegetables for home consumption. Hernandez remained in Florida after the territory transferred from Spain in 1821 and became a citizen of the United States.

He was known as General Hernandez because of his status as a Brigadier General commanding militia troops during the Second Seminole War. In October 1837, Hernandez, acting under orders from General Thomas Sidney Jesup, captured the Seminole warrior Osceola under a white flag of truce. The deed, which took place near Hernandez’s plantation, in the vicinity of Fort Peyton, forever stained the military career of General Jesup, and came to characterize the dishonorable tactics used by the U.S. Army to wage war against the Seminoles in Florida.

This site is now preserved as the Mala Compra Plantation Archaeological Site. It was added to the national register of historic places in 2004.

For more information and other animated maps: Florida Maps: Then & Now

Animated Map Series: Wacahoota

Florida Maps: Then & Now is an animated map series from the State Library and Archives of Florida. The project uses Google Earth to create animated videos using historic and modern maps, photographs, and primary source documents from our collections.

This episode features historic maps of Wacahoota.

Transcript

Welcome to Florida Maps: Then & Now, an animated map series from the State Archives of Florida. This episode highlights historic maps of Wacahoota.

Florida’s cattle industry is the oldest in what is now the United States. Spaniards introduced the first cattle to Florida in the 16th century. By the mid-1600s, Spanish ranchos extended from the area near St. Augustine to the Apalachee district in the panhandle, and South to the Alachua Prairie. The largest rancho, known as La Chua, counted thousands of animals worked by European, African, and Native American cattlemen. Raids by Creek Indians and colonists from Carolina in the early 1700s destroyed the Spanish ranchos, including La Chua. Native American immigrants, later known as Seminoles, migrated into the area and began working the former Spanish livestock.

By the mid-1700s, the area around the Alachua Prairie, including Wacahoota (wack-a-hoo-tee), meaning “cow pen” in the Hitchiti language, contained thousands of animals grazing on the wet prairies that dotted the region. William Bartram, an English naturalist, described the scene as he saw it in the early 1770s:

“The extensive Alachua savanna is a level, green plain… scarcely a tree or bush of any kind to be seen… encircled with high, sloping hills, covered with waving forests and fragrant Orange groves, rising from an exuberantly fertile soil. At the same time are seen innumerable droves of cattle… Herds of sprightly deer, squadrons of the beautiful, fleet Seminole horse, [and] flocks of turkeys…”

The leader of the Alachua Seminoles at the time of Bartram’s visit was known appropriately as the “Cowkeeper.” The Cowkeeper and his people traded with colonists living along the St. Johns. They hunted and tilled the soil relatively undisturbed until the early 1800s. During the War of 1812, Georgia colonists known as the Patriot Army, with de facto support from the United States government, invaded Spanish Florida intent on fermenting rebellion against the colonial government.

The war spread into the Seminole country, and a series of skirmishes ensued. The Seminoles soundly defeated the invaders, but two decades later another conflict broke out—the Second Seminole War. This map, from the confirmed Spanish Land Grant of Domingo Acosta, shows lands once occupied by Bowlegs, one of the principal leaders during the Second and Third Seminole Wars. The area became known to the Americans as Bowlegs’ Old Plantation, and then Wacahoota once the Seminoles were evicted. Today, the area is a crossroads near the intersection of Marion, Alachua, and Levy counties, Southwest of Gainesville.

For more information and other animated maps: Florida Maps: Then & Now

Tom Gaskins: Ol’ Barefoot

Tom Gaskins (1909 – 1998) spent most of his life trudging through the swamps of Fisheating Creek near Palmdale, Florida. He was a man of ideas and regarded as a salt-of-the-earth character. Gaskins owned the Cypress Knee Museum in Palmdale where he collected and sold cypress knees as decorations, furniture, and other useful items. His knowledge of cypress knees and swamp life was legendary. His friends referred to him as “Ol’ Barefoot,” as he never wore shoes except when paying his respects at a funeral.

Tom Gaskins at his Cypress Knee Museum, Palmdale, 1987

Tom Gaskins at his Cypress Knee Museum, Palmdale, 1987

The Cypress Knee Museum opened in the 1930s when Gaskins fashioned an extra-large cypress knee into a roadside sign to lure tourists to his collection. The museum remained open until 2000 (2 years after Gaskins’ death) when the property was burglarized and most of the collection stolen.

Cypress knee decorated by Tom Gaskins, Palmdale, 1987

Cypress knee decorated by Tom Gaskins, Palmdale, 1987

Gaskins was also an inventor. He held over a dozen patents, including the Tom Gaskin’s Turkey Call that is still manufactured and sold today.

Turkey call invented by Tom Gaskins, Palmdale, 1987

Turkey call invented by Tom Gaskins, Palmdale, 1987

The State Archives of Florida is not the only organization that has taken an interest in Mr. Gaskins. Over the years he was featured in stories by the LA Times, Sun Sentinel, Mechanix Illustrated, Popular Science, Chicago Tribune, and was even a guest on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Gaskins received the Florida Folk Heritage Award in 1988. His fascinating work and personality piqued the interest of those lucky enough to cross his path; just like travelers going down US 27 in South Florida who stopped by to see “Ol’ Barefoot.”

In 1987, Tom Gaskins was interviewed by the Florida Folklife Program. Below are two excerpts:

Excerpt 1: Tom Gaskins explains the origins of hollow cypress knees

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Excerpt 2: Tom Gaskins talks about the turkey call he invented

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More Information: Catalog Record

Pete Seeger (1919-2014)

Pete Seeger, folk music legend and activist, died January 27, 2014, at the age of 94.

Born in New York City, Seeger learned the banjo in 1938, and worked with Alan Lomax at the Archive of American Folk Song in the Library of Congress. As a songwriter, his original repertoire included “Turn Turn Turn” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone.” He also formed two influential groups, the Almanac Singers and the Weavers, who sang labor anthems like “Which Side are You On?” as well as traditional numbers such as “Goodnight, Irene.”

During his extensive career, Seeger inevitably crossed paths with Florida folk artists. In 1956, he recorded for Folkways Records with the Washboard Band, which featured Florida Folk Heritage Award Winner William “Washboard Bill” Cooke. Not surprisingly, he also struck up a friendship with the Father of Florida Folk himself, Will McLean. The two performed together in 1963 at Carnegie Hall, and Will McLean was notably present for Seeger’s 1977 White Springs appearance.

Part 1

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More Info: Catalog Record

Intermission

Part 2

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