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Florida Citrus in the Popular Imagination

The citrus industry is intimately tied to Florida's image in popular culture. Citrus trees, however, are neither indigenous to Florida nor to North America. Citrus arrived with European explorers in the 16th century and quickly took root in Florida, but it was not until the 1830s that Florida developed a monopoly over cultivating citrus fruits. A devastating freeze in 1835 destroyed citrus growing efforts in the Carolinas and Georgia, beginning a permanent southward migration of the industry into Florida.

Douglas Dummett's Merritt Island grove survived the 1835 freeze unscathed. His rootstock repopulated the nascent Florida citrus industry for the remainder of the 19th century. Dummett introduced the practice of "topworking" where buds from sweet varieties of citrus were fused onto the base of hardier species, such as rough lemon. Topworking, also known as "grafting," thereafter became the standard method for growing citrus in Florida.

Miniature of state of Florida in oranges and grapefruit (ca. 1940s)

Miniature of state of Florida in oranges and grapefruit (ca. 1940s)

Image number: PC0672

Christmas postcard from Florida (ca. early 1900s)

Christmas postcard from Florida (ca. early 1900s)

Image number: N028942

Sketches in an orange grove by E. A. Abbey: Citrus County, Florida (ca. 1875)

Sketches in an orange grove by E. A. Abbey: Citrus County, Florida (ca. 1875)

Image number: RC10895

Hotel Ponce de Leon from orange grove: St. Augustine, Florida (1887)

Hotel Ponce de Leon from orange grove: St. Augustine, Florida (1887)

Image number: N039530

Traveling through the orange groves: Florida (ca. 1910s)

Traveling through the orange groves: Florida (ca. 1910s)

Image number: PC0489

Head 'er fer Floridy! (1924)

Head 'er fer Floridy! (1924)

Image number: PC0004

"Oranges and grapefruit groves cover countless acres among Florida's charming hills and lakes." (1934)

Oranges and grapefruit groves cover countless acres among Florida's charming hills and lakes (1934)

Image number: N028971

"Picking Oranges for you in sunny Florida while you throw snowballs for me." (1941)

Picking Oranges for you in sunny Florida while you throw snowballs for me (1941)

Image number: PC5370

Crate of Florida grapefruit: Winter Haven, Florida (ca. 1940)

Crate of Florida grapefruit: Winter Haven, Florida (ca. 1940)

Image number: FR0166

"You throw snowballs for me while I pick oranges for you... Winter in the North - Winter in Florida." (ca. 1940s)

You throw snowballs for me while I pick oranges for you... Winter in the North - Winter in Florida (ca. 1940s)

Image number: PC5549

By streamliner thru tropical Florida (1948)

By streamliner thru tropical Florida (1948)

Image number: PC2948

General note: Streamliner named the Orange Blossom Special.

President Harry S. Truman receiving fresh fruit from Florida Highway patrolmen: Key West, Florida (1949)

President Harry S. Truman receiving fresh fruit from Florida Highway patrolmen: Key West, Florida (1949)

Image number: PR14095

General note: Photographed during Navy discussion for concentrated orange juice.

Margie Fletcher in a beach scene, posing with an orange-filled treasure chest: Winter Haven, Florida (1949)

Margie Fletcher in a beach scene, posing with an orange-filled treasure chest: Winter Haven, Florida (1949)

Image number: C012605

The Singing Tower: Lake Wales, Florida (ca. 1950s)

The Singing Tower: Lake Wales, Florida (ca. 1950s)

Image number: PC07183

General note: Bok Tower (also known as the Singing Tower) is a National Historic Landmark that was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. A Symbol of Florida, the Singing Tower rises 250 feet on the slope of Iron Mountain, overlooking some of the richest orange groves of Florida. Here on Iron Mountain, the Indians of Central Florida held their ceremony of the Rising Sun each Spring. A large stone circled by 13 smaller stones, representing the sun and the 13 moons of the Indian year, has been found there.

Florida vistors sampling some Florida orange juice at the Highlands Hotel: Ocala, Florida (1950)

Florida visitors sampling some Florida orange juice at the Highlands Hotel: Ocala, Florida (1950)

Image number: C012944

General note: Democratic Representative Harry P. O'Neill (Dunmore, Pennsylvania), Mrs. O'Neill and their daughter visit Ocala during the Congressional Baseball Training Tour.

State beverage of Florida (ca. 1960s)

State beverage of Florida (ca. 1960s)

Image number: DC073120

General note: The 1967 Legislature declared "the juice obtained from mature oranges of the species Citrus sinensis and hybrids are hereby adopted as the official beverage of the State of Florida." Fla. Stat. 15.032.