The First Boom, the Great Freeze and Recovery

The expansion of railroads into southern Florida contributed to the growth of the citrus industry in the late 19th century. With the railroads came an increase in population and in acreage devoted to citrus cultivation. Boosters promoted Florida as a paradise on earth: the climate cured all aliments and the soil produced wealth with little effort. Citrus figured prominently into the selling of Florida as a retreat for yeoman farmers, tourists and invalids. Many settlers caught orange fever and assumed they could reap substantial profits in no time, while they and their groves basked effortlessly in the Florida sunshine.

Workers in C.S. Hasbrouck's packing house (1886)

Workers in C.S. Hasbrouck's packing house (1886)

Image number: RC08087

David S. Berkstresser and family at a Hawthorne orange grove: Hawthorne, Florida (between 1882 and 1890)

David S. Berkstresser and family at a Hawthorne orange grove: Hawthorne, Florida (between 1882 and 1890)

Image number: PR04175

General note: The photograph was taken 2 miles east of Hawthorne on the old Palatka Road. Pictured, left to right: David S. Berkstresser, his wife Elizabeth, their granddaughter Mary (born 8/6/1882), and Emma, wife of their son William H.

View of Lake Morton: Lakeland, Florida (ca. 1890)

View of Lake Morton: Lakeland, Florida (ca. 1890)

Image number: FR0907

General note: Looking from Florida Avenue.

Sizing and packing oranges (ca. 1890)

Sizing and packing oranges (ca. 1890)

Image number: RC04800

Picking fruit in John C. English's seedling grove: Alva, Florida (ca. 1890s)

Picking fruit in John C. English's seedling grove: Alva, Florida (ca. 1890s)

Image number: RC08162

General note: Sampson English (left) was grove foreman for the Owanita Citrus Association.

Dreams of easy money in the citrus industry came to an end for many during the great freeze of 1894 and 1895. Earlier freeze events, such as one in 1886, signaled a warning of things to come. In December 1894 and then again in February 1895, temperatures plummeted throughout the state. Many growers saw their investments crumble as frozen limbs snapped and fruit fell to the ground. Before the great freeze, Florida produced five million boxes of citrus. Production would not reach the five million figure again for almost two decades following the winter of 1894-95. With the memory of devastating freezes fresh, growers devised various methods to help trees and fruit resist the cold.

Remains of an orange grove after an 1880s freeze: Caldwell, Florida (ca. 1880s)

Remains of an orange grove after a freeze: Caldwell, Florida (ca. 1880s)

Image number: RC02290

Fallen oranges in Major Foster's grove after 1886 the freeze: Manatee County, Florida (1886)

Fallen oranges in Major Foster's grove after the freeze: Manatee County, Florida (1886)

Image number: RC07108

Great freeze (1886)

Great freeze (1886)

Image number: RC05091

Damage to an orange grove because of cold: Bartow, Florida (1894)

Damage to an orange grove because of cold: Bartow, Florida (1894)

Image number: FR0323

General note: Streaty Parker's orange grove is pictured. Many groves in the state looked like this after one of two freezes that occurred in the state on December 27, 1894. The second, which froze many of the trees as well, began with a blizzard on February 7, 1895, which was followed by temperatures in the low 20's for three successive nights.

Scene in grove at Orange City Waterworks after freeze of December 28 and 29: Orange City, Florida (1894)

Scene in grove at Orange City Waterworks after freeze of December 28 and 29: Orange City, Florida (1894)

Image number: PR01607

General note: Trees were sprayed to protect them from a freeze. They sprouted out in the morning but were all killed in the Feb. 8, 1895 freeze.

Scene in grove at Citra after freeze of December 28 and 29: Citra, Florida (1894)

Scene in grove at Citra after freeze of December 28 and 29: Citra, Florida (1894)

Image number: PR01606

Citrus grove after freeze (1895)

Citrus grove after freeze (1895)

Image number: RC02364

Rockledge grove of Alfred Trafford after the freeze: Rockledge, Florida (1895)

Rockledge grove of Alfred Trafford after the freeze: Rockledge, Florida (1895)

Image number: PR01608

Wooden shelters built to protect citrus trees from a freeze (ca. 1890s)

Wooden shelters built to protect citrus trees from a freeze (ca. 1890s)

Image number: RC02408

Canvas covers protecting citrus trees from the freeze (ca. 1900)

Canvas covers protecting citrus trees from the freeze (ca. 1900)

Image number: CC095

Interior view of Stetson's slat shack protecting his citrus grove: Deland, Florida (ca. 1900)

Interior view of Stetson's slat shack protecting his citrus grove: DeLand, Florida (ca. 1900)

Image number: CC205

Picking oranges in Ferris Grove: Floral City, Florida (early 1900s)

Picking oranges in Ferris Grove: Floral City, Florida (early 1900s)

Image number: N028976

The citrus industry again moved southward after the 1894-95 freezes. Groves that survived the great freeze gained widespread notoriety. This period of recovery gave way to a second citrus boom, lasting until the 1970s. The town of Keystone City was renamed Frostproof after its trees weathered the freeze. Dummett's grove on Merritt Island emerged untouched once again, further bolstering the reputation of Indian River citrus. Growers around the state sought to use the Indian River label in order to associate their product with Dummett's legacy. In the 1930s and 1940s, state and federal authorities defined an "Indian River" area and pursued retailers who peddled fraudulent fruits.

Citrus grove: Winter Haven, Florida (ca. early 1900s)

Citrus grove: Winter Haven, Florida (ca. early 1900s)

Image number: LC410

Orange sizer invented by James B. Crum (1905)

Orange sizer invented by James B. Crum (1905)

Image number: RC05454

General note: The device, invented by 78 year old James B. Crum, was made in 3 sizes to sell at $35, $40 and $45. The estimated capacity was 40-60 crates of fruit per hour. It was operated by a light pedal.

Sargent family picking oranges (1912)

Sargent family picking oranges (1912)

Image number: RC06022

Shipping fruit from Miami on the Sour Town Express: Miami, Florida (ca. 1910s)

Shipping fruit from Miami on the Sour Town Express: Miami, Florida (ca. 1910s)

Image number: N029011

Tourists picking oranges in a roadside grove (ca. 1910s)

Tourists picking oranges in a roadside grove (ca. 1910s)

Image number: PR01612

Theodore Strawn's packing house for Bob White oranges: De Leon Springs, Florida (ca. 1910)

Theodore Strawn's packing house for Bob White oranges: De Leon Springs, Florida (ca. 1910)

Image number: N034710

Citrus grove: Highlands County, Florida (ca. 1920s)

Citrus grove: Highlands County, Florida (ca. 1920s)

Image number: N028981

Picking oranges (ca. 1920s)

Picking oranges (ca. 1920s)

Image number: PC0520

Archway and young groves: Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida (ca. 1920)

Archway and young groves: Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida (ca. 1920)

Image number: N031780

Aerial view of citrus groves: Winter Haven, Florida (ca. 1920s)

Aerial view of citrus groves: Winter Haven, Florida (ca. 1920s)

Image number: FR0146

Orange grove: Clewiston, Florida (ca. 1920s)

Orange grove: Clewiston, Florida (ca. 1920s)

Image number: N028987

Crated citrus: Auburndale, Florida (ca. 1930s)

Crated citrus: Auburndale, Florida (ca. 1930s)

Image number: FR0013

Pay schedule sign for workers in the citrus fruit industry (ca. 1930s)

Pay schedule sign for workers in the citrus fruit industry (ca. 1930s)

Image number: RC12744

Winter Haven Citrus Growers Association employees working in grove: Winter Haven, Florida (1931)

Winter Haven Citrus Growers Association employees working in grove: Winter Haven, Florida (1931)

Image number: FR0694

Employees at the Florence Citrus Growers Association packing boxes: Winter Haven, Florida (1934)

Employees at the Florence Citrus Growers Association packing boxes: Winter Haven, Florida (1934)

Image number: FR0732

Migrant orange picker holding ladder: Polk County, Florida (1937)

Migrant orange picker holding ladder: Polk County, Florida (1937)

Image number: RC02707

Interior of Winter Haven Citrus Company packing-house: Winter Haven, Florida (ca. mid 1900s)

Interior of Winter Haven Citrus Company packing house: Winter Haven, Florida (ca. mid 1900s)

Image number: FR0137

Florida Gold truck: Polk County, Florida (ca. 1940s)

Florida Gold truck: Polk County, Florida (ca. 1940s)

Image number: FR0220

Lewis Groves: Lakeland, Florida (ca. 1940s)

Lewis Groves: Lakeland, Florida (ca. 1940s)

Image number: FR0236