Grayven Images: Confederate Monuments and Power of the Lost Cause in Florida

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 bmurphree@ufl.edu and is also on Twitter @boyd_murphree.

Will March on Florida
The Pensacola journal-April 5, 1914

On May 3, 1901, fire consumed Jacksonville, destroying the heart of the city and creating a humanitarian disaster. Viewing the devastation, Gainesville newspaperman and Confederate veteran John W. Tench observed that standing amidst the ruins “but one thing remained to tell of the touch of civilization—the Confederate monument.” As he “gazed upon the bronze soldier on top of the marble shaft,” Tench “smelt the battle smoke” and like Robert E. Lee on the field of Gettysburg watching the slaughter and madness of Pickett’s Charge, the bronze statue looked “with tear-moistened eye upon the desolation beneath, triumphant, but not the victor.”

General Lee and his soldiers lost the Civil War, but the bronze soldier was part of a new Southern army of metal, marble, and granite engaged in a battle to honor, glorify, and promote the memory of the Confederacy, its leaders, and its soldiers. Ongoing controversy in the United States about the appropriateness of maintaining Confederate monuments in public places of honor make this a good time to examine the history of Confederate monuments in Florida, the power of the Lost Cause in the state, and the deep racism that made Florida a leading state in incidents of lynching and other violence against African Americans. The late nineteenth and early twentieth century Florida newspapers available in Chronicling America document these subjects in detail.

Confederate monuments were powerful symbols of the Lost Cause narrative of Southern history. The narrative sought to vindicate the Confederacy as a noble attempt to defend state rights and constitutional liberty rather than a treasonous rebellion dedicated to the defense of slavery that ignited a bloody civil war and ended in the defeat and devastation of the South. Most of the monuments were erected during 1890–1930, the high tide of the Lost Cause movement. The greatest exponents of the Lost Cause were the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) and the United Confederate Veterans (UCV), organizations that exerted substantial political influence on Southern legislatures, governors, and local governments.

United Daughters of the Confederacy History
The Pensacola journal-December 16, 1906

As a former Confederate state, Florida stood firmly in the Lost Cause camp. Some 5,000 Floridians died for the Confederacy. The state was the scene of small but intense engagements in battles such as Olustee, Marianna, and Natural Bridge. Although the first Civil War monuments in Florida were built to honor Union dead—the United States Army and Navy created monuments at Olustee and Key West—Ladies Memorial Associations (LMAs) funded the building of the first Confederate monuments in Florida during the later years of Reconstruction: the oldest Confederate monument in Florida was erected in Walton County in 1871 (Lees and Gaske, 38).

Until the 1890s, Confederate monuments in Florida were devoted to honoring the war dead of localities. In 1891 Pensacola built the first monument in Florida dedicated to Confederate war dead in general. Still standing in the city’s Lee Square, Pensacola’s Confederate monument is fifty feet tall. An eight-foot-tall-statue of a Confederate soldier stands on the summit. The base of the monument contains four panels, each honoring a different aspect of the Confederacy: war dead, President Jefferson Davis, Secretary of the Navy Stephen Mallory, and General Edward A. Perry (Lees and Gaske, 67-68).

Pensacola’s monument is significant not only for being the first monument in Florida to honor all of the Confederate war dead. The monument was also the first in the state to embrace the Lost Cause narrative by honoring Confederate leaders and extolling those who died as heroes who perished “FOR A CAUSE THEY BELIEVED TO BE JUST.” The local LMA raised the funds to build the monument; however, by the 1890s, LMAs across the South were consolidating into the UDC, a nationwide Confederate memory organization founded in 1895 and devoted to spreading the gospel of the Lost Cause. The UDC was largely responsible for funding and organizing the creation of Confederate monuments in Florida and across the nation from the 1890s on (Lees and Gaske, 68, 86-87).

One significant exception to this pattern of Confederate monument building was Jacksonville’s Confederate monument, the one John Tench wrote about in 1901. A private donor, Confederate veteran John C. Hemming, not the UDC, paid for the monument, which was erected in St. James Park in 1898—the park was renamed Hemming Park in 1899. The monument stands sixty-two feet and is topped by an eight-and-one-half-foot bronze Confederate soldier. Reliefs on the base depict the following figures: Captain J. J. Dickison, a legendary Florida Confederate cavalry officer; General Edmund Kirby Smith, Florida’s most notable Confederate general, whose statue still resides in Statuary Hall in the US Capitol Building, and whose name was recently removed from the Alachua County Public Schools main administrative building; and both Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson (Lees and Gaske, 77-82).

Soldiers Monument Jacksonville
The Pensacola journal-April 12, 1914

The unveiling of the monument on June 16, 1898, was a national event. Since April of that year, the United States had been at war with Spain, and Florida ports were the main bases for American troops preparing to invade Cuba. The Ocala Evening Star noted the “hearty meeting and cordial commingling of the old soldiers of both armies” as Union and Confederate veterans joined current soldiers from states across the nation to honor the event as a moment of reconciliation between North and South, now united in a common effort to defeat a foreign foe. The emphasis on national unity eventually became part of the agendas of the UDC and the UCV. Both organizations emphasized their loyalty to the United States and saw public allegiance as fundamental in getting the nation, not just the South, to embrace the Lost Cause narrative as the true history of the Confederacy and the Civil War. In addition, as many Southern politicians realized, if the nation endorsed the Lost Cause view that the Confederacy had fought to defend state rights and not slavery, the federal government was less likely to interfere with the strict system of racial segregation and denial of black voting rights that reigned across the South (Cox, 142-43).

Race, not reconciliation, however, was the determining factor in the construction of the Confederate monument at Olustee, the site of Florida’s most significant Civil War battle. The original Union monument at Olustee was built of wood and used as a temporary marker for a mass grave of Union dead. In 1899, the UDC lobbied the Florida legislature to appropriate money for the construction of a monument to honor the Confederate soldiers who had fought at Olustee. The legislature passed an amended bill that called for the expenditure of $2,500 on a monument that would honor both the Confederate and Union soldiers who served in the battle (Lees and Gaske, 196-97).

Although the UDC was officially for the national reconciliation that such a monument would represent, the fact that the vast majority of the Union troops at Olustee were African American made the inclusion of language honoring the Union soldiers unacceptable to the organization. Reporting on the controversy, the Bradford County Telegraph pointed out that “to decorate the graves of negroes along with the graves of the Confederate dead seems impossible for the society.” Bending to the will of the UDC, the 1901 legislature amended the 1899 law to exclude any mention of Union soldiers on the proposed monument, which was dedicated on October 23, 1912. Almost one hundred years later, in August 2011, the issue of race and Olustee returned to the news when the Florida Department of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War proposed the construction of a monument on the battlefield’s state park grounds honoring the sacrifice of Union soldiers in anticipation of the sesquicentennial of the battle in February 2014. Echoing the earlier protests of the UDC, Florida’s Sons of Confederate Veterans opposed the building of a monument to “invading Federal forces . . . that will disrupt the hallowed grown [ground] where Southern blood was spilled in the defense of Florida.” The Union monument was not built (Lees and Gaske, 197-199, 291).

An earlier demonstration of the political power of the UDC and the UCV was dramatically and somewhat comically demonstrated in the US senatorial race of 1904 in Florida. In that election, several candidates vied for the seat, including Florida’s sitting governor, William Sherman Jennings. A native of Illinois who had moved to Florida in 1885, Jennings knew that his Northern background and name, which brought images to the Southern mind of loathed Union general William T. Sherman, would be fodder for his political opponents. When former Confederate general and original head of the UCV John B. Gordon died on January 9, 1904, in Miami, Jennings made it his mission to offer fulsome praise of the general during the heavily reported journey of the general’s body to its final resting place in Atlanta, where delivering one of the many funeral orations, Jennings declared, “Men like Gordon cannot die, they live forever in song and story . . .”  (W. S. Jennings Papers).

Following the funeral, the governor ordered 1000 cards of Gordon’s portrait stamped with “Compliments of W. S. Jennings” across the top to send out to Confederate veterans in Florida (W. S. Jennings Papers). Even though the number of veterans was dwindling, they remained a powerful voting bloc in Florida Democratic primaries, where they looked to the candidate who would ensure the continuation and expansion of the state’s Confederate pension system. In 1904, Confederate pension disbursements made up almost 25 percent of Florida’s state government expenditures (Green, 1080-83). As veterans received the Gordon cards, many of them wrote to newspapers about the effrontery of Jennings’s attempt to make political capital from Gordon’s death. The Chipley Banner published a typical example: “What does Jennings care for the old Confederates? Not a blessed thing, except that he hopes to play upon the sentiments that bind them to the memory of their dead chieftan and secure their votes. He is a charlatan, a fakir, a demagogue . . . .” Embarrassed, Jennings lied about his responsibility for sending out the Gordon portraits, denying any role in the matter (W. S. Jennings Papers). He lost the election.

Ocala Monument
The Ocala banner-May 1, 1908

Governor Jennings’s encounter with the power of Confederate memory was brief and harmful only to his political ambitions. For black Floridians, the activities of the UDC and the UCV, especially the building of Confederate monuments and the emphasis on the Lost Cause, reinforced the demeaning and often deadly Jim Crow system of racial segregation and domination. The most horrible aspect of the enforcement of this regime was lynching. Florida had the highest per capita rate of lynching in the nation. Between 1890 and 1930, the period when most Confederate monuments were built, 195 African American males and five African American females were victims of lynching in the state (Bailey and Tolney, 230). Alachua County had at least twenty lynching deaths, the second highest number in Florida. Only neighboring Marion County with twenty-one had more (Adrien).

Alachua County’s history of racial violence and Confederate past came to a head in the spring of 2017, when the county commission voted to remove the county’s monument to its Confederate war dead from its location in downtown Gainesville (Tinker). The UDC dedicated the monument, known to longtime residents as “Old Joe,” in 1904. Standing eighteen feet tall, the monument supported a six-foot tall bronze and copper statue of a Confederate soldier holding a musket. Inscriptions at the bottom included language honoring the Confederate war dead as well as the Lost Cause: “THEY COUNTED THE COST AND IN DEFENSE OF RIGHT THEY PAID THE MARTYR’S PRICE” (Lees and Gaske, 88-91). In August 2017, the local UDC chapter removed the monument to Oak Ridge Cemetery near Rochelle (Caplan). Alachua County’s engagement in the Confederate monument controversy was a small but locally significant episode in the ongoing national debate over Civil war memory.

Citations and Additional Sources:

Adrien, Claudia. “Lynchings in Florida? It was a Problem Here, Too,” Gainesville Sun, September 3, 2005. Accessed October 2, 2017: http://www.gainesville.com/news/20050903/lynchings-in-florida-it-was-a-problem-here-too.

Bailey, Amy Kate and Tolnay, Stewart E. Lynched: The Victims of Southern Mob Violence (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2015).

Caplan, Andrew. “Confederate Statue Removed from Downtown Gainesville,” Gainesville Sun, August 14, 2017. Accessed on October 2, 2017: http://www.gainesville.com/news/20170814/confederate-statue-removed-from-downtown-gainesville.

Cox, Karen L. Dixie’s Daughters: The United Daughters of the Confederacy and the Preservation of Confederate Culture (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2003).

Green, Elna C. “Protecting Confederate Soldiers and Mothers: Pensions, Gender, and the Welfare State in the U.S. South, a Case Study from Florida,” Journal of Social History, vol. 39. No. 4 (Summer, 2006), 1079-1104.

Lees, William B. and Gaske, Frederick P. Recalling Deeds Immortal: Florida Monuments to the Civil War (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2014).

Tinker, Cleveland. “County Votes to Offer ‘Old Joe’ to United Daughters of the Confederacy,” Gainesville Sun, May 24, 2017. Accessed October 2, 2017: http://www.gainesville.com/news/20170523/county-votes-to-offer-old-joe-to-united-daughters-of-confederacy.

Also see the William Sherman Jennings Papers at the University of Florida: http://www.library.ufl.edu/spec/pkyonge/JenningsWilliamS.htm. The Jennings quote about General Gordon comes from Box 1, Speeches, 1895-1905, p. 168. For Jennings’s order of the 1000 portrait cards of General Gordon see John A. Brice to W. S. Jennings, January 16, 1904 in Box 17, Correspondence 1904 January, p. 28. Jennings’s disavowal of the Gordon picture scheme is in Jennings to A. L. Woodward, undated, Letterbook (Personal) 1903-December-1904 July, p. 264

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May Mann Jennings & the Creation of Royal Palm State Park

Park Postcard UF00091225
Image from the America’s Swamp Collection in UFDC

On this blog we’ve looked at a few issues related to how events associated with the American Conservation movement, including the founding of the National Park Service and the establishment of the first National Wildlife Refuge on Pelican Island, were covered in our digitized newspapers. Today, we’ll look at the efforts in Florida, spearheaded by May Mann Jennings and other Florida women, that led to the creation of Royal Palm State Park. Royal Palm is notable because it was the first State Park in Florida and later served as the “nucleus” of Everglades National Park.

While most front page headlines in our papers about environmental issues focus on men as policy makers, in the early 20th century, Florida women played a prominent role in early conservation efforts in the state. According to historian Leslie Poole, women “helped set the environmental agenda in Florida” that was “often a reaction to problems created by male-dominated industry, development, and government” (Poole 7). Poole argues what motivated women to get involved in environmental causes was their desire “to try to clean it up or repair it, as they did at home, especially when it threatened the health of their children, neighbors, and community-both human and nonhuman” (Poole 77). Prior to the passage of the 19th amendment, women had a limited voice in government in the traditional sense. To compensate for this limitation, women utilized their social networks, including women’s clubs and organizations, to lobby for the creation of Royal Palm State Park as well as other causes including improving education, better medical facilities, and prohibition. The work of groups like the State Federation of Women’s Clubs and local affiliated organizations may have less frequently made the front page, but they received considerable coverage on the society pages of various Florida papers.

Jennings Fl Memory
Photo of May Mann Jennings, taken in 1901 while serving as Florida’s First Lady. Image retrieved from Florida Memory

One of the most prominent women involved in environmental efforts during the early 20th century was May Mann Jennings, who is referred to in our papers as Mrs. W.S. Jennings. Jennings was born in 1872 in New Jersey, but her family moved to Crystal River, Florida in 1874. Highly educated and interested in politics, Jennings worked as a legislative assistant for her father when he served as a member of the Florida House of Representatives. During her father’s campaign for the position, she met William Sherman Jennings, future Governor of Florida, who she married in 1891. After marrying, she was involved with various civic groups within the state including the Florida Federation of Women’s Clubs (serving as its president from 1914 to 1917), the Y.W.C.A, and the Florida League of Women Voters. Jennings is considered to be the “Mother of Florida Forestry.” Her lifetime involvement in the custodianship of Royal Palm resulted in her appointment to the Everglades National Park Commission prior to its dedication by President Harry S. Truman in 1947. Her involvement in Florida society and politics means that reports of her activities can be found throughout our papers.

The idea of reclaiming the Everglades to make the land usable had been popular among white Floridians since the mid-19th century. W.S. Jennings, May’s husband, supported the project while Governor. During his term he received “a patent to the lands south of the Okeechobee in the name of Florida” and hired an engineer “who surveyed glades lands in the Miami area” to determine what would be necessary to drain the area. After completing his term he remained involved in dredging efforts (Dovell 190). Jennings’ successor, Governor Napoleon B. Broward, promised to pursue Everglades’ drainage to make the land suitable for agricultural use in his successful election campaign. While we now view the Everglades as a rich and unique ecological system, at the time the land was viewed as empty and awaiting human use. However, there were those in the state, such as May Mann Jennings, who sought to conserve areas of the Everglades to preserve its beauty.

Reclaiming a Watery Wilderness
The Sun (Jacksonville)-March 10, 1906

Jennings learned of the existence of Paradise Key-which would be preserved as Royal Palm State Park-from fellow Florida Federation of Women’s Clubs member Mary Barr Munroe. Munroe was involved in a number of environmental causes in Florida and suggested “the group try to protect” the area at the 1905 FFWC convention. The Paradise Key area is a “hammock” or grouping of trees that form an ecological island in their shade. This particular hammock was notable for having “almost one thousand royal palms, tall and majestic trees native to the state that towered 100 feet or more in height” (Poole 86). It was the presence of the palm trees that led to the name of the park. Jennings used her ties in Tallahassee and network of politicized women to lobby the state to purchase and allow them to maintain the land. Achieving the creation of the park became a legislative priority for the FFWC during the 1915 legislative session, and they were ultimately successful. The land was ceded to them by the state, making them the custodians of the first State Park in Florida.

Receiving custodianship of Royal Palm State Park necessitated that the Florida Federation of Women’s Clubs secure funding for maintenance of the area, including hiring a custodian for the grounds. One early plan to raise money included sending out foot-long strips with slots for coins to women’s clubs throughout the state with the intention of raising “a mile of dimes” for park upkeep. In a letter printed in the January 2, 1916 edition of The Pensacola journal, Jennings estimated the mile of dimes would provide over $6,000 for the endowment fund. Beyond fundraising efforts targeting the general public, the FFWC were also “assisted” by the County Commissioners of Dade County and, in 1921, the legislature not only expanded the park by 2000 acres but also granted the FFWC $2500 in funding for the park annually. Poole argues that the legislature’s support of “Royal Palm State Park signified the state’s rising participation in a park movement that was sweeping the nation and redefining conservation to include preservation of landscapes” (Poole 95).

Royal Palm Hammock Jennings.jpg
Pensacola journal-February 6, 1916

The park was dedicated in November of 1916 to much fanfare and the event was covered extensively by the state press. Newspapers in the early 20th century frequently featured travel reports, especially positive ones that highlighted the virtues of Florida. Because of this, there are many stories in our paper which either focus on or include positive reviews of Royal Palm State Park. In Florence P. Haden’s retelling of her visit for The Pensacola journal she states that the “men were as intent as college boys in their work of naming the trees” and that the park “will interest scientists and tourists.” Another report about the “Charms of the East Coast” discusses the FFWC’s “purpose…to preserve the quietness of the forest as a sanctuary for the birds of the air, and things that crawl.” In reality, the FFWC made considerable changes to the hammock and, as Poole points out, “Florida’s first park was no model of wilderness preservation. Its female creators had very definite ideas of what they wanted the park to be, and much of it involved manipulation of the landscape with little care about saving the neighboring wetlands-indeed, most favored the state policy of draining the Everglades for agricultural production” (Poole 98). Despite these well-intended mistakes, the work of women like May Mann Jennings, who worked tirelessly for parks in Florida, contributed significantly to the Conservation movement in early 20th century Florida.

A Visit to the Hammock
Pensacola journal-December 26, 1915

May Mann Jennings’ papers have been digitized and can be found in the “America’s Swamp: The Historical Everglades Project” in UF Digital Collections.

 

Citations and Additional Sources

Chapman, Ann E. “American Conservation in the Twentieth Century.” National Parks Service. Accessed May 20, 2017. https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/massachusetts_conservation/American_Conservation_in_the_Twentieth_Century.html.

Dovell, Janius E. “The Everglades, a Florida Frontier.” Agricultural History, Vol. 22, No. 3 (July, 1948): 187-197.

Poole, Leslie Kemp. “Let Florida Be Green: Women, Activism, and the Environmental Century, 1900-2000.” PhD diss. University of Florida, 2012. (UFDC UFE0044352).

Vance, Linda Darlene Moore. “May Mann Jennings, Florida’s Genteel Activist.” PhD diss., University of Florida, 1980. (Internet Archive 99209).

Vance, Linda D. “May Mann Jennings and Royal Palm State Park.” The Florida Historical Quarterly, Vol. 55, No. 1 (July, 1976): 1-17.

 

Ruth Law: The Aviatrix’s Florida Connection

It’s difficult to talk about the history of aviation in the United States without looking at activities that took place in Florida. As we’ve discussed in the past, Naval Air Station Pensacola played an important role in U.S. military aviation history. But the same hard-packed white sand at Daytona Beach that attracted automobile enthusiasts also caught the attention of early aviators looking for a warm place to fly year-round; well before the Navy set its sights on Pensacola. One notable individual to take advantage of the natural runway at Daytona Beach in the 1910s was aviatrix Ruth Law. Today, we’ll look at coverage of Law’s winter seasons in Daytona as well as the headlines she continued to make in Florida after achieving national recognition for her flying skills.

rc07964
Photo of Aviatrix Ruth Law and Mrs. Robert Goelet- Courtesy of Florida Memory

Born May 21, 1887, Law and her brother were both known for being adventurous. While her brother Rodman became a stuntman, Ruth demonstrated an interest in aviation. Ruth Law was rebuffed by Orville Wright when she expressed interest in enrolling in their pilot training school because of Wright’s belief that “women were unfit to fly” (DeMace). However, she was able to convince Phil Page to take her on as a student in 1912, determined to learn not only how to fly, but also how to mechanically maintain her aircraft (Lebow 204-205). Her choice in instructor possibly played some role in her eventual employment in Daytona. People interested in aviation had visited the beaches near Daytona since 1909 with the intention of using the smooth sand and tree-free land as a runway. In 1911 Glenn Curtiss signed a contract with civic leaders agreeing that one of the pilots in his employ would make a series of flights from the beach. The popularity of these flights prompted the owners of the Clarendon Hotel to sign a contract with aviator W. Starling Burgess for the 1912 winter season “to furnish an airplane and pilot to fly hotel guests” from “January to April” (Punnett 16). The pilot furnished by Burgess for the 1912 season was none other than Ruth’s teacher Phil Page, who made daily flights when the weather permitted. Page opted not to return in 1913 and, instead, “the job was won by Charles Oliver, but not for himself.” Oliver served as the agent “for his wife, the famous pioneer woman pilot, Ruth Bancroft Law” who, despite only learning to fly in 1912, had already began to make a name for herself in the aviation field (Punnett 23).

Ruth Law Flights
The Daytona daily news-February 15, 1915

The Daytona daily news enthusiastically covered Law’s flights during the 1913-1916 winter seasons; the paper even had the honor of “selecting the first person” to be her passenger. On January 12, 1913 “at least 5,000” people witnessed Law fly with Col. C.M. Bingham who “appeared to thoroughly enjoy the sensation of being carried through the air far above the heads of the big crowd.” Over the next four winter seasons, Law’s flights were frequently featured in the Clarendon Hotel section of The Daytona daily news, which served as a society section for happenings at the hotel. The paper also featured advertisements which promoted her activities. These ads include the aforementioned passenger flights with her (which cost $15.00-equivalent to about $360 in 2017), local programs featuring exhibition flights, and mention of the brand of oil and gas used by Law. While in Florida, she roused late sleepers with her “buzzing engine”, executed her first loop-the-loop, and threw a grapefruit/baseball from her airplane to the manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers (called the Superbas in our papers), becoming a part of one of the most iconic stories in Florida baseball history. The 1916 season would be her last in Daytona having decided to go to France to “enter the army aviation corps of the Entente allies.”

Given the seasonal nature of Law’s work, stories about the aviatrix aren’t unique to The Daytona daily news. If you search for “Ruth Law” in Chronicling America, you’ll discover a variety of papers from all over the United States that report on Law’s exhibitions and visits. Florida papers outside of Daytona tended to run stories about Law’s professional achievements year-round. Both The Pensacola journal and The Lakeland evening telegram ran Associated Press stories about her November 20, 1916 record-breaking flight “from Chicago to Hornell, New York” which “smashed the American cross-country flight record” (McGraw). Her flight, among other things, reopened discussions about the possibility of “aerial Mail Service” in the U.S., which became a reality in 1918.

Woman breaks american long distance
The Pensacola journal-November 20, 1916

Reading about Law in our papers, it becomes apparent that despite the fact that she broke records, her gender shaped how newspapers covered her accomplishments. Eileen F. Lebow discusses Law’s frustration with the media leading up to her Chicago-New York flight in Before Amelia: Women Pilots in the Early Days of Aviation saying that “if she (Law) was hoping the headlines would play down the ‘little girl’ aspect, she was wrong. Her youth and sex were emphasized” (Lebow 214). Despite wishing news outlets wouldn’t focus on her gender, some stories with this angle were intended to be complimentary. One story in The Pensacola journal discusses how Law is an example of “the modern woman” who, along with her peers, thrived in the public sphere rather than the home. Another article from 1916 mentions that Law was turning “little girls” into suffragists through her accomplishments. The article quotes one school girl as saying “’I noticed your picture on our bulletin board, where men usually show their faces. Now I am glad I am a girl, because girls can do just as wonderful things as men’” while a boy said “’it gives me great pleasure to see that a woman could beat a man at that stunt.’” However, even more than she disliked news coverage focusing on her gender, she resented that her gender kept her from becoming a combat pilot in World War I.

Ruth Law Off to Study War Planes
The Pensacola Journal-January 24, 1917

The escalation of WWI in Europe derailed Law and Ralph Pulitzer’s plans for her to purchase an “aeroplane superior in speed and carrying capacity than existing American types” to bring back to the U.S. (Lebow 217). Despite finding herself unable to purchase a European plane due to war shortages, Law nonetheless enjoyed studying the advances in aviation and expected “to return with new ideas for adoption in this country.” When the United States entered WWI Law wasn’t allowed to “fly in combat”, but she was “authorized to wear a military uniform” to help in fundraising and recruitment efforts (DeMace). Law would “bomb” cities with leaflets promoting the purchase of Liberty Bonds while wearing this uniform. Despite doing her part to help the U.S., in 1918 The Ocala evening star reported her being “peeved because the war department won’t let her go to France.” The paper argued that she should be allowed to fight because “if she was killed, as she probably would be, the principal effect would be to make our soldiers and our people more disposed to fight.”

Ruth Law's Bombs Get Liberty Loan Bonds-Better
The Pensacola journal-June 12, 1917

After WWI, Law resumed her pre-war aviation career, sometimes offering commentary on the record-breaking attempts of others. The risky stunts in her repertoire, seen below in this article from the February 11, 1921 issue of The Pensacola journal, probably factored into her husband’s decision to announce her retirement without her knowledge in 1922. Despite her seeming lack of input in this decision, she nonetheless retired, prompting the Palatka daily news to quip that she “quit flying and settled down-instead of crashing as they usually do.” Ruth Law passed away at age 79 in 1970 but is forever remembered for her contributions to aviation and Florida history.

Law husband
The Pensacola journal-February 11, 1921

Citations and Additional Sources:

DeMace, Kayleigh. “Ruth Law Oliver: An American Aviatrix.” The Flight Blog. November 30, 2016. http://theflightblog.com/ruth-law-american-aviatrix/.

Josh. “Daytona Beach and the Earliest Days of Aviation in Florida.” The Florida Memory Blog. December 3, 2014. https://www.floridamemory.com/blog/2014/12/03/daytona-beach-and-the-earliest-days-of-aviation-in-florida/.

Lazarus, William C. Wings in the Sun: The Annals of Aviation in Florida. Orlando, Florida: Tyn Cobb’s Florida Press, 1951.

Lebow, Eileen F. Before Amelia: Women Pilots in the Early Days of Aviation. Washington D.C.: Potomac Books, Inc., 2002.

McCarthy, Kevin M. Aviation in Florida. Sarasota, Florida: Pineapple Press, Inc., 2003.

McGraw, Eliza. “The Ace Aviatrix Learned to Fly Even Though Orville Wright Refused to Teach Her.” Smithsonian.com Blog. March 22, 2017. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smithsonian-institution/ace-aviatrix-learned-fly-even-though-orville-wright-refused-teach-her-180962606/.  

Punnett, Dick and Yvonne. Thrills, Chills, and Spills: A Photographic History of Early Aviation on the World’s Most Bizarre Airport-The Beach at Daytona Beach, Florida 1906-1922. New Smyrna Beach, Florida: Luthers, 1900

Florida & Puerto Rico Digital Newspaper Project Awarded Phase 3 Funding

NDNP Phase 3 Facebook-1

We have some exciting news for fans of digitization, preservation, and history. The Florida and Puerto Rico Digital Newspaper Project has been awarded funding from the National Endowment of the Humanities for a third digitization cycle! We’ll let you know as soon as newspaper titles are selected, but for now you can read more in our press release:

University of Florida Libraries Receive Additional $310,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities

Digitization project provides free online access to historic newspapers from Florida and Puerto Rico

August 2, 2017

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — The University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries was recently awarded supplemental funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to digitize in excess of 100,000 pages of historic newspapers. The $310,000 NEH grant will provide additional funding support for the “Florida and Puerto Rico Digital Newspaper Project, which is part of the state’s and territory’s participation in the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP). The award supplements earlier grants of $288,000 in 2015 and $325,000 in 2013, making the total award $923,000, the single largest direct award ever received by the Libraries.

Led by project director Patrick Reakes and project manager Melissa Jerome, the project is a collaboration between the University of Florida (UF) Libraries and the library at the University of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras (UPR-RP). It will provide a national, digital resource of historically significant newspapers published between 1690 and 1963 from Florida and Puerto Rico.

The project provides free, internet-based access to newspapers that are currently available only on aging microfilm. The digitized papers will be available through the Library of Congress Chronicling America (http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/, the University of Florida Libraries Florida Digital Newspaper Library (http://ufdc.ufl.edu/newspapers), and the Biblioteca Digital Puertorriqueña at the University of Puerto Rico (http://bibliotecadigital.uprrp.edu/cdm/).

“This additional funding is extremely important and provides the opportunity to substantially expand access to historically important newspapers in both Florida and Puerto Rico” said Reakes. “The Florida and Puerto Rico Digital Newspaper Project has always focused on two primary goals; to provide access to a large corpus of newspapers that previously had limited availability and also to provide a long term, sustainable option for archiving them in a format other than microfilm. By the end of this portion of the project we’ll have in excess of 300,000 pages digitized and they are all freely available to anyone who wants to use them.”

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Pensacola- Where Naval Aviation Really Took Off

On Memorial Day we honor those who have died serving in the U.S. Armed Forces. Florida has played a central role in both U.S military and aviation history, and today we want to focus on the state’s contribution to the development of aerial warfare leading up to and through World War I. Events surrounding naval aviation were covered extensively in Florida newspapers, notably The Pensacola journal. This is in large part because Florida served as “the ‘springboard’ from which was launched the expedition which revolutionized the history of warfare by using airpower”, which led William C. Lazarus to refer to the state as “the womb of airpower” (Lazarus 42).

Aeroplanes may play a big part in war
Pensacola journal-May 3, 1914

The origins of the Pensacola Naval Aeronautical Station, now known as Naval Air Station Pensacola, demonstrate the changing needs of the American military in the early 20th century. As aerial technology advanced, the U.S. Military developed an interest in the burgeoning field of aviation. In 1913, naval officers began searching for a location that would allow them to train pilots year-round and the area near Pensacola caught their eye due in part to the fact they could repurpose the facilities which from 1825-1911 had served as the Pensacola Navy Yard. According to Lazarus, “The old Navy Yard at Pensacola with its year-round flying weather, landlocked bay and numerous facilities capable of conversion, was the Board’s unanimous choice” (Lazarus 40). After making their decision, the Navy moved quickly to get the new station off the ground as soon as possible. By early 1914, ships containing planes began arriving in Pensacola and the first official flight took place on February 2, 1914 when Lt. J.H. Towers and Ensign Godfrey Chevalier flew for “twenty minutes…over the station and Bayou Grande.” Shortly thereafter, the community was reminded of the dangers associated with aviation when “Lt. James McClees Murray, USN, was killed in the crash of a Burgess D-1 flying boat” on February 16, 1914 (Lazarus 41-42). Nevertheless both the Navy and The Pensacola journal remained optimistic about the future of aerial warfare.

Only a few short months after the initial flight in Pensacola, naval aviation forces were ordered to transport their planes to Texas in order to engage in the expedition pursuing General Francisco “Poncho” Villa in Mexico. The Ocala evening star enthusiastically reported on the offensive the next month, speculating that in twenty five years, students would discuss the flight and accompanying details in history classes. The Pensacola journal also featured a long, front page article discussing how the “aviators made maps of Vera Cruz, Mexico…aiding in the occupation of (the) Mexican port” just before the pilots returned to Pensacola.

Aviators made maps of Vera Cruz
Pensacola journal-June 14, 1914

Airplanes were not the only aviation technology being explored and tested in Pensacola prior to World War I. At the time, the Navy was also exploring the possibility of using dirigibles (also known as airships or blimps somewhat interchangeably at the time) for combat. The Pensacola journal documents the arrival of the “first dirigible balloon of U.S. Navy” on December 15, 1916, eagerly anticipating the “preliminary tests” which would run as soon as it was constructed. Because it was considerably larger than the extant airplanes, the Navy soon realized they needed to build a hanger specifically for the balloon, and in 1917 it was announced that funding had been earmarked for that particular purpose. The DN-1 made its maiden voyage on April 20, 1917 and continued to be of interest both in Pensacola and among the national press.

First Dirigible Balloon
Pensacola journal-December 15, 1916

The Navy established an official aeronautics school to train future pilots and other support positions on August 17, 1916. However, according to historian George F. Pearce due to “inadequate funding and lack of personnel, the school developed slowly until after the United States entered the war” (Pearce 151). Despite being underfunded, the small number of trained American aviators were nonetheless prepared to be deployed in Europe when the United States entered WWI. During the war, the Navy also designated the emblem of Navy aeronautics and recruited future aviators who were “some of the most prominent figures in the world of college sports” due to the physically demanding nature of aviation. In total, “from January 1914 until November 11, 1919 (the Armistice), Pensacola Naval Air Station trained 921 seaplane pilots, 63 dirigible pilots and 15 free-balloon pilots” many of whom would be stationed around Europe during the war (Lazarus 48).

After the war began, the Naval Aeronautical Station found itself with increased funding and a need for not only more aviators but a larger labor pool in general. Job openings for police, electricians, machinists, and more were posted in The Pensacola journal during the war. According to Pearce, “the war-inflated salaries paid to the large labor force drawn to the station to meet its burgeoning labor needs added another stimulus to quicken the pulse of the city’s economy” (Pearce 159-160). In addition to boosting Pensacola’s economy, those stationed at the base also participated in society events and other leisure activities in Pensacola. These included the Navy Yard Jazz Band providing music at the local Labor Day picnic, officers going hunting with locals, being entertained in the homes of prominent members of the Pensacola community, and marrying into local families. The influx of personnel at the Naval Aeronautical Station certainly shaped Pensacola’s culture during the war years.

Star is Emblem of Aeronatic School
Pensacola journal-July 16, 1917

After the Armistice, the military broadly had to contend with shrinking budgets during the period of post-war demobilization. Even though many were optimistic about the future of aviation warfare, including the Ocala evening star, who, in September 1914 touted the European conflict as “the world’s first great war in the air,” there were some in government who were less eager about providing the funding needed to support further development in this field. The Pensacola journal enthusiastically backed continuing the program, perhaps in part due to national pride as well as the fact that it benefited the local economy. This position is frequently reinforced by the tone of news stories about naval aviation in the years after the war. For example, the paper dedicated the front page of the “woman’s feature section” to a long story on the “possibilities of aviation” on April 6, 1919. In addition to keeping abreast of national policy discussions, they also covered the visits of individuals who supported developing the aviation program including that of then Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Admiral W. A. Moffett.

The world's first great war in the air
Ocala evening star- September 2, 1914

Today, aviation still plays an important role in the U.S military. The Naval Aeronautical Station at Pensacola, and the men who learned to fly there, should be remembered for their contributions during the developmental days of the field.

Citations and Additional Sources:

Evans, Mark L. and Roy A. Grossnick. United States Naval Aviation 1910-2010. 5th ed. Vol. 1. Washington D. C.: Naval History and Heritage Command Department of the Navy, 2015. Accessed May 15, 2017. https://www.history.navy.mil/research/publications/publications-by-subject/naval-aviation-1910-2010.html.

Lazarus, William C. Wings in the Sun: The Annals of Aviation in Florida. Orlando, Florida: Tyn Cobb’s Florida Press, 1951.

Pearce, George F. The U.S. Navy in Pensacola: From Sailing Ships to Naval Aviation (1825-1930). Pensacola, Florida: University Presses of Florida, 1980.

Birds of a Feather Died Together: The Fight to Protect Florida’s Birds

Guy Bradley
Portrait of Monroe County Game Warden Guy M. Bradley 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 bmurphree@ufl.edu and is also on Twitter @boyd_murphree.

In the weeks surrounding Earth Day, it is important to note that the work of protecting the environment has often been difficult, depressing, and even deadly. These aspects of environmental history came together in turn of the century Florida with the killing of Guy Bradley, a game warden who had fought to protect Florida birds from the ravages of plume bird hunters. Called “America’s First Martyr to Environmentalism,” Bradley was one of a handful of people who were willing to put their lives on the line to protect endangered species (McIver, xi). His actions were part of a nascent bird conservation movement headed by the newly formed Audubon Society and President Theodore Roosevelt, whose lifelong love of nature, especially of birds, drove him to create the nation’s first bird reserves as well as a multitude of national forests, game preserves, national parks, and national monuments. Florida newspapers covered Bradley’s death and many other episodes in this early environmental struggle.

Pattern Hats from Paris
From The Pensacola Journal-January 6, 1906

Killing birds for their decorative feathers was an age old practice, but it did not become an industry until the latter half of the nineteenth century, when the extraordinary growth of the American economy during the Gilded Age combined with a fashion craze among wealthier women for hats adorned with colorful bird plumes created a profitable market for the plumes of egrets and herons. By the late nineteenth century the last sanctuaries of these beautiful birds were the coastal wetlands and the Everglades of South Florida. Plume hunters scoured these areas for the birds’ rookeries, where the nesting birds presented an easy target for skilled marksmen. A plume hunter could receive as much as ten dollars per plume. In 1886, the American Ornithologists’ Union estimated that as many as five million birds were being killed each year for the supply of the millinery industry.

Easter Hats
From The Pensacola Journal-March 20, 1921

Although 1886 saw the first organized attempt to educate the public about the devastation of the plume bird population, it was not until 1900 that Congress passed the Lacey Act, a law that prohibited birds taken in violation of state laws from being transported across state lines. The Lacy Act was largely the result of the efforts of women who learned of the terrible toll the plume trade was having on the nation’s birds. Harriet Lawrence Hemenway and Minna Hall led this effort and organized the first state Audubon Society in Massachusetts in 1896. Four year later, the Florida Audubon Society was created and lobbied the state legislature to to pass Florida’s first bird protection act in 1901. The law provided for the protection of plumed birds by outlawing the killing of such birds or the sale of their plumage, imposing a fine of five dollars per bird on anyone in violation of the act and up to ten days imprisonment. Unfortunately, the law did not provide any resources for enforcement. It was up to private philanthropists to come up with the funds to pay for at least one warden to police the coast of South Florida for plume hunters. The job was given to Guy M. Bradley, a former plume hunter who had been by hired by the Audubon campaign to save the plumed birds. In 1902, Bradley took up the post of warden for Monroe County.

Lacey Act
From The new enterprise-December 10, 1903

Florida bird conservation received national attention in March 1903, when President Roosevelt backed legislation establishing Pelican Island in the Indian River Lagoon as the first federal bird reservation. Roosevelt needed little urging to take this step as he was appalled that so many birds were being killed just so their plumes could adorn the hats of fashionable women. After his friend Frank M. Chapman, ornithologist and curator of the American Museum of Natural History, laid out a detailed plan for the establishment of the reserve on the island, Roosevelt signed off on the project and agreed to appoint Paul Kroegel, an Indian River farmer and longtime bird enthusiast, as the first national wildlife refuge warden for Pelican Island.

Uncle Sam's Florida Aviary
From The Chipley banner-August 6, 1903

Meanwhile, Bradley began his work as game warden in Monroe County, where he focused his efforts on protecting the nests of the great white heron. Plume hunters had made the white heron their favorite target as the heron’s feathers were among the most prized feathers of the plume hat business. The Audubon Society supplied Bradley with a boat, which he used to police the islands off Cape Sable. His efforts soon paid off. Due to his vigilance, the number of plume birds taken in the area dropped dramatically; however, the resulting drop in supply only raised the price of the feathers as the millinery industry tried to meet the still widespread demand. Plume hunters had already shot at Bradley, who put his life on the line every day he was on duty. On July 8, 1905, he paid the ultimate price when a group of plume hunters known as the “Smith Gang” resisted Bradley, who approached them as they were shooting double-breasted cormorants. The gang refused Bradley’s order to stop the hunt. An argument ensued and Walter Smith, the leader of the gang, shot and killed Bradley.

Bradley Shot LA Herald
From the Los Angles Herald-September 17, 1905

A grand jury refused to indict Smith, who had powerful allies in the county, where plume hunting was a popular and lucrative business. Bradley’s murder and the mysterious disappearance of DeSoto County warden Columbus McLeod in 1908, encouraged the National Audubon Society to increase its efforts to end the plume trade. In 1911, New York became the first state to pass a tough plumage bill. This law was followed by federal efforts to restrict the trade. Although the business continued in Florida until World War II, stricter state enforcement ended plum hunting in the 1950s.

Citations and Additional Sources

Brinkley, Douglas. The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America (New York: Harper, 2009).

McIver, Stuart B. Death in the Everglades: The Murder of Guy Bradley, America’s First Martyr to Environmentalism (Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2003).

Portrait of Monroe County Game Warden Guy M. Bradley. Between 1902 and 1905. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory Website. Accessed April 17, 2017. https://www.floridamemory.com/items/show/13858.

New Content: The Lakeland Evening Telegram

New Building
The Lakeland evening telegram-April 15, 1914

Notice anything new? Our new Florida paper for this digitization cycle, The Lakeland evening telegram, is now up in Chronicling America. We’re pleased to announce that the content from the paper’s debut on November 1, 1911 through the December 31, 1917 issue has been ingested and uploaded for public use. What kind of news will you find in the Lakeland evening telegram? Read on to find out!

The Lakeland evening telegram was published by Michael F. Hetherington as Polk County’s first daily newspaper. It began in 1911 with the motto “published in the best part of the best town in the best state.” The motto truly sets the tone of the paper, and one of its most noticeable features is their unrelenting editorial enthusiasm for Lakeland. More so than other papers in our collection, The Lakeland evening telegram ran articles written locally and by other papers around the state praising the city that housed it. Knowing this, it may not be surprising to learn that when a second motto was added to the paper in 1914, it doubled down on the pro-Lakeland message, proclaiming “boost-remember that Satan stayed in Heaven until he began to knock his home town.”

Boosters Devil
The Lakeland evening telegram-August 1, 1914

This support for Lakeland stems from the fact that Hetherington genuinely loved the city. Editor of the first daily in Miami, the Miami Metropolis (now called the Miami News), Hetherington went to Lakeland on an assignment and was so taken with it he sold his Miami paper and moved to Lakeland. While The Lakeland evening telegram was not the first or only paper in Lakeland (Hetherington moved there in 1905 after having purchased the Lakeland News), it was one of five papers in Florida (and the only inland paper) receiving service from the Associated Press. The paper was so successful that in 1913 they announced that they would be constructing their own building because “the institution has been sadly hampered by cramped and unsuitable quarters.” In keeping with the tone of the paper, they point out that “the management believes that more can be accomplished for the good of Lakeland” once the new building was completed. When the building opened in 1914, it was covered extensively. This coverage included photographs of the interior and exterior of the new building, as well as a flattering story on Mrs. M.F. Hetherington, Michael’s wife, whose contributions to the success of the paper were “no less important than that of her husband.” In addition to being outspoken Lakeland boosters, The Lakeland evening telegram was also a fervent supporter of their own publication, frequently running self-congratulatory stories from other papers.

The Hetheringtons
The Lakeland evening telegram-April 15, 1914

Given The Lakeland evening telegram’s tendency towards self-promotion, it may not be surprising that one of the features that sets this publication apart from other papers is the fact that it publicly celebrated its birthday annually. In these birthday columns, the paper presents a hagiographic account of their continued success in spite of the fact that creating the paper was “against the better judgment of our best friends, and, we confess, not without some misgivings on our own part.” While talking about their triumphs, they also emphasize how the paper has helped boost Lakeland’s profile nationally, as well as helped support local businesses. These quirky columns are a must read for anyone interested in this particular paper.

Our First Birthday
The Lakeland evening telegram-November 1, 1912

In addition to being fervent supporters of Lakeland, The Lakeland evening telegram includes topics you’d expect to find in a Florida paper during the time period such as international and national news related to World War I, the Women’s Rights Movement, and presidential elections. Reports of local events including agricultural news with emphasis on the citrus industry, local school events, and other happenings like personal travels, church notes, and fashion tips also fill the pages of this periodical.

What happened to The Lakeland evening telegram? In 1922, The Lakeland evening telegram merged with the Lakeland Morning Star to become the Lakeland Star-Telegram. Samuel Farabee, who started the Lakeland Evening Ledger in 1924, bought the Star-Telegram in 1926 and merged them, forming the Lakeland Evening Ledger and Star-Telegram. Another title change came in 1941, when the paper was sold to Cowles Communications Inc. and called itself the Lakeland Ledger. The paper changed title and ownership one last time; it was renamed the Ledger in 1967 and was purchased by its current owner, the New York Times, in 1971. While some of these dates are outside of our current digitization date range, we’ll be uploading more issues of the The Lakeland evening telegram, through the end of 1920, in the near future.

Citations and Additional Sources:

Hetherington, M F. History of Polk County, Florida: Narrative and biographical. Chuluota, Fla: Mickler House, 1971.

Seeing Lakeland: A guide and handbook to the city and its suburbs. Federal Writers’ Project of the Work Projects Administration for the State of Florida, 1936.

Lufsey, R E., and Kelsey Blanton. History of Lakeland. Federal Writers’ Project of the Work Projects Administration for the State of Florida, 1936.