From the State Archives of Florida!
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a…
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the luster of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!
“Now Dasher! Now, Dancer! Now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! On, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!”
As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!”
A Stickney Situation
The war in Florida changed little in 1863. Despite a third, brief Union occupation of Jacksonville in March most military activity in the state consisted of Federal raids on the coastal salt making industry and the continuing Union blockade of Florida ports, many of which had been occupied by Federal troops since 1862.
By December 1863, while the military situation remained calm, politics in Union occupied areas of Florida were anything but peaceful. As 1864 approached, so too did the Union presidential election. Although Florida was far from being a Union military priority, for the first couple months of 1864 it would briefly be the focus of high power politics.
President Abraham Lincoln and his most prominent potential presidential rival within the Republican Party, Salmon P. Chase, considered the possibility of bringing a portion of the state back into the Union in time for its Republican delegates to support their respective candidacies. During this political drama, the most important player on the ground in Florida was Lyman D. Stickney, a Florida Unionist whose politics began and ended with self-interest.
Stickney’s prospects in Florida began in 1860, when he arrived in the state promoting a colonization scheme to bring agricultural development to largely untamed south Florida. After Florida’s secession and the failure of his colonial venture, Stickney, a Vermont native, made his way to the Federal enclave of Key West, where he quickly proclaimed his loyalty to the Union. Leaving Key West with “an unpaid hotel bill of $144.00” in June 1861, Stickney moved to Washington, D.C., and insinuated himself into government circles as an “expert” on all things Florida.
A talented lobbyist, whose cause was his own fortune, Stickney acquired a potentially powerful and lucrative position in July 1862, when President Lincoln, on the recommendation of Secretary of the Treasury Salon P. Chase, appointed him one of three direct tax commissioners for Florida.
The federal Direct Tax Law was a weapon of economic warfare. Passed in June 1862, the law called for the confiscation of any real property in Rebel held territory whose owners failed to pay the tax. The Direct Tax Law created three tax commissioners for each Rebel state where Union forces occupied a portion of the state. The commissioners would access the value of the real property within Federal control and impose a tax. Given that pro-Confederate citizens within these areas had usually fled or were unwilling to pay the tax, the tax commissioners ended up seizing their property and either selling or leasing it to Unionist Floridians or recently arrived Northern immigrants.
After his appointment, Commissioner Stickney wrote a number of letters to President Lincoln supporting the appointment of various men to federal positions in Union held areas of Florida and proclaiming his loyalty and “deep interest in the future destiny of Florida, of which I am a citizen…” Stickney was an enthusiastic supporter of the Union expedition to Jacksonville in March 1863 (see “Detour to Liberty: Black Troops in Florida during the Civil War” and “Florida and the Civil War: March 1863”).
By the time the expedition set sail, he had established himself as a silent partner in a general store in Fernandina and shipped goods to the store at government expense under the cover of the Direct Tax Commission. He hoped the expedition would lead to the permanent Union occupation of Jacksonville and northeast Florida. In such an eventuality, he saw endless opportunities for profit, including trade in cotton and turpentine. Even though the expedition proved short-lived, Stickney did not relent.
On December 2, 1863, as he was about to board a ship for another trip to Fernandina, Stickney urged Lincoln “to authorize the loyal people of Florida to organize a state government in conformity with the Constitution and laws of the United States.” He guaranteed that “the work of restoration will be speedy and permanent” if the president would allow “every person of lawful age, and not disqualified by crime, whose fidelity to your administration and your proclamation of freedom is unquestioned be a voter…”
If feasible, the early restoration of Florida to the Union, even if it was only a small portion of the state, could serve the Union cause as a magnet for discontented and Unionist Southerners living in Florida and Georgia as well as for escaped slaves, many of whom were now filling the ranks of the Union’s increasingly numerous black regiments.
At the same time, a restored Florida could make a difference in the 1864 presidential election by throwing its Republican Party delegates to either Lincoln or Stickney’s benefactor, Secretary of the Treasury Chase, whose presidential ambition was one of the worst kept secrets in Washington. Finally, and most importantly for Stickney, a Florida returned to the Union held endless possibilities for his own advancement, either financially or politically, as he would doubtless be one of the key leaders in a new, loyal Florida.
The pursuit of a reconstructed Florida was one of the motivating factors in the Union decision to mount yet another expedition to Jacksonville in February 1864. This expedition resulted in the Federal defeat at Olustee on February 20th. The Battle of Olustee, or Ocean Pond as it was known in the North, ended Stickney’s dream of a Florida restored to the Union. Florida would not play a role in the presidential election of 1864, which saw Lincoln’s easy capture of the Republican nomination over Chase.
Stickney’s summer of 1864 was considerably less fortunate than Lincoln’s. In July, a treasury department report criticized Stickney for being almost constantly absent from his duties in Florida and implicated him in financial and political corruption schemes. Indicted in 1865, Stickney, slippery as ever, managed to escape punishment and restart his professional life in the postwar economy.
The quote about Stickney’s Key West hotel bill comes from David J. Coles, “Far from Fields of Glory: Military Operations in Florida, 1864-1865,” (Ph.D. dissertation, Florida State University, 1996). The Stickney quotes are found in two of his letters to Lincoln dated October 27, 1863 and December 2, 1863; the original letters are located in the Robert Todd Lincoln Collection, Library of Congress.
For Sitckney’s role during Union military operations in Florida see Stephen V. Ash, Firebrand of Liberty: the Story of Two Black Regiments that Changed the Course of the Civil War (New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2008). A copy of the Florida Direct Tax Commission records are located in Record Group 101, Series 161, United States Direct Tax Refund Records, 1891-1901, State Archives of Florida.
Collections Management staff at the State Archives of Florida spends much of their time bringing new collections into the Archives and readying them for public access. Though the majority of our holdings document the activities and functions of Florida’s territorial and state government, the Archives also preserves and makes available papers, journals, photographs, sound recordings, and other materials created by private individuals and organizations.
Despite the fact that our most recent manuscript donation consists of only one item, its provides a strong first person account of significant events in Florida history. This prompted staff to quickly digitize and transcribe the item for inclusion on the Florida Memory website.
The donation consists of a single hand-written letter describing hurricanes that hit southern Florida on September 18 and October 21, 1926. Written by “Kaye” from the Floridian Hotel, Miami Beach, to Louise Webber (d. 1993) of Bangor, Maine, the twelve page account details Kaye’s activities both during and in the aftermath of the storms.
Kaye began with a brief account of the October 21st storm before plunging into the events of September 18th and the days that followed. While it is known from the letter that Kaye was a resident and employee of The Floridian Hotel, her exploits detail conditions beyond the Floridian, especially during her walk across the causeway and to Hollywood in search of “her folks.”
Do you have original materials related to significant people, places, or events in Florida history? Learn more about donating them to the State Archives of Florida.
Stumped about what to get your loved ones this holiday season? We’ve got a few ideas…
Make-up kits are perfect for toddlers. What could go wrong?
Little kids love alligators! Although, we’d suggest the fake plushy kind…
An underwater photography session? Make sure to include diving supplies!
Who doesn’t want an ostrich for a house pet?
Mom would love a nice, relaxing pedicure! We hear elephant trainers offer great rates…
You can get them a car that’s just like Dad’s… just not as fast.
The rattlesnake hat is all the rage.. somewhere.
Or, you can just get that box of oranges you’ve been promising for years…
But, seriously, if you really want to get that Florida lover in your life a GREAT present, remember that all of our photographs are available for ordering and make a wonderful addition to any home: http://www.floridamemory.com/photographiccollection/refpricelist.php.
Renowned botanist and author John K. Small (1869-1938) conducted seasonal fieldwork in the Florida Everglades for more than 30 years. Along the way he captured scenes of Seminole life in South Florida during the early 20th century – a period of great transition for modern Florida Indians.
In the early 1900s, Seminole families transitioned from a primarily trading-based economy to one that demanded greater engagement with wage labor. They also experienced firsthand the ecological changes, caused by drainage schemes, documented by pioneering naturalists such as J.K. Small.
Small’s best known work, From Eden to Sahara: Florida’s Tragedy (1929), cemented his legacy along with other prominent naturalist-authors who also drew their inspiration from the Florida landscape. J.K. Small’s contributions to the natural history of Florida stand firmly beside the likes of William Bartram, Bernard Romans, Archie Carr, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas.
The John K. Small Collection (M83-2), held by the State Archives of Florida, consists of correspondence and over 3,000 photographs reflecting his career as a botanist and his frequent contact with many leading scientists, explorers, and naturalists of his time including Oakes Ames, Roland M. Harper, Liberty Hyde Bailey, Lord Nathaniel Britton, David G. Fairchild, William Chambers Coker, Harold St. John, and Thomas A. Edison.
Approximately 2,100 of Small’s photographs are available on the Florida Memory website.
From daguerreotypes to digital images, the Florida Photographic Collection features examples that highlight the evolution of the photographic process. Along the way, photographers developed the ability to capture infrared light, which is invisible to the human eye. The process of infrared photography involves using specially formulated film, sensitive to the infrared portion of the spectrum.
Infrared photography is used to great advantage in landscape photography, lightening up foliage and darkening skies and bodies of water. This creates images with a sublime and often beautiful otherworldly look. When used in portrait photography, it gives skin tones a soft glowing texture, but it also darkens the irises of the subject’s eyes. This secondary effect makes infrared a less common tool for conventional portraiture.
Modern digital cameras are built with a filter to block infrared light and most of the infrared special effects seen today are made post-production with image editing programs. Many of the infrared images in the Florida Photographic Collection come from the Department of Commerce Collection, where the photographers used this technique to capture Florida’s natural landscape.
Merry Christmas Card Day! Have you sent yours yet?
Emmett Kelly, Ringling Circus clown known for his hobo pantomime character “Weary Willie,” used this photograph, taken by Joe Steinmetz, for his Christmas card in 1955. Lois Duncan, Joe’s daughter, shared with us the story behind this photograph.
James Billie is Chairman of the Seminole Tribe of Florida. He frequently performed at the Florida Folk Festival in the 1980s.
Looking to pig out this weekend? Do you enjoy your roast pork served with a side of history?
If so, join the Panhandle Archeological Society at Tallahassee (PAST), the Florida Bureau of Archaeological Research, and the Florida State University Archaeological Society on Saturday, December 7, from 10:30 AM to 3:00 PM at the Governor Martin House (1001 de Soto Park Drive) in Tallahassee for the 36th Annual Hale Smith Community Pig Out. The event, appropriately held near the Hernando de Soto Winter Encampment Site, will feature food, kid’s activities, and knowledgeable archeologists on hand to serve up roast pork and dish out history related to the site.
Archaeological evidence found near the Governor Martin House suggests that an expedition under the command of Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto spent the winter of 1539-40 just east of downtown Tallahassee, in the vicinity of modern-day Myers Park. De Soto and his entourage occupied an Apalachee village known as Anhaica, before Native American warriors drove them from Florida.
According to historical documents, de Soto brought, among other things, a number of pigs on the expedition as a source of food. These pigs, and others introduced to Florida in the 16th century, form the genetic basis of feral populations that inhabit the southeastern U.S. today.
Read up on the history and significance of the de Soto site before you feast: Charles R. Ewen and John H. Hann, Hernando de Soto among the Apalachee: The Archaeology of the First Winter Encampment (Gainesville: University of Florida Press, 1998).
It’s that time of year again…
As cool winter breezes penetrate deeper into the Florida peninsula with each passing cold front, mainlanders begin to yearn for something a little more tropical.
For a lucky few, Key West has become part of the winter routine. Those with the wherewithal to venture down to the southernmost city during the colder months may be unaware of the island’s early history, when Key West was plagued by everything from malaria to water shortages and fire to hurricanes.
The images below are some of the earliest renderings of the island known to the Americans as Key West, long before it became a tourist mecca in the days of Flagler and Hemingway.
These two sketches (above and below), drawn by William A. Whitehead, portray Key West as it appeared from the cupola atop A. C. Tift’s warehouse in the late 1830s. William and his brother John were prominent citizens in the small island community. William served as customs collector from 1830 to 1838. He left Key West in 1838, never to return, because the town council refused to institute an occupational tax he supported.
The image below is believed to be one of the oldest landscape daguerreotypes of Florida. It dates to about 1850 and was likely taken from an observation tower in the vicinity of Front and Simonton Streets. Visible near the horizon are First Baptist (left) and St. Paul’s Episcopal (middle) churches.
The steeple of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church helps date this item to circa 1850. St. Paul’s, built in 1839, was destroyed by a hurricane in 1846. It was rebuilt in 1848, but burned along with much of the city in the fire of 1886. In 1909 and 1910, the church again suffered damage from powerful tropical weather. The present Gothic Revival-style structure, constructed of steel and concrete, held its first services in 1914. According to an early historian of Key West, First Baptist Church on Eaton Street (upper left) was built in 1848.
The map below, created by the Monroe County Commissioners in 1874 from city property records, shows Key West as it appeared in the late 19th century. During the 1860s and 1870s, Key West hosted a large contingent of Cubans fleeing from the Ten Years War (1868-1878) in their homeland. This conflict served as a precursor to the Cuban War of Independence (1895-1898), during which Key West again played a vital role for the exile community.
Cuban businessmen in exile, including Vicente Martínez Ybor, transplanted their cigar rolling operations to Key West during the Ten Years War. Ybor later moved his factories to Tampa and started the community that now bears his name.