The newspapers in the Florida Digital Newspaper Library come from libraries and other organizations throughout the State of Florida. The majority are from the P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History at the George A. Smathers Libraries, University of Florida, which holds the largest collection of newspapers in the State. A collection and preservation effort begun in 1944 called for acquisition of at least one newspaper from each of Florida's 67 counties on an ongoing basis. The library began to produce in-house microfilm copies of its Florida newspapers in 1947, microfilming and now digitizing 67 current Florida newspapers on a regular basis today. Retrospective digitization is undertaken in-house whenever possible.
The Florida Digital Newspaper Library is a project funded in part by grants from Florida’s Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) Grants Program, from the National Endowment for the Humanities' National Digital Newspaper Program, and from the Institute for Museum and Library Services. It is also funded by the University of Florida, with the assistance of digital library endowment from the Estate of the late Governor and Mrs. C. Farris Bryant, and by Florida Heritage Project funds from the University of North Florida and the University of South Florida. The Florida Digital Newspaper Library is indexed by the Florida Electronic Library. We are greatly indebted to Florida's independent newspaper publishers, including members of the Florida Press Association. Without their contributions to the Library, current content would not be available. Your support of these contributing newspapers is encouraged.
The following information on Florida history is from the National Digital Newspaper 1900-1910 grant application, see the full grant application for more information.
Florida : 1900-1910
By the beginning of the twentieth century, Florida’s population and per capita wealth were increasing rapidly. The potential of the "Sunshine State" appeared endless. Railroads connected Florida’s major urban areas, signaling the emergence of a vibrant modern society out of a tumultuous pioneer past. Wars of colonial succession, wars of “Indian Removal”, and the War Between the States gave way to the development of agriculture, economic hubs, and tourist destinations. The rails brought farm hands from Georgia, Alabama and other southern states. They made the growth of in-land destinations possible. Northerners, carpet-baggers and industrialists came not only to exploit but to develop Florida. And, the railways they built to move Florida’s produce to the great cities of the north brought tourists, on their return, ever further south. The rails, like the thread of a necklace, even dared to string together the pearls of Florida’s Keys. Many visitors stayed on, and some moved onto land made from drained swamps. Real estate developments quickly attracted buyers, and Florida was sold and resold.
The history of Florida can not be told without telling the story of its “Boom”, the incredible spurt of growth that even today lends its name to chapters in state history texts. The Boom, in turn, was intimately linked with the story of Florida’s newspapers, which helped create, promote and report the state’s new identity as southern paradise and investors’ haven. The Goza and Mickler Newspaper Collections illustrate the use of reporting in Northern newspapers through 1885 to convey information about and the allure of Florida as though information, itself, were an edible commodity. These text searchable collections, together with other textual resources in the PALMM Collections reveal Florida history and Florida’s relevance to the nation.
Newspapers of 1900 through 1910 hold the history of a developing Florida and a developing nation that saw Florida as its playground, ate from its table, and invested heavily in its fortunes. (An elaborated Florida Timeline is available as part of the PALMM Florida Heritage Collection).
Journalism in Florida
Newspaper publishing in Florida began under British rule. After leaving South Carolina in 1783, William and John Wells published a Tory newspaper from St. Augustine before moving on to the Bahamas when Florida again came under Spanish rule the following year. Three (3) issues of The East-Florida Gazette survive. There is indirect evidence of a Spanish-language newspaper, El Telégrafo de las Floridas, having been published at Fernandina in December 1817 and described in the Charleston Courier. Spain ceded East and West Florida to the United States in July of 1821. The Florida Gazette began publication in St. Augustine that same month, and The Floridian began publication in Pensacola in August of that year. By 1830, Florida's total population was 34,730, and the two counties established by Andrew Jackson as provisional governor had become fifteen.
Territorial newspapers promoted immigration and statehood. The standard source for information on early Florida newspapers is Territorial Florida Journalism by James Owen Knauss (DeLand: Florida State Historical Society, 1926; cf). Knauss estimated that at least forty-four newspapers were published in Florida before the end of the territorial period and that about half of the 6,800 issues produced survived. The USNP:FL survey database created in the planning phase of the Florida Newspaper Project largely corroborates this estimate; thirty-eight records list holdings for newspapers published in Florida before 1845.
In 1845, the year of statehood, Florida's population totaled 66,000. The young state had its share of partisan newspapers, including Marianna's Florida Whig (1847) and The Whig Banner from Palatka (1846). By the time of the War for Southern Independence, the state's newspapers had become sharply political. Democratic papers like The Southern Confederacy from Jacksonville (1861) were countered (at least eventually) by Republican papers like The True Southerner from Tampa (1868). Jacksonville's Republican paper, the Florida Union (1864), continues today as The Florida Times-Union.
During the war, at least one newspaper (the St. Augustine Examiner) was taken over and published by Union forces. One Confederate newspaper became the state's first African-American title. Josiah Walls, who came to Florida in 1864 with the Third Infantry Regiment, United States Colored Troops, purchased The Cotton States from a former Union general after the war and published The New Era from Gainesville in 1873.
Newspapers and their publishers then went on to wield heavy influence on the political and social developments of Reconstruction. Our survey database has twenty-nine records for Civil War-era newspapers, forty-two for Reconstruction-era papers, and fifteen records for newspapers spanning both eras. The Gainesville Sun, this city's current daily, dates its history to The Gainesville Times (1876), a Democratic paper.
Established by an act of the state legislature in 1905, the University of Florida first held classes at its Gainesville campus on September 26, 1906. The University News was the first school newspaper. Today The Independent Florida Alligator (formerly The Florida Alligator) serves a population in the range of 40,000.
A line drawn across the Florida peninsula from the mouth of the Suwannee River on the Gulf of Mexico to Daytona Beach creates a northern and southern division more eye-opening than the historical east-west partition. Two-thirds of the total population lived in the northern section at the turn of the century; less than a fifth of total population is there at the close of the century. Newspapers in the northern section tend to have been published continuously in stable communities for long periods; nineteen of the twenty-five agricultural titles on our survey database are located there, and eighteen date from the nineteenth century. Of 305 ethnic titles listed in the USNP:FL database, only seven are located in the northern section. The diversity in Florida's newspapers is largely attributable to population movements into the southern section of the peninsula. Retirees and refugees have converged from numerous points, and there are newspapers serving a variety of groups and interests. For example, Almanber "is published monthly [at Boca Raton] in Arabic and English," La Estrella de Nicaragua from Miami is "the Nicaraguan newspaper of America," The Florida Catholic is published in six diocesan editions from its main office in Orlando, the Hi-riser serves "the condominium communities of Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, Boca Raton [and] Highland Beach," while the Kreyol Connection is "the first trilingual newspaper (Haitian Creole, French and English) in Palm Beach."
A million and a half Floridians are of Hispanic origin, and 280 Spanish-language newspapers are listed on the survey database, all published in the southern section of the state and three dating from the last century. The Spanish-language La Gaceta, begun in Tampa in 1922, soon included an Italian-language section among its pages, recognizing fellow immigrants proficient in a language other than English.
Fifty-two African-American titles have been identified, seventy-six military titles are listed, and forty titles represent the religious press. Tracing its history back over 100 years, the Florida Sentinel Bulletin publishes both print and online editions of its newspaper. Florida has several metropolitan dailies with national reputations, and nearly 900 weeklies are listed in the USNP:FL database. About 375 newspapers are currently published in Florida, where newspapers are an important medium for a multiplicity of messages.
Florida’s landmark to the importance of journalism is, perhaps, the Poynter Institute. Founded in 1975 by Nelson Poynter, chairman of the St. Petersburg Times and its Washington affiliate, Congressional Quarterly, the Institute was bequeathed his controlling stock in the Times Publishing Co. in 1978. As a financially independent, nonprofit organization, the Poynter Institute is beholden to no interest except its own mission: to help journalists seek and achieve excellence. Today, the independence of newspaper media is closely guarded by thriving newspapers: among them the St. Petersburg Times, the Miami Herald and the Jacksonville Florida Times-Union, as well as smaller independent newspapers, such as the Independent Florida Alligator and Almanber.
Reported Significant Events of the Decade, 1900-1910
Between 1900 and 1910, Florida newspapers reported events of local, state and national importance. Of importance within Florida, newspapers reported on the political careers of William Sherman Jennings (Governor, 1901-1905) and Napoleon Bonaparte Broward (State Representative, 1901; Health Commissioner, 1901-1904; Governor, 1905-1919; U.S. Senator, 1910). The growth and general health of agriculture was a popular topic. Newspapers specializing in agricultural news covered, among other events, the development of the Chase Company, a major shipper of Florida produce to northern markets. And, nearly every Florida newspaper carried Governor Broward’s open letter to the citizens of Florida, which discussed prominently soil conditions and Florida’s agricultural promise.
By far the most important event of the decade in Florida History to be reported was the Great Fire of 1901 that destroyed Jacksonville. At the start of the Twentieth Century, Jacksonville was Florida’s largest, most industrial and most vibrant city. Key West, Miami, Pensacola and Tampa were distant rivals. Located not far from the Georgia boarder, on the major north/south rail lines, and Florida’s largest port, Jacksonville was, for many, the gateway to Florida. Many of the state’s influential newspapers of the decade 1900-1910 were published in Jacksonville. So, its destruction shocked Florida and the nation. Jacksonville’s reconstruction and the ascendancy of its rivals during this period are well documented in these newspapers. Frequently compared to the Great Fire that destroyed Chicago, perhaps the most interesting Chicago connection is a young Frank Lloyd Wright. One of the architects of Jacksonville’s reconstruction, Wright used the city to introduce a new sense of style that would later sweep the nation as the Prairie School. Photo-journalism and illustration appearing in the Jacksonville newspapers affords a “life-history” of the School’s development.
Framing the decade, disaster was again reported in Florida newspapers. In 1909, a hurricane came ashore in the Florida Panhandle in the Apalachicola Estuary, near Tallahassee. It had devastating force and cut a northwesterly path, following the main road to Pensacola. No part of the Panhandle was left untouched. Just as this year, 2004, the storm was one of four to dig into Florida. Hurricane reporting or, rather, the reporting on the aftermath of hurricanes was major business among Florida newspapers. The most destructive southerly storm was the 1906 hurricane that deeply scarred Key West, ripped into Miami, and nearly wiped cities like Boca Raton and Palm Beach from the map. Unlike the Great Fire, little can be said of the constructive forces that followed. Floridians simply survived; it was the lure of paradise that sparked rebirth. Today, yesterday’s weather news is important in modeling the behaviors of present-day storms. This information has enduring economic value to Florida.
In addition to carrying train schedules, Florida newspapers reported on rail transportation; the linking of Key West with New York via the East Florida Railway was a major feat of U.S. civil engineering. Between 1905 and 1909, they reported as well on what was considered a marvel of human engineering, the drainage of the Everglades. This news was punctuated by news of the “greatest of human achievements,” 1906’s progress toward completion of the Panama Canal (cf, Pensacola Journal, February 1, 1906). The Canal would revitalize Florida’s shipping industry and cruising, itself, would become both an industry and a destination. Other engineering news carried reports of the Pensacola Harbor Defense Project. Development news reported on, among others, Samuel A. Swann, Arthur T. Williams, and Fred W. Hoyt, who’s Fernandina Dock & Realty Company was a model of land speculation and development.
Florida reporters documented the birth of the Florida Historical Society in 1902 and its incorporation in 1905. The Society, with its inventories of Florida newspapers and library newspaper holdings, would herald the U.S. Newspaper Project more than 60 years before the National Endowment for the Humanities launched the project, and starting almost two decades before the Library of Congress and the University of Florida began microfilming their newspaper collections for preservation. The local news reported the every-day lives of Floridians, for example: meetings of the Melrose Women’s Society; development of religious and utopian communities in Florida’s far away places; the destruction of Jacksonville by catastrophic fire; and the tremendous growth of Tampa. Across Florida, growth spurred development of the middle and professional class; newspapers frequently report the opening of new offices and the development and expansion of banks. Education experienced tremendous growth; reports of the establishment of new schools, construction of new classrooms, and the expansion of higher education were frequent. Perhaps most important to the people of Florida, the news – like amber – preserved genealogical information. But, even local news would foretell national events. The decade’s news of the State Temperance League, for example, telegraphed the rhetoric of Prohibition, though much of the rest of the nation was becoming more “Progressive”. And, Pensacola’s Building News would herald a land boom across the state that would have effects, some devastating, on the U.S. economy and stock market less than two decades later. The exuberance of speculation, it seems, had become a fact-on-the-ground.
Florida newspapers, of course, carried all of the major news of the nation and the world. With articles copied from the newspapers of Boston, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington, as well as London, tourists could keep up with the cold, hard facts of life at home while enjoying warm breezes on Florida’s sunny shores. But, of particular importance to Florida among national news, these events: the Foraker Act of 1900, confirming that Puerto Rico was a U.S. Territory; the assassination in 1901 of President McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt’s swearing in – Roosevelt’s foreign adventures were of keen interest to Floridians; even reports of the Newlands Restoration Act in 1902, which authorized water projects across the West, was understood to point to the possibilities of Everglades drainage and development. (See also: PALMM Reclaiming the Everglades or the Library of Congress on the Everglades). Fort Meyers’ most famous part-time citizen grabbed headlines briefly in 1903, as his eleven-minute feature film, The Great Train Robbery, enjoyed its fifteen minutes of fame. In international affairs, the Platt Amendment and its attendant withdrawal of troops from Cuba in 1902, Panamanian independence in 1903, the addition of the “Roosevelt Corollary” to the Monroe Doctrine in 1904, the opening of the Panama Canal in 1906, and the Nicaraguan revolution of 1909 were followed closely in Florida. The events marked Florida’s growing importance in U.S. foreign policy.
David Shedden, Director, Eugene Patterson Library, Poynter Institute, supplies a more detailed calendar of Journalism in Florida.