The Beatles are Coming!

Fifty years ago this week the Beatles arrived in Florida for the first time in order to begin rehearsing for their second appearance on the Ed Sullivan show.

The Beatles in Key West, 1964

The Beatles in Key West, 1964

Their performance was broadcast live from the Deauville Hotel’s Napoleon Ballroom in Miami Beach on February 16. About 3500 people saw it live, and approximately 70 million watched on television. The Beatles were the opening act, and dancer and singer Mitzi Gaynor was the headliner. Beatle mania was in full swing.

Postcard view of the Deauville Hotel in Miami Beach

Postcard view of the Deauville Hotel in Miami Beach

After the show the Beatles enjoyed some much needed rest and relaxation in the balmy climes of South Florida. On February 18, they flew from Miami to London. As a band, the Beatles only visited the Sunshine State one more time, in the fall of 1964.

First Tallahassee Sit-In (February 13, 1960)

In commemoration of Black History Month, this series of blog posts highlights African-American history in Florida.

On February 13, 1960, Patricia Stephens (later Due), and other local CORE members held the first of several sit-ins at department store lunch counters in downtown Tallahassee.

First Tallahassee civil rights sit-in, February 13, 1960

First Tallahassee civil rights sit-in, February 13, 1960

On February 20, students from Florida A&M University (FAMU) and Florida State University (FSU) held another, larger sit-in at the Woolworth’s lunch counter in downtown Tallahassee. When they refused to leave, 11 were arrested and charged with “disturbing the peace by engaging in riotous conduct and assembly to the disturbance of the public tranquility.” Several of the students chose “jail over bail” and remained in police custody while their story circulated around the country and garnered additional support for the movement.

In the months and years that followed, additional demonstrations and picketing took place at downtown stores and theaters in Tallahassee and elsewhere in Florida. The participants in these events were the “Foot Soldiers for Change” who worked tirelessly to defeat segregation in the United States.

To learn more, see Glenda Alice Rabby, The Pain and the Promise: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Tallahassee, Florida (University of Georgia Press, 1999).

Bok Tower Celebrates 85 Years

On February 1 & 2, 2014, Bok Tower Gardens will celebrate its 85th anniversary.

Tower among the pines, 1948

Tower among the pines, 1948

Head to Lake Wales this weekend, stroll through the gardens, visit the historic Pinewood Estate, and listen to the iconic Carillon bells.

Busy day at Bok Tower Gardens, ca. 1935

Busy day at Bok Tower Gardens, ca. 1935

Bok Tower Gardens was the dream of Dutch immigrant Edward W. Bok, a winter resident of the Mountain Lake community near Lake Wales. The natural beauty of the setting inspired him to build the tower, the gardens, and a Mediterranean-revival mansion originally named “El Retiro,” meaning retreat in Spanish. The gardens, designed by famed landscape architect Frederic Law Olmstead, sit nearly 300 feet above sea level atop Iron Mountain, one of the highest points along the Lakes Wales Ridge. Bok Tower Gardens was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.

Infrared photograph taken by the Florida Department of Commerce, July 1949

Infrared photograph taken by the Florida Department of Commerce, July 1949

Since opening in 1929, Bok Tower Gardens has hosted millions of visitors. Learn more about the activities planned at the site for Founder’s Day.

Martin Luther King and St. Augustine, 1964

People in the United States and around the world celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

King played a prominent role in organizing the Civil Rights Movement in the South. His most important contributions to the struggle in Florida occurred in St. Augustine in the summer of 1964.

On June 11, 1964, Dr. King and several other activists were arrested for attempting to integrate the Monson Motor Lodge. When interviewed during his brief incarceration, King pledged to challenge segregation in St. Augustine “even if it takes all summer.”

Martin Luther King in St. Augustine, X, 1964

Martin Luther King in St. Augustine, June 12, 1964

Dan R. Warren, State Attorney for the Seventh Judicial Circuit, convened a Grand Jury to hear King’s perspective on the situation in the Ancient City. The photograph above shows Dr. King in the backseat of a highway patrol car with a police dog moments after he testified before the Grand Jury about segregation in St. Augustine, a city he referred to as the “most segregated” in America.

Quotes attributed to King appear in Dan R. Warren, If It Takes All Summer: Martin Luther King, the KKK, and States’ Rights in St. Augustine, 1964 (University of Alabama, 2008), 95.

Stephen Foster Memorial Day

Stephen C. Foster, “America’s Troubadour,” was born in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, on July 4, 1826. He died on January 13, 1864.

Stephen C. Foster, 1859

Stephen C. Foster, 1859

President Harry S. Truman established Stephen Foster Memorial Day by proclamation in October, 1951. The first official observance of the day occurred on January 13, 1952. Today, 150 years after his death, we continue to recognize the life and works of “America’s Troubadour.”

Foster is remembered for composing songs that captured the spirit of the United States in the 19th century. He wrote over 200 songs in his career. Some of his most popular include: “Oh! Susanna,” “Laura Lee,” “My Old Kentucky Home,” “Old Folks at Home (aka “Swanee River”),” “Camptown Races,” “Beautiful Dreamer,” “Dream of Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair,” and “Old Black Joe.”

Carillon tower at the Stephen Foster State Memorial Center State Park, White Springs, 1957

Carillon tower at the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park, White Springs, 1957

White Springs, Florida, is home to the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park. The park, on the banks of the Suwanee River, opened in 1950 to honor Foster and his song, “Old Folks at Home.” Every year since 1954 the park has hosted the annual Florida Folk Festival.

Tenor James Melton singing during the first National Stephen Foster Memorial Day, White Springs, 1952

Tenor James Melvin performing during the inaugural Stephen Foster Memorial Day, White Springs, 1952

Florida Governor Fuller Warren hosted the inaugural Stephen Foster Memorial Day at the Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park. Singer James Melvin performed songs from the Foster catalog, accompanied by Frank Black on the piano.

Listen to recordings from the 1952 event. Enjoy!

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More Information: Catalog Record

Secession (January 10, 1861)

On January 10, 1861, Florida seceded from the Union.

In the wake of Abraham Lincoln’s election to the presidency on November 6, 1860, Governor Madison Starke Perry called for Florida to prepare for secession and to join with other southern states in organizing an independent confederacy.

The state legislature voted to hold a statewide election on December 22 for the selection of delegates to a convention that would meet in Tallahassee beginning on January 3, 1861, to decide whether Florida should secede. Of the sixty-nine delegates eligible to vote on January 10, 1861 for the adoption of an ordinance of secession, sixty-two voted yea and seven nay.

Florida Ordinance of Secession, signed January 10, 1861

Florida Ordinance of Secession, signed January 10, 1861

The State Archives of Florida holds the only known copy of the Florida Ordinance of Secession.

Women’s Equality Day

A Joint Resolution of Congress in 1971 designated August 26th of each year as Women’s Equality Day and requested the President to issue a proclamation annually to commemorate that day. That Joint Resolution resulted in this 1972 Proclamation issued by President Richard Nixon.

Women's Rights Day Proclamation, 1972

The Proclamation was later presented to Roxcy O’Neal Bolton, the driving force behind the designation of August 26 as Women’s Equality Day.

Letter from Senator Edward J. Gurney to Roxcy Bolton, September 12, 1972

Letter from Senator Edward J. Gurney to Roxcy Bolton, September 12, 1972

A long-time Coral Gables resident and a 1984 inductee in the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame, Bolton is known in Florida for gaining access for women to the previously all-male lunchrooms at Burdines and Jordan Marsh department stores; for helping to end the practice of naming hurricanes only for women; and for opening the influential Tiger Bay political club to women.

Bolton was inspired by Eleanor Roosevelt’s stances on civil rights and was profoundly affected by her address at the 1956 Democratic National Convention, hearing her call to “help all of our people to a better life” as a personal call to action.

Roxcy Bolton with Eleanor Roosevelt at the Democratic National Convention, Chicago, 1956

Roxcy Bolton with Eleanor Roosevelt at the Democratic National Convention, Chicago, 1956

Roosevelt, who was a strong proponent of gender equality and supporter of working women, had her own sources of inspiration, including from Floridians. She met Mary McLeod Bethune at an education conference in 1927, gaining from her an understanding of racial issues and becoming a close friend of Bethune’s.

Eleanor Roosevelt with Mary McLeod Bethune (center) at Bethune Cookman College, Daytona Beach, 1952

Eleanor Roosevelt with Mary McLeod Bethune (center) at Bethune Cookman College, Daytona Beach, 1952

National Lighthouse Day

Happy National Lighthouse Day! On August 7, 1789, the Federal Government took over the responsibility for building and maintaining lighthouses in the United States. More than 30 still operate in Florida today, including several offshore lighthouses in South Florida.

Alligator Reef Lighthouse, near Indian Key, 1873

Alligator Reef Lighthouse, near Indian Key, 1873

 

Sketch of Fowey Rocks Lighthouse, near Cape Florida, 1890

Sketch of Fowey Rocks Lighthouse, near Cape Florida, 1890

 

Carysfort Reef Lighthouse, near Key Largo, ca. 1900

Carysfort Reef Lighthouse, near Key Largo, ca. 1900

 

Pacific Reef Lighthouse, near Elliot Key, ca. 1950

Pacific Reef Lighthouse, near Elliot Key, ca. 1950

 

Aerial view of the Sombrero Key Lighthouse, near Key Vaca, 1954

Aerial view of the Sombrero Key Lighthouse, near Key Vaca, 1954

 

Aerial view of Sand Key Lighthouse, near Key West, 1989

Aerial view of Sand Key Lighthouse, near Key West, 1989

 

Lesser Known Florida Hurricanes: Carrabelle (1899)

The Atlantic hurricane season is once again upon us. It’s time for preparation… and a little history.

Satellite view of Hurricane Andrew, 1992

Some of the most famous storms in the annals of hurricane history made landfall in Florida. The Sunshine State is certainly not alone in suffering from tropical weather; Hugo, Gilbert, Katrina, and Sandy immediately come to mind.

We remember the devastation from Andrew, Charley, Donna, Jeanne, Francis and many others, but what about the lesser known hurricanes in Florida history? This series of blog posts takes a look back at lesser known hurricanes and other tidbits concerning tropical weather in Florida history.

Today, we look back at photographs from the 1899 hurricane season, when a storm packing 100 mile per hour winds slammed into the Florida Panhandle.

Carrabelle railroad depot destroyed by the 1899 hurricane

Carrabelle railroad depot destroyed by the 1899 hurricane

After first making landfall in the Dominican Republic, the storm passed over Islamorada in the Florida Keys on July 30. The storm reformed over the Gulf of Mexico and reached its peak intensity on August 1 shortly before landfall in the Panhandle.

Read more »

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.