Jacksonville after the fire, 1901-1919

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Jacksonville after the fire, 1901-1919 a new south city
Crooks, James B
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x, 193 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.


Subjects / Keywords:
History -- Jacksonville (Fla.) ( lcsh )
Economic conditions -- Jacksonville (Fla.) ( lcsh )
bibliography ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent) ( marcgt )
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Includes bibliographical references (p. 153-181) and index.
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James B. Crooks.

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James B. Crooks


University of North Florida Press/Jacksonville


after the Fire, 1901-1919

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Copyright 1991 by the Board of Regents of the
State of Florida
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Library of Congress
Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Crooks, James B.
Jacksonville after the fire, 1901-1919 /
James B. Crooks.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and
ISBN 0-8130-1067-5
1. Jacksonville (Fla.)-History.
2. Jacksonville (Fla.)-Economic conditions.
I. Title.
F319J1C76 1991 91-91
975.9'12-dc20 CIP

Skylines of Jacksonville. Reprinted from
T. Frederick Davis, History of acksonville,
Florida, and Vicinity, 1513 to 1924 (St.
Augustine: Florida Historical Society,
1925), 244.


Acknowledgments ix
Introduction 1
Chapter 1. Before the Fire 7
Chapter 2. After the Fire: Economic Growth and Development 19
Chapter 3. Public Policy and Urban Growth 45
Chapter 4. The Private Sector and Urban Growth 68
Chapter 5. Leisure Time and Leisure Values 98
Chapter 6. World War I Comes to Jacksonville 119
Chapter 7. Jacksonville as a New South City 140
Notes 153
Note on Sources 175
Index 183


Skyline ofJacksonville
Jacksonville and vicinity, 1913
Duncan U. Fletcher
Main Street Boulevard, Springfield
Area burned in the fire
The Jacksonville fire
St. James Building
The new City Hall
HenryJohn Klutho
The Cummer lumber mill
The skyscraper district
Forsyth Street
Abraham Lincoln Lewis
The Masonic Temple
The terminal station
Van C. Swearingen
Dr. Charles E. Terry
Fons A. Hathaway
J.E.T. Bowden
St. Johns River Bridge
Charles E. Garner
Jacksonville Board of Trade
Ninah May Holder Cummer
May Mann Jennings
The Woman's Club


Bethel Baptist Institutional Church 86
Rev. J. Milton Waldron 87
Eartha M.M. White 88
Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church 90
Centennial Hall, Edward Waters College 92
James Weldon Johnson 96
Savoy Theater 101
Dixieland Amusement Park 104
Pablo Beach 109
The ostrich farm 111
The resort hotel 113
Klutho's film studios 116
Merrill-Stevens Shipyards 122
The freight yards 127
Camp Joseph E. Johnston 130
Col. Fred L. Munson 133
YWCA Hostess House, Camp Joseph E. Johnston 136
YMCA Building, Camp Joseph E. Johnston 138
City as viewed from Hemming Park 142
Wellington W. Cummer 143
Joseph E. Blodgett 144
Annie Douglass Broward 145
Telfair Stockton 147
Francis P. Conroy 149

viii 0


Though scholars often work alone in their research or writing, they are
rarely independent. Many people help them from the germination of an
idea to its completion as scholarship, and my experience is no exception.
In the beginning, back in 1982, one of my students, Pat Kenney, was a
catalyst when she suggested I should stop talking and start doing research
in Jacksonville history.
Libraries and librarians are one's greatest resource. At the University
of North Florida's Carpenter Library, people who have helped include
Kathy Cohen, Bruce Latimer, Eileen Brady, Peggy Pruett, Mary Davis,
and Sandra Creighton. In the P. K. Yonge Library at the University of
Florida, Elizabeth Alexander and Steve Kerber assisted me in my re-
search. Carol Harris in the Florida Room ofJacksonville's Haydon Burns
Library repeatedly amazed me with both his knowledge of local history
and his detective work ferreting out information I could not find. There
were also the many unnamed librarians who helped at Edward Waters Col-
lege, Florida State University, Florida State Archives, National Archives,
and Yale University.
The University of North Florida provided assistance with a sabbatical
leave in 1984-85 and a research travel grant in 1984 through the Training
and Service Institute. The university's Division of Instructional Commu-
nications drafted the map of Jacksonville and reproduced eight pictures.
The Florida State Archives supplied two photographs, and Judy Davis, a
professional photographer, copied the rest. Also of major help at the Uni-
versity of North Florida were support staff, particularly departmental sec-
retaries Deborah Martin, Jacqui Wheeler, Patricia Berry, and Marianne
History journals played an important role, too. Samuel Proctor, editor
of the Florida Historical Quarterly, published earlier versions of chapters

O ix

2 and 3. The Journal of Regional Culture published an earlier version of
chapter 5.
Colleagues in history read, commented, and added helpful insights at
various stages. On earlier articles, David Colburn, Raymond Mohl, Jer-
rell Shofner, and Dale Clifford provided criticism. More recently, David
Courtwright and Dan Schafer read the entire manuscript, offering useful
commentary. In addition, Morteza Ebneshahrashoob from UNF's De-
partment of Mathematical Sciences graciously advised me on my charts
and sampling procedures in chapter 2. Richard Bizot and the UNF Publi-
cations Board have provided continuing encouragement. I am grateful to
these colleagues for their assistance. Any errors of fact or interpretation,
however, are my responsibility.
Finally, my greatest support came from my wife, Laura, whose love,
friendship, support, and patience over the years have been a continuing
encouragement. To her, I dedicate this book.

x O


When the Atlanta Constitution editor Henry W. Grady addressed the New
England Society of New York on December 21, 1886, on behalf of re-
gional reconciliation, he also brought to national attention a vision of the
New South. The Old South of secession and slavery was dead, he said.
Hard-working plain people now "sowed towns and cities" and "put busi-
ness above politics." In Atlanta, "we have raised a brave and beautiful
city.... We have planted the schoolhouse ... and made it free to white
and black.... We have fallen in love with work... [and] have established
thrift in city and county."'
In the generation after the Civil War, Grady's Old South gentlemen
Cavaliers had become industrious New Southerners subscribing to the
Puritan work ethic, "uplifting and upbuilding" the region. Grady never
pointed directly to the modernization model of the northern states, but his
vision paralleled that of the antebellum Yankees sowing the seeds of liter-
acy, hard work, thrift, and uplift across the settlement of the old North-
As for the freedmen of the South, Grady said good riddance to slavery.
He praised "this sincere and simple people" who deserved the "fullest
protection of the laws." In the New South, they would have the vote and,
he added, "our friendship." Further progress, however, would depend

o 1

Jacksonville and Vicinity, 1913. Prepared by the Division of Instructional Com-
munications, University of North Florida.

upon "those among whom his [sic] lot is cast," namely benevolent white
Racial paternalism aside, Grady expressed in this New South vision
what became a major myth in the history of the region. Journalists, edu-
cators, businessmen, clergy, politicians, and even historians became its
advocates. They spoke of a new "spirit of enterprise," of a "progressive
spirit" prompting "social and industrial change," the abolition of illiter-
acy, and the development of manufacturing. At its heart was a commit-
ment to economic development, peaceful race relations, and reconciliation
between the South and North.4
The vision of the New South, of course, never became the dominant
reality for the region in the late nineteenth or early twentieth centuries.
The South remained predominantly rural, lacking in investment capital,
and locked into the destructive systems of crop lien and Jim Crow. Yet

2 o

islands of development did appear in cities, reinforcing both the vision and
the myth. Atlanta best epitomized the New South city because of its rapid
reconstruction after the Civil War, its railroad links, its pursuit of north-
ern capital, and Henry Grady. But Atlanta was not alone. Birmingham
sprang into existence in the 1880s as a major regional coal, iron, and steel
manufacturing center. Nashville, Houston, Louisville, and Richmond be-
came rail centers, and, toward the end of the century, Jacksonville began
to develop as a New South city.5
Historians writing about southern cities in the late nineteenth and
early-twentieth centuries tend to stress their backwardness compared with
northern cities. Memphis, for example, was portrayed as the murder capi-
tal of the nation in the 1880s. The great proportion of every southern
city's streets were unpaved, having ankle-deep mud or stifling in dust,
depending on the season. Devastating epidemics were frequent. Black
city dwellers were particularly impoverished, segregated and victimized
by white supremacist businessmen and politicians. Unfortunately, at times
all of these portrayals were true.6
Yet to compare southern cities then with their northern counterparts
overlooks their substantially greater post-Civil War poverty as well as
the racism that hampered development. Playing catch-up in an era when
northern cities not only had a head start but were developing rapidly was
virtually impossible. Effective southern competition with national cities
had to await the infusion of federal funds and northern capital in the mid-
twentieth century.
Another way of looking at development in the New South city in those
years is to compare change over time within the city. According to the
myth, this change began at the end of Reconstruction and continued well
into the twentieth century. Its first generation was particularly crude in
character, having minimal street paving, water and sewer services, law and
order, or other urban amenities. The driving force of urban boosterism
fostered economic growth. Beginning in the 1890s the second generation
saw the development of what historian Don Doyle calls the modern city,
with municipal waterworks, electric power plants, urban transportation
systems, paved streets, public schools, parks, and other urban attractions.7
One need not be a mouthpiece for the Chamber of Commerce to look
at these changes in a city's population, economy, physical shape, institu-
tions, popular culture, race relations, and quality of life. Anyone can ask
questions. Did the economy grow and diversify? What was the changing
character of the city's peoples? What happened to its downtown and resi-
dential areas? In what ways did race relations change? Did the quality of

Introduction o 3

life improve, particularly in the areas of health care, housing, education,
and entertainment?
Underlying these questions are assumptions about urban life, the New
South myth, and American values at the turn of the twentieth century. Did
the spirit of enterprise and the work ethic of which Grady spoke take hold
in southern cities? Did people develop positive attitudes toward change?
Did city building include investment in human capital? How did urban
blacks respond to the politics and policies of white supremacy? To what
extent did public policy shape urban growth, perhaps at the expense of
traditional individual rights? Southern cities were at the heart of the New
South myth, and to the extent that they developed new forms, values and
life-styles, they brought modernization to the region.8
This study examines the rise of one New South city in this second stage
of development, after the Great Fire of 1901 destroyed most of down-
town Jacksonville. Jacksonville, of course, did not change from a winter
resort to a modern city overnight. The seeds of modernization clearly
were sown prior to the fire, by the coming of the railroads after the Civil
War, the creation of a Board of Trade in 1884, and the introduction of
progressive city government by Mayor Duncan U. Fletcher in 1893. The
fire temporarily broke the momentum, but rebuilding the city served to
stimulate new growth, which in turn brought newcomers to Jacksonville
seeking jobs and opportunity. They came from the Florida countryside,
from south Georgia, and from as far away as New York, Michigan, and
Kansas. These new residents stimulated still further growth.
The character of that growth was shaped by both public policy and
private decisions. City, state, and federal governments all played a role
in determining the shape of the new city. Private institutions, including
the Board of Trade (which later became the Chamber of Commerce),
Jacksonville Woman's Club, and black churches, also helped to determine
that character. By the eve of World War I, Jacksonville had become a New
South city.
By Henry Grady's criteria, the three major goals for the New South
vision were fulfilled. Jacksonville's economy had expanded substantially
through the port, railroads, banking, construction, and wholesale and
retail trade. The city had established racial policies largely satisfactory
to the dominant white minority, if not to the African-American majority.
There was national reconciliation between this southern city, which had
been invaded four times during the Civil War, and the North. Federal
troops trained in Jacksonville during the Spanish-American War. Presi-

4 0

dent Theodore Roosevelt visited the city in 1905, and northern business-
men repeatedly invested in further economic growth.
Yet in the four decades following Grady's New York address, the vision
had expanded. It included J. L. M. Curry's strong commitment to pub-
lic education as the "cornerstone" of the New South. Curry, southern
agent for the Peabody-Slater fund, was a leading advocate for public edu-
cation, encouraging increased local and state governmental support. In
the Progressive Era, from the 1890s to World War I, public policy fostered
many New South changes, particularly in the areas of public education
and public health.9
Meanwhile the physical shape of the New South cities changed. When
Jacksonville rebuilt after the fire, new skyscrapers, churches, department
stores, a city hall, a public library, and movie theaters created an image
of a modern city. An electric streetcar system linked downtown to the
expanding suburbs for both the working and middle classes. Growing
neighborhoods, both black and white, petitioned City Hall for their own
parks, schools, and other amenities, reflecting a civic vitality not always ex-
pressed at the polls. Often these expressions came from private voluntary
groups, such as the business-oriented Board of Trade, the white middle-
class Woman's Club, residential neighborhood associations, or black and
white activist churches. Clearly this New South city developed a civic
activism that contributed to the vitality of urban life.
Another expression of the New South city could be seen in the use
of leisure time. While emphasizing the work ethic in business and labor,
local businessmen also encouraged new consumer forms of recreation in
amusement parks, movie theaters, ballparks, and department stores (fore-
runners of today's shopping malls). Local newspapers fostered this con-
sumer consciousness with increased advertising as well as special features
on sports, entertainment, and fashion.
In sum, the New South city built upon Grady's vision, changing its
physical shape, expanding governmental powers, vitalizing citizen and
special-interest groups, and offering a range of activities that frequently
competed with traditional values of home, church, and family. In many
ways, these changes were playing catch-up with the changes taking place
in northern cities during these years. The northern model represented the
ideal, as Atlanta became "the Chicago of the South" and Jacksonville's
Dixieland Amusement Park "the Coney Island of the South."
There was also a downside to the New South city. Foremost were de-
teriorating race relations, ranging from expanded segregation laws to dis-

Introduction o 5

franchisement and lynchings. The racial harmony of which Grady spoke
in New York became the subjugation of black southerners forced into a
Jim Crow system. Poverty was another downside in the growing slums of
the New South cities. It had, of course, existed before this time, and as
long as southern agriculture remained impoverished, refugees from the
countryside moved to cities looking for work. Yet as the cities prospered in
one area, urban poverty also grew. These extremes of poverty and wealth
remained northern problems as well.
A third limitation reflected the dependence of New South cities on
social and economic forces beyond their control. The beginning of World
War I and the British blockade cut off the export of nitrates, naval stores,
and lumber to Germany, resulting in depressed economic conditions in
Jacksonville. American entry into the war, however, stimulated the econ-
omy with shipbuilding and the establishment of an army quartermaster
training camp. In a few short months, Jacksonville's surplus of available
housing became a severe shortage.
The war also brought pressure to prohibit the sale of alcoholic bever-
ages. Strong drink met a mixed reception in New South cities. Both tradi-
tionalists and progressives advocated temperance. On the one side, tem-
perance went hand in hand with the work ethic, thrift, and the dominant
religious institutions of the region. On the other, city boosters recruit-
ing new businesses did not want to convey a spirit of provincialism that
might be compared unfavorably with the more cosmopolitan ways of Bos-
ton, New York, or Baltimore. Eventually most New South cities banned
strong drink. Jacksonville did, too, after the War Department threatened
to remove the training camp if it refused.
Historian George Tindall has written about "The Emergence of the
New South" occurring between 1913 and 1945. ForJacksonville and other
New South cities, a strong case can be made for their emergence before
World War I. During these earlier years, southern cities provided leader-
ship for the region just as American cities provided national leadership in
economic development, governmental policies, culture, and communica-

6 n

00 NONE 1

Before the Fire

How do we look at an American southern city like Jacksonville, Florida?
Do we see it from today's perspective of a downtown with skyscrapers
towering over city sidewalks? Does it include crowded expressways, sub-
urban sprawl, golden arches, and mammoth shopping malls? Is a city
primarily known by its headlines or by statistics on poverty and crime?
Obviously there are many ways of seeing a city, all of them incomplete.
A city is like a kaleidoscope with many patterns and images. To attempt a
complete picture is to seek the impossible. Yet we strive, trying to capture
a sense of the city and hoping others will accept it.
The New South city, such as Jacksonville between 1900 and 1920, is
even more difficult to understand. On the eve of the Great Fire, Jackson-
ville had many images. Visually, according to maps and photographs, the
St. Johns River dominated the city along its southern boundary, flowing
northward from downstate, turning east in front of downtown, then north
again, and finally to the Atlantic Ocean twenty-two miles away. Along
the waterfront, lumber mills, wharves, warehouses, and railroad tracks
greeted the waterborne visitor.'
The Jacksonville of 1900 spread outward from its city center on the
river to the affluent suburb of Riverside to the southwest, prosperous
Springfield to the north, black Oakland to the northeast, and white,
working-class East Jacksonville and Fairfield eastward along the river.

Residents from the fringe could reach downtown readily by streetcars that
ran into the city from all of the suburbs. In town, residents could walk to
work, shop, worship, or play. Horsedrawn cabs were also available. There
were no skyscrapers. The most majestic buildings were the resort hotels,
churches, and handsome homes of prosperous citizens. Boardinghouses
for both single people and families accommodated a community that had
not yet discovered the apartment house. While housing was generally seg-
regated by race, a surprising number of blacks and whites lived in inte-
grated neighborhoods. A slum named Hansontown housed a substantial
number of black residents on the northwest fringe of downtown. Visitors,
however, usually saw only the more attractive parts of Jacksonville and
considered it a prosperous, progressive city.2
This image of a prosperous, progressive city had been developing for a
generation in travel books written by contemporary visitors. Poet Sidney
Lanier went to Jacksonville in early 1875. He described a community of
12,000 to 14,000 people, which increased substantially in numbers during
the tourist season. Much of the economy was geared to tourism. Trains
and ships brought travelers to Jacksonville; the major hotels opened only
from January to April; shops along Bay Street sold souvenirs of alliga-
tor teeth (made into whistles or watches), heron plumes, mangrove walk-
ing canes, coquina figures, or palmetto hats for ladies. There were sail-
boats to rent and excursions available upriver to Green Cove Springs or
Palatka. Livery stables leased saddle horses, buggies, and carriages. For
more sedentary visitors, a circulating library and reading room provided
books and magazines. A conservatory of music offered concerts peri-
odically. On Sundays and weekdays, churches held religious services. For
Lanier, tourism far overshadowed the lumber industry. The city was "the
main gateway" to Florida.3
A decade later publicist James Esgate wrote of the broad streets in
downtown Jacksonville, shaded by large live oaks with hanging Spanish
moss. He praised the grandeur of the St. James Hotel, capable of housing
500 guests. It occupied a full city block north of a park later named for
Confederate veteran Thomas C. Hemming. Esgate also described city
growth in the earliest stages of what was to become the New South city.
He noted the expansion of the Jacksonville business district north of Bay
Street and the early development in the neighboring suburbs of LaVilla,
Riverside, Springfield, East Jacksonville, and Fairfield, then beyond the
city limits. Commerce, he wrote, played an increasing part in the city's
economy with coastal shipping, railroads, wholesale houses, and retail
shops. Lumber mills dominated the city's limited industrial base; cigar


0 /6 Hon. Duncan U. Fletcher,
ti e i mayor of Jacksonville, 1893-
95 and 1901-3. Courtesy of
04@' K' ;:. :; the Haydon Burns Library.

manufacturing ran a distant second. Four banks, including William Bar-
nett's new Bank of Jacksonville, served the community. The most promi-
nent newspaper was the recently merged Florida Times-Union.4
Jacksonville also had certain modern amenities by 1885, including a
telephone exchange. Electricity lighted the St. James Hotel, Park Theater,
and shops along Bay Street. Other important additions to the city over the
preceding ten years included a public high school for whites, a synagogue,
St. Luke's Hospital, a library, a new courthouse, and a Board of Trade.
For Esgate, Jacksonville in the mid-1880s was a bustling, growing New
South city.5
This image of Jacksonville continued despite the depression of the
1890s. Writing in mid-decade, S. Paul Brown described Jacksonville as a
center "of finance, commerce and transportation ... the most important
orange market in the world" and a good winter resort. It had expanded its
land area to seven and one-half square miles, annexing the neighboring
villages of LaVilla and Fairfield. Its riverfront extended nine miles along
the St. Johns. Under the new charter of 1893, Mayor Duncan U. Fletcher
had begun a wide range of public improvements, including street paving,
a municipal power plant, a new City Hall, and enlarged public parks.

Before the Fire o 9

Main Street had become a handsome boulevard extending north through
Springfield. Reforms in the police, fire, and sanitation departments led to
what Brown called "substantial municipal growth unprecedented in the
city's history despite the 'hard times' of the past two years."6
The private sector supported the municipal efforts. The Board of
Trade (later to become the Chamber of Commerce) provided essential
leadership in many areas. Its members drafted the new charter, which
introduced the Australian secret ballot to local voters. Following the con-
struction of the jetties at the mouth of the St. Johns River by army engi-
neers, the board persuaded the Duval County commissioners to issue
bonds to deepen the river channel to eighteen feet. The board sponsored
legislation for a state railroad commission to reduce rates for Jackson-
ville shippers, supported a paid fire department, recruited new businesses
including the Clyde Steamship Line to provide regular service to Charles-
ton and New York, supported the construction of the Union Passenger
Station, and worked for the electrification of the street railway system.7
New and developing urban institutions also drew Brown's attention.
By 1895 Jacksonville's private schools included Edward Waters College,
Florida Baptist Academy, and Cookman Institute for African-American
students, plus St. Joseph's Academy, Massey's Business College, and the
Southern Conservatory of Music for whites. Brown noted the absence of
any college or university for whites in Jacksonville. He also mentioned the
Daniel Memorial Orphanage and Home, the Frankie Schumacher Re-
lief Association Hospital (eventually to become St. Vincent's Hospital),
the Colored Orphan and Industrial Home Association, Boylan Industrial
Home, St. Mary's Home for Orphan Children, Hebrew Benevolent Soci-
ety, B'nai Brith, Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias, Red Men, Masons,
Seminole Club, Florida Yacht Club, temperance societies, and militia
companies. These voluntary associations involved blacks and whites,
Catholics, Protestants, and Jews in Jacksonville on a racially segregated
The images drawn by these three writers over a twenty-year period
were largely positive. They showed Jacksonville growing from a small,
predominantly resort community in the 1870s to a regional commercial
center before 1900. A rich variety of social institutions reflected the be-
ginnings of a modern New South city.8
The leading local newspaper, the Florida Times-Union and Citizen, pro-
vided further evidence of the developing modern city. It reported a banner
year in 1900 for the local economy because of increased numbers of ships
entering and leaving the port, new construction, and a busy tourist sea-

10 o

Main Street Boulevard, Springfield. Courtesy of the Haydon Burns Library.

son. The TU&C also gave a sense of the city's cultural vitality, reporting
memorable performances at the Park Theater by James O'Neill and Otis
Skinner, the minor league baseball season, visits to the Ostrich Farm,
summer excursions to Pablo Beach, parades, and festivals.9
Jacksonville's rail connections brought prominent visitors to the city.
In February 1900 future Socialist party presidential candidate Eugene V.
Debs addressed a racially mixed, outdoor audience of 2,500 people at the
corner of Market and Forsyth streets. The newspaper described him as a
witty and powerful speaker, attacking the rich and championing the poor.
Two weeks later William Jennings Bryan spoke to almost 6,000 people at
Hemming Park. One listener, a retired Baptist minister and Confeder-
ate veteran, later described it in his diary as "the best political speech I
ever heard." In March Admiral George Dewey, the hero of Manila Bay,
arrived. Thousands greeted and cheered him at the railroad station and
on parade to the Windsor Hotel. In December America's most famous
mayor, Samuel "Golden Rule" Jones of Toledo, visited Jacksonville after
a conference in Charleston. He liked what he saw, commenting on the
city's cleanliness and on the municipal ownership of the waterworks and
electrical utility. A strong labor advocate, Jones advised city officials to
institute an eight-hour day.10
Organized labor welcomed Jones in its efforts to play a substantial role
inJacksonville at the turn of the century. The Central Labor Union, com-

Before the Fire o 11

prising sixteen black and white unions, claimed 1,300 members. However,
the work force in 1900 numbered more than 12,500, and the unions' major
visibility appeared to be its sponsorship of the Labor Day parade."
Still, parades and holidays were important to Jacksonville. On the
Fourth of July the railroads scheduled extra trains to carry excursionists
to the beaches. The Labor Day parade drew thousands of participants.
The greatest celebration, however, was Gala Week, beginning Novem-
ber 26. Every day saw parades of police and firefighters, militia, shriners,
marching bands, decorated floats, even babies and the city's five automo-
biles. There was a golf tournament at the country club, a circus perform-
ing opposite the railroad station, horseracing in Springfield, street shows,
trapeze performances, and a Thanksgiving football match between the
Jacksonville Light Infantry and a team from Macon, Georgia. Merchant
Leopold Furchgott called the week "the biggest time ever in Jacksonville
with thousands of people from all over the state attending."12
For many residents, Thanksgiving meant attending church services in
the morning, perhaps browsing afterward in the local shops that were
open, and then heading home to sumptuous dinners. Black churches held
special congregational Thanksgiving dinners while other caring people
prepared special meals at the Confederate Veterans Home and for inmates
at the prison farm. A month later residents celebrated Christmas without
the commercialism of the later twentieth century. Families came together
again to attend church services and then feast on turkey and seafood.'3
Obviously, in 1900 Jacksonville was not all full stomachs and festivals.
A malaria epidemic from August through October caused substantial pain
and sorrow, reflected in the increased mortality rates for the year. Fevers
were a special scourge in warm weather. The 1888 yellow fever epidemic
killed 429 people, and there was a typhoid epidemic among the troops
stationed in Jacksonville during the Spanish-American War. Despite local
protests to the contrary, city residents in 1900 enjoyed less than optimum
health conditions.4
Another area of concern in Jacksonville were the schools. One of the
South's leading educators, J. L. M. Curry of the Peabody/Slater Fund,
came to the city in March hoping to find the local schools, he said, "as
progressive as the rest of your city." He was disappointed. There was not
one schoolhouse he visited "from which plaster had not fallen from the
wall or ceiling." Teachers were uncertified and inadequately paid. The
school year was less than six months, leaving, he said, "school children
with half a year of idleness... to forget that which was taught them during
the all too short term."15

12 n

The state superintendent of public instruction agreed. His biennial re-
port in 1900 described the low priority and underfunding of education in
Florida. Duval County was no exception. It had the state's largest school
System and spent the most money, but per-pupil expenditure of $12.08 per
white child and $5.47 per black child ranked it only seventh and eleventh,
respectively, among the other counties within the state. The county en-
rolled 6,765 children (51 percent white) in segregated schools, but average
daily attendance totaled only about two-thirds that number. There was no
compulsory school attendance law. The school year lasted only 101 days in
1899-1900, or less than five months, compared with a national average of
143 days, or seven months. Northern schools by contrast stayed open for "
nine months. Of Duval's 169 teachers, six (including one black teacher)
had degrees from a college or normal school. Of 131 teachers taking the
state certification exam in 1900, only 72 percent passed. Salaries varied
by race and gender, with white males on the average receiving the most,
white females second, and black males third. Black women earned less
than $40 per month for a five-month term compared with street cleaners
who earned $30 monthly twelve times a year.16
Salary discrimination against black teachers was not atypical of life
in the community in 1900. Despite comprising 57 percent of Jackson-
ville's 28,429 residents, the local 16,236 African-Americans lived in a
city where whites held disproportionate wealth and power. Most blacks
lived in poverty on the fringes of downtown; a large number inhabited
the Hansontown slum. Most adults did menial work with little oppor-
tunity for advancement. Schools, hospitals, hotels, restaurants, theaters,
churches, trains, and steamboats generally were segregated. A poll tax
limited political activity.17
Yet if Jacksonville's blacks saw a policy of white supremacy charac-
terizing their city, they also saw themselves struggling to advance within
their own community. Since Emancipation, many blacks had worked hard
to fulfill their vision of the American dream. Their leaders urged them
to practice frugality, thrift, self-reliance, and moral improvement. They
encouraged education, voting, and the work ethic. By 190Q a.RBmat black
middle clss h emerged in Jacksonville. It included 49 ministers 69
teachers, six doctors, three lawyers, one pharmacist, and 131 hninesses
mostly small, operated h men and womenp-barbershops, restaurants.
retail groceries. landri hn rpir and dresm ; atlihments
In the building trades, skilled carpenters, masons, and bricklayers be-
longed to local unions. More affluent blacks built substantial homes in
the Oakland and LaVilla seci of the cit. Bla y ters attended

Before the Fire o 13

seven public elementary schools. There were no public high schools oen
to them in 1900, but tour private academies-Edward Waters,
Cookmannstitute, Florida Batist Academy, and onde i l
Shool--provided secondary schooling for a limited number of older
blacks.Jacksonville blacks attended one Presbyterian, twenty-three Meth-
odist, and twenty-five Baptist churches in 1900. They belonged to thir-
teen black masonic societies, eight Knights of Pythias lodges, and several
mutual aid associations, including the Daughters of Gethsemane, Daugh-
ters of Israel, and Bethel Aid Society. Music, sports, literary groups, and
theatrical presentations also attracted black participation.8
Community leaders included James Weldon Johnson in education,
Joseph Blodgett in construction, the Reverend J. Milton Waldron at
Bethel Baptist Institutional Church, Joseph E. Lee in politics, and Eartha
M. M. White in social service. Thus, despite racial prejudice and separate
but unequal facilities, many Jacksonville blacks worked hard, worshipped
regularly, educated their young, and enjoyed social activities within their
Jacksonville women slightly outnumbered men among both blacks and
whites. One-third of all adult women worked, and they comprised 31 per-'
cent of the 12,589 working people in the city. Most women (76 percent)
worked in domestic or personal service, such as laundresses, servants,
nurses, or waitresses, and they were predominantly black. More than 300
women worked as dressmakers, 170 women taught school, another 130
worked as bookkeepers, clerks, secretaries, or telephone operators, and 60
worked as sales clerks. There were five women "clergy" (probably nuns
teaching at St. Joseph's Academy), one journalist, three physicians, and
a no lawyers. Jacksonville's work force generally was structured like a pyra-
mid with a small business and professional class at the top expanding to a
broader base of skilled, semiskilled, and unskilled workers at the bottom.
For women, as for blacks, the pyramid was very broad at the base with few
people employed near the top.19
Women, of course, could not vote, but they had organized into sorori-
ties and clubs. Most prominent was the Jacksonville Woman's Club,
formed in 1896. In addition to bringing Curry to Jacksonville in 1900, it
had raised $600 to keep the schools open when the county Board of Public
Instruction ran short of funds. It also endorsed "progressive" candidates
in the school board elections. Women comprised the governing board of
St. Luke's Hospital, and during Gala Week they dressed in nurses' uni-
forms and solicited financial contributions from the revelers. The hospi-
tal, unfortunately, was continually on the brink of insolvency, reflecting

14 n

-L3 mmmom
;10 CKM mm
iiu. Ur U

~icc7 u U

Map of area burned in the fire of May 3, 1901. Reprinted from Davis, History of
Jacksonville, 325.

in part its managers' economic powerlessness. Women had also founded
the first library for whites in 1877, though by 1900 control had passed
into the hands of male trustees. Finally, women provided cultural leader-
ship in the recently organized Friday Musicale. Thus, within their limited
realm, Jacksonville's women, both black and white, were expanding their
boundaries in 1900.20
At the turn of the century, Jacksonville was Florida's major metropo-
lis. Its 28,429 residents far outnumbered the 17,747 people living in
Pensacola, 17,114 in Key West, 15,839 in Tampa, 2,841 in Orlando, or
1,681 in recently incorporated Miami. Yet seen from the perspective of
other southeastern cities, Jacksonville seemed small. Not only Atlanta
and Birmingham exceeded it in population; so did Savannah, Charleston,
Augusta, Montgomery, and Mobile. Nationally, Florida's first city ranked
only 142d in population. By regional and national standards, Jacksonville
was insignificant in size. Its immigrant population was also small, number-
ing only 1,166 foreign-born residents, or 4 percent of the population. Like
most southern cities (Tampa and New Orleans excepted), Jacksonville did
not attract large numbers of immigrants, in part because of limited indus-
trial opportunities combined with the job competition and low wages paid
to blacks working in the sawmills.21
What can we conclude from these multiple images describing turn-of-
the-century Jacksonville? Each has a portion of the truth, and yet there

Before the Fire o 15

remains more. None of the sources discussed the political scene in any
significant way. Newspaper readers learned that Jacksonvillians voted for
Bryan over McKinley in the presidential election, but not that most blacks
were effectively disfranchised. They knew that the state Democratic Con-
vention met in Jacksonville and that Floridians had elected William S.
Jennings governor, but they saw little mention of Jacksonville's colorful
mayor, James E. T. Bowden, or members of the city council. The histori-
cal Jacksonville of 1900 then is but a glimpse of the complex, vital, diverse
city at the end of the nineteenth century.22

o The new century began hopefully. The Florida tourist season opened
in January with sixty-three trains entering and departing from the city. An
estimated 15,000 visitors spent that entire winter in town. Henry Flagler's
Continental Hotel was under construction at Atlantic Beach and sched-
uled to open in June. Martha Waldron, wife of the minister at Jackson-
ville's largest black church, proposed an industrial school and home for
African-American boys and girls at Bethel Baptist Church, modeled after
Hampton Institute. Nearby, the trustees of Edward Waters College dis-
cussed moving away from Jacksonville in order to establish industrial
and agricultural departments. Booker T. Washington's ideas for self-help
clearly were popular. Meanwhile the Central Labor Union helped orga-
nize a state Federation of Labor to improve conditions for working people
of Florida. In March the St. Luke's Hospital trustees raised $2,000 with
a fair, and the Woman's Club managed to keep Duval High School open
for the full spring term.23
The Jacksonville fire began on Friday, May 3, 1901. At about 12:30
P.M., sparks from a woodstove fire, drawn up a chimney, ignited Spanish
moss drying on outdoor platforms next to the Cleveland Fibre Factory
at the corner of West Beaver and Davis streets in LaVilla. Workers on
lunch break discovered flames and tried to extinguish them with buckets
of water. A brisk northwesterly wind arose, however, and the factory, "a
dry pitch pine building with a shingle roof," caught fire. By then the
fire department had joined the fight, but its efforts were in vain. When
the factory roof collapsed, burning particles spread to neighboring build-
ings. Within minutes wooden shanties in nearby Hansontown were ablaze.
More wind and the fire became "an ocean of flames" half a mile wide
roaring eastward, devouring everything in its path, including handsome
frame houses, the Windsor and St. James hotels, seventeen churches and
synagogues, schools, clubs, office blocks, City Hall, police and fire sta-
tions, the armory, and the courthouse. One reporter subsequently wrote,

16 o

The Jacksonville fire. Reprinted from Caroline Rawls, comp., The Jacksonville
Story (Jacksonville: Jacksonville's Fifty Years of Progress Association, 1950), 18.

"the burning of a hotel like the Windsor would ordinarily be regarded as
a disaster in itself, but yesterday it lapsed into relative insignificance."24
One newspaper reporter attempted to describe the scene: "When the
fire reached Julia Street, it was a roaring furnace, without any prospect
of being put under control. .. So fierce was the blaze and so strong
had become the wind that millions of sparks and flying burning shingles
spread over five or six blocks, setting the roofs of the houses on fire ...
They burned like cigar boxes, like chaff, as the thundering, mighty, lurid,
storm-wave of fire rolled to the east ... and swept the area bare."25
At Hogan's Creek, the fire shifted to the south and blazed its way to the
river. Observers feared it would next double back along Bay Street and
the waterfront, but about 7:30 P.M., the wind died and the fire department
finally gained control.
The next day a reporter looking east from Bridge (now Broad) Street
saw "a desert of gaunt ruins. From Bridge to Laura Street, a thin
finger three blocks deep stands uninjured along the river front, but to the
eastward ... an unbroken bed of ashes meets the eye in which giant chim-
neys rear themselves like monuments in some forgotten city's cemetery."
The fire consumed 455 acres on 148 blocks, two miles long and nearly a

Before the Fire o 17

mile wide. A total of 2,368 buildings, including 1,700 homes, were de-
stroyed. The homes or businesses of 9,500 people were destroyed. Esti-
mated property losses totaled $12 to $15 million, with insurance covering
about $5 million. Five whites and two blacks died in the fire. Jacksonville
faced the crisis of a generation, not unlike the Chicago fire, the Galves-
ton hurricane and tidal wave, or the subsequent catastrophes in Baltimore
and San Francisco.26

18 o

0 T WO W

After the Fire: Economic Growth

and Development

Americans from near and far responded to Jacksonville's crisis. Suburban
residents opened their homes to friends and acquaintances. Cots were set
up in schools and churches until army tents arrived by train from Vir-
ginia. Railroads, steamships, and express companies cooperated to rush
provisions to Jacksonville free of charge. In Baltimore, The Herald began
preparing a relief train. The mayor of Charleston, South Carolina, sent
a check for $1,000. Folks in towns and cities across the country raised
funds for assistance eventually totaling almost $225,000.1
The response of the New York State Chamber of Commerce and Mer-
chants' Association of New York City stood out. They organized a special
Jacksonville Relief Commission, which shipped $55,000 worth of food,
clothes, bedding, hoes, shovels, and wheelbarrows, and 127 portable toi-
lets. William Mills, Jr., a staff member of the Merchants' Association,
went to help in its distribution. His subsequent report praised the "hercu-
lean efforts" of the people ofJacksonville in responding to the devastation.2
That Saturday morning, the day after the fire, Florida Governor
William S. Jennings declared Jacksonville under martial law, assigning
local and out-of-town militia to guard duty at the entrances to the
still-smoldering burned district. All restaurants and saloons were closed.
Mayor J. E. T. Bowden met with city council members, the Board of Pub-
lic Works, and the Board of Bond Trustees. They agreed to send a dele-

gation to a mass meeting called earlier by the Board of Trade, to devise
plans for the relief of the destitute.3
The mass meeting resulted in pledges of $15,000 for relief and the
organization of the Jacksonville Relief Association. Its fifteen-member ex-
ecutive committee represented the community's leaders ~ Itincu ed
Charles E. Garner, president of the Board of Trade as chair Mlayor Bow-
den;Jse rottvicepesident of the Florida East Coast Raiilroad;
Episcopal BishopEddwi n G Wil Court JudgM- ri"Ae
Dzti5^Father (later Roman Catholic Bishop)' WiliamJ. Kenny; bank
president and state legislator Dr.J. C. L'Engle; insurance broker (and later
developer) Telfair Stockton; railroad executive and lumber manufacturer
Wellington W. Cummer; attorney Augustus W. Cockrell from the Munici-
pal Board of Bond Trustees; banker Joseph H. Durkee from the Board of
Public Works; grain and feed wholesaler William A. Bours; saloonkeeper
and city councilman Harry Mason; and saloonkeeper/political activist
Conrad Brickwedel. Attorney Joseph E. Lee, who also was Collector of
Internal Revenue, represented the black community.4
Seven subcommittees were formed to look after finances, distribution
of food and clothing, temporary housing, sanitation, transportation, jobs,
and the identification of the people who had lived in the burned district.
Subsequently, a special Woman's Relief Committee was appointed under
the leadership of Mrs. Catharine Eagan and later Mrs. Nina Cummer. It
provided special assistance to white women and children. Black commu-
nity leaders formed a Colored Relief Association, headed first by builder
Joseph W. Blodgett and later by attorney J. Douglas Wetmore, to coordi-
nate efforts among their people.5
On Sunday, two days after the fire, the Commissary Committee began
distributing food and supplies from black and white relief stations to
"between 2000 and 3000 people." The Employment Committee began
to receive applications from blacks and whites for jobs cleaning debris.
The militia opened a Relief Emergency Hospital. By Monday the Lodg-
ing Committee had placed 500 cots in suburban schools to accommodate
homeless people. That same day the city issued its first building permit for
the burned district. Meanwhile, the newspaper printed notices identify-
ing the temporary locations of homeless people. With his rectory burned,
Father Kenny from the Church of Immaculate Conception boarded with a
family in East Jacksonville. Francis Conroy, manager of Armour & Com-
pany and later president of the Board of Trade, had located his family at
the Travellers Hotel.6
In that first full week after the fire, Jacksonville began to live again.

20 o

Workmen cleaned streets and erected tents for local government offices.
Trains arrived from the North with supplies. Temporary structures arose
to enable Towers Hardware, Rhodes-Futch-Collins Furniture Company,
the Atlantic, Valdosta and Western Railway, and other businesses to re-
sume operations. The Woman's Auxiliary established a temporary laundry
and sewing tent, putting seamstresses to work. At the Bethel Baptist Insti-
tutional Church site, carpenters began erecting a temporary structure for
Sunday worship.7
Church losses from the fire were heavy. Roman Catholics lost their
church building, orphanage, convent, parochial hall, and priests' resi-
dence, worth an estimated $150,000. Insurance covered one-third the
value. On May 9 the Bishop of St. Augustine appealed to Catholics across
the nation for contributions. Methodists and Baptists also appealed for
help nationally to rebuild their sanctuaries. Mt. Zion African Methodist
Episcopal Church lost not only its sanctuary but also its affiliated Edward
Waters College. Ebeneezer Methodist Episcopal Church lost Cookman
Institute in addition to its church building. Both were only partially in-
sured, as were the Congregational, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Christian,
Christian Science and Jewish houses of worship.8
Meanwhile the religious community improvised at their worship ser-
vices. Baptists and several other congregations initially worshipped under
the trees in Riverside Park. Ebeneezer Methodist Church held services
at the Boylan Home Chapel, west of the city. At the site of the Church
of Immaculate Conception, under tents "rude benches of dressed lumber
supported by burnt cans ... and pieces of masonry were used. The altar
of dressed pine boards .. was covered with white linen altar clothes ...
and the chalices which were saved ... were on the altar."9
By mid-May workmen had cut down all burned trees and telegraph
poles, dug up stumps, cut and removed tangled and useless wires, cleared
and begun filling the bulkheads along the river, torn down dangerous walls
and chimneys, and cleaned and sorted brick. They hauled debris from the
armory, city buildings, churches, and school lots. They graded streets and
repaired sidewalks. Meanwhile the Sanitation Department worked closely
with the city health officer, the superintendent of sewers, and the plumb-
ing inspector. Workers removed dead animals, filled unsanitary wells, re-
paired broken plumbing and sewers, maintained clean conditions in the
temporary camps and hospitals, provided sanitary closets at the camps and
in the burned district, applied disinfectants, and removed night soil. The
waterfront, where burned wharves exposed decayed wastes, was a major
concern. Laborers provided fill to extend bulkheads into the river where

After the Fire a 21

wastes and piped sewage could be washed by the currents out to sea. The
result was a substantial if temporary improvement of sanitary conditions
along the waterfront.10
Hemming Park had become a tent city for the Woman's Auxiliary,
"pitched on scorched grass, alongside of gaunt skeleton trees." To the
dozen or so tents came white women and children in need of assis-
tance. Families received food, clothing, bedding, and kitchen utensils.
One tent housed a dispensary. In another, women operated sewing ma-
chines making household goods and clothing."
Not all the cleanup went smoothly. At first there were too few picks
and shovels available to clear the debris. Later the Sanitation Committee
had difficulty finding men to cart night soil. On May 11 the Clyde Steam-
ship Company and the Naval Stores Company complained about the un-
availability of workers. The Relief Committee investigated and concluded
that many able-bodied men were taking advantage of the commissaries,
avoiding work and sending their wives to collect rations. In response, the
Commissary Department issued identification cards to heads of families
listing all immediate family members. Daily rations then were allocated
to applicants only after their cards were initialed or punched. Meanwhile,
Joseph E. Lee reported that black refugees were without stoves. Cooking
their meals on bricks was difficult. The commissary issued eight stoves for
the black camps.12
During the early stages of relief and debris removal, only limited
thought was given to the shape of a rebuilt Jacksonville. Nationally the
idea of planning beautiful cities had received a boost at the 1893 Colum-
bian Exposition in Chicago, but the local impact was marginal. A Times-
Union editorial envisioned planning a new Jacksonville with a beautiful
riverfront, fireproof wharves and office blocks, new government build-
ings, hotels, tree-lined streets, parks, and handsome residential neighbor-
hoods. In practice, however, the city council had only limited authority.
It passed legislation requiring fireproof brick construction downtown and
began work on new government buildings. Jacksonville was not unique.
Few cities at the turn of the century planned for the growth or develop-
ment of their communities. For example, following its disastrous fire of
1904, Baltimore undertook no city planning either. Jacksonville's council
did authorize the Atlantic, Valdosta and Western Railway to run tracks
along Bay Street in return for completing the bulkheading of the river-
front, but that was a decision of questionable value toward beautifying
the city.'3
In June voters elected Duncan U. Fletcher mayor. The forty-two-year-

22 o

St. James Building, housing Cohen Brothers Department Store, designed by
H.J. Klutho. Courtesy of Robert C. Broward.

old Fletcher represented the progressive spirit of Jacksonville. Born in
Sumter County, Georgia, on the eve of the Civil War, he grew up in Mon-
roe County, son of a modestly successful cotton farmer who owned eight
slaves and 530 acres. The Civil War disrupted but did not devastate the
family economy. Fletcher was able to attend and graduate from the newly
founded Vanderbilt University and Law School in 1881, after which he
moved to Jacksonville to join a legal partnership with his college room-
mate, John M. Barrs. Fletcher's law practice expanded with Jacksonville's
economic growth in the 1880s. He also wooed and married Anna Louise
Paine, daughter of a prominent New York family, who had come south
to Jacksonville. She subsequently led Fletcher to become a Unitarian and
principal financial supporter for the local congregation.14
Meanwhile Fletcher entered public life. He ran successfully for the city
council in 1887, the state legislature in 1892, Jacksonville mayor in 1893,
and again in 1901. In his first term as mayor, Fletcher initiated a num-
ber of public improvements, including construction of a municipal power
plant. He also chaired the local school board and library association. Sub-
sequently he became a major power within Florida's Democratic party
and was elected to the United States Senate in 1908. He served there until
his death in 1936.15
Fletcher recognized how badly the fire had hurt Jacksonville. Half the

After the Fire n 23

Jacksonville's new City Hall, designed by H.J. Klutho. Courtesy of the Haydon
Burns Library.

taxable property base of the city had been destroyed. Most of the public
buildings were gone. Fletcher had lost his own home. In his inaugural ad-
dress to the city council, the new mayor urged members to avoid factional
or partisan controversies. "The one all-absorbing idea now," he said, "is
the restoration ofJacksonville."16
That summer and fall, both private and public sectors began rebuilding
downtown Jacksonville. The newspapers reported banker W. B. Barnett's
plans for a new house at First and Main streets, W. W. Cleveland's inten-
tion to build a new fiber factory at the old site, and the decision to rebuild
theWindsor Hotel. The school board released pictures of a handsome new
brick structure, the combined Central Grammar and Duval High School.
The new Stanton School for blacks, however, would be a two-story frame
structure. New housing, an apartment building, office blocks, and retail
shops began to appear. In July the Presbyterians authorized work to begin
on their new sanctuary. Father Kenny began work on a new Church of

24 a


Henry John Klutho, Jacksonville's premier architect. Courtesy of Robert C.

After the Fire o 25

The Cummer lumber mill. Courtesy of the Haydon Burns Library.

Immaculate Conception. In September the Reverend E.J. Gregg reported
construction underway on a new Mt. Zion AME Church. By the end of
the year, a new Congregation Ahavath Chesed had opened its doors at
Laura and Union streets.17
During that summer HenryJohn Klutho, an ambitious young architect,
arrived in Jacksonville from New York City to make his mark. Born into a
substantial, small-town, midwestern, German-American family in 1873,
"Jack" Klutho moved to St. Louis at age sixteen to study for a business
career. There exposure to building plans for new office construction led
him to consider architecture as a career. Klutho moved to New York to
study design and practice with local firms. A year in Europe followed by
work experience back in New York prepared him for Jacksonville, where
over the next generation he would become the city's leading architect.'8
Klutho's first contract was for the six-story Dyal-Upchurch Building,
the tallest structure in the city at the time. He also designed Temple
Ahavath Chesed, T. V. Porter's new mansion (home of KBJ Architects
in the 1990s), the First Baptist Church, Carnegie Library (a law firm
in the 1990s), and the new City Hall (since torn down). Klutho's early
work was neo-classical, Gothic, and Romanesque, but very well designed.
About mid-decade, however, he began to shift to the radically new "Prai-
rie School" of architecture recently introduced by Frank Lloyd Wright.

26 o

Increasingly Klutho's residential designs began to emphasize horizontal
lines hugging the earth, while expanding outward in space. In 1910 the
Cohen Brothers asked him to design their new department store. The re-
sulting St. James Building facing Hemming Park became what biographer
Robert C. Broward called Klutho's "Prairie School Masterpiece."19
Also significant for the city were the new houses built in the burned dis-
trict for Porter, Mayor Fletcher, U.S. SenatorJames A. Taliaferro, Florida
East Coast Railway vice-president Parrott, and others. Suburban devel-
opment had begun, but in the early twentieth century prominent citizens
still chose to live downtown, maintaining an environment that integrated
residential and commercial life.
The effort to rebuild in 1901 did not exclude time for play. That sum-
mer the Florida East Coast Railroad ran excursion trains to the beaches
every weekend. In June the handsome new Continental Hotel, built by
the railroad, opened at Atlantic Beach, becoming an attraction for affluent
vacationers from Florida, Georgia, Alabama, and the Carolinas. Indepen-
dence Day fell on a weekend in 1901, and the Times-Union estimated that
one-quarter of the city's population must have gone to Pablo or Atlantic
Jacksonville celebrated Labor Day with a parade of 2,000 black and
white carpenters, painters, cigar makers, plumbers, longshoremen, bar-
bers, tinners, lathers, railroad yardmen, stevedores, coachmen, and dairy-
men marching to Hemming Park. Unions had played a major role in local
politics in the 1880s. Though weaker since the poll tax disfranchised many
black and white workers in 1890, they still made their influence felt in the
city's economy.21
Local residents had other diversions. Jacksonville's only theater had
burned in the fire, but James Burbridge constructed a temporary facility
to open the fall season. In September the newspapers reported the return
of the ostriches from their summer quarters at Atlantic City. The Ostrich
Farm had been Jacksonville's main tourist attraction since its opening in
1898. The city's two amateur football teams representing militia com-
panies, the Jacksonville Rifles and the Jacksonville Light Infantry, began
practicing for their schedule against Valdosta, Savannah, Macon, Lake
City, Georgia Tech, and South Carolina College. A new Seminole Club,
Elks Club, and Florida Yacht Club along with improvements to the Florida
Country Club, which had not been burned, were underway.22
Six months after the fire, the city hosted the Florida State Fair. Of
major interest were tours of the burned district. Already more than half
the homes had been rebuilt and one-third of the offices and shops re-

After the Fire n 27

placed. Visitors missed the-stately oaks and the St. James Hotel, but a
new Windsor was under construction. When hotel space ran short, many
people stayed in local homes. Thanksgiving became a special holiday to
celebrate the city's renaissance. In addition to religious services, there
were- football games, a golf tournament, hunting and fishing parties, a
dance at the Yacht Club, and dining extravaganzas at the hotels.23
While by the end of the year life was still not back to normal, Jackson-
ville had recovered from the fire remarkably well. Insurance money helped
finance the new construction. City and county governments issued bonds
for new public buildings. The resulting economic stimulus helped shape
the next decade and a half of prosperity for Jacksonville.

a The railroads and the port played major roles. The Seaboard Air Line
was already in Jacksonville in 1900. Two years later the Atlantic Coast
Line completed its takeover of Henry C. Plant's system. Meanwhile New
York financier J. P. Morgan bought the Atlantic, Valdosta and Western
and took control of the Georgia Southern and Florida Railroad. Across
the river, Flagler's Florida East Coast line had already made Jacksonville
its northern terminus as it expanded southward to Miami and Key West.24
During these years the railroads expanded their facilities in Jackson-
ville. West of the city the Seaboard built a major complex of shops and
yards. Just west of downtown, next to the Union Passenger Terminal,
jointly owned by the Seaboard, Florida East Coast, and Atlantic Coast
lines, the railroads built warehouses between Bay Street and the river.
Morgan's Southern Railway ran tracks along Bay Street between down-
town and the docks. To the east along the river were more warehouses.
Out Talleyrand Avenue and into northeast Springfield, the Southern
established the St. Johns River Terminal Company and built machine
shops, more warehouses, and piers down to the water's edge. At one point
the Times- Union complained that the riverfront had become almost com-
pletely owned by the railroads and shipping companies.25
The port also expanded, aided by a river channel deepened first to
twenty-four and then to thirty feet. Where previously most shipping was
coastal in character, trade expanded to the Caribbean and across the
Atlantic to Europe. The major products included lumber, naval stores,
and fertilizer; citrus exports and oil from Venezuela became increasingly
important on the eve of World War I. Passenger ships of the Clyde Line
began daily scheduled trips from Jacksonville to Savannah, Charleston,
New York, and Boston. The Merchant and Miners Company sailed daily
to Baltimore, Philadelphia, and Boston. By 1914 the Chamber of Com-

28 o

merce could claim that Jacksonville competed favorably with the port of
Savannah. The construction of municipally owned docks that was under-
way augured well for the future.26
The impact of port and railroad development stimulated the growth
of wholesaling and to a lesser extent manufacturing for the region, both
characteristics of the New South city. Jacksonville served as a regional
distribution center for consumer goods. In 1905 it had 180 establishments
wholesaling meats, liquor, groceries, drugs, hardware, dry goods, electri-
cal supplies, and machinery. More than 500 retail shops provided goods
and services. One observer claimed the wholesale grocery houses alone
exceeded in number those of Charleston, Savannah, and New Orleans,
prompting the Board of Trade to boost Jacksonville as the "Gateway to
Florida." 27
Industrial development proceeded more slowly. Most of Jacksonville's
manufacturing establishments were small. Exceptions included Welling-
ton Cummer's lumber mill and phosphate plant north of the city, employ-
ing 1,150 workers; the Merrill Stevens Company, which had the largest
dry dock south of Newport News and the largest shipbuilding and marine
facility in the Southeast; and the Wilson and Toomer fertilizer plant,
which claimed to be the largest south of Baltimore. More characteristic
of new businesses during the era was the opening of branch plants, such
as the Cheek-Neal Coffee Company to manufacture its Maxwell House
blend, or the Pepsi Cola bottling company in LaVilla.28
Other expansion included insurance, banking, and advertising. In 1901
five black Jacksonvillians led by a Baptist minister, J. Milton Waldron,
founded the Afro-American Industrial and Benefit Association (forerun-
ner of Afro-American Life Insurance Company), to provide health in-
surance and death benefits for the black community. Following founder
William Barnett's death, the National Bank of Jacksonville became the
Barnett Bank and the largest of thirteen in the city. In 1914 Charles
Anderson, proprietor of Anderson Fish & Oyster Company on Broad
Street, started a bank in the Masonic Temple down the street to encour-
age black savings and provided capital for black businesses. At about the
same time, Jacksonville's first advertising agency began a campaign to sell
the city and state to northern tourists, part of a twentieth-century trend.29
A promising new direction in economic development began in 1908
with the arrival of the first film production company from wintry New
York. Attracted by the sunshine and warmer climate, sandy beaches and
lush vegetation, lower land and labor costs, and the initial enthusiastic
support of the local citizenry, half a dozen production firms built studios,

After the Fire n 29

shot hundreds of films, and introduced stars such as Oliver "Babe" Hardy,
a Georgia native, to the silver screen. By 1914 the Florida Times-Union
claimed "the motion picture business .. as a most important one in
Jacksonville." Florida film historian Richard Alan Nelson has written that
"the area attracted so many movie troupes that Jacksonville became known
as the 'World's Winter Film Capital.' "30
The prosperity of these years before World War I stimulated suburban
growth. To the southwest, Riverside expanded outward toward Willow-
branch, Avondale, and Ortega. To the west, on both sides of the rail-
road yards, developers built Murray Hill, Lackawanna, and Grand Park
as working-class suburbs for railroad employees. To the northwest, along
Kings Road, Joseph Blodgett, among others, constructed new housing
for blacks in College,Park, Northside Park, and Highland Heights. To
the north, Springfield expanded beyond the city line northward toward
Panama Park and the Trout River. To the east and northeast, off Talley-
rand Avenue near the mills, warehouses, and river, modest houses filled
empty lots. Linking all of the suburbs to downtown were the streetcars of
the Jacksonville Electric Company. It more than doubled its track mileage
over these years. Meanwhile, across the river, South Jacksonville's more
than 2,000 residents secured a city charter from the legislature in 1907.
Ferry service connected downtown with this suburban city, which was
home to a railroad, fertilizer factory, Dixieland Amusement Park, homes,
churches, schools, and shops.31
In downtown Jacksonville, a skyscraper boom began in 1908 with build-
ings of ten stories and taller. A Savannah investor financed the Bisbee
office building and the Atlantic National Bank on Forsyth Street, both
of which still stand in the 1990s. So, too, do the old Florida Life Insur-
ance Building and the Rhodes-Futch-Collins building. In all, some half
a dozen structures changed Jacksonville's skyline dramatically. At ground
level, a new City Hall, Carnegie Library, Cohen Brothers department
store, YMCA, hotels, churches, and streets congested with autos, trucks,
and streetcars gave the city a modern look. Progress, however, could also
mean destruction. The handsome palm trees on Main Street extending
into Springfield were cut and the grassy median paved in 1916 to facilitate
commercial traffic.32
While early twentieth-century business statistics may seem small in
comparison with later years, a few examples can indicate the size of the
growth in Jacksonville after the fire. City real estate values more than
quadrupled from 1900 to 1914 (from $11 million to $50 million), as did
personal property values (from $2 million to $9 million). Port tonnage in-

30 n 2q* m, ,,
Ago 'ii^^^ -

Jacksonville's skyscraper district. Courtesy of the Haydon Burns Library.

creased from 650,000 to 4 million tons per year, while the dollar value of
exports jumped from $269,000 to $1.3 million. Imports increased even
more, from $62,000 to $1.5 million, a clear indication of Jacksonville's
important role as a distribution center. Daily passenger train arrivals num-
bered forty-six in 1900 and ninety-one in 1914, while the number of pas-
sengers jumped from 3.5 million to 17 million. Bank clearings totaled
$12.7 million in 1900 and almost $175 million in 1913, while postal re-
ceipts increased from $91,000 to $532,000 in those years. All of these
figures indicate a very substantial growth for the Gateway City.33
This substantial growth did not come free of conflict, however. In a
city where construction became a major industry, construction workers
felt underpaid, initiating strikes in 1902 and 1905. In the earlier year, car-
penters wanted $2 for an eight-hour day while the builders wanted nine
hours of work for the same wage. In July the Central Labor Union called a
general strike, and 2,500 men shut down most of the construction indus-
try in the city. The Board of Trade offered to mediate informally, but the
Builders Exchange, the contractors' trade association, rejected any form
of arbitration. Gradually, however, job pressures mounted and individual
contractors began to accept the eight-hour day. By early August three-
fifths of the workers were back on the job, having achieved their goal.34
The 1905 strike was a different story. Again the carpenters struck,
along with brick masons, claiming a 50 percent increase in the cost of
living over the preceding five years and asking for a $2.50 starting daily

After the Fire o 31

wage. Besides, electricians and plumbers were earning $4 to $8 per day.
The Builders Exchange responded by locking out all union workers. Soon
800 to 900 workers walked off their jobs, including plumbers, plasterers,
and painters. The builders responded by importing strikebreakers from
as far away as Baltimore. When the strikers sought to prevent them from
working, the Builders Exchange secured a court injunction. This time the
contractors held firm and the workers lost. The builders had strengthened
their control over the construction industry.35
On October 29, 1912, streetcar workers struck against the Jacksonville
Traction Company in response to the firing of several senior employees
for organizing a branch of the Amalgamated Street Railways of America.
Stone and Webster of Boston, parent to the local company, had a strong
anti-union policy and immediately began importing strikebreakers from
New York. Violence followed with strikers cutting trolley lines, throwing
rocks and bottles at streetcars, and pulling conductors and motormen from
platforms. The governor mobilized the militia to restore order and keep
the streetcars running. City council leaders questioned the mobilization.
Banker John N. C. Stockton saw it as overreacting, and Senator Fletcher
agreed. Supporters called a mass meeting to hear union grievances. The
Board of Trade offered to mediate, and negotiations led to wage increases
but no union recognition. The strike continued with sporadic violence,
but the streetcars still ran. On November 12 the Central Trades and
Labor Council threatened a general strike. The Traction Company re-
sponded by offering to reinstate striking workers. The Labor Council then
backed down, leaving the workers little choice but to renounce the union
and return to work. Organized labor in Jacksonville had suffered another
Labor shortages in the sawmills affected the Jacksonville labor scene
in mid-1906, but the unions could not take advantage of it. Mostly the
demand was for unskilled workers, and the unions organized only skilled
labor. City council members discussed passing a vagrancy law to force
idle blacks and whites to work when the discovery of a state antivagrancy
law prompted calls for its enforcement. On September 2 seven black men
were convicted for hanging around a pool hall in LaVilla. Sentenced to
jail, they became liable to work as contract labor in the state's notorious
turpentine camps.37
Another threat to the economy was too-rapid growth. Beginning in
1906, rail congestion at the port blocked exports of lumber as well as im-
ports of goods for wholesale distribution. Further investigation showed

32 o

Forsyth Street, Jacksonville. Courtesy of the Haydon Burns Library.

inadequate storage facilities and too few terminals. Commercial growth
had exceeded the system's ability to accommodate it. Again the Board
of Trade intervened and, working with the State Railroad Commission,
persuaded the railroads to expand their rail lines, storage facilities, and
terminal space, temporarily eliminating the bottleneck.38
The financial panic of 1907 affected economic growth in Jacksonville,
but only temporarily. No banks closed, but that fall the sawmills ran on
short time, naval stores shipments were down, and in January the Sea-
board Air Line went into receivership, laying off 300 workers in the city.39
Yet these were minor detours on the road to prosperity. Jacksonville's
population more than doubled in the first ten years of the twentieth cen-
tury, from 28,429 to 57,699. This increase alone suggests that the city was
a magnet attracting blacks and whites seeking to improve their living stan-
dards. The Chamber of Commerce in 1914 issued a report celebrating the
Gateway City as the commercial, financial, transportation, and distribu-
tion center for Florida. It continued to be a resort center with its hotels,
amusement parks, golf courses, band concerts, theaters, movie houses,

After the Fire n 33

Table 2.1. Job Categories, by Race, 1900-1910

Blacks Whites Total
No. % No. % No. %
Class I: high white collar
1900 census sample 4 2 30 27 34 13
1910 census sample 3 2 25 18 28 10
Class II: low white collar
1900 census sample 5 3 42 38 47 17
1910 census sample 13 9 58 41 71 25
Class III: skilled blue collar
1900 census sample 28 17 29 26 57 21
1910 census sample 23 16 43 30 66 23
Class IV: semiskilled/service
1900 census sample 70 43 6 5 76 28
1910 census sample 58 40 14 10 72 25
Class V: unskilled and menial service
1900 census sample 55 34 3 3 58 21
1910 census sample 38 33 2 1 50 17
(no employment data) 3 2 3 1
SOURCE: 1900 United States census manuscripts, 1 percent sample; 1910 United
States census manuscripts, 0.5 percent sample.

river excursions, and beaches. Its residential neighborhoods were new and
charming. Its population and trade had exceeded the major coastal com-
petitors of Savannah and Charleston. From the chamber's view, Jackson-
ville was a city of the New South and destined to lead the growth and
development of the entire state over the next few years.40

o If the overall picture of Jacksonville showed substantial growth and
prosperity, beneath the surface different conditions existed. While the
Chamber of Commerce evaluated the economic growth of the early twen-
tieth century by examining the change in gross figures such as bank clear-
ings, port tonnage, and rail traffic, U.S. census enumerators counted indi-
vidual Jacksonville residents in 1900 and 1910, recording what sorts of
jobs they held, whether they had been unemployed during the previous
twelve months, and whether they owned their homes. The census takers
also identified residents' states of birth and literacy. All of these charac-
teristics help to show who lived in Jacksonville in 1900 and 1910 as well
as changes that took place there between those years.
For research purposes, rather than counting and classifying each indi-
vidual head of household listed in the manuscript census, I systematically
chose, compiled, and compared a 1 percent sample ofJacksonville's popu-

34 0

lation in 1900 and a 0.5 percent sample of its population in 1910. Tables
2-1, 2-2, and 2-3 show another side of the city.41
Table 2-1 examines categories of employment by race ranging from
high white-collar professional and business people to unskilled and menial
service workers.42
Several conclusions can be drawn from this sample about economic
conditions for Jacksonville residents during this decade of prosperity.
First, most white Jacksonvillians in 1900 (65 percent) were classified as
white-collar workers. Less than 10 percent of the white population were
semiskilled or unskilled workers. In contrast, most black Jacksonvillians
(77 percent) were semiskilled or unskilled workers. Only about 5 percent,
primarily teachers and clergy, were white collar. On the other hand, a sub-
stantial 17 percent of blacks were skilled workers: carpenters, bricklayers,
masons, and painters. The dominant image, however, is one of a relatively
affluent white Jacksonville and a relatively poor black Jacksonville.
A second conclusion relates to the changes that took place between
1900 and 1910. Most significantly for the community as a whole, the pro-
portion of white-collar residents increased from 30 to 35 percent. This
suggests improving economic conditions. So does the influx of skilled
workers over the decade, a large number of whom worked for the railroads.
For the black community, the increase in white-collar workers reflected
the increased number of small black businesses in 1910 employing clerks
and salespeople. While many of these small businesses were marginal
economic ventures with potentially high failure rates, they also reflected
black enterprise seeking greater economic independence and opportu-
nity. For whites, the significant increase was among skilled and semiskilled
workers, suggesting a beginning of the "blue collarization" of Jackson-
ville that has characterized much of the twentieth century. The decline of
white business executives and professional people was only proportional,
not absolute.
Overall, despite increases in white blue-collar workers and black white-
collar workers, the dominant character remained the same in Jacksonville.
Fifty-nine percent of white Jacksonville remained white collar and 76 per-
cent of black Jacksonville was semiskilled or unskilled workers at the bot-
tom of the economic ladder. In a city where one-half of the population
was black, these figures suggest a major underutilization of black talent,
which would hinder subsequent urban growth in the twentieth century.
Jacksonville, in effect, was an economic engine running on barely more
than half its cylinders.3

After the Fire n 35

Table 2.2. Black and White Unemployment, Homeownership, and Literacy in
Jacksonville, 1900-1910 (percentages)

Blacks Whites Total
Unemployment for past 12 months
1900 21 4 16
1910 13 4 9
1900 24 29 26
1910 14 30 22
Literacy rate
1900 86 97 91
1910 75 99 87

Table 2-2 compares unemployment, home ownership, and literacy in
Jacksonville in 1900 and 1910 for blacks and whites.
Several conclusions can be drawn from table 2-2. First, while un-
employment figures were not kept systematically as in the late twentieth
century, census data did show individuals who were unemployed at some
point in the preceding twelve months, as an indicator of economic condi-
tions. In Jacksonville, this rate of unemployment for blacks declined over
the decade from 21 to 13 percent, a sign of real economic progress. Still,
according to our sample, blacks in 1910 remained three times as likely to
be unemployed as whites.
Second, the proportion of homeownership in Jacksonville in 1900 ap-
pears to be low. However, at the beginning of the twentieth century, most
residents in cities across the country rented their accommodations. The
figures suggest a further decrease from 1900 to 1910, but they are slightly
misleading as the actual number of homeowners increased with the in-
crease in population. More significantly, white homeownership increased
both proportionately and absolutely, while black homeownership declined.
This decline may have resulted from uninsured homes lost during the
fire, but it also suggests that with slightly improved economic conditions,
blacks still faced economic barriers, probably a shortage of housing and
most certainly racial discrimination in the housing market.
Third, the decline in black literacy at a time when the city's black popu-
lation increased from 16,236 to 29,293 suggests a failure in the segregated
public schools of the South. Its effects would add to the greater difficulties
blacks had advancing in jobs above the most menial levels.
Table 2-3 shows the state of birth forJacksonvillians in the sample for
1900 and 1910, by race. "Other South" refers to the states of the Con-

36 a

Table 2.3. Place of Birth for Jacksonville Residents, by Race, 1900-1910

Blacks Whites Total
Place of birth No. % No. % No. %
Florida 104 63 50 42 154 54
Other South 58 35 27 23 85 30
North 1 28 23 29 10
Foreign country 2 1 11 9 13 5
Florida 45 31 27 19 72 25
Other South 99 69 62 43 161 56
North 31 22 31 11
Foreign country 1 22 15 23 8

federacy other than Florida. "North" refers to the remaining states of
the union.
Table 2-3 takes into account the more than doubling of the city's
population during these years. The increase came largely as a result of
a substantial immigration from nearby southern states. The proportion
of Florida-born Jacksonvillians dropped sharply, from one-half to one-
quarter of the total, while the number of other southerners almost doubled.
With minor variations, such as the substantial increase in the white
foreign-born population, this shift occurred for both blacks and whites.
By 1910 only one-third of the black population and one-fifth of the white
population were native to Florida. The great southward migration of the
twentieth century had begun, but for Jacksonville, unlike downstate, it was
predominantly southern in character.
By 1910 Georgia-born Jacksonvillians in the sample actually outnum-
bered Florida-born locals for both blacks and whites, perhaps influenc-
ing the later tongue-in-cheek title for the city as "The Capital of South
The significance of this migration for Jacksonville is not entirely clear.
The incoming blacks did not affect the literacy rate, nor the level of jobs
blacks in general held. Black non-Floridians had proportionately the same
literacy rate and did as well vocationally as Floridians. What may have
changed was more subtle. James Weldon Johnson, black scholar, poet, art-
ist, and statesman, remembered late nineteenth-century Jacksonville "as
a good town for Negroes." In contrast, twentieth-century Jacksonville be-
came a "one hundred percent Cracker town," reflecting a greater southern
character in race relations. Quite possibly this early twentieth-century in-

After the Fire o 37

Abraham Lincoln Lewis,
founder of the Afro-
American Life Insurance
Company. Courtesy of the
Carpenter Library, Univer-
v sity of North Florida.

flux of both whites and blacks from nearby southern states contributed
substantially to shaping the harsher racial attitudes that developed during
these years in Jacksonville.44

o Still another way of looking at economic change for Jacksonville resi-
dents during these years is through the city directory. This approach
entails matching the names from the 1900 census sample with the city
directories of 1900/1901. Two hundred seven people could be identified
by name, address, and employment from both sources. Their employment
profile approximated the employment profile from the census sample. I
then traced these 207 people in the Jacksonville city directory for 1902,
1905, 1910, and 1914.
The results generally confirmed the census samples about employment
in Jacksonville. Whites held most of the white-collar jobs; blacks worked
mostly at relatively menial tasks. Several other characteristics were also
First, upward mobility was limited among the 87 people traced from
1900 to 1910. Only 11 people (13 percent) of this sample moved up one or
more classifications, such as from skilled blue-collar to white-collar em-

38 a

ployment. This compares with 18 percent in selected northeastern cities
and about 20 percent upward mobility in rapidly growing cities, such as
Atlanta and Los Angeles. Jacksonville's lack of upward mobility cannot
be explained in racial terms, as more blacks in the sample advanced than
did whites. Blacks, however, tended to advance from unskilled to semi-
skilled jobs whereas whites moved from blue- to white-collar employment.
Instead, the stability may suggest that most whites in 1900 (two-thirds)
were already well situated, and most blacks (75 percent) were stuck on the
lower rungs of the economic ladder. Examples of white mobility included
George Ferry, who moved from being a mason in 1900 to building con-
tractor ten years later; and T. K. Hatcher, who tended bar in 1900 and was
vice-president of a wholesale grocery firm at the end of the decade. Black
mobility was exemplified by Needham Gaston, who was a barber in 1900
and, a decade later, had his own shop with his son working for him; and
Elijah Bellamy, who began the century as a livery stablehand and became
a carpenter.45
Perhaps most successful and clearly atypical of African-American mo-
bility in the sample of blacks was Abraham Lincoln Lewis. Lewis was a
mill machinist in 1900. A year later he helped organize the Afro-American
Industrial and Benefit Association and became its first manager and trea-
surer. The Afro-American Insurance Company, which grew out of the
association, became a major Jacksonville business. Another success story
was August Blum, a German-Jewish immigrant in the 1880s. He began
the century as a clerk and by 1910 owned his own wholesale and retail
liquor company. Substantial upward mobility, however, was the exception
rather than the rule.
More characteristic were people in all classifications who remained
in the same job through the years. For example, Philip Prioleau (white),
was city engineer in both 1900 and 1910. Columbus Drew (white) prac-
ticed medicine. Rosecrana Pollard (white) taught high school. Alexander
Johnson (black) worked at a sawmill. Kate Barnes (black) was a laundress.
Edwin Heston (white) worked as a telegraph operator. David Capers
(black) was a carpenter throughout the decade. This relative lack of up-
ward mobility was not atypical in American cities at this time.46
Another significant finding from the city directories was the substantial
movement of people spatially over time, as seen in table 2-4.
Of the 207 people identified in both the census sample and the city
directories, 60 percent moved the first year, either within the city or away
from the city. Doubtless the fire's destruction contributed to this mobility.
However, between 1902 and 1905, two-thirds of the remaining people

After the Fire o 39

Table 2.4. Spatial Mobility, 1900-1914 (percentages) (1900: N = 207)

No change Moved Left Returned No Total
Directory in address in city city to city data no.
1900-1902 37 30 30 3 207
1902-5 33 29 29 8 153
1905-10 42 21 28 10 120
1910-14 38 18 35 8 95
SOURCE: Jacksonville City Directory, 1900, 1901, 1902, 1905, 1910, 1914.

surveyed moved into, out of, or within the city. The numbers declined
thereafter (as does the representative character of the sample), but clearly
for any year examined, less than half the residents remained at the same
Over the ten years from 1900, 56 percent of the people sampled left
the city; by 1914 59 percent left, a proportion comparable to the numbers
leaving Mobile, Omaha, San Francisco, or Boston during this era. Why
did so many people leave these cities? Historians Howard P. Chudacoff
and Judith E. Smith have suggested that "many people who left one place
for another, particularly unskilled workers, .. were probably moving in
response to patterns of layoff and unemployment, exchanging one low-
paying job for another. Others, however, did find greener pastures....
Thus although cities frustrated the hopes of some, they offered opportu-
nities to others." Jacksonville was no exception.47
Over fourteen years in Jacksonville, almost 90 percent of the original
207 people either died or changed their address. Some people moved two
and three times. Alexander Johnson (black), Francis Gage (white), Julia
Vance (black), Armstrong Steadman (white), Luke Tolliver (black), and
Rufus Russell (white) moved at least three times during the first decade of
the twentieth century.
The exceptions were folks like attorney Horatio Bisbee (white),who
rebuilt his home on West Beaver Street after the fire and stayed there;
Andrew Connor (black), who lived above his grocery store on Leila Street
through the decade; Charles Garvin (black), living on West Union Street;
or Susan Lee (white), minding her boardinghouse on Hubbard Street. But
these people really were unique to Jacksonville.
This restlessness characterized not only Jacksonvillians but also the
thousands who moved to the Gateway City during these years, more than
doubling the local population. The influx was not predominantly of either
race. Similar proportions of both blacks and whites immigrated. By socio-
economic class, there were distinctions. Skilled workers were most likely

40 o

to move, perhaps reflecting job opportunities in a decade of prosperity.
Lower white-collar people were least likely. The mobility at both the top
and bottom of the economic ladder approximated the mobility of the whole
group, which was substantial. One wonders to what extent this mobility
affected people's loyalty or sense of identification with and belonging to
What can we conclude from sampling the census and directory materi-
als? First, the economic indicators for the city tell only part of the story.
The prosperity of the banks, railroad, shipyards, wholesale houses, and
sawmills did not indicate the well-being of a majority of the citizenry. In
fact, the people shared very unevenly in Jacksonville's progress.
Overall, there was some progress between 1900 and 1910, as seen in
the increased proportion of white-collar and skilled blue-collar workers
and the decline in unemployment (tables 2-1 and 2-2). African-Ameri-
cans, however, participated only to a very limited extent. As a result,
Jacksonville remained a city limited in its growth potential, in part due to
barriers of racial segregation and prejudice that blocked substantial up-
ward mobility for one-half the population. The Chamber of Commerce
at the end of the era presented an image of a prosperous Jacksonville.
Behind the affluence of downtown, Riverside, and Springfield, however,
lay widespread poverty in Oakland, Hansontown, LaVilla, and Brooklyn.
Both were characteristics of New South cities.

o Another weak foundation ofJacksonville's economy was its dependency
on outside forces. Reduce trade and the city's economy suffered. On the
eve of World War I, the local economy slumped. The suburbs were over-
built and downtown construction exceeded demand, idling construction
crews and curtailing the real estate market. Under normal circumstances,
the economy would have gradually adjusted and resumed growth, but the
outbreak of war in August 1914 sharply aggravated the situation. Exports
of naval stores and phosphates to Europe virtually ceased-federal au-
thorities considered both commodities contraband or conditional contra-
band. The dollar value of exports in Jacksonville dropped 76 percent in
one year, and stayed down until the United States entered the war in 1917.
Lumber exports dropped by one-third. The impact upon the port, saw-
mills, fertilizer factories, and naval stores industry was substantial. The
financial community was also affected: two banks, including one that had
just completed a fifteen-story office building, went bankrupt. The Florida
Life Insurance Company followed suit.48
Next came the almost total collapse of the real estate market and con-

After the Fire o 41

Masonic Temple, home of
Anderson, Tucker and Com-
pany, bankers, and other
black-owned businesses.
Courtesy of the Eartha
White Collection, University
of North Florida.

struction industry. During the summer and fall of 1915, wrote T. Fred-
erick Davis, "It was estimated by rental agents that one-third of the
stores, one-half of the ... houses, and 60 percent of the office space in
Jacksonville was vacant." End-of-the-year figures showed local construc-
tion down 56 percent. It would not regain momentum until the outbreak
of war.49
Unemployment became a major problem in an era when no govern-
ment programs existed to provide a safety net. The city's primary welfare
agency, the privately funded Associated Charities, reported in December
1914 that an increased number of homeless people were seeking assis-
tance. Six months later it described the distress and need among white
families in Jacksonville. It was the worst in the six-year history of the
agency. Relief funds, however, had run short and jobs simply were un-
The Times-Union tried to maintain an upbeat tenor about conditions,
rarely reporting the hardships. But even it recognized that one-third of the
city's property owners had not paid their taxes, in part due to hard times.
Eventually the paper acknowledged that the city's economy had suffered
three years of stagnation.51
More forthright was the secretary of the Board of Trade. In his annual
report at the end of 1914, he recognized, with perhaps some exaggeration,

42 o

"one of the most trying years in the history of our country due to the de-
pression and financial stringency." Mayor J. E. T. Bowden, reelected in
May 1915, put it more bluntly. He asked the city council to reduce city
wages by 25 percent. Tax receipts were only 41 percent of budget, times
were hard and the city had to cut back.52
For black Jacksonville, the recession had a push-pull effect. Generally
excluded from white philanthropy and victimized by segregation and dis-
crimination, many young African-Americans responded by leaving town.
The war had stopped European immigration. Railroads and northern in-
dustry needing labor began to recruit black workers in the South. By
early 1916 Jacksonville had become a center for Florida blacks migrating
north. Over the next four years some 40,000 Floridians, including 6,000
from Jacksonville, left to seek work under what they hoped would be more
attractive conditions.53
The recession in Jacksonville bottomed in 1915, but its effects con-
tinued into the following year. Recovery began in the fall of 1916 and
continued with a major expansion of the Merrill-Stevens Company on the
eve of the American entry into the war.54

o In conclusion, Jacksonville developed as two cities in the years after the
fire, one white and one black. One city was largely prosperous, creating
a commercial gateway to Florida by steamship and rail, developing a re-
gional distribution center for the Southeast, and expanding financial ser-
vices to provide capital for further development statewide. Enterprise was
expressed visually in its port, railroads, skyscrapers, department stores,
churches, and handsome suburbs. Limitations were seen in the buffet-
ing by national and international economic forces. Yet overall, as seen by
the Board of Trade and daily newspapers, this Jacksonville communicated
optimism and commitment about building a modern city in the spirit of
the Atlanta model for the New South.
The other city contrasted sharply with the prosperous one. Its residents
were mostly poor, worked in low-skilled jobs, and lived in crowded slums.
They lacked the resources and opportunities of the white city. Still, they
tried. African-Americans built churches and homes, a handsome masonic
temple, private schools, a hospital, and a life insurance company. They
opened a bank, published a weekly newspaper, started businesses, and
created community pride. Yet poverty continued to plague the black city.
Discrimination blocked access to jobs above a menial level. When hard
times came in 1914-15, thousands emigrated to the North.
This picture of two Jacksonvilles corresponds to the descriptions of

After the Fire o 43

other New South cities of the era. In Atlanta, Birmingham, Houston, and
Nashville, the media reported and praised the substantial white progress
while generally ignoring the barriers that thwarted black development.
Contemporary African-Americans knew it, but recent voter disfranchise-
ment blocked efforts to shape government policies that might alleviate the
extremes of progress and poverty existing on the eve of World War I.

44 0


Public Policy and Urban Growth

Jacksonville's substantial though uneven growth and development during
the years between the Great Fire and World War I owed much to local,
state, and federal government policies. The starting point was the state,
which had ultimate control over its cities. Florida's Constitution of 1885
authorized the state legislature "to establish and abolish municipalities, to
provide for their government, to prescribe their jurisdiction and powers,
and to alter or amend the same at any time."'
At times the legislature acted with vigor. In 1889 it disfranchised all
Jacksonville voters and directed the governor to appoint the city council,
which in turn chose the mayor. Four years later the legislature returned
the franchise to local voters to elect their mayor and council. Then in
1917 the legislature created a five-member city commission with one com-
missioner performing the ritual duties of mayor. This council-commission
form of government lasted until the city was consolidated with Duval
County in 1968.2
Behind the state's intervention in Jacksonville's affairs lay local politi-
cal conflicts. A coalition of white Republicans, blacks, and organized
labor had gained control of city government in 1887, defeating conser-
vative Democratic incumbents. In the city elections of that year, voters
chose a Republican mayor with a labor-dominated city council, including
five blacks. African-Americans subsequently served as municipal judge,

chaired the board of police commissioners, and filled twenty-three posi-
tions on the police force. Following the yellow fever epidemic of 1888,
white Jacksonvillians claimed the city had been misgoverned and sought
legislative help. The disfranchisement of 1889 returned city government
to white control. The passage of a poll tax, also that year, effectively ex-
cluding most poor black and white voters, paved the way for the return of
the local franchise four years later.3
The transformation from a mayor-council form of government to a
commission-council form in 1917 was a variation on the shift to city com-
mission in many New South communities. It began gradually and cli-
maxed abruptly. Following Duncan Fletcher's election as mayor in 1893,
the city council passed a $1 million bond issue for public improvements,
including the construction of a municipally owned electric power plant
(the forerunner of the Jacksonville Electric Authority). The council also
established a Board of Bond Trustees to oversee the bond issue. It sub-
sequently broadened the bond trustees' authority to include running the
power plant, waterworks, and fire department. In 1911 the Florida legis-
lature placed the Board of Public Works and Board of Health under the
bond trustees' control. As a result, the state changed Jacksonville from
a strong mayor-council system of government to a weak mayor-council,
supplemented by a strong, independent, nonelected authority, the Board
of Bond Trustees. The Florida Times-Union felt uneasy, concluding that
the nonelected trustees had too much "controlling power in the city."4
The bond trustees were leading citizens of the community, both honest
and autocratic in their use of power. Initially appointed by the governor,
later choosing their own successors, and eventually selected by the city
council, they were substantially removed from the democratic process in
an era when reform-minded Americans across the country were "opening
the system" with direct primaries, direct election of United States sena-
tors, and votes for women. Many local voters wanted the bond trustees
elected, too, but could not reach a consensus on how to achieve it.5
What to do remained a problem. The Central Civic League, a coali-
tion of neighborhood associations in Jacksonville, proposed the nationally
popular Galveston-Des Moines plan for commission-government, where
a small number of elected officials formed a single board replacing both
the mayor and the council. The city council ignored this recommendation
and passed a charter amendment putting the powers of the bond trustees
into its own hands. Opponents of this proposal feared such a concentra-
tion of power in a city council known for its favoritism and spoils of office,
and persuaded voters to reject the charter amendment in a referendum.

46 n

In 1915 Mayor Van C. Swearingen called a charter convention including
council members, leading citizens, and representatives of neighborhood
and civic groups. It drafted a compromise keeping the city council in-
tact but creating an elected commission to replace the mayor and bond
trustees. Jacksonville voters, however, rejected this proposal by almost a
three-to-one margin. Opponents this time felt the compromise form was
too complicated and lacked adequate procedural safeguards. Finally in
1917 the Duval legislative delegation led by House Speaker Ion Farris
secured a charter amendment without a referendum handing Jacksonville
its council-commission government.6
To Farris, the change democratized local government. It gave the voters
a voice in the selection of the men who, he hoped, would continue the
honest efficient work of the old Board of Bond Trustees. Others were
less optimistic. Perhaps more significantly, the reform of local government
represented not the will of local voters who had rejected the new charter
in the previous year, but rather the community's leadership influencing
the state's determination to impose the charter.
The ability to shape and reshape Jacksonville's form of government
over the years reflected the state's total power as defined in the constitu-
tion. Fortunately, it was used only rarely. In fact, scholars have criticized
Florida's government during these years for its generally conservative,
laissez-faire role as compared with more progressive states, such as Wis-
consin or California. This criticism is not entirely warranted. State action
cuts many ways, and during these years the state actively fostered white
supremacy. In 1901 the legislature passed the Democratic primary law,
which effectively excluded black Republican voters from participating in
the selection of candidates on the Democratic ticket in this predominantly
Democratic state. Six years later it gerrymandered election districts in
Jacksonville to remove black representation from the city council. It also
passed Jim Crow laws segregating formerly integrated streetcars and pas-
senger trains. In effect, the state actively reinforced the white supremacy
provisions of the 1885 Constitution, which had provided for segregated
schools, a poll tax, and a ban on interracial marriage.7
Yet the state legislature during these years also acted constructively.
It loosened constitutional restrictions on state aid to education, enabling
localities to increase taxation in support of public schools. It enabled
Jacksonville to authorize bond issues for civic improvements up to 10
percent of its tax base without prior state approval. In 1913 after several
attempts, it passed a child labor law limiting the age, hours, and working
conditions for youngsters. It also authorized pensions for police and fire-

Public Policy and Urban Growth c 47

Jacksonville Terminal Station (subsequently Prime V. Osborne Convention
Center), completed in 1919. Courtesy of Wayne W. Wood.

men. One of its most significant acts created a state railroad commission
to regulate rates and prevent carrier discrimination against commercial
First organized in 1887, the Florida Railroad Commission accom-
plished little. Disbanded and re-created in 1897, it began a systematic
effort to limit the excesses of Florida's railroads in the twentieth century.
It intervened in the rail congestion that blocked lumber exports and im-
ports of goods for wholesale distribution at Jacksonville's port in 1906-7.
The commission concluded the tie-up at the docks was due to "the unwill-
ingness of the railroads to incur the extra expense of additional trains."
Following a series of fines by the commission, the railroads began to im-
prove conditions. They enlarged and improved dock and terminal facili-
ties, repaired and strengthened roadbeds, and added new and improved
locomotives and cars. These improvements, combined with the recession
of 1907, allowed the congestion to be cleared. By the end of the year, a
Railroad Commission report concluded, traffic was "running with a de-
gree of promptness not known for years."9
In 1913, following petitions from the city council, the Board of Trade,
Real Estate Exchange, and Central Labor Council, the commission
opened hearings on the need for a new passenger station in Jacksonville.


s-'-^ ,--^"IPA IA

The Board of Trade claimed the current station was too small and gave a
bad impression to passengers arriving in the city. Further, it said, "condi-
tions ... are deplorable. Waiting rooms, platforms and toilet facilities are
in an unclean and unsanitary condition." The city council's Public Ser-
vice Committee claimed the station, completed in 1897, was "out of date
and sadly deficient in ... those conveniences which the travelling public
demands." 10
The Railroad Commission agreed and ordered the Jacksonville Ter-
minal Company, jointly owned by railroads serving the city, to build a
new station. Plans were submitted and approved. The railroads then re-
quested a new hearing to modify the plans. The commission agreed and
then ordered the railroads to proceed. The following May, however, the
railroads balked and the case went to court."
Meanwhile pressures built in Jacksonville. Mayor J. E. T. Bowden,
after resuming office in 1915, lashed out at the condition of the old sta-
tion. Four million travelers pass through Jacksonville each year, he said,
and it is "an eye-sore to every traveller." Early in 1916, however, the
Florida Supreme Court found the Railroad Commission lacked statutory
authority in the case. But the effect was achieved. The railroads began
work on the new terminal, which was delayed by the war and completed
in November 1919. While the state's power to mandate the building of the
new station was countermanded by the courts, its actions combined with
the efforts of groups in Jacksonville eventually resulted in a new facility.12
Clearly, state policies helped shaped Jacksonville's urban growth.
Legislation fostering white supremacy after 1900 blocked efforts by Jack-
sonville African-Americans to rectify social and economic disadvantages
at the polls. At the same time, it provided for increasing though incom-
plete home rule with regard to taxing and bonding, enabling the city to
undertake public sector development. Meanwhile state regulation of the
railroads limited the power ofJacksonville's largest corporations.
Charter changes affecting the nature ofJacksonville's government had
a less clear-cut effect. Seen from the perspective of the late twentieth cen-
tury after the consolidation of Jacksonville with Duval County in 1968,
and the replacement of council-commission government by a stronger
mayor and council, the Progressive Era efforts now appear naive. Yet at
the time, civic leaders were pragmatically trying to reconcile the political
dilemma of people wanting greater honesty and efficiency in government
as represented by the bond trustees with those wanting greater democ-
racy. Substituting an elected commission for the Board of Bond Trustees
seemed to make sense. In fact, the more popular national reform of com-

Public Policy and Urban Growth o 49

bining executive and legislative functions into a commission elected at
large frequently led to urban business-civic elites consolidating power at
the expense of minority, ethnic, or working-class groups. In Jacksonville
the maintenance of a separate elected council at least assured white voters
continued representation at the ward level.
Perhaps equally significant, the independent authorities of contem-
porary Consolidated Jacksonville are the modern-day equivalent for the
Board of Bond Trustees. The Jacksonville Electric Authority, Jackson-
ville Transportation Authority, the Jacksonville Port Authority, and others
were empowered for much the same reasons as the bond trustees. State
and local groups fearing the excesses of factional politics preferred instead
to appoint boards to run government-owned businesses. Seen from this
perspective, the state chartering of the council-commission government
in 1917 reflected greater trust in the democratic process than most voters
had either then or later.

n If the state in its wisdom held ultimate power over the city, local gov-
ernment both developed and oversaw day-to-day policies and innovated
to shape this New South city. The Board of Bond Trustees managed the
electric power plant, waterworks, fire department, public works, and board
of health. In conjunction with the city council, it set policies for urban
development. One of the most important areas of oversight was public
Public health improvements inJacksonville became one of the most sig-
nificant and lasting achievements of the Progressive Era. Nationally, the
decades preceding the turn of the century marked exceptional progress
in modern medical science. The development of the germ theory by Pas-
teur, Lister, and Koch in the late nineteenth century led to the beginning
of modern bacteriology, microbiology, immunology, and a scientific basis
for public health reforms. Across the nation, cities established policies to
advance the health of their communities. Jacksonville was no exception.
Locally public health was a serious concern. The recent history of the
city included at least four epidemics of yellow fever, smallpox, and typhoid
in the two decades preceding 1900. Climate, environment, and sanita-
tion problems contributed to high levels of communicable disease. Fleas,
flies, and mosquitoes were a continual harassment as well as carriers of
disease. Stagnant ponds, open cesspools, rotting garbage, muddy streets,
dead animal carcasses, and irregular private garbage collection services
characterized much of turn-of-the-century Jacksonville. Frequent sum-

50 a

Hon. Van C. Swearingen,
mayor of Jacksonville, 1913-
15. Courtesy of the Haydon
Burns Library.

mer cloudbursts and flooding only worsened conditions. In 1900 Jackson-
ville had a combined mortality rate of 28.6 deaths per 1,000 population,
with the black mortality rate 50 percent higher. In contrast, the more pro-
gressive city of Milwaukee had a death rate of 14 per 1,000, while Boston,
New York, Newark, Philadelphia, and Baltimore had death rates of 19 or
20 per 1,000. Nashville, a leader among the New South cities, had a death
rate of less than 22 per 1,000.13
Efforts to improve health conditions began following the 1901 fire.
New brick buildings, expansion of the sewer system with improved drain-
age, and bulkheads along the river set new environmental standards for the
center city. In 1905 news of a yellow fever epidemic spreading eastward
from New Orleans to Pensacola prompted a local war on the mosquito.
The city council passed enabling legislation and health authorities began
to drain all standing waters, mow tall weeds, drain ditches, and pour oil on
ponds to destroy breeding grounds. The epidemic did not reach Jackson-
ville, and the following year the health department renewed its attack.14
At the same time, Dr. Francis D. Miller, the city health officer, began

Public Policy and Urban Growth o 51

a crusade for a clean city. During the summer of 1906, health inspectors
crisscrossed the city checking the condition of fruits and vegetables in
the markets, meats at the butcher shops, and milk on the delivery wag-
ons. The Board of Health authorized monthly inspections of all restau-
rants, caf6s, and saloons. The following summer sanitary patrolmen also
checked livery stables and dairies for general cleanliness. By the end of
the decade Jacksonville's mortality rate had decreased 25 percent, from
28.6 to 20.7 per 1,000.15
Still, the black mortality rate remained 50 percent higher, and in each
year of the decade black deaths in the city exceeded black births. The
Florida Times-Union acknowledged that most black neighborhoods lacked
city water and sewers, but argued that residents could at least keep their
homes clean. Overlooked was the correlation between poverty and sick-
ness where people could not afford adequate food, medical care, or even
screens on their windows. More important than the lack of sewers were
the outhouses, or privies, plagued by flies. City health officials noted that
80 percent of typhoid cases in Jacksonville came from unsewered houses
where flies spread the disease from infected human waste. With the white
mortality rate dropping from 23.9 to 15.9 per 1,000 between 1900 and
1910, and with white births consistently exceeding white deaths each year,
further substantial public health improvements clearly depended on city
officials initiating policies to improve conditions in the black community.16
Jacksonville began this effort under the leadership of Dr. Charles E.
Terry, who was appointed city health officer in 1910. Terry ranks among
the leaders of early twentieth-century public health reform. Born in Con-
necticut, educated at St. Johns College in Annapolis, Maryland, and then
at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, he settled in Jackson-
ville in 1903 and became a leader in the medical community. Before his
appointment as city health officer at the age of thirty-two, he served as
chief of medicine at St. Luke's, the city's leading hospital, and president
of the Duval County Medical Society.'7
Terry began building on his predecessors' campaign for a clean city in
two ways. First he persuaded the city council to pass a new milk ordinance,
establish a bacteriology laboratory, and hire a chemist to begin testing the
quality of milk, food, and water.'8 Before the ordinance went into effect,
according to the city's dairy inspector, "Jacksonville had the well deserved
reputation of having about the poorest milk in the country. It was
almost a 'trade custom' to add water and condensed milk in varying quan-
tities ... and some dairymen nearly doubled their milk supply in this way."

52 o

Most milk producers cooperated with the new inspections, but a handful
stubbornly challenged the new law, claiming "it was their right to dilute
the milk." The courts upheld the city's regulatory powers, and the quality
of milk began to improve.19
Terry's next step was legislation to regulate the city's privies. They
numbered more than 8,500, or almost one for every two families. They
were ideal disseminators of intestinal diseases by insect carriers. The priv-
ies, Terry wrote, "have all been wide open to flies, and even domestic
animals, and in no case are more than fifty feet from a kitchen or din-
ing room. Taken in conjunction with the fact that very few of the
houses in the city are screened, and that in the warm season windows and
doors are kept wide open, [they] seem to fulfill every requirement for fly
transmission of intestinal diseases."20
Legislation regulating the construction of privies to make them fly-
proof by screening was enforced, and the incidence of typhoid dropped
dramatically. Terry also pushed for expanding the sewer system with more
indoor plumbing, but had only limited success. By the end of his tenure,
Jacksonville still had almost 6,000 outhouses, mostly in the black commu-
nity, but at least the disease had substantially subsided.21
Milk pasteurization and screening privies comprised only the begin-
ning of Terry's work. He lobbied for and secured a contagious disease
pavilion at St. Luke's Hospital, supported the Woman's Club efforts for
a camp for indigent tuberculars, worked with the Department of Public
Works to improve conditions at the city's festering garbage dumps, began
medical inspections of children in the city schools, and helped start an In-
fant Welfare Society to provide pre- and postnatal care for white mothers
and their children. In 1912 Terry initiated the formation of a Colored
Health Improvement Association and hired the first black visiting nurse
to confront the greater sickness and mortality in Jacksonville's black com-
Of major concern for Terry were infant deaths, especially among blacks.
While most white mothers had doctors attending their births, too many
black mothers could not afford a physician and turned to granny mid-
wives for help. Unfortunately, most midwives were untrained in anything
approaching hygienic care at childbirth. The result was a black infant
mortality rate in 1913 twice that of whites.23
Terry disliked midwifery. He regarded the practice as superstitious and
ignorant. While a certain racial prejudice undoubtedly colored his views,
of greater importance was the fact that Terry saw midwifery resulting in

Public Policy and Urban Growth n 53

stillbirths, infections, and consequent deaths. He ridiculed grated nut-
meg and raisins or lard and bacon fat as proper umbilical dressings. In his
annual report for 1913, he described other practices:

The most approved prophylactic for stomatitis [inflammation of
the mouth] is the wiping out of the infant's mouth with one of its own
soiled napkins. The occurrence of tetanus in the infant is attributed
to the fact that, during labor, the mother did not keep her mouth
closed, ... Of almost general belief is the great danger attendant
upon bathing the baby or mother, changing the bedding or even
sweeping the room within nine days after delivery and if to such
imprudence were added the removal of ashes from the stove or fire-
place, it is doubtful if even the most gifted midwife could prevent
the dire consequences which would surely ensue.24

At the same time, Terry also recognized that most blacks could not
afford professional medical care and few doctors took on many charity
cases. His solution was a law setting standards for midwifery in Jackson-
ville and provision for free instruction to women seeking to take the cer-
tifying examination. The Health Department also supplied obstetrics kits
and supervision by the black visiting nurse. The results were impressive.
By 1915 twenty-seven midwives were licensed to assist with childbirths (as
compared with sixty-four unlicensed midwives two years earlier). A year
later Terry reported that births attended by midwives were considered as
safe as births attended by physicians.25
Terry's final major program placed him among the country's public
health pioneers. Early in his tenure as health officer, he became aware of
an extensive traffic in habit-forming drugs carried on by certain physi-
cians and pharmacists inJacksonville. Though prosecuted under state law,
violators escaped conviction due to loopholes, and continued their sales.
In 1912 Terry secured a city ordinance requiring the prescription of all
addictive drugs, with morphine, opium, and cocaine dosages registered at
the Health Department. Addicts could also obtain prescriptions from the
city health officer or his designee.26
Over a three-year period, the records showed an estimated 1,000
addicts living in the city, or 1.5 percent of the population. Two-thirds of
the addicts were whites; over half were women. The most prevalent drugs
were cocaine, morphine, and laudanum. Slightly more than half the regis-
tered addicts attributed their addiction to medical prescriptions, a quarter
to dissipation, and a fifth to the influence of friends (which might or might

54 0

Dr. Charles E. Terry, city
health officer, 1910-16.
Reprinted from Webster
Merrit, ed., Hundreth Birth-
day of the Duval County
Medical Society, 1853-1953
(Jacksonville: Duval County
Medical Society, 1954), 99.

not be dissipation). Prostitutes comprised 15 percent of the users, though
Terry guessed that might be a low estimate.27
Later historians have concluded that Jacksonville's rate of opiate ad-
diction was several times that of northern and western cities. This addic-
tion was a regional, not merely a local, problem. David T. Courtwright
has described the southern drug problem as its "hidden epidemic." Many
ailing whites became addicted, he writes, through pain-killing prescrip-
tions by physicians who could not cure but who sought to comfort their
patients. Patent medicines also played a part. For southern blacks (who
used primarily cocaine), drug use may have begun with stevedores in New
Orleans using cocaine to endure the long hours and heavy work of load-
ing and unloading ships. This use resembled the South American practice
of chewing coca leaves to increase energy, avoid drowsiness, and "bear
cold, wet, great bodily exertion, and even want of food ... with appar-
ent ease and impunity." Jacksonville stevedores, who also were black, may
have begun sniffing cocaine for similar reasons, sharing it with workers in
the sawmills and turpentine camps. Terry also believed that many black
women became addicted in "white houses of prostitution."28
Terry's approach to registering and maintaining addicts did not reflect

Public Policy and Urban Growth o 55

his approval of the practice. Rather he first wanted to examine the size and
scope of the problem. Then he looked for alternatives to complete prohi-
bition. Such a radical measure, he felt, would cause great suffering unless
there were treatment centers, especially as more than halfofJacksonville's
victims had acquired their habit "innocently and unknowingly." The pas-
sage of the federal Harrison Narcotic Act in 1914 ended Terry's mainte-
nance program. Although the denial of legal prescriptions for addicts did
not become national until after World War I, Terry began phasing out the
prescriptions for indigent patients with special detoxification treatment at
St. Luke's Hospital.29
Terry resigned as chief health officer at the end of 1916, moving to
New York City where he became health editor for the Delineator, a family
magazine. In his final report to the Jacksonville Board of Health, he re-
flected upon conditions in Jacksonville and his work over the preceding
seven years. While substantial progress had been made in reducing the
city's mortality rate another 25 percent, from 20.7 to 15.7 per thousand
lives, Terry believed Jacksonville's commitment to the public's health still
left much to be done.30
Of major concern was tuberculosis, the city's deadliest killer, especially
among blacks. Neither city nor state had committed to prevention or cure,
as had Baltimore and Maryland ten years earlier. For the city's estimated
1,500 cases, there were sixteen hospital beds. Tuberculars prepared and
served food in city hotels and restaurants, nursed children, clerked in
grocery stores, cut hair, and washed clothes throughout the community.31
While tuberculosis remained a major threat, typhoid fever had de-
clined substantially due to the screening of privies. Its eradication awaited
the completion of a city sewage system. The city's Public Works depart-
ment had extended sewer lines into sparsely populated, affluent River-
side, but not into crowded, impoverished, black Hansontown. After seven
years, 5,800 privies still served approximately 17,500 persons, roughly
one-quarter of the population.32
Terry was pleased with the reduction in the infant mortality rate due in
large part to the Infant Welfare Society, the training and certification of
midwives, and the work of the visiting nurses. He urged the authorization
of a dozen more visiting nurses whose work in educating parents in both
the black and white neighborhoods had been successful.33
He also urged the city council to tighten regulations in the city's 686
stables and at the unsanitary public dumps where flies still bred. The city
needed a new incinerator and closer protection of food supplies, especially

56 o

of cooked foods in delicatessens. It also needed medical examinations for
workers in restaurants, hotels, and other places that served food.34
Terry concluded by appealing for more tax dollars for public health.
Good health was purchasable, he said, and more valuable than lower prop-
erty taxes. Experts recommended one dollar per capital as a fair level of
health protection. Seventy-five cents was the minimum. Jacksonville spent
fifty cents. While the health of the community had been substantially
improved, as indicated by the improved mortality rates, there still was a
long way to go, especially for the black community. Terry urged health
officials to press on with more dollars in their commitment to the growth

o The second area in which local government shaped urban growth was
public education. In 1900 its policies reflected neglect: dingy classrooms,
outdoor plumbing, low salaries that discriminated against women and
blacks, and uncertified teachers. The governing body for Jacksonville's
schools was an elected, three-person Duval County Board of Public In-
struction. It in turn served under the authority of the state constitution,
which required racial segregation and limited taxation to a maximum rate
of five mills for local schools. The school board usually ran a deficit. The
school superintendent, appointed by the board, influenced educational
policies. At the turn of the century, he opposed compulsory education,
which was the norm in most of the country. He also opposed free text-
books, because of the cost. Instead, in true Social Darwinian terms, he saw
a voluntary system of education encouraging the "survival of the fittest"
for the children of Jacksonville. Substantial support for public education
did not characterize the city in 1900.36
Conditions did not change much in the ten years after the fire. In fact,
they initially became worse because of the burning of three downtown
schools. Scarce resources were diverted to rebuilding a brick, combined
Central Grammar and Duval High School and "a large crude, three-story,
frame" Stanton Middle School. (It became Stanton High School over the
succeeding decade thanks to the efforts of its principal, James Weldon
Johnson.) When schools opened in the fall of 1901, white students went
on double sessions in Riverside and Springfield while black youngsters
simply stayed home until their new facility opened the following January.
The diversion of tax revenues to build the new schools led to a crisis in
March 1903, when the school board had insufficient funds to complete
the school year.37

Public Policy and Urban Growth o 57

Fons A. Hathaway, super-
intendent of schools, 1913-
1921. Courtesy of the
Florida State Archives.

To improve school finances, the Jacksonville Woman's Club began a
campaign to increase the constitutional limitation on school funding from
five to seven mills. The amendment, supported by the Duval delegation,
passed the state legislature at the following session. To create interest and
support for the public schools, the Woman's Club next organized Mothers
Clubs, a forerunner of Parent-Teacher Associations. Its members also
studied the need for kindergartens and compulsory education and sup-
ported the extension of the school term from five to eight months.38
Complicating attempts to fund the public schools was the great popu-
lation growth in Jacksonville in the years following the fire. Enrollments
increased almost 50 percent, from 6,765 students in 1900 to 9,861 ten
years later. Three new elementary schools were built from tax revenues in
an era before the state constitution made provision for bonding new con-
struction. Secondary school enrollments more than doubled, and in 1906
the school board bought land to build a new Duval High School.39
Tax revenues increased during these years but not fast enough to cover
expenses. Building maintenance was neglected. In 1906 the city Board
of Health condemned the Central Grammar School building "due to the

58 1

unsanitary condition of plumbing" in its lavatories. Classrooms were over-
crowded and Fairfield parents urged construction of an addition to their
school. Teachers' salaries increased only marginally, for black females not
at all, despite an increased cost of living. In 1908 the Colored Woman's
Club protested the absence of indoor plumbing and the inadequate main-
tenance of the Stanton School and its grounds. The school board prom-
ised relief, but the conditions persisted. By 1911 Stanton's roof leaked
and the walls of the Oakland school for blacks were "in dangerous condi-
Part of Stanton's problems reflected the school board's limited re-
sources, but part also resulted from its discriminatory policies. The board
subsidized white teachers attending state professional meetings, but not
black teachers. It authorized an extra month of classes at the city's night
school for whites, but not at Stanton. Money was available to increase
the principal's salary at Duval High School, but not at Stanton. When a
black elementary school requested an eight-month term comparable to
the white school, the board turned it down. When another black school
asked to open its facilities for a black Sunday School class, the board again
said no, even though Sunday School classes met in white schools. While
per-pupil expenditure for black students increased from $5.47 in 1900 to
$19.07 in 1916-17, white expenditure rose from $12.04 to $86.99. Thus
while black support increased almost four times in the generation after
the Great Fire, white support increased more than seven times, leaving a
greater gap between the two races at the end of the era.41
Less understandable was the relative decline in black enrollments over
the years, because the black population remained a majority in the city
(57 to 53 percent from 1900 to 1915). Where black youngsters com-
prised almost half the students in 1900, they numbered only one-third
of the school population in 1916. White enrollments doubled over these
years, while the black attendance increased only 50 percent. One can only
assume either discouragement or discrimination contributed to the lower
percentage of black scholars.
Meanwhile public opinion began to stir about the conditions of Jack-
sonville's schools. In 1910 Francis P. Conroy, the new president of the
Board of Trade, the city's most influential body of business and profes-
sional men, spoke out about conditions in the schools. He found them
"simply appalling." Jacksonville "should be ashamed," he said, "that such
S.. dilapidated, unsanitary and unsatisfactory buildings" exist. Conroy
met with school board officials after which the Board of Trade proposed
a $400,000 bond issue for school construction. The school board and

Public Policy and Urban Growth o 59

county commissioners endorsed the proposal, and the following spring
the legislature passed a constitutional amendment authorizing bonding.
Florida's voters ratified the amendment in 1912, and the Woman's Club
began to mobilize public opinion for school improvements.42
Further progress came with the appointment of Fons A. Hathaway as
superintendent of schools in 1913. Hathaway, the thirty-six-year-old prin-
cipal of Duval High School, had been born in the Florida Panhandle and
graduated from the University of Florida. Prior to moving to Jacksonville,
he had been principal of Orlando High School. A professional educa-
tor active on both the state and national levels, Hathaway began a major
effort to modernize the Duval County schools just at the time the state
authorized increased funding to Florida counties.43
Hathaway began by focusing on instruction, encouraging teachers to
attend what would now be called summer training institutes. At the time
most elementary teachers had only high school diplomas. Hathaway also
hired supervisors to assist less effective teachers. He persuaded the school
board to require a college or normal school degree in order to teach high
school. Hathaway then raised the minimum and maximum salaries three
times over the next six years, introducing the system's first pay scale and
across-the-board increases.44
The school board endorsed Hathaway's proposals. It expanded the
curriculum, adding music, art, manual training, home economics, com-
mercial courses, and special education classes for "backward or retarded
pupils." It also introduced civics classes for elementary students and
teacher training in high school. The board extended the school year to
nine months and, following state legislative authorization in 1918, im-
plemented compulsory education. To fund these programs the board de-
pended on the expanding tax base of the county, plus a special one-mill
tax for the urban district.45
New buildings were funded by a $1 million bond issue passed in 1915.
Almost nine-tenths of the money went to build seven new elementary
schools for white students and additions to other older schools. The board
did allocate $115,000 to replace the frame structure at Stanton with a
modern brick building as well as build three new elementary schools for
blacks. Construction was delayed, first by the recession and then by the
war. Still, Hathaway could report in early 1919 that the million-dollar pro-
gram was practically complete, and "no city in the South ... possessed an
equal number of modern school plants."46
Earlier, Franklin H. Giddings, writing in The Independent, anticipated
Hathaway's report: "At Jacksonville, Florida, the county superintendent

60 o

of instruction, Mr. Fons A. Hathaway, in less than three years has ob-
tained from the taxpayers the millions of dollars necessary to rebuild or
remodel or re-equip according to the most modern plans, all the more im-
portant school buildings [sic], and to reorganize courses of instruction in a
way to secure the enthusiastic confidence of a progressive community."47
Despite these efforts, the schools barely kept pace with the rapidly
growing population. School enrollments increased another 50 percent,
from 9,861 in 1910-11, to 14,909 in 1916-17 on the eve of World War I.
Then the influx of war workers pushed enrollments up even further, lead-
ing once again to double sessions in 1918.48
Superintendent Hathaway's achievements in upgrading standards in
public education, diversifying the curriculum, raising salaries, and build-
ing schools were substantial. They helped Jacksonville to begin catching
up with other school systems across the country. Public support for the
schools increased in the generation after the fire, as did the tax rate. The
schools had entered the mainstream of middle-class life, contributing to
the urban growth and development of this New South city.
Still, rapid population growth kept pressures on the system. As Duval
High School once more became overcrowded in 1918, Hathaway began
planning for two junior high schools. Economic resources never seemed
to be quite enough to house and teach every youngster.
The unequal treatment of black pupils, teachers, and taxpayers was
another problem. While segregated schools had been affirmed by the
Supreme Court in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1890, the court had said separate
and equal. In Jacksonville, as in other cities in the South and across most
of the nation, equality did not exist. The educational system simply added
to the legal, economic, and political subordination of black Americans.

o Superintendent Hathaway and City Health Officer Terry represented
the new breed of urban reformers in early twentieth-century America.
Well educated and professionally active in their fields, they were experts
who shaped portions of the urban environment. Both applied modern
scientific standards to their respective fields. Terry changed Jacksonville
from an unhealthy city, laying the foundations for contemporary public
health practices. Hathaway brought Jacksonville's school system into the
twentieth century, though on a more tenuous basis because of rapid popu-
lation growth and limited resources. Terry achieved national recognition
when the American Public Health Association met in Jacksonville in 1915.
Hathaway received an honorary degree from the University of Florida for
his contributions to public education on the local and state levels. Both

Public Policy and Urban Growth o 61

Hon. J. E. T. Bowden, mayor
of Jacksonville, 1899-1901
and 1915-17. Reprinted
from Rawls, The Jacksonville
Story, 20.

eventually left Jacksonville, Terry moving to New York as health editor for
a national magazine, Hathaway moving to Tallahassee in 1921, to serve in
the administration of Governor John W. Martin.49
If individual leaders such as Terry and Hathaway shaped public policy
in Jacksonville, they did not do so alone. Terry had the support of the
city council most of the time as well as the mayor and the Board of Bond
Trustees. Hathaway earned the support of the Duval County Board of
Public Instruction as well as the Duval delegation to the state legislature.
These groups also played substantial roles developing public policies
and shaping the character of the city during these years. In particular, the
city council played an important part. It regulated passenger service on
the street railways; forced the railroads to build viaducts or overpasses at
corporate expense to separate vehicular and rail traffic; and initiated the
efforts for a new passenger depot. It also segregated streetcars by race.
Automobiles were another problem. As they increased in popularity, the
council passed legislation in 1904 limiting their speed downtown to ten
miles per hour. Cars must be licensed and have a "good horn" and two
headlamps. No one under sixteen could drive in town. Five years later the
council passed more legislation requiring vehicles to keep to the right and
pass on the left. Drivers must use hand signals and yield to emergency
vehicles. Later laws licensed drivers, limited downtown parking, and re-

62 a

quired parallel parking within six inches of the curb. While the council
could not solve all of the problems resulting from the automobile, it laid
the foundation for later public policy to control the use of the downtown
Jacksonville's mayors varied in their effectiveness in setting public
policy. Duncan Fletcher was a strong mayor, both in the 1890s when he
began a series of major public improvements and after the fire when he
persuaded the council to put aside partisanship in the rebuilding of the
city. His achievements locally and in the state Democratic party led to his
election as United States senator in 1908.51
Another energetic mayor was Van C. Swearingen, elected in 1913. By
then the transfer of executive power to the bond trustees had substan-
tially weakened the mayor's office. Still, he called the charter convention
that led to the governmental reorganization and the council-commission.
Swearingen also rallied supporters in a campaign against vice. He began
by ordering the police to clear the streets of prostitutes. Next he ordered
them to keep minors out of pool halls and saloons. In addition, he con-
demned the romanticized giant paintings of nude women that hung over
the bars in many turn-of-the-century taverns.52
Initially the mayor tried to isolate prostitution in the LaVilla section,
west of town, but the LaVilla Civic League wanted the brothels out of
their neighborhood. Then the Jacksonville Ministerial Alliance declared
its support for closing all brothels. Swearingen agreed, provided employ-
ment was found for the women, and a week later gave orders to close down
the red-light district effective June 1, 1914.53
The editors of the Florida Times-Union endorsed the action but voiced
concern about the prostitutes simply scattering to other neighborhoods
in the city. Apparently this happened because that fall, J. E. T. Bow-
den, former mayor of LaVilla and later ofJacksonville, challenged Swear-
ingen for the office, attacking his anti-vice campaign on the grounds that
the women had scattered and disrupted residential neighborhoods. Bow-
den's challenge led to an exciting spring election campaign. Progressive
club women supported Swearingen and conservative men backed Bow-
den. Suddenly the campaign turned on charges by a former supporter
that the mayor belonged to the Guardians of Liberty, a secret political
group that was anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic. Traditionally, Jacksonvilli-
ans had substantial tolerance for Catholics and Jews. Rabbis and priests
as well as laypeople were active participants in civic affairs. Morris Dzia-
lynksi, lay leader of Congregation Ahavath Chesed, had been mayor and
later was elected municipal court judge. Francis Conroy, a Catholic, had

Public Policy and Urban Growth o 63

been elected president of the Board of Trade. As a result of these charges,
the campaign became more heated. Bowden's victory with 58 percent of
the vote provided some assurance that religious toleration prevailed. Sub-
sequently Swearingen was appointed Florida's attorney general by the
populist, demagogic, and anti-Catholic governor Sidney J. Catts.54
Mayor Bowden also played an activist role in office. A native of Spar-
tanburg, South Carolina, the fifty-eight-year-old Bowden came to Jack-
sonville as a child after the Civil War. As a young man, he worked as
a clerk in a mercantile business, later shifting his interest to real estate
and politics. He served as mayor of LaVilla before its incorporation into
Jacksonville in 1887 and twice as mayor ofJacksonville, from 1899 to 1901
and from 1915 to 1917. His daughter subsequently described him as "a
firebrand who loved to politic, and enjoyed brass bands, bright lights and
the company of theatrical people." During his second mayoral term after
defeating Swearingen, Bowden took pride in his "liberal" administration,
which encouraged an open city convivial to tourism, industrial develop-
ment, and film production. He argued strongly for the new train station.
He also promised fair play to African-Americans, restraining the police in
the use of their guns and treatment of minorities. He suspended a police
officer pending an investigation following the shooting death of a young
black man. During the recession of 1915, he initiated cutbacks in govern-
ment spending and looked for ways to assist the poor through city-county
cooperation. His main thrust, however, was wooing the film industry to
Jacksonville. His initial success brought substantial publicity to the city,
but eventually it backfired. Critics rejected the excesses of some film stars
as well as the frequency with which Bowden turned the city streets over to
the filmmakers for chases, shootouts, and burnings. Filmmaking became
the issue of the 1917 campaign and Bowden lost.55
The response to the mayoral leadership of Swearingen and Bowden
pointed to a split in the Jacksonville white community. A substantial num-
ber of citizens wanted an open, tolerant city for business and pleasure.
Another group wanted a moral city reflecting traditional Protestant Chris-
tian religious values. These people opposed not only prostitution but also
gambling and the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages. They sup-
ported blue laws closing commercial establishments on the Sabbath. Fur-
ther, many of them saw Catholics and Jews as threatening their traditional
community values. Not all Jacksonvillians fit neatly into either camp. As
views shifted from issue to issue, neither group dominated the commu-
nity. What the two mayoral elections showed was the existence of a swing

64 o

St. Johns River (later Acosta) Bridge, completed in 1921. Courtesy of Wayne W.

group of voters shifting first in one direction and then another, generally
avoiding extreme positions on either side.

o Of all the public policies shaping the growth and character of Jackson-
ville before and after the turn of the century, local officials believed the
actions of the United States Congress to deepen the St. Johns River chan-
nel were the most important. From the city's beginning, the river served
as the primary avenue of transportation and commerce. Yet in the early
years, ships crossing the bar at the mouth of the St. Johns River had a
clearance of only three to five feet. Frequently they had to wait for high
tide to sail upriver to Jacksonville. After the Civil War the newly formed
Board of Trade petitioned Congress to build jetties at the river's mouth
and cut through the bar. Congress appropriated funds in 1879 and the
Corps of Engineers built the jetties. Yet the shallowness of the river chan-
nel still blocked entry for larger ships and limited Jacksonville commerce
to coastal trade. In the early 1890s the Board of Trade persuaded the
Duval County Commission to authorize $300,000 in bonds to dredge an
eighteen-foot channel. That depth was still not sufficient, and the board
petitioned once again in 1896 and secured congressional legislation in
1902 to dredge the channel to twenty-four feet.56
This project, completed by the Corps in 1907 at a cost of $2.1 million,
marked a major breakthrough for Jacksonville shipping. It increased the

Public Policy and Urban Growth o 65

volume and value of trade almost fourfold. The twenty-four-foot chan-
nel enabled the Cummer Lumber Company to build facilities to ship
phosphates to Germany and England. It also attracted European ships to
call at Jacksonville. Yet despite the improvement, larger European ships
with their twenty-seven-foot drafts still had problems. They could load
only partially at Jacksonville and then had to move on to other ports. Or
they had to partially unload first at Charleston or Savannah before sail-
ing on to Jacksonville. Colonel George Stallings, chief of the local Corps
of Engineers, recommended a thirty-foot channel. Florida, he concluded,
produced more naval stores than any other state, but could ship only lim-
ited amounts from Jacksonville because the channel was still too shallow.
Again the Board of Trade lobbied Congress. Both Florida senators sup-
ported the petition. The Corps surveyed the river from its mouth to the
city and passed its recommendations to the War Department and Con-
gress. In 1910 Congress approved the thirty-foot channel."
Funding for the deeper channel came in annual appropriations of
$300,000 to $500,000. In early 1912 a delegation from the House Rivers
and Harbors Committee came to Jacksonville to inspect the project. They
discovered the entire city waterfront under private ownership and warned
local officials to build municipal docks if they wanted further appropria-
tions. More formally, the Corps put Jacksonville on notice that no more
funds would be recommended for the harbor until the city agreed to oper-
ate its own docks, warehouses, and terminals to ensure that the state and
public at large benefited from the federal appropriations.58
The Board of Trade responded quickly to this ultimatum by petition-
ing Governor Arthur Gilchrist and Florida legislators for a special session
to authorize the city to bond and build a municipal facility. Tampa and
Pensacola already had municipal terminals. The legislature responded by
providing authorization. Following a publicity campaign developed by the
Board of Trade and the media, Jacksonville voters endorsed the $1.5 mil-
lion bond issue in January 1913. Construction followed, after selection
of a board of port commissioners and a site out Talleyrand Avenue. The
docks, the forerunner of the Jacksonville Port Authority, opened for ship-
ping in 1915.59
Congressional determination that Jacksonville should have municipal
docks clearly benefited the city's economy. It also pushed the city in a
direction it had not intended to go, for local officials apparently had been
satisfied with the railroads' near monopoly of the waterfront.
In addition to dredging the deep river channel and forcing Jackson-
ville to build municipal docks, the federal government maintained general

66 o

oversight of the St. Johns River. It required changes along the waterfront
following the 1901 fire to have Corps of Engineers approval. When St.
Elmo Acosta proposed a vehicular bridge across the river prior to World
War I, the Corps determined its site just east of the Florida East Coast
Railroad bridge.
Because of the river and the Corps of Engineers' responsibility for it,
the federal government played a major role in shaping the commercial de-
velopment and character ofJacksonville. Its intervention previewed an in-
creasingly broad range of federal policies affecting Jacksonville and other
American cities during the two world wars and after.

o The policies shaping the growth and development ofJacksonville from
the fire to World War I came from both the private and public sectors.
Local, state, and federal governments played important roles. Their im-
pact, however, was uneven. On the one hand, they expanded areas of racial
discrimination and virtually disfranchised black voters. On the other hand,
they provided for improved black health care and education. State gov-
ernment made local government more accountable through an elected city
commission. Gradually, too, the state also partially loosened its control
over the city, allowing it to assert its authority to regulate local transporta-
tion, dairies, restaurants, food markets, and entertainment. Local govern-
ments, in turn, improved community health conditions and the schools.
Mortality rates for both blacks and whites declined, and for the first time
substantial numbers of Jacksonville residents extended their education
beyond the eighth grade to high school. On the federal level, decisions
to dredge the St. Johns River channel stimulated economic development.
Federal policies also forced the city to establish some control over its port.
As a result of public policy decisions, Jacksonville became more affluent,
segregated, healthy, and regulated: all characteristics of New South cities
and twentieth-century urban America.

Public Policy and Urban Growth o 67

00 F O U R :

The Private Sector

and Urban Growth

As early as 1835, our most perceptive foreign observer, Alexis de Tocque-
ville, described the role of voluntary associations in American life:

Americans of all ages, all stations in life, and all types of disposition
are forever forming associations. There are not only commercial
and industrial associations in which all take part, but others of a
thousand different types-religious, moral, serious, futile, very gen-
eral and very limited, immensely large and very minute. Americans
combine to give fetes, found seminaries, build churches, distribute
books, and send missionaries to the antipodes. Hospitals, prisons,
and schools take their shape in the same way. Finally, if they want
to proclaim a truth or propagate some feeling by the encouragement
of a great example, they form an association. In every case, at the
head of any new undertaking, where in France you would find the
government or in England some territorial magnate, in the United
States you are sure to find an association.'

Jacksonville was no different. Residents volunteered their time and tal-
ents to a variety of community associations serving a wide range of inter-
ests. A few groups stood out in their contributions to shaping the character
of this New South city. Among them were the Board of Trade/Chamber

of Commerce, the Jacksonville Woman's Club, and the churches of the
African-American community.
Formed in 1884, the Board of Trade became Jacksonville's premier
business and civic organization. It comprised the leading white business
and professional men of the city. Its goals included not only fostering
trade, transportation, and manufacturing, but also collecting commercial
statistics, resolving local business disputes, encouraging favorable local,
state, and federal legislation, promoting business integrity, improving
river navigation, and generally striving "with united effort to increase the
wealth, industries, influence, trade and population of the City ofJackson-
ville and its suburbs." It also welcomed enterprising members from all
sections of the country and all political persuasions.2
A more subtle goal was expressed by founding father and leading
Jacksonville attorney, Colonel James Jacqueline Daniel. He welcomed the
"men of force and energy" who were migrating to the city. They were
"active and aggressive" entrepreneurs reflecting the "intense individual-
ism" of Gilded Age business competition. Their rivalry, however, could
work simply for their individual profits without regard for the city's wel-
fare, or their efforts could be harnessed to advance theirs and the city's
interest. Daniel saw the Board of Trade shaping "the active and enter-
prising individual factors to an effective and harmonious union," which
advanced both personal interests and the prosperity of Jacksonville. In
effect, the Board of Trade aspired to direct the economic development of
Its achievements prior to the fire were substantial. It successfully
lobbied for reduced transportation rates, improved mail service, paved
streets, a state railroad commission, and the establishment of a direct
steamship line to New York. It protested increased insurance rates locally
and, in 1891, prevented the abolition of the state board of health. Earlier
it had drafted the 1887 municipal charter to expand the city's boundaries
to include LaVilla, Fairfield, and East Jacksonville; opposed suspension
of democratic government by the legislature in 1889; and then prepared
the new charter passed in 1893, which included the introduction of the
secret ballot, then considered a substantial voting reform. Most important
for the city's development were the board's efforts to deepen the channel
of the St. Johns River. First the board persuaded the state legislature to
authorize Duval County to bond itself for the work, then it secured the ap-
proval of the county commission, and finally it obtained the support of the
voters in an 1891 referendum. When the work to deepen the channel to
eighteen feet was completed two years later, the board already had begun

The Private Sector and Urban Growth o 69

lobbying Congress for a deeper, twenty-four-foot channel. A state offi-
cial observing the board's efforts called it "the most influential unofficial
organization in the State of Florida."4
With this record, it is not surprising that board president Charles E.
Garner called an emergency mass meeting of the community the day after
the fire, and that Mayor Bowden and his city council members chose to
join with the board's efforts, rather than vice versa. Board members di-
rected the formation of the Jacksonville Relief Association with Garner at
the helm. The rebuilding of Jacksonville owed much to their tradition of
cooperative effort. Three years after the fire Richard H. Edmonds, editor
of the regionally influential Manufacturers'Record, published in Baltimore,
wrote of the spirit of Jacksonville so amply illustrated by the Board of
Trade. It was alive, energetic, "always doing things for the advancement
of the city."5

Nowhere in the country have I heard more optimistic talk nor seen
greater evidence of rapidly increasing prosperity than in Jackson-
ville.... The business men are alert and energetic.... [There] is a
spirit of hustle and "go" which is doing things here, and which did
things after the fire.... The whole place reminds one very strongly
of the energy and the spirit of cooperation which, away back in the
early eighties, gave Atlanta such a start that it has never since had
time to slack up.6

The achievements of the board owed much to the eight-term presi-
dency (1899-1907) of Captain Charles E. Garner. Born in Indiana, Gar-
ner moved to Jacksonville in 1881 at the age of twenty-eight. He worked
first on the river as a steamboat captain, then he entered business in the
city and later became a bank president. Information about his personal life
is limited, but he worked hard, held the esteem of his board colleagues,
advanced his own business career, and made a genuine contribution to the
city. Under his leadership, the board successfully mediated strikes and
the rail congestion that tied up the port in 1906-7. It supported bond-
ing to the city's legal limit for more paved streets, water mains, sewers,
bulkheads on the river, fire protection, and the construction of a city-
county hospital. The board endorsed the building of the first paved road
from South Jacksonville to the beaches, and when county officials could
not agree on a route, Garner and two other civic leaders were asked to
map the way. His board also oversaw the substantial economic growth in
shipbuilding, fertilizer manufacturing, phosphate exports, railroad main-

70 n

Charles E. Garner, presi-
dent of the Board of Trade,
1899-1907. Courtesy of the
Haydon Burns Library.

tenance, and port expansion, which was stalled only temporarily by the
recession of 1907.7
Throughout his terms as president, Garner never tried to take exclu-
sive credit for the board's efforts in community development. Rather he
believed "that no body of men .. has worked harder, more unitedly, or
with greater enthusiasm toward not only upbuilding the city, but of the
entire state, than has the Jacksonville Board of Trade."8
Following the election of Francis B. Conroy as president in 1911, the
board expanded its efforts in a new direction. Conroy, from Chicago, had
come to Jacksonville for Armour and Company, and subsequently became
a partner in a local meat packing firm. He saw economic development
as part of a larger goal of civic progress. In addition to past support for
better roads, a deeper river channel, and new business development, he
urged board support to raise funds for a new St. Luke's Hospital; pass a
state constitutional amendment to authorize bonding for new schools; and
secure local public health measures to incinerate garbage, extend sewers,
and pasteurize milk. Conroy particularly felt Jacksonville's schools were
"appalling" and urged the elimination of "dilapidated, unsanitary and un-
satisfactory buildings" by issuing bonds for new construction.9

The Private Sector and Urban Growth n 71

Jacksonville Board of Trade. Courtesy of the Haydon Burns Library.

Under Conroy's successor, George L. Drew, son of a former governor
and owner of a local lumber firm, the board responded to federal pres-
sures for municipally owned docks by persuading Florida's governor to
call a special session of the state legislature. When the governor stalled,
the board offered to pay for the cost of the session. It next lobbied every
state legislator to secure passage of authorization for a bond referendum
and then campaigned successfully for the vote. Construction of the public
docks was a prerequisite for Congress to release $500,000 to begin deep-
ening the river channel to thirty feet, an issue the board also lobbied along
with Florida's two senators (both board members) in Washington. The
board encouraged the federation of the community's numerous neighbor-
hood associations into a Central Civic Committee to lobby for civic im-
provements with the board's support and backed the first public relations
film about the city, entitled A Gay Time in Jacksonville.'0
In 1913 the board appointed a city planning committee chaired by
architect Henry Klutho to draw up sketches for a civic center to include
the City Hall, courthouse, armory, and post office as a first step toward a
citywide plan. Civic centers clustering public buildings had been planned
or built in Cleveland, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. The board sup-
ported Jacksonville's becoming the motion picture capital of the East

72 n

Coast; endorsed building the new railroad station; and began the forma-
tion of a state Chamber of Commerce. The board further recommended
construction of the first automobile bridge across the St. Johns River,
but only after a bitter dispute over its location. Port and railroad interests
feared the bridge might disrupt shipping. When bridge advocates threat-
ened to secede if the board refused its support, the board endorsed the
project with the strong proviso that the bridge not "unduly interfere" with
the city's commerce."
On the eve of the depression of 1914, the board renamed itself the
Chamber of Commerce and published a book for national distribution
about Jacksonville's great progress since the fire. The city's achievements
were notable, and the board/chamber had played a major role not only in
the economic development of the port, railroads, banking, insurance, new
industry and commerce but also in support of public education, improved
health conditions, park development, and community involvement. These
business and professional men had combined their individual entrepre-
neurial interests with the larger goal of civic betterment to benefit, albeit
unevenly, almost the entire community with jobs, homes, schools, shops,
and recreational facilities.12
The depression of 1914-16, however, undercut Jacksonville's pros-
perity, and the effectiveness and unity of the chamber. Its annual reports
referred to 1914 "as one of the most trying" years in memory, and "the
year 1915 .. [as] one in which our City has felt to a considerable degree
the general depression caused by the European War." Exports in cotton,
naval stores, lumber, and phosphates practically ceased."3
Evidence about the impact of the depression on the chamber's role
as "the powerhouse" of Jacksonville comes in bits and pieces. Member-
ship, which had increased over the preceding decade from about 400 to
1,150 in 1913, dropped 25 percent the following year with resulting finan-
cial pressures for the organization. No membership figures were listed
for 1915. Chamber members, hard-pressed in their own businesses, had
little extra time for community effort. Criticism of the chamber surfaced
at a "self evaluation" banquet in February 1915. Mayor Bowden noted
that, simply because of hard times, the chamber should not slow down.
Chamber president Charles H. Mann, president of the Citizens' Bank of
Jacksonville, saw the need for recruiting younger businessmen. Cham-
ber secretary and treasurer George Leonard saw problems in trying to
"loosen up the pocketbooks of many of the wealthier citizens." Apparently
they had become more cautious in their support of public concerns. One
board member complained that issues handed to committees too often

The Private Sector and Urban Growth n 73

died there. There was also talk that cutbacks in the chamber's role of
publicizing Jacksonville nationally had hurt the city's image.14
Other factors also played a role in the chamber's decline. The gen-
eration of board/chamber leaders dating from the 1880s and 1890s had
grown older. William B. Barnett, the city's premier banker, died in 1903.
Wellington Cummer, the largest manufacturer in Duval County with his
lumber mill and phosphate plant, and a strong supporter of board efforts,
died in 1909. Florida East Coast Railroad presidentJ. R. Parrott died in
1913. Captain Garner and board governor T. V. Porter followed in 1915.
A new generation of chamber leaders had to take charge.
Another factor was the increasing specialization of work in early
twentieth-century Jacksonville, as in other cities of the New South and
nation. New business and professional associations, such as the Real
Estate Board, Wholesale Grocers Association, and Advertising Federa-
tion, did not necessarily challenge the supremacy of the chamber, but they
certainly pulled business and community energies in different directions.
Following the self-evaluation ofJuly 1915, chamber president Mann rec-
ommended the formation of a federation linking the many associations in
the city. That August twenty-nine white groups, ranging from the Chil-
dren's Home Society, Rotary, and Central Labor Council, to the bar asso-
ciation, medical society, taxpayers league, and port commission, formed
an advisory council to work with the chamber on nonpartisan issues of
public interest.15
Meanwhile, within the chamber, the Board of Governors planned a new
membership campaign. Francis Conroy organized and launched it with a
big rally in early April 1916. Chamber members were challenged to think
about the spirit of the city, that spirit of cooperation, pride, and enthusi-
asm which makes a city great. On Sunday, April 8, clergy from Baptist,
Methodist, and Presbyterian churches preached sermons on the responsi-
bilities of citizenship and the "renewal of community conscience." After-
ward, some 250 members set out to recruit every business and professional
man in the community. By the end of the month, 1,516 new members had
signed up. The slump had ended. New energies could be,harnessed at
the chamber to act for the city's interests as war clouds hovered on the
Many observers of the New South rightly saw boards of trade and
chambers of commerce as engines for economic development. They also
welcomed northern capitalists and upheld white supremacy. Beyond that,
Jacksonville's board/chamber worked for urban progress by supporting

74 c

Ninah May Holder Cum-
SI d mer, clubwoman, civic
.. activist, and philanthropist.
S Reprinted from Daniel
Pleasant Gold, History of
Duval County, Florida (St.
Augustine: The Record,
t 1928), 458.

better schools, public health, neighborhood parks, and community in-
volvement. Thus it was more than just concerned with the business com-
munity's narrower goals of growth and profitability. Instead, it attempted
to balance, in Colonel Daniel's words, individual interests with the com-
munity's welfare. By the standards of the late twentieth century, Jackson-
ville's board/chamber expressed elitist, sexist, and racist values. But in
the context of cities across the United States in those years, these atti-
tudes were not unique. Of significance was the energy expended success-
fully moving the city into the modern age.
In 1911 a Florida Times-Union editorial asked:

The Private Sector and Urban Growth n 75

What organization does the most to make this city what it should
be? We are not asking now, what does the most to increase its size,
its business, its worth. To this the answer would unquestionably be
the Board of Trade. But what organization does the most to shape
the character of the city-morally, educationally, aesthetically? Un-
questionably the Woman's Club; and since character is more im-
portant than size we must rate the Woman's Club first among orga-
nizations in Jacksonville.17

In January 1897 about forty women met in the parlors of the Wind-
sor Hotel downtown to organize a Woman's Club. Their efforts reflected
steps taken by middle- and upper-class white women in towns and cities
across the country in the 1880s and 1890s. In part these women were
the beneficiaries of their growing numbers and the prosperity of urban
life where maids, housekeepers, and nurses relieved them of much of the
household work. They also had smaller families, better health care, ready-
made clothes, and canned food, resulting in more time to become engaged
in other activities. Initially, churches had provided an outlet for female
energies, supporting both home and foreign missionary societies. Meth-
odists particularly were active in starting schools and hospitals for poor
people, both black and white. An Atlanta Methodist woman became the
first person to organize a settlement house in the nation, four years before
Jane Addams's Hull House opened in Chicago. From church-related ac-
tivities, New South women, like their northern counterparts, joined the
fight against the excesses of strong drink, first through supporting temper-
ance and later through the advocacy of abstinence and prohibition in the
Women's Christian Temperance Union. The clubs came next. Women
frequently were denied access to advanced education and initially came
together in the clubs to read and discuss books. In the process, they began
to build social networks and then to broaden their horizons in concern
for the education, health, and welfare of their communities. As historian
Anne Firor Scott has written, "from literary subjects the women moved
rather quickly to social concerns."18
In Jacksonville the club organizers followed in the footsteps of the
women who had founded St. Luke's Hospital in 1873, the Jacksonville
Library Association in 1877, and the Ladies' Friday Musicale two de-
cades later. From its beginning the Woman's Club had a literary focus, a
social orientation, and philanthropic concerns. In its first year the women
established reading and study groups, heard visiting speakers, hosted a re-
ception and banquet at the Windsor Hotel, and employed a visiting nurse

76 n

to attend indigent patients. The club grew rapidly, attracting the few busi-
ness and professional women of the city as well as the wives and daughters
of Jacksonville's business and professional men. It also affiliated with the
Florida Federation of Women's Clubs and the national General Federa-
tion of Women's Clubs. Over the succeeding years while the literary and
social aspects continued, the philanthropic efforts of the Woman's Club
grew rapidly. Their concerns included the public schools of the commu-
nity, health care, child welfare, women's issues, and the poor.19
Initially, the main concern was educational. The club women brought
Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry to Jacksonville in 1900. Georgia-born,
Harvard-trained, a disciple of Horace Mann, the nation's leading ante-
bellum advocate of universal education, Curry also was a Civil War vet-
eran, Baptist minister, lawyer, professor, and college president. He went
to Jacksonville as the general agent of the Peabody Education Fund for
improving southern education and chairman of the Committee on Edu-
cation of the Slater Fund for Negro education. Curry crusaded for public
education as "the cornerstone" of the New South, "a universal right,"
and "the fundamental basis of general and permanent prosperity." His
severe criticism ofJacksonville's public schools helped the Woman's Club
to prioritize education on their agenda of concerns.20
Their approach to school reform took several directions. First was
greater public funding. Having kept the schools open with an emergency
$1,000 gift in 1900, the club women realized private funding was not a per-
manent solution. They successfully lobbied the state legislature in 1903 to
raise the constitutional limits for spending on public education from five
to seven mils. Later they initiated legislative efforts to authorize bonding
to build new schools.21
A second approach anticipated the creation of Parent-Teachers Asso-
ciations. In 1903 Ada Cummer, wife of Jacksonville's largest manufac-
turer, and her daughter-in-law, Nina, formed the first Mother's Club in
Jacksonville. Its purpose was to involve mothers in their children's school-
ing through monthly meetings with their teachers. A by-product sought
to foster general interest in the local schools and encourage their physi-
cal maintenance and well-being. Each school eventually had its Mother's
A third direction lay in the formation of the Jacksonville Kindergarten
Association for free kindergartens, especially for poor children. Again
Ada Cummer along with the mayor's wife, Anna Louise Fletcher, played
major roles.23
Following the resignation of the county school superintendent in 1905,

The Private Sector and Urban Growth n 77

May Mann Jennings, club-
woman, conservationist,
feminist, and civic activist.
Courtesy of the Florida State

the club women launched a campaign to appoint a woman superintendent.
They believed Mattie Rutherford, principal of Jacksonville Elementary
School, was eminently qualified, and petitioned Governor Broward to that
effect. Opponents claimed that women were not eligible for the position,
and the governor appointed an old friend recommended by his political
A major expansion of the club's activities came in 1906 with the for-
mation of the Social Science Class. Meeting biweekly from September
through May, it studied civil service reform, child labor, compulsory edu-
cation, pure food, juvenile courts, and public kindergartens for all schools.
A key figure in this development was May Mann Jennings, wife of Gover-
nor William Sherman Jennings (1901-5), who moved to Jacksonville after
her husband's term of office.
Biographer Linda Vance called May Jennings "Florida's most impres-

78 n

sive and successful female citizen matched by few other figures in
Florida history, male or female." She lived for ninety-one years, spend-
ing sixty of them in public life. Most remembered as an environmentalist
(then called a conservationist) and for saving the Everglades, she worked
through the women's clubs and Florida Federation to lobby city council,
state legislature and Congress for reforms that included education, pub-
lic health, prisons, child labor, juvenile courts, prohibition, and woman's
Personally, May Jennings resembled her father, Austin Mann, a rest-
less, successful businessman who moved to Florida from New Jersey in
1873, attracted by the state's tropical beauty and the chance to invest in
citrus groves. The family settled in remote Crystal River of Hernando
County where Mann grew oranges, practiced law, published a newspaper,
and entered state politics as a liberal. The daughter inherited her father's
restlessness, vitality, optimism, and love of politics. She also developed
an appreciation of her rural, natural environment. May attended con-
vent school in St. Augustine after her mother died. She was an excellent
student, self-motivated, articulate, and inquisitive. Upon graduation, she
helped her father in his political career, where she met and married attor-
ney William Sherman Jennings. From Illinois, Jennings was a cousin of
the popular three-time presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan.
The latter's personal support combined with effective politicking by both
husband and wife led to Jennings's nomination and election as governor
of Florida in 1900.26
Following the governor's term in Tallahassee, the family moved to
Jacksonville. MayJennings joined with the Cummer women, Lina Barnett
(wife of Bion H., son of the founder of Barnett Bank who died in 1903),
Annie Broward (the governor's wife), Jessie Atkinson Ball (the Florida
Times-Union editor and publisher's wife), and others to awaken this New
South city to concerns beyond economic growth and development. Their
efforts included community education as they welcomed Florence Kelley
of the National Consumers League, New York journalist Jacob Riis (pre-
senting a speech entitled "The Battle of the Slums"), J. Horace McFar-
land of the American Civic Association, Owen Lovejoy of the National
Child Labor Committee, Jane Addams of Hull House, suffragist Anna
Shaw, as well as state and local officials and experts to speak in public
lectures on issues of public concern. The women organized classes with
recommended reading lists for the approximately 280 members of the club
examining the juvenile court system, child labor conditions, "the city and
its problems," municipal ownership, public health, public schools, city

The Private Sector and Urban Growth n 79

The Woman's Club of Jacksonville. Courtesy of Wayne W. Wood.

jails, and public charities. Over the succeeding several years, the Social
Science Class became virtually the steering committee for the Woman's
Club's community activities.27
An early concern was tuberculosis, the number one killer of the era.
Jacksonville and Florida lacked any sanitaria or medical provisions to com-
bat the dread disease. The Woman's Club initiated a tuberculosis exhibit
to help educate the community; helped finance and organize a tuberculosis
camp to isolate and provide medical assistance for a handful of white men;
lobbied the City Council successfully for a contagious disease wing at the
new St. Luke's Hospital; and lobbied the state legislature unsuccessfully
for a state sanitarium. While the camp had funds to accommodate only a
few white males, many of whom recovered and returned to work, the club
women saw its value as a continuing reminder for greater state action.28
The women built a club house in 1904 on East Duval Street downtown
and welcomed charitable groups in the city to use its meeting facilities. In-
formally, then actively, they encouraged cooperation and communication
between the groups and in 1910 initiated the creation of Associated Chari-
ties. This new organization reflected the drive for efficiency and organiza-
tion in the Progressive Era. It sought to eliminate waste, duplication, and
"indiscriminate giving," in part to make limited resources stretch further

80 o

and in part to prevent fraudulent applications or the giving of excessive
The association also reflected the latest "methods and ideals of mod-
ern philanthropy." Consultants from the Russell Sage Foundation visited
Jacksonville to help in its organization. The association trained social
workers to investigate and work with recipients, in some cases to enable
a person to return to self-dependence. It encouraged children to stay in
school, found jobs for employable people, removed children from un-
savory homes, and prosecuted delinquent husbands. It recognized the
variety of causes for individual problems that reflected at times human
weakness, bad local conditions, or a disruptive environment. While the
emphasis was on helping white residents in trouble, Associated Chari-
ties did hire Eartha M. M. White, a local black schoolteacher, to provide
limited assistance to the African-American community. Waldo Cummer,
a son of the prominent business and civic family, served as one of the
association's first presidents. Support came from a range of business and
professional men and women as well as their spouses. An advisory com-
mittee brought together representatives from women's clubs as well as the
major white Protestant denominations, Catholics, Unitarians, and Jews.
In his first annual report, Association General Secretary V. R. Manning
wrote, "The Woman's Club blazed the trail in this social advance."30
Following a visit from the president of the General Federation of
Women's Clubs in 1910, Jacksonville's club women reorganized their
committee structure into departments for greater effect. They expanded
their art, music, literature, and household economics departments as well
as the departments devoted to various aspects of social work. For example,
the Civics Department initiated the formation of a city Playground Com-
mission composed of citizens from several municipal, civic, and philan-
thropic organizations. It also persuaded the city council to hire supervisors
and equip two parks with playground apparatus.
A Conservation Department reflected increasing environmental con-
cerns on the part of the club women. Their letters supporting a cross-
Florida canal as part of the development of inland waterways may seem
mistaken by late twentieth-century standards, but not then. The women
also encouraged the observance of Arbor Day in the schools with appro-
priate tree-planting ceremonies. Subsequent efforts led to an emphasis on
bird preservation, cooperation with the Florida Audubon Society, support
for the creation of Florida's first state park in the Everglades, and lobbying
for the appointment of a state forester.31

The Private Sector and Urban Growth o 81

The Education Department worked for closer parent-teacher-school
board cooperation as well as for physical improvements in the public
schools. Later it worked closely with the Board of Trade, lobbying ag-
gressively for a state constitutional amendment to authorize bonding for
school construction. Afterward, they rallied voters to secure passage of a
million-dollar bond referendum.
The Industrial and Social Conditions Department raised public con-
sciousness in support of passing juvenile court and child labor bills, while
the Legislative Department lobbied directly, and encouraged club mem-
bers to write their representatives. While the child labor bill failed to pass
its first two times, the club women did succeed in achieving the creation
of a juvenile court system, increased appropriations for the state reform
school, prohibition of local horse racing and gambling, and public school
funding. They also encouraged letters to Congress on behalf of the Gen-
eral Federation's agenda.
Finally, the Public Health Department sold Christmas seals to raise
money for the tuberculosis camp, employed a visiting nurse in coopera-
tion with Associated Charities, and supported city efforts for pure milk,
the banishment of flies from bakeries and restaurants, and the elimina-
tion of common drinking cups in stores. This department also sponsored
educational programs on public health as well as the annual meeting of
Associated Charities, graduation exercises for the nurses' training class at
St. Luke's Hospital, and the organizational meeting to establish a YWCA
in Jacksonville. In subsequent years it also helped in the formation of the
Travelers' Aid Society, the Society for the Prevention of Infant Mortality
as well as civic and women's clubs in Springfield and South Jacksonville.
Setting the agenda for the community efforts of the club was the Social
Science class formed in 1906. It met biweekly, invited speakers to raise
social issues, and provided the catalyst for community action.32
With the coming of motion pictures to Jacksonville, the club women
voiced concern about their content, particularly for children. In 1912 the
Legislative Department, reflecting the Sabbatarian proclivities of its white
middle-class membership, persuaded the mayor and city council to pass
an ordinance closing all theaters, vaudeville shows, and movies on Sun-
days. A court injunction blocked its enforcement pending judicial review,
and subsequently theaters were closed only from 6:30 to 8:30 P.M. on
Sunday so as not to compete with evening church services. Through its
actions, the Civics Department became the unofficial censor for motion
pictures in Jacksonville.33
For the biennial legislative session of 1913, the club women returned

82 n

to the issue of child labor. They began by hosting the annual meeting of
the National Child Labor Committee in Jacksonville to publicize the bill.
They arranged public meetings throughout the community, and Maymie
Corbett (wife of Prudential Insurance Company manager Walter Cor-
bett) even arranged to have sermons preached on the subject in "all the
churches of the city." Once the child labor law was passed, the Indus-
trial and Social Conditions Department provided volunteers to help state
officials enforce the law by reporting violations.34
In a less publicized manner, the club women undertook to make em-
ployment more bearable, particularly for working women. Early in the
century, they opened the second floor of their clubhouse for downtown
working women to lunch, sit down, and rest before returning to their jobs.
They encouraged employers to provide stools for sales girls in their shops,
and checked to see whether they paid their clerks extra for night work
during the Christmas holidays. They also began providing hot lunches for
high school children who lived too far to return home for their midday
meal, and hot suppers for night school students.35
In February 1909 the club women became aware of the inadequacies of
the Duval County jail, popularly known as Raspberry Park. May Jennings
led a delegation of club women and city council members to the facility.
The jail consisted of two rooms: one forty by five feet in size housing sixty-
seven black men, the other, twenty by five feet, with seventeen white men.
According to their report, "Neither cell had cots, windows or plumbing.
Inmates slept on the stone floor, winter and summer, surviving on bread
and water once a day and corned beef on Sunday. The city's health offi-
cer had never visited the place." The women were outraged and Jennings
successfully urged the city council to appropriate $967 to add plumbing,
larger cells, and windows. Still not satisfied, the women eventually per-
suaded the council to condemn the building and construct a county prison
farm north of the city.36
By the middle of the second decade after the fire, the Woman's Club
had reached a plateau. Still numbering between 280 and 290 women, it
lost some members to death and other departures, while gaining new-
comers. Their range of existing responsibilities seemed almost too numer-
ous to allow for new ventures. Thus their education committee, instead
of initiating new proposals, supported the work of Fons A. Hathaway,
the progressive superintendent of schools. The public health committee
worked closely with Dr. Charles Terry and his successors at City Hall. The
legislative and civics committees cooperated with initiatives by the Board
of Trade and other organizations including the YWCA, Red Cross, Chil-

The Private Sector and Urban Growth n 83

dren's Home Society, St. Luke's Hospital, Boy's Home, Seaman's Mis-
sion, Federation of Mothers' Clubs, Infant Welfare Association, Spring-
field Improvement Association, and State Anti-Tuberculosis Association.
Many of these groups the club women had helped form and support
with financial contributions. They also funded scholarships to the State
Woman's College in Tallahassee and helped organize relief for Syrian war
refugees coming to join Jacksonville's growing Middle Eastern, primarily
Lebanese, community. They lobbied for a woman's building at the county
prison farm, slaughterhouse legislation from the city council, a children's
program at the movie theaters, Royal Palm State Park in the legislature,
and the federal Keating-Owen Child Labor bill through their local con-
gressman and senators. Particularly noteworthy in the second decade were
May Jennings's efforts to work with Eartha White and the black Federa-
tion of Women's Clubs on issues of mutual concern. Finally, the club
women participated in the growing feminist movement of the Progressive
Era where women assumed increasing responsibility for their own lives,
along with the moral obligation of service to their communities.37
The depression slowed the growth and development of the Woman's
Club in 1914-15. The proliferation of other community service orga-
nizations doubtless took away potential members and support from the
community. After the formation of the Springfield Improvement Asso-
ciation (later the Springfield Woman's Club) in the suburb where May
Jennings lived, she increasingly divided her time among it, the Woman's
Club, and the Florida Federation. Annie Broward had to budget her time
among managing the Jacksonville Towing and Wrecking Company, her
late husband's business, the Woman's Club, YWCA, and serving as the
first woman appointed to the Duval County School Board. When the war
came to the United States in 1917, the club women put many projects on
hold, such as the plan for a dental clinic for children, in order to support
the war effort.38
Still, by almost any standard of measurement, the club women in
Jacksonville accomplished a great deal between the fire and World War I.
In almost every area of social concern, other than race relations, the club
provided leaders and workers, persuading male-dominated organizations
to respond to their agendas. Francis P. Conroy of the Board of Trade
voiced the enlightened male view when introducing Horace McFarland of
the America Civic Association: "I cannot speak too highly of the position
taken by the Woman's Club of this city in the matter of civic improvement.
They have always been leaders in anything looking to the betterment of
our streets, parks and public buildings...." He could have added schools,

84 o

health care, the environment, and any community institution that worked
to improve the quality of life in the city. In effect, as women's clubs across
the region and nation contributed to the quality of urban development
during these years, Jacksonville's white middle-class women also played a
substantial and often leading role in the development ofJacksonville as a
New South city.39

o For African-Americans in Jacksonville, the shape of their New South
city came largely from the ideas and practices of Booker T. Washington.
Born a slave in Virginia, and encouraged by northern whites in his edu-
cation before, during, and after attending Hampton Institute, a school
for blacks established in eastern Virginia after the Civil War, Washing-
ton internalized the values of hard work, sobriety, thrift, and self-help in
the New South creed. In founding Alabama's Tuskegee Institute he, as
much asJ. L. M. Curry, saw education as the means to economic advance-
ment. Washington also hoped that economic advancement for African-
Americans would mean acceptance by white Americans. Here he achieved
success only within the framework of the white supremacy doctrines of
the region. Personally he was welcomed and praised by white and black
Floridians when he toured the state in 1912. And within limits, individual
Jacksonville blacks, such as Joseph E. Lee and James Weldon Johnson, re-
ceived personal recognition when admitted to the Florida bar. But these
achievements did not prevent disfranchisement, Jim Crow laws, and even
lynchings when white southerners saw fit. As a result, building a New
South for blacks meant working within the confines of a city and state
in which opportunities were limited by both custom and law. Yet within
these confines, Jacksonville's black community made substantial progress
through the work of both individuals and associations.4
The most influential black voluntary association in Jacksonville, as
in other minority communities across the nation, was the church. In
1900 twenty-five Baptist, one Presbyterian, and twenty-three Method-
ist churches served black Jacksonville. Many of these churches were tiny,
with just a handful of members, but a few, like Bethel Baptist Institutional
Church, Mt. Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church, and Ebeneezer
Methodist Episcopal Church, played major roles in the city's growth and
Bethel Baptist was the largest, oldest, and wealthiest black church in
Jacksonville. Its origins dated from before the Civil War when four whites
with their two slaves founded it. After the war, in a practice common in
many biracial congregations across the South where black members com-

The Private Sector and Urban Growth o 85

Bethel Baptist Institutional Church. Courtesy of the Haydon Burns Library.

prised a majority, the whites separated to form their own First Baptist
To the Bethel congregation in 1892 came one of the outstanding min-
isters of the era, the Reverend J. Milton Waldron. Born in 1863, Waldron
had been educated at Lincoln University and Newton Theological Insti-
tute, both in the North. Initially a follower of Booker T. Washington, he
began to build at Bethel a center for African-American achievement. The
church already supported the Florida Baptist Academy, a high school for
blacks, who lacked access to public secondary education in Jacksonville at
that time. In 1894 Waldron incorporated Bethel as the first black institu-
tional church in the South. This expansion of roles, one that urban Prot-

86 n

Rev. J. Milton Waldron,
pastor of Bethel Baptist
Institutional Church, 1892-
1907. Courtesy of the Eartha
White Collection, University
of North Florida.

estant churches in the North were taking to reach out to their surrounding
communities as a part of the Social Gospel, enabled Bethel to provide
social services to the community, industrial training, a Bible institute, and
a tract publishing company.43
Waldron next led the congregation in building a brick facility to house
the new programs and worship services. Members took pride in its con-
struction by "colored mechanics under the direction of colored contrac-
tors." The completed building included a sanctuary seating 1,150 and nine
classrooms. Many saw it as the "most convenient and attractive building
in the city." The fire destroyed this new facility, and Waldron then led the
congregation in rebuilding a church that in the late twentieth century still
stands at 1058 Hogan Street. It is one of the more handsome and distinc-
tive buildings in downtown Jacksonville. This new facility expanded its
services further, adding a kindergarten, young men's club, dining room,
reading room and library, bath and toilet rooms for both men and women,
print shop, and a room for social and indoor sports.44
Meanwhile Waldron undertook new ventures. In January 1901 he
joined with the pastor of Mt. Zion AME Church and six others to form

The Private Sector and Urban Growth o 87

Eartha M. M. White,
teacher, social worker,
businesswoman, clubwoman,
and civic activist. Courtesy
of the Eartha White Collec-
tion, University of North

what became the Afro-American Life Insurance Company to provide
burial benefits for the black community. The company also opened a
savings department through which individuals could deposit ten, fifteen,
or twenty-five cents per week. There were no black banks in Jackson-
ville then.45
In 1905 Waldron welcomed President Theodore Roosevelt to Jackson-
ville at Florida Baptist Academy as part of the President's southern tour.
Six thousand black and white citizens heard the President praise the
school's achievements and exhort his listeners to pursue their education,
be thrifty, own their homes, and raise good families.46
Waldron left Jacksonville in 1907 to assume the pastorate of Shiloh
Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. Whether he left for greater oppor-
tunity or whether the changing, more restrictive social environment of
Jacksonville pushed him out is unknown. Evidence does point, how-
ever, to Waldron becoming more impatient and intolerant of Booker T.
Washington's policies of accommodation with white supremacy. In the
nation's capital, Waldron became a member of the Niagara Movement with
W. E. B. DuBois in 1907 and, two years later, one of the founders of the
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP),
an organization committed to challenging white supremacy.47

88 o

Waldron's departure did not end Bethel's role in Jacksonville. Under
his successor, the Reverend John E. Ford, Bethel continued to serve as
a social, educational, cultural, and political center for the community.
Ford, from Chicago, previously had pastored churches in Los Angeles and
Denver. His Jacksonville tenure lasted from 1907 to 1943. It was during
Ford's ministry that Bethel member Eartha M. M. White made many of
her substantial contributions to the African-American community.48
Eartha White, born in 1876, attended public schools in Jacksonville
and then Florida Baptist Academy. She also studied music and dance
in New York, returning to Jacksonville in 1896. During the Spanish-
American War, White became one of the "colored nurses" caring for
sick soldiers. The following year she obtained a teaching appointment in
a one-room, rural school at Bayard in Duval County. In 1901 she was
transferred to Stanton School in Jacksonville. A follower of Booker T.
Washington, White had joined the National Negro Business League at its
formation in 1900, and probably helped organize the Jacksonville chap-
ter in 1907. White also worked part time for the new Afro-American Life
Insurance Company. Following the fire, she helped with the relief work
for blacks made homeless by the conflagration. She also became involved,
after attending a meeting at Bethel, in revitalizing the Union Benevolent
Association, a group formed in 1875 to provide assistance for poor blacks.
It did not become operative until White, assisted by her mother, solicited
funds to build a Colored Old Folks' Home, which opened in 1902. White
became president of the home and its primary fund raiser.49
From her position as president of the Colored Old Folks' Home, White
helped organize a City Federation of Women's Clubs, which by 1916 com-
prised sixteen groups including the colored YWCA, the Brooklyn Im-
provement Club, the J. H. Blodgett Improvement Club (named after the
prominent black contractor), the Old Folks' Home, and the M. E. Smith
Club (named after its founder and organized in 1896). The federation, like
the (white) Woman's Club of Jacksonville, had departments concerned
with the condition of young women, children, health and hygiene, domes-
tic science, the social sciences, business, suffrage, education, temperance,
juvenile courts, art, music, religion, and literature. It helped establish the
first playground in the black community, improvements for the county jail,
the first social worker in the black community, and two school nurses for
black schools. It also worked with the white women's clubs; participated in
community celebrations, such as Emancipation Day as well as Lincoln's,
Washington's, and Frederick Douglass's birthdays; and became the first
black organization to be admitted as a delegate member of the American

The Private Sector and Urban Growth o 89

Mt. Zion A.M.E. Church. Courtesy of Wayne W. Wood.

Red Cross. Surviving documents in White's papers do not directly say it,
but their presence suggests that White was probably involved in all of these
accomplishments. She also helped organize a State Federation of Colored
Women in 1909. When the Woman's Club sparked the formation of Asso-
ciated Charities in 1910, White became their first black "friendly visitor,"
assisting needy people in the black community. Her efforts as a social
worker, club woman, educator, and church member did not prevent her

90 o

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