America's Swamp: Governor Napoleon Bonaparte Broward
Interest in draining and “reclaiming” land in the Everglades began as early as the 1880s, but major drainage activities were not undertaken until the first two decades of the 20th century. Two Florida Governors, Napoleon Bonaparte Broward and William Sherman Jennings, would serve as the primary designers and spokespersons for the draining of the Everglades. In 1904 Governor Broward famously promised to create an "Empire of the Everglades." Of course, in fulfilling this promise the state would have to destroy the ecological systems by dredging, creating canals, and altering the flow of water in the world’s most famed wetlands.
The papers of Governor Broward and Governor Jennings form the nucleus of the project as they were the primary architects for the drainage and reclamation project. Jennings started the project rolling during his term, drumming up widespread support and resolving a myriad of legal issues, primarily pertaining to land claims made by the Flagler and Plant railroads. However, it was Broward who became the driving force for the project. His popularity, his larger-than-life persona, his attention to the smallest details, and his passion for the project, all combined to make him the perfect man to spearhead the effort. The two Progressive Era southern democrats were friends and political allies, and their common goals and accomplishments are documented extensively in their papers.