The Case of Isabel Gonzalez

Snippet from La Democracia- March 18, 1903
Snippet from La Democracia- March 18, 1903

The political status of Puerto Ricans has been questioned ever since the island was annexed by the United States in the late nineteenth century as a result of the Spanish-American War. Questions regarding the United States citizenship of Puerto Ricans were definitely brought forth during the Supreme Court case Gonzales v. Williams (1904). The case involved Isabel Gonzalez, a twenty-year-old Puerto Rican who decided to leave the island for New York in 1902. Isabel, at the time, was pregnant and planned to reunite with her fiancée who had found a job on the mainland. Isabel also had some relatives residing in New York, including her brother, Luis Gonzalez, and her uncle, Domingo Collazo. Isabel didn’t think any issues would arise from her travels, since it was common for people from the island to travel freely to the United States. However, while on board the S.S Philadelphia, the United States Department of Treasury issued new immigration protocols, ones that would label Isabel as an immigrant alien. Even though Isabel believed herself to be a United States citizen, immigrant officials disallowed her from entering New York. The case was noteworthy and covered extensively by the Puerto Rican press. Newspapers, such as La Correspondencia (1890-1943), worked to question whether Isabel Gonzalez was indeed a United States citizen. Subsequently, her fate came to determine that of the whole Puerto Rican population.

Upon her arrival to the United States, Isabel was detained and transferred to Ellis Island. There, the newly appointed Immigrant Commissioner, William Williams established policies in which individuals traveling with less than ten dollars could be suspect to further investigation. While Isabel did have more than ten dollars on her person, Williams still labeled her with a public charge since she was traveling alone while pregnant. Deemed as “immoral” she was then prevented from entering the mainland until a relative or family member could claim her.

The ordeal turned out to be more complicated as her uncle, Domingo Collazo, and her brother, Luis Gonzalez tried to claim her and convince the officials at Ellis Island that Isabel was not entering the United States for “immoral” reasons. Even with their statements and assurances that they would take care of her, she was not allowed to leave. Thus, Collazo issued a habeas corpus petition for Isabel. The petition was passed through the U.S Circuit Court for the Southern District of New York.

In an issue of La Correspondencia from September 27, 1902, one can find a letter to the Senior Director of the paper from Isabel’s uncle, Domingo Collazo, under the title “Una carta de Nueva York”. A verdict was soon approaching at the circuit court level at the time when the letter was written. Some of the details of the case are related in the letter, such as the names of the judge involved in deciding the verdict, Judge Lacombe, and the lawyers defending Isabel Gonzalez, Charles E. Le Barbier and Orrel A. Parker. Both lawyers were praised by the newspaper as the letter’s subheading exclaims that “Puerto Ricans should give respect and recognition to the American lawyers Charles E. Le Barbier and Parker”.  Collazo, in his letter, mentions how he has had to “spend money from his own earnings” for the defense of his niece Isabel Gonzalez. Nonetheless, he believes that something must be done, even “at the expense of the tranquility and the pockets of those who do not care about the elections of the political parties of the island”. Collazo ends his letter with the quote “they want the cage but reject the birds” which relates to the way he feels the United States has treated Puerto Ricans. They want the territory but reject its inhabitants.

Snippet from La Correspondenica-1902
Snippet from La Correspondencia- September 27, 1902

At the circuit court level, Judge Lacombe concluded that Isabel Gonzalez was an immigrant alien and could therefore not enter the mainland freely. The facts of the verdict were published on the cover of another issue of La Correspondencia on October 18, 1902.

Snippet from La Correspondencia- 1902
Snippet from La Correspondencia- October 18, 1902

The case was then appealed to the Supreme Court and American lawyer, Fredric R. Coudert Jr., and Puerto Rican Resident Commissioner Federico Degetau y Gonzalez got involved in the matter. Coudert Jr. had previously been one of the attorneys in another Supreme Court case, Downes v. Bidwell (1901), a case that argued whether the rights from the United States Constitution applied to United States territories. Degetau at the time was extremely active in Puerto Rican politics and advocated for statehood and United States citizenship for the island and its inhabitants. Hence, both figures adamantly fought for Isabel Gonzalez’s cause, even though each had their own approach towards the issue, a fact that scholar Sam Erman outlines well in his article “Meanings of Citizenship in the U.S Empire: Puerto Rico, Isabel Gonzalez, and the Supreme Court.”

Snippet from La Democracia
Snippet from La Democracia- July 11, 1904

A letter from Degetau to the United States Secretary of Commerce and Labor was published in La Correspondencia on October 8, 1903. The letter’s heading declares “Finally, Sir Degetau publically protests the United States immigration laws applied to Puerto Ricans.” In the letter, Degetau expresses issues surrounding United States immigration laws and that deeming Puerto Ricans as alien immigrants went against the Treaty of Paris (1898), the United States Constitution and other United States laws. For example, Degetau evokes the United States March 3, 1903 Act, an act that discusses the regulations of immigrant aliens that come into the United States.  Section 2 of the Act lists the types of people excluded in the United States, while Section 33 articulates that the words “United States” encompasses not only the country, but also its territories and the waters surrounding it. Therefore, Degetau cannot understand why residents of the island, such as Isabel Gonzalez, would be deemed as immigrant aliens when in fact Puerto Rico is part of the United States.

Snippet from La Correspondencia-
Snippet from La Correspondencia- October 8, 1903

The Puerto Rican population were anxious to know the results of the case. This is evident on the front page of the December 19, 1903 edition of La Correspondenica where one can find a subheading stating “Soon we will know the opinion of the United States Supreme Court in regards to our political status. It is discussed with passion in these moments the case of Isabel Gonzalez, that presents the problem of whether ‘the flag follows the Constitution or not’”. In reality, the results of the case didn’t bring much more clarity to the situation. While the case was positive in the sense that it decided that Isabel Gonzalez, and hence all Puerto Ricans, were not immigrant aliens, it left unclear whether they truly were citizens of the United States.

Snippet from La Correspondencia- 1903
Snippet from La Correspondencia- December 19, 1903

It wasn’t until the Jones Act of 1917, thirteen years after the Isabel Gonzalez case, that Puerto Ricans were officially granted United States citizenship. However, it is important to note that those living on island do not have the same rights as those living in the mainland. One can moreover argue that the political situation in Puerto Rico still remains complicated with many unresolved issues. Therefore, the Isabel Gonzalez Supreme Court case has much relevance today as it is part of a long history of Puerto Ricans and their struggles in attaining their rights.

***Versión en español se encuentra aquí: El caso de Isabel Gonzalez***


Erman, Sam. 2010. Puerto rico and the promise of united states citizenship: Struggles around status in a new empire, 1898-1917. Doctor of Philosophy. University of Michigan.

Erman, Sam. 2008. Meanings of citizenship in the U.S. empire: Puerto rico, isabel gonzalez, and the supreme court, 1898 to 1905. Journal of American Ethnic History(4): 5,

Smith, Rogers M. 2017. The unresolved constitutional issues of puerto rican citizenship. Centro Journal 29 (1) (Spring2017): 56-75


Even more issues of The Key West Citizen available on Chronicling America

We just posted about a new batch of The Key West Citizen, but even more pages were just uploaded to Chronicling America! This batch includes January-December 1941, October-December 1942, January-August 1943, March-December 1945, January-December 1946, January-December 1947, and January-July 1949. This batch really covers the lead up to World War II, the war itself, and the beginnings of the post-war era.

Two timely stories really caught our eye when we began to explore this new batch: coverage of Pearl Harbor and U.S. entry into WWII in December 1941 and the dedication of Everglades National Park on December 6, 1947 by President Harry Truman.

Pearl Harbor
Digitized Copy of The Key West Citizen with a headline that reads "Congress Declares War on Japan."
The Key West Citizen-December 8, 1941

Everglades National Park

More issues of The Key West Citizen now available

Red Cross Disney
The Key West Citizen-July 12, 1940

Even more pages of The Key West Citizen are now available in Chronicling America!

Over 8,300 new pages covering September 1933 to December 1934 and January 1936 to December 1940 are now up and fully text searchable. We’ve just begun to delve into the compelling content in this new batch, but here are a few highlights we’ve found so far.

The new content includes the time that Earnest Hemingway lived in Key West and his exploits are frequently reported in the papers.

Hemingway starts 2300 mile voyage
The Key West Citizen-August 13, 1934

Cocktail at the Ernest Hemingways
The Key West Citizen-December 19, 1938

Of course there are headlines about President Franklin Delano Roosevelt including his tradition flouting 3rd term.

FDR 3rd term
The Key West Citizen-November 6, 1940

Roosevelt Year Succession of Decisive Moves
The Key West Citizen-February 23, 1934

There’s no way to ignore The Great Depression or The New Deal. There’s lots of stories about New Deal organizations like the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the National Recovery Administration (NRA).

What the Blue Eagle Means
The Key West Citizen-August 24, 1933

CCC Enrollments
The Key West Citizen-September 14, 1940

Pan American World Airways continued to grow and expand their aviation network. Key West was an important hub for mail coming from and going to Cuba.

Pan-Am Airways servcie between KW Miami and Havana
The Key West Citizen-December 23, 1938

Since The Key West Citizen was a member of the Associated Press, there’s also lots of international coverage of the situation in Europe in the years leading up to U.S. entry into World War II.

Hitler Sends Ultimatum to Britain
The Key West Citizen-September 14, 1940

When it was Over Over There: Florida Soldiers and the End of World War I

“Veterans with Armistice Day parade float in front of the Jefferson County courthouse”-Photo courtesy of Florida Memory

Today we bring you a guest post by R. Boyd Murphree, Project Manager, Florida Family and Community History, Digital Services and Shared Collections, University of Florida, George A. Smathers Libraries. He can be contacted at and is also on Twitter @boyd_murphree.

November 11, 1918, the last day of World War I, was anything but quiet on the Western Front. Although the high commands of the combatants knew that the armistice or cease fire agreement signed early that morning called for the combat to end at 11 am, the habits of four years of warfare kept the armies fighting into the final hour. Some American commanders, fully aware of the armistice deadline, decided not to waste the lives of their men now that the war was about to end. Other commanders believed that Allied orders to maintain pressure on the Germans meant they should attack until the armistice was in effect. In a few cases, American generals seeking to enhance their wartime resumes insisted on assaulting German positions during the war’s final minutes. The last German-held French town to fall to the Americans was Stenay on the Meuse River. American troops captured Stenay only fifteen minutes before the armistice began at a cost of 365 casualties, 61 of them deaths. The last morning of the war produced 2,738 American deaths out of a total of 10,944 casualties on all sides.

Out of the 20 million deaths in World War I, 116,516 were Americans and 1,134 of those were Floridians. In all, over 42,000 Floridians served in the war. The first Floridian to die was Second Lieutenant Wiley H. Burford of Ocala. He was killed by a German bullet in France on February 14, 1918. Burford was a graduate of Princeton University and was attending law school at the University of Florida when he entered the Army’s officer training camp at Fort McPherson in Atlanta. According to the Ocala Evening Star, the news of Wiley’s death spread through downtown Ocala “as swiftly as fire follows a train of powder,” taking “the smile off of every face.” The newspaper praised his sacrifice: “He died for America; he died for France; he died for right and justice and the welfare of the whole world.” His death, the writer hoped, would inspire reluctant volunteers, “whose feet are slow to enter the pathway of duty and honor.” The university made many tributes to Wiley, including the dedication of the 1919 Seminole yearbook in his honor. A poem in the yearbook proclaimed Wiley “Florida’s First to Fall.” The student newspaper, The Florida Alligator, also paid respect to Wiley’s loss and the deaths of the other UF students who died in the war.

Wiley Burford
The Ocala evening star-February 18, 1918

aa00022765-10-1 cropped
The Seminole-1919

Many of Florida’s war dead, including the UF students, fell to disease rather than bullets. Most fell victim to the influenza pandemic that ended the lives of some 20 to 40 million people worldwide in 1918–1919. Up to half of the American soldiers who died in Europe during the war died of the flu, not from enemy fire. In an article entitled “Uncle Sam’s Advice on Flu,” the US Public Health Service warned that the disease was “As Dangerous as Poison Gas Shells.” J. M. Wilson, a Floridian serving in the Navy, learned the truth of that warning when he returned from France at war’s end only to discover that his mother and two brothers had died from the flu in Pensacola. On October 17, 1918, less than a month before the armistice, Private Lee Bradley, an African American soldier in the 546th Engineer Battalion, died of pneumonia, most likely due to the flu. Private Bradley’s body was eventually returned to Florida. He was buried at Oak Ridge Cemetery in Rochelle, Alachua County, where his family lived. His headstone declares that he died “For World Liberty” and bears an inscription common for the war’s dead: “He left his home in perfect health, He looked so young and brave, We little thought how soon He would be laid in a Soldier’s grave.”

Lee Bradley AA00010140-00094
From the University of Florida Digital Collections

Private Bradley was one of over 13,000 African American Floridians who served in the Army during World War I: the US Navy and Marines did not take black men as regular enlistees, only as servants and cooks. Racism consigned the majority of black soldiers to service or labor in battalions like the 546th Engineers, Lee Bradley’s unit. Black troops also performed essential support functions in the Army’s artillery, signal, medical, and veterinary corps and often came under enemy fire. The Lakeland Evening Telegram was enthusiastic about the service of black troops. In an article on “The Negro and the War,” the paper applauded black patriotism and their patience under fire, but could not refrain from a paternalistic tone when it noted that the black soldiers were “cheerful and good natured at all times.” The article painted black troops as men without grievances, when such incidents as the Houston Riot of 1917 clearly showed the extent of African American soldiers’ resentment of their country’s racism.

The Negro and the War
The Lakeland evening telegram-May 16, 1918

On November 11, 1918, however, the nation seemed to put aside racial ill will for a day as Americans of all backgrounds celebrated the end of the Great War. Expectation of an end to the fighting rose dramatically as early as November 8, when news leaked that German representatives had arrived at Allied headquarters to discuss an armistice. Rumors of war’s end brought people out in the streets in cities across the United States after false reports that the Germans had agreed to an armistice spread through American newspapers. As a result, according to the Associated Press, “Business was suspended, schools closed, bells were rung and whistles shrieked. Prayers were offered in churches and parading citizens jammed the streets.” Finally, on the afternoon of November 11, newspapers could unleash the long-awaited headline of “Peace! Armistice Signed—World War Ends” and simply “The War Is Over.”

PEACE Armistice Signed
The Pensacola journal-November 11, 1918

Only a few days after the armistice began, sentiment in the United States favored making November 11 a national holiday, even though the Fourth of July did not yet have such status. Proclaiming November 11 “the greatest day in the history of the world,” the Jacksonville Florida Times-Union argued that Thanksgiving should be moved to November 11 as the day was truly one of thanksgiving for the nation and the world. On November 11, 1919, President Woodrow Wilson recognized the importance of the day one year after the armistice was signed, releasing a prepared statement that henceforth Americans would hold Armistice Day as a day of “solemn pride.” The president was not present at ceremonies commemorating the anniversary as he was confined to his bed in the White House after suffering a stroke that left him partially paralyzed, unable to perform his public duties. He had sacrificed his health trying to get the nation to support and the US Senate to pass the Treaty of Versailles, which formally ended the war, and included the League of Nations, which Wilson believed would be instrumental in maintaining future peace. The Senate rejected the treaty and the League. Americans would go on to observe Armistice Day each year. In 1938, the day became a national holiday, and in 1954, Congress changed Armistice Day to Veterans Day to honor veterans of all the country’s wars.

The University of Florida did not forget its dead. On October 13, 1934, the university dedicated Florida Field to the memory of all the Florida servicemen who gave their lives in the war. Florida governor David Sholtz and university president John Tigert led the unveiling of two memorial plaques. Placed on the north wall of the stadium, one plaque dedicated the field to all of Florida’s Great War fallen; the other plaque memorialized the names of university alumni who had perished in the war, including Wiley H. Burford, the first of Florida’s Great War dead. Generations of UF football fans have passed these memorials on Gator Game Days. How many have taken a moment to remember the young men who never returned from Over There?

From the University of Florida Digital Collections

Citations and Additional Sources:

Billings, Molly. The Influenza Pandemic of 1918 (

Marlin, Pam Hawley. UF and The Great War (

Persico, Joseph. E. Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour: Armistice Day, 1918 World War I and Its Violent Climax. New York, Random House, 2004.

_______________. “World War I: Wasted Lives on Armistice Day.” Military History Quarterly (Winter 2005). Published online by HistoryNet, June 12, 2006 (

United States World War One Centennial Commission. Florida (

More Ghost Towns of Florida

Members of Koreshan Unity dressed for a play- Courtesy of Florida Memory

It’s spooky season once again so we’ve collected more clippings about ghost towns in Florida. Why are there so many ghost towns in Florida? Christopher Strain explains that the waves of development in the state result in a “spatial and temporal paradox: the more Florida builds and grows, the more it degrades and devolves” (Strain). Economic downturns, agricultural failure, depletion of natural resources, and disaster all contribute to towns shifting from booming cultural centers to shadows of their former selves. That said, some of these towns have fascinating histories worth discussing.

Romeo, Florida and Juliette, Florida were both towns in Marion County that were a few miles apart from each other. The Shakespearean nature of their names caught our eye and we were able to locate stories and advertisements about both towns.

Romeo packing house
The Ocala evening star-March 30, 1922

The Romeo Picnic
The Ocala evening star-May 11, 1920

Juliette West Coast Bottling Company
The Ocala evening star-October 15, 1910

Eureka, Florida, in Lake County, is another town with a rather striking name. According to an article from Ocala Style, the post office in the town operated from “1873 until 1955, then moved to Citra.” Today there’s a boat ramp at the Eureka Dam that offers access to the Ocala National Forest.

Eureka County Correspondence
The Ocala Star-March 5, 1898

Eureka Notes Ocala 11131913
The Ocala evening star-November 13, 1903

Estero, Florida is another fascinating ghost town. According to the village website, “Estero’s most noted pioneer was Cyrus Teed, leader of the Koreshan Unity.” The Koreshans moved to the area from Chicago in the 1890s to found what they called their “New Jerusalem” to escape the persecution and ridicule they faced in the city. By 1904, they were “able to incorporate 110 square miles into the Town of Estero” (Estero). A story for a longer post, Estero continued to exist even after Teed’s death and non-resurrection in 1908. Estero appears to be making a comeback, but the Koreshans no longer exist. However, you can still visit their settlement, which is now Koreshan State Park.

Koreshans recieve goods
The new enterprise-January 1, 1907

Koreshan University Ad
The champion-June 14, 1906

Yamoto Colony, located in what is now Boca Raton, was a Japanese community of farmers founded by Jo Sakai in 1905. Supported by Henry Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway, the immigrant farming community wanted to “introduce new crops and farming techniques to the state” (Morikami Website). The crops they farmed included pineapples! Yamoto ultimately disappears in 1941 due to the wartime hysteria that resulted in Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans undergoing forced relocation by the U.S. Government.

Yamato Pineapples
The Florida agriculturalist-December 25, 1907

Yamato 4th of July
The Pensacola journal-July 15, 1908

The last two ghost towns we’ll cover this year are Viking and Oslo Florida. Despite being around 4 miles apart, Oslo is in Indian River County while Viking is in St. Lucie County. Apparently, the names of the towns were chosen by the Scandinavian families who moved to the area in the 1890s. Like Yamoto, the citizens of Viking and Oslo also engaged in agriculture, including growing pineapples. We’re not entirely sure what led to the declension of these two towns but their names are certainly interesting.

Viking Section Recognized
The St. Lucie County Tribune-April 29, 1910

Oslo mentioned in Viking Section
The St. Lucie county tribune-April 8, 1910

Oslo Pinapple and Citrus Growers
Fort Pierce news-November 5, 1909

Citations and Additional Sources:

Anonymous. “Ghost Towns of Marion County.” Ocala Style, July 6, 2010. Accessed October 25, 2018.   

Capero, Laura. New Collection: Viking Cemetery Collection. RICHES at the University of Central Florida. Accessed October 17, 2018.

Florida Memory. The Koreshan Unity Exhibit. State Library & Archives of Florida. Accessed October 25, 2018.

Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens. Yamoto Colony-Pioneering Japanese in Florida. Accessed October 24, 2018.

Lake County Florida. Ghost Towns: Lake County, Florida. Lake County Board of County Commissioners. Accessed October 17, 2018.

Pike, Jim. “Oslo.” Ghost Towns. Accessed October 19, 2018.

Pike, Jim. “Viking.” Ghost Towns. Accessed October 19, 2018.

Strain, Christopher. “Ghost Towns, Vanishing Florida and the Geography of Memory.” Journal of Florida Studies Volume 1, Issue 2 (Spring 2013): accessed October 15, 2018.

Village of Estero. Estero History. Accessed October 25, 2018.


The 1918 Flu Pandemic Part 3-Society Pages and Local News

Children ready for school during the 1918 flu epidemic-Image courtesy of Florida Memory

Over the last 2 months, we’ve discussed varying aspects of the 1918 flu pandemic. Beyond front pages, which predominately present national updates on the flu, there are other sections of our papers where the gravity of the influenza pandemic becomes undeniable; notably the society page. In our blog we’ve previously discussed women’s/society pages at length, but, as a refresher, society sections are regularly occurring columns in newspapers that cover issues including parties, women’s clubs, social visits from out of town, and other issues that were considered to relate to the domestic sphere. Additionally, some newspapers papers had broad local news sections. During height of the pandemic, the flu was often mentioned in those columns as well as in the society sections. In this post we’ll highlight content from society and local news sections of our papers to contextualize the effect of the pandemic on towns and cities in Florida.

In her book on the pandemic, Kristy Duncan points out that “in the United States, the 1918 influenza pandemic caused 550,000 deaths, widespread social disruption, and enormous burdens on health care and civil infrastructure” (Duncan 4-5). While this number is shocking, it is perhaps so large that it obfuscates the individual and local impact the flu made in Florida. Society pages really bring to light the intimate labor associated with caring for the sick as well as the mourning that occurred when loved ones succumbed to the disease.

In The Pensacola journal, which has the most consistent society page of our collection, readers will notice an uptick in reports of illness beginning at the end of September 1918. One particularly telling report is about a Lieutenant Cyester Smith, who had just returned from overseas duty only to find himself in a naval hospital in Virginia with pneumonia. For many affected by the flu, pneumonia followed with deadly consequences. While we are certainly speculating as to if Lieutenant Smith had the flu, it fits the timeline presented by Duncan. In her book, she notes “in September, the disease swept Europe. Returning troop carried flu home. In North America, servicemen disembarked from crowded ships at Atlantic ports only to board trains that would take them, along with flu, inland to cities, villages, and farms from Newfoundland to California” (Duncan 8). By mid-October 1918, nearly every issue of The Pensacola journal contained reports of illnesses, recoveries, and deaths attributed to flu and pneumonia. The overwhelming number of reports on this same topic demonstrate the spread of the disease to and around Pensacola.

Red Flu Highlight
The Pensacola journal-October 10, 1918


Interestingly, along with the flu epidemic we see a more regularly occurring section of The Pensacola journal: the obituary column. Prior to the 1918 flu pandemic, obituaries sporadically appeared in the paper, but the sheer number of deaths associated with influenza necessitated running it much more frequently. During this time, there are an almost overwhelming number of obituaries related to deaths attributed to either pneumonia or influenza. Following the end of the pandemic, the column remained in the paper, appearing on a regular basis.

PJ Obituary
The Pensacola journal-October 10, 1918


The society and local sections of The Lakeland evening telegram, while not quite as robust as The Pensacola journal, also provide snapshots into how influenza affected Lakeland. Similarly, by mid-October these sections were inundated with reports of sick citizens as well as reports of those that had passed away. Uniquely, on several occasions the paper also includes a report by the acting city Health Officer about the number of new flu cases in the city. The Lakeland evening telegram also opened up about their own struggle to produce the paper in the face of sickness and asked subscribers to “try to be as good-natured as you can” if “your paper is late, or if the substitute carrier boy misses you.”

29 New Cases Spanish Influenza
The Lakeland evening telegram-October 15, 1918

On a practical level, society sections are exceptionally useful for historians and genealogists trying to locate information on specific people.  It is worth mentioning that not all deaths were reported in society sections and, given the fact that our papers were written by and for the white populations of cities, African American deaths by and large aren’t mentioned or, if they are, they are reported without the use of specific names. Even with a subject as macabre as the 1918 flu pandemic, the society page sheds light on the day-to-day lives of people living where our newspapers were published.

We’ve hoped you’ve enjoyed our series on the 1918 flu pandemic.

Citations and Additional Sources

Barry, John M. “How the Horrific 1918 Flu Spread Across America.” Smithsonian Magazine, November 2017.

Byerly, Carol R. “The U.S. Military and the Influenza Pandemic of 1918-1919.” Public Health Reports 2010; 125 (Suppl 3): 82-91. Accessed July 5, 2018,

Crosby, Alfred W. America’s Forgotten Pandemic: The Influenza of 1918. 2nd ed. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

Duncan, Kirsty. Hunting the 1918 Flu: One Scientist’s Search for a Killer Virus. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2006.

Gunderman, Richard. “The ‘greatest pandemic in history’ was 100 years ago-but many of us still get the basic facts wrong.” The Conversation, January 11, 2018.

Kolata, Gina. Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus that Caused it. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1999.

“Ship Went Down With All On Board”: Remembering the USS Tampa

NH 1226
Photograph of the USS Tampa courtesy of the U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command

Today we bring you a guest post by R. Boyd Murphree, Project Manager, Florida Family and Community History, Digital Services and Shared Collections, University of Florida, George A. Smathers Libraries. He can be contacted at and is also on Twitter @boyd_murphree.

As the end of the centennial of World War I approaches (November 11, 2018), it is important to recognize that while the major loss of human life was on land in such terrible battles as Verdun, the Somme, Passchendaele, and the Argonne, tens of thousands of men and women died as a result of the war at sea.  Americans who know about this aspect of the war might point to the German sinking of the British passenger liner Lusitania—the sister ship of the Titanic—on May 7, 1915, as the most famous naval incident of the war: 1,198 out of 1,900 people onboard died, including 128 Americans; the sinking dramatically increased anti-German sentiment in the United States and contributed to the eventual American decision to declare war against Germany on April 6, 1917. While the sinking of the Lusitania resulted in a terrible loss of civilian life, the worst American military loss at sea occurred in the final months of the war on September 26, 1918, when a German U-boat sank the USS Tampa off the coast of Britain. The sinking killed everyone on board the Tampa: 131 men died, 34 of them Floridians.

The story of the Tampa began in 1912 when the ship, originally christened as the US Revenue Cutter Miami, was launched at Newport News, Virginia on February 10 that year. Weighing 1,181 tons and 190 feet in length, the steam and sail vessel was armed with three 6-pound guns. After initial trial voyages off Virginia and Maryland, the Miami was stationed for coastal duty in Key West. The vessel also took part in iceberg patrols in the North Atlantic following the sinking of the Titanic on April 14, 1912. In January 1915, the US Revenue Cutter Service merged with the US Life Saving Service to form the US Coast Guard. As a result, the Miami became one of the first ships in the modern Coast Guard. On February 1, 1916, while serving in Tampa Bay during the Gasparilla festival, the Miami was renamed the Tampa and continued to serve off of Florida and the North Atlantic.

USS Miami added to fleet
The Pensacola journal-February 11, 1912

Following America’s entry into the war in April 1917, the Coast Guard transferred its cutters to the command of the US Navy. The USS Tampa retained the same officers and crew, but the ship was outfitted with new weapons and features to combat German U-boats, which were sinking large numbers of American and Allied ships off the coasts of Europe and North America. On September 29, 1917, the Tampa left New York for Europe. The ship took up its new station at Gibraltar and spent the next year escorting convoys of merchant ships through U-boat infested waters from Gibraltar to Britain. During this time, the Tampa spent 50 percent of its service at sea. The Navy commended the Tampa for its “excellent record” of service.

Florida Memory 324723
Algy Bevins in uniform aboard the USCGC Tampa courtesy of Florida Memory

Among the young crew of the Tampa was Seaman Algy Knox Bevins of Davenport, Florida. Algy joined the Coast Guard in 1916 and first served aboard the USCG dredge Barnard stationed at Key West and Jacksonville. Soon after the United States declared war on Germany, Algy entered the Navy and was transferred to the Tampa. Serving onboard with his brother, Arthur, Algy wrote to his parents a week after joining the Tampa, describing his duties and assuring them of his safety:

Both Arthur and myself are in the cutter service. We have enlisted for one year and have been aboard one week today. It is way ahead of the Barnard for we are getting a little more money than the dredge was paying and at the same time traveling a little and serving Uncle Sam. I am [firing] and Art is passing coal. There is a good chance for advancement which the Barnard did not offer. . . . The cutter is not like the regular navy yet we are under the navy now. Our duties is life [saving] and coast guarding. Something which there is very little danger [encompassed] with the regular service. [Don’t] worry about us for we both like it and there is nothing to worry about.

Almost a year later, writing from Europe, the brothers continued to reassure their parents of their safety:

Both well etc. and going about our duties without any fears and it strikes me that if we can see nothing to be afraid of why you all should [have no] great cause to worry. The danger is no more here than in any other industry back home so just put those petty fears aside and look on the bright side always.

The Pensacola journal-October 13, 1916

The brothers were right. Serving aboard an escort ship was relatively safe. The real danger of U-boat attack came to unescorted ships sailing unattached to a convoy. Unfortunately, although the odds of a U-boat launching a successful attack on the Tampa were slight, the risk of an attack was always present. For the Bevins brothers and rest of the crew of the Tampa that risk became real on September 26, 1918, when U-boat UB-91 found the ship in its sights on a foggy night as the Tampa made its way into the Bristol Channel off England. The submarine fired one torpedo that hit the Tampa’s stern. Other ships in the convoy that the Tampa was escorting heard a loud explosion, and the Tampa was never seen again. The ship went down with no survivors. Only a single body was found among a few pieces of wreckage.

Ship went down with all on board
The Ocala evening star-October 3, 1918

Florida newspapers brought news of the shocking loss to their readers. The Navy did not make the sinking public until October 3. That day, the Ocala Evening Star ran the headline “Ship Went Down With All on Board,” but was unable to provide many details besides noting that a submarine had sunk the Tampa off the English coast. On October 8, the Pensacola Journal reported the death of First Lieutenant J. T. Carr, the Tampa’s engineer officer who had been stationed in Pensacola before America went to war. Two days later, on October 10, the Punta Gorda Herald noted the loss of the Tampa was especially tragic for the ship’s namesake town as nineteen crew members came from that city. The paper bemoaned, “Thus are the horrors of war brought home to us all.” Such an attack, the Herald declared, made a mockery of Germany’s recent peace overtures—on October 5, the German government declared its willingness to negotiate peace terms. “Unconditional surrender,” the newspaper argued, “is the best terms she [Germany] should receive.” The Lakeland Evening Telegram covered a touching memorial ceremony held for Bert Lane, a Lakeland native, whose life had ended on the Tampa, and who had “laid down his life for the cause of his country.” This tribute would have been repeated across the state as Floridians mourned the loss of so many of their young men.

Fitting memorial for Bert Lane
The Lakeland evening telegram-October 10, 1918

Citations and Additional Sources

American Legion, “Our Name Sake “U.S.S. Tampa” and Her Legacy.”

Bevins Family Papers. State Archives of Florida.

Gonzalez, Robin Robson, Nancy J. Turner, and Jen Larcom. USCGC TAMPA Tampa’s Own: Pageantry, Protection & Patriotism. Tampa History Center.

Herscovici, Derek. Remember the Tampa! Tampa Magazine (July 28, 2016).

Naval History and Heritage Command. NH 1226 USCGC Tampa.

Unites Sates Coast Guard. U.S. Coast Guard History Program. U.S.S. Tampa, C.G. Casualty List, World War I.