Have You Seen the King?

It was a hot Friday afternoon in August, 1956. Elvis Presley had come to town, and Miami’s Olympia Theater was buzzing with chatter from an expectant teenage crowd. The Miami News reported that the first Elvis fan had arrived shortly after midnight for the 3:30pm opening show, followed by thousands of young people, some bringing their breakfast and lunch along for the wait.

The adults weren’t quite so enthusiastic. The News remarked that “Every delinquent kid in town – plus many who aren’t delinquents but are fascinated by a duck-tailed hair-do playing guitar and squirming his hips” would be on hand to catch one of Elvis’ seven stage shows that weekend. Indeed, many a parent criticized what they saw as the crudeness of “Elvis the Pelvis,” but they were powerless to stop their sons and daughters from falling in love with his unique sound and unforgettable stage presence. As one young Miamian was dragged away from the stage after a near-riot following Elvis’ departure, she reportedly begged the policeman, “Just one more look at him, just one!”

Enthusiastic fans at one of seven August 1956 Elvis shows at the Olympia Theater in Miami. Photo courtesy of Chris Kennedy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the original photographer, Don Wright).

Enthusiastic fans at one of seven August 1956 Elvis shows at the Olympia Theater in Miami (Photo courtesy of Chris Kennedy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the original photographer, Don Wright).

The following photos were taken by photographer Don Wright during Elvis Presley’s August 1956 appearances in Miami, and are currently on loan to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which is now expanding its research on Presley’s life and career. In these images, Wright managed to capture several fans’ faces, and some of the fans were holding cameras. Florida Memory and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame are teaming up to see if any of our users can help identify the fans in these photos, or help us locate more photos or videos of Elvis performing in Florida.

Screaming for Elvis at one of his seven August 1956 shows at the Olympia Theater in Miami. Photo courtesy of Chris Kennedy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the original photographer, Don Wright).

Screaming for Elvis at one of his seven August 1956 shows at the Olympia Theater in Miami (Photo courtesy of Chris Kennedy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the original photographer, Don Wright).

A close-up of the previous image from the front row at the Olympia Theater. Do you know this person? Let us know! (1956)

A close-up of the previous image from the front row at the Olympia Theater. Do you know this person? Let us know! (1956)

Wouldn't it be "swell" to have the movie caught on that camera? Olympia Theater (1956).

Wouldn’t it be “swell” to have the movie caught on that camera? Olympia Theater (Photo courtesy of Chris Kennedy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the original photographer, Don Wright – 1956).

 

A crowd of eager fans at the Olympia Theater in Miami, screaming for Elvis (1956).

A crowd of eager fans at the Olympia Theater in Miami, screaming for Elvis (Photo courtesy of Chris Kennedy of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the original photographer, Don Wright – 1956).

If you or someone you know has photographs from one of the King’s performances in Florida, we’d love to know about it.  Use our Contact Us form to get in touch with us.

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

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.

Gangster in the Neighborhood

Al “Scarface” Capone was born on January 17, 1899. Both before and after he served hard time for tax evasion, the Chicago gangster resided in an estate on Palm Island in Biscayne Bay.

J. Fritz Gordon, Al Capone, and Julio Morales in Havana, Cuba, 1930

J. Fritz Gordon, Al Capone, and Julio Morales in Havana, Cuba, 1930

Capone first took up residence in Miami Beach in 1928, when he purchased an estate on Palm Island for $20,000. Ostensibly acquired as a winter health retreat, the gangster invested between $40,000 and $70,000 into the home. Palm Island residents, and the city of Miami Beach in general, opposed the presence of the mobster in their midst and wrote numerous letters to the governor of Florida pleading for Capone’s ouster from the state.

Aerial view of the Capone compound on Palm Island, 1930

Aerial view of the Capone compound on Palm Island, 1930

The letter below is one such citizen complaint regarding Capone living on Palm Island (click on thumbnails for a larger image). The letter was sent to Governor Doyle Carlton by Clarence M. Busch in March 1929. Busch lived immediately across the street from Capone and, like other property owners on Palm Island, wanted the gangster booted from the neighborhood.

buschtocarlton1_275

buschtocarlton2_275

Governor Carlton shared Busch’s dislike for Capone. Beginning in March 1930, Carlton, who ran for office on an anti-gambling platform, undertook an effort to ban the gangster from the state. Capone and his legal team avoided banishment from Florida, but the mobster faced near constant harassment from Miami Beach police. He was arrested several times on various charges and the local city council even pursued special resolutions aimed at limiting his tenure in the area.

Palm Island residents expressed a sigh of relief in 1931 when Capone was indicted on federal tax evasion charges. The gangster served several years behind bars on Alcatraz Island before returning to Florida in 1939. He lived the remainder of his days on Palm Island, and died in 1947.

To learn more about Al Capone and his legal troubles in Dade County, see William G. Crawford Jr., “Judge Vincent Giblin: The Life and Times of a South Florida Attorney and Judge,” Tequesta 70 (2010): 59-119.

Graf Zeppelin

May 6, 2012, was the 75th anniversary of the Hindenburg disaster. The Hindenburg’s sister ships Graf Zeppelin (LZ-127) and USS Los Angeles (originally LZ-129) were also built by the German Zeppelin company. On October 23, 1933, Miami welcomed the Graf Zeppelin. The Graf Zeppelin also shared several German crew members with the Hindenburg, one of whom died in the Hindenburg disaster.

Arrival of Graf Zeppelin: Miami (October 23, 1933)

Arrival of Graf Zeppelin: Miami (October 23, 1933)

Mayor E.G. Sewell welcomes the crew of Graf Zeppelin (October 23, 1933)

Mayor E.G. Sewell welcomes the crew of Graf Zeppelin (October 23, 1933)

Airship Los Angeles over Miami (1925)

Airship Los Angeles over Miami (1925)

Miami-Dade Folklife Survey Podcast

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Gynin playing conga drum during Jamaican Independence Day festival: Miami, Florida

Eddie Massena from Rasta Samba Gynin playing conga drum during Jamaican Independence Day festival: Miami, Florida (1985)

As part of their research, the Florida Folklife Program selects and surveys a particular region or tradition. The Dade Folk Arts Survey was conducted from 1985-1986 by folklorists Tina Bucuvalas, Nancy Nusz and Laurie Sommers with the goal of finding folk artists to bring to the 34th annual Florida Folk Festival. Many of the recordings found in the collection are the result of fieldwork conducted by folklorists. Their findings are extensively documented through field notes, sound recordings, photographs and video.

Manolo Franco playing Venezuelan harp during a rehearsal: Miami, Florida (1985)

Manolo Franco playing Venezuelan harp during a rehearsal: Miami, Florida (1985)

This podcast contains a sampling of recordings from the Miami-Dade region as found in the Dade Folk Arts Survey.  While Latin American, Haitian and Jewish cultures were most prominently represented, the survey also covered a wide range of traditions, including shoe rag popping, Middle Eastern music, Jamaican stories and dance, and Irish fiddling.

Klezmer musician Jaime Bronsztein performing at the Traditions Festival: Miami, Florida (1986)

Klezmer musician Jaime Bronsztein performing at the Traditions Festival: Miami, Florida (1986)

We hope you enjoy the variety of traditions captured in the Dade Folk Arts Survey, and look forward to sharing more fieldwork from the Florida Folklife Collection in the future.

More Info: Podcast with Transcript

WTVJ Miami Airs First Broadcast (March 1949)

In March 1949, WTVJ, Florida’s first television station, began broadcasting from the humble confines of the Capitol Theater in Miami. In its first year, the station covered everything from hurricanes to the annual Orange Bowl football game.

Left to right: George Thurston, Keith Leslie and Bill Tucker, WTVJ news crew

Left to right: George Thurston, Keith Leslie and Bill Tucker, WTVJ news crew

WTVJ accomplished many firsts in Florida’s television history, including the first female sportscaster, Jane Chastain, and the first African-American broadcast journalist in South Florida, C.T. Taylor.

The film clip below features the first televised political debate in Florida, between Governor Charley Johns and his opponent in the 1955 gubernatorial election, LeRoy Collins.