In Emancipation Betrayed: The Hidden History of Black Organizing and White Violence in Florida from Reconstruction to the Bloody Election of 1920, Paul Ortiz concludes “American history has completely erased the martyrs of 1920” (Oritz 229). Who are these martyrs and why were they forgotten? In this post, we’ll explore the aftermath of what is now known as the Ocoee Massacre by viewing responses from white Florida newspapers found in the Chronicling America collection to remind people of the consequences of racism in the not-so-distant past.
November 2, 1920 marked two important cultural moments; the first Presidential election in which (white) women were able to vote nation-wide and the culmination of the “Florida movement” among African Americans in the state. This voter registration movement began “January 19, 1919-Emancipation Day-“ and sought to mobilize thousands of African American voters. They intended to resist the entrenched Democratic Party’s control of the state as well as challenge “the fundamental elements of racial oppression: poverty wages, debt peonage, failing schools, racial violence, and corrupt law enforcement” (Ortiz 172 & 205). In the months and weeks leading up to the election, white Floridians sought to intimidate African Americans by holding Ku Klux Klan rallies and parades. While The Ocala evening star referred to the Klan’s activities as “incendiary foolishness,” The Daytona daily news reported on Election Day that their “demonstration” proved that the Klan “is in touch with local affairs” and lambasted another local paper for their “efforts” to “belittle the organization.”
On Election Day, African Americans attempted to vote, but faced “a planned system of fraud” throughout the state (Ortiz 220). In Ocoee, voter suppression combined with the accusation that an African American man named Mose Norman returned to the polls with a gun after not being allowed to vote, culminated in a white riot that tore through Ocoee. This riot resulted in the deaths, including at least one lynching, of an unknown number of African Americans, the destruction of all African American homes and social institutions in Ocoee, and an attempt on the part of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) to force the U.S. Congress to hold the state of Florida accountable for voter suppression.
On the morning of November 3rd, the stories in both The Ocala evening star and The Daytona daily newsframe the stories as the fault of the African American man who wanted to vote. In an article also run in the Times-Union, The Ocala evening star states “fifty carloads of men left Orlando to help preserve order.” The Klan-supporting Daytona paper states that after “two young white men” were shot from the house that Norman found shelter in, a shootout started which then required “the white people to set fire to 18 houses as a manner of protection.” The next day, The Ocala evening star ran a front page Associated Press article which declared “storing ammunition and attacking the whites does not pay them (African Americans)” and on November 6th it re-ran a piece from the Orlando Reporter-Star which asserted the “doctrine of social equality has no place in the South” and suggests African Americans “Stop loafing, get to work, and keep out of mischief.” These stories all gloss over the fact that “a group of white men chased Norman from the polls” and then decided they should “pay Mose Norman a visit to bring him to his senses” (Ortiz 220-221).
In the months that followed, the events at Ocoee were infrequently discussed in our white Florida papers. Sporadic reports discussed the hearings in Washington D.C. requested by the NAACP in response to the massacre. Paul Oritz argues that the event “drove nearly five hundred African Americans out of Ocoee, and the town became Florida’s newest white homeland,” which may explain the lack of coverage of the issue (Ortiz 223). The dearth in coverage in Florida papers after the massacre demonstrates deeply entrenched racial issues, the effects of which can still be felt today, in early 20th century Florida.
Citations and Additional Resources
Ortiz, Paul. Emancipation Betrayed: The Hidden History of Black Organizing and White Violence in Florida from Reconstruction to the Bloody Election of 1920. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2005.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and is also on Twitter @boyd_murphree.
The 2016 presidential election has triggered an avalanche of vitriol and sheer nastiness that seems destined to make the election one of the most divisive in US history. Few presidential races have garnered more negative press and generated more negative public reaction than the battle between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. The bitterness of 2016 brings to mind the famous elections of 1860 (Lincoln and secession) and 1968 (Nixon and Vietnam) as parallel periods of anxiety and political division among the electorate.
A more subtle but equally instructive example from past presidential races is the election of 1920, when the nation confronted many of the same issues that dominate the current contest: race, terrorism, the role of women in politics, and uncertainty about America’s role in the world. Going into the election, Florida, like the rest of the Deep South, was a Democratic stronghold. The few Florida newspapers available in Chronicling America from 1920 reflect the Southern, white, male and Democratic view of the issues and the candidates.
Unlike Trump and Clinton, whose controversial names are unlikely to disappear any time soon from American political memory, the names Harding and Cox are seldom recalled today. James M. Cox, the Democratic nominee in 1920, long ago entered the pantheon of losing, little-known presidential contenders. Of course, Republican Warren G. Harding won the presidency, but he is remembered more for love affairs than affairs of state. However, it is not the personalities of the candidates that makes the election of 1920 pertinent today, but the issues that permeated the race.
Only two years earlier, the nation emerged victorious from World War I. Despite this victory, America was divided about the results of a peace that left millions dead for questionable gain. Americans were ready to turn inward and embrace Harding’s call for a return to “normalcy” in foreign and domestic affairs. That normalcy was also disturbed in 1919 by a wave of strikes and bombings that resulted in the nation’s first Red Scare, a fear that the success of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia would bring anarchism and communism to America’s shores. The Red Scare encouraged suspicion of foreigners and foreign doctrines that seemed to endanger American security, fueling the resurrection of the Ku Klux Klan, which would become a powerful and violent presence in the country during the next decade.
Fear of the foreign was matched by fear of the familiar. On August 18, 1920, the nation ratified the Nineteenth Amendment giving women the vote. The election of 1920 became the first presidential election in which all American women of legal age in each of then forty-eight states had the right to vote. Florida had not ratified the Nineteenth Amendment and would not do so until 1969. Many Florida legislators believed that extending the vote to women would only encourage more African Americans to vote (black women could vote for the first time). After the national ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment made Florida’s continued opposition irrelevant, the same segregationists urged white Florida women to register and vote to offset the expected increase in black voting, now that black women had the vote. Florida women could vote and did so on November 2, 1920, the date of the presidential election. The Ocala Evening Star reported the historic moment on Election Day by noting the names of the first seven white women to vote in Marion County and, with less eye for detail, observed, “A majority of the colored voters are women.”
The fact that African Americans showed up at the polls in large numbers—the Ocala Evening Star reported heavy voting on the “colored side” on election morning—was the result of an organized drive, especially among black women, to register African Americans to vote and vote Republican. The goal of this “Florida movement,” according to historian Paul Ortiz, was “a statewide movement aimed at shattering white supremacy” (Ortiz, 172).
Whites reacted with organized opposition to the black vote. Groups of armed whites, led by the newly resurgent Ku Klux Klan, formed to intimidate and prevent blacks from voting across the state. The resilience of the Florida movement did result in successful black voting in a number of cities, but African American voters in many localities were not so fortunate. Central Florida became the scene of the worst racial violence on Election Day when white residents of Orange County attacked African Americans in Ocoee. African Americans in Ocoee resisted the white mob and a bloody battle raged for several hours in the now burning black community. Known as the Ocoee Massacre, the fighting resulted in the deaths of dozens of African Americans and drove hundreds of others from the town.
As Ocoee burned, Americans awoke to a resounding Republican victory on the morning after Election Day. Hoover swept the nation with over sixty percent of the popular vote and 404 electoral votes to Cox’s 127. The election resolved which party would dominate Washington during the 1920s, but many of the election’s most divisive issues remain with the county to this day.
Johnson, Kenneth R. “Florida Women Get the Vote.” Florida Historical Quarterly 48, no. 3 (January 1970): 299-312.
Ortiz, Paul. Emancipation Betrayed: The Hidden History of Black Organizing and White Violence in Florida From Reconstruction to the Bloody Election of 1920 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005).
Pietrusza, David. 1920 The Year of Six Presidents (New York: Carroll and Graf, 2007).
July 25, 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service (NPS). Established by Woodrow Wilson under the Organic Act of 1916, the national parks are enjoyed by millions of visitors interested in exploring the diversity and beauty of the U.S. landscape. Today, the creation of a new federal bureau would likely make headlines, but the policy issues surrounding the consolidation of park management as well as the other conservation acts leading up to the creation of the NPS don’t seem to drive the discussion about national parks in our papers. Instead, the parks are frequently mentioned in conjunction with tourism. Across our papers, headlines related to national parks typically take the form of travel notices about Floridians on the move, advertisements offering guided trips to the West, and society segments chronicling the travels of famous Americans to distant areas like Yosemite, Crater Lake, and Glacier National Parks. Finding this perspective in our papers isn’t all that surprising, an argument historian Marguerite S. Shaffer makes in her book See America First: Tourism and National Identity 1880-1940. In her work, she argues “under the leadership of the National Park Service, the United States government, in partnership with private corporations, began to define and promote a national tourism as a ritual of American citizenship. In the process, the national parks were transformed into a system of national assets, and tourism became integrally linked to national identity” (Shaffer 92). To celebrate the centennial of the NPS, we’ll be exploring instances in our papers where the parks are discussed in relation to travel.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, interest in the American West increased substantially due in part to stories, photos, and even theater shows like Buffalo Bill’s Wild West celebrating the region circulating in the Eastern U.S. and Europe. Expansions in national railroad infrastructure as well as new travel technology like the car made it easier than ever for people to explore the vast American West, leading to concerns about conservation and access. This is an issue tourism scholars Richard W. Butler and Stephen W. Boyd discuss in the introduction to the book Tourism and National Parks: Issues and Implications. In it they claim, “while preservation and romantic notions of safeguarding wilderness places were often stated as the driving forces behind early park establishment, many of the first parks would not have been established if they had offered no potential for tourism….The first parks in North America, for example, Yellowstone and Banff, benefited from the presence of railroad interests that provided not only initial access to the parks but also the necessary tourism infrastructure within the parks for the first tourists” (Butler and Boyd 9). While some Americans may think of the parks as pristine nature preserves, they are in fact tied up in a larger legacy of tourism and development.
Yellowstone National Park was the first park to be formed by the U.S government. Signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872, it became the first such park “in the history of the world” (PBS EP1). By the end of the 19th century, there were additional national parks including Sequoia, Yosemite, and Mt. Rainier. A further expansion of presidential powers took place in 1906 when Teddy Roosevelt signed what is commonly known as the Antiquities Act, giving the president “the exclusive authority – without any Congressional approval – to preserve places that would be called national monuments” (PBS EP2). Conflict over who would manage these monuments and parks demonstrated a need to create a governmental agency with that express purpose. At the same time this need developed at an administrative level, promotional materials were created and distributed by groups in support of the parks (including companies using the slogan “See America First”) which “sought to establish the value of national parks as national assets” (Shaffer 104). Public and corporate support for the national parks generated by promotional campaigns contributed to the passage and signing of the Organic Act of 1916. Combined with the fact that access to Europe for tourists was hindered by the ongoing World War, Americans turned west to explore their own country. As we see in our papers during this time period, “between 1918 and 1919, the parks were defined as more than just scenic wonders. They became quintessentially American landscapes that objectified the American character and embodied the essence of the nation, and in the tradition of democracy, they belonged to the people, ever available for their benefit and pleasure” (Shaffer 114-115).
With that background in mind, please enjoy the following excerpts from our Florida newspapers about visiting the national parks during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Famous Visitors to the Parks
Auto Tourism and the Parks
Citations and Additional Sources
Butler, Richard W. and Stephen W. Boyd. “Tourism and parks-a long but uneasy relationship.” In Tourism and National Parks: Issues and Implications, edited by Richard W. Butler and Stephen W. Boyd, 3-11. Chichester, England: John Wiley & Sons, LTD, 2000.
Department of the Interior, National Park Service. Yellowstone National Park, Ranger Naturalist Service. 1 print (poster): screen, color ; 48 x 36 cm. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. From: Library of Congress, http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2007676133/ (accessed August 25, 2016).
Shaffer, Marquerite S. See America First: Tourism and National Identity, 1880-1940. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 2001.
We’ve posted a quick tutorial on YouTube that covers the what the Florida & Puerto Rico Digital Newspaper Project is, our partners, and how to perform searches using the advanced search option. This is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of ChronAm’s functionality, but we hope this walk-through inspires you to dig into the past.
Few things shaped the long history of the University of Florida like the signing of the Buckman Act on June 5, 1905. The legislation, authored by Congressman Henry H. Buckman, consolidated the numerous (white) public colleges and seminaries in the state into the University of Florida and Florida Female College (now Florida State University) as well as maintained the State Normal and Industrial College for Colored Students (now Florida A&M) and the Institute for Blind, Deaf, and Dumb. Because the bill fundamentally restructured higher education within the state and impacted many communities which housed smaller institutions, the Buckman Act is covered extensively in our papers. Samuel Proctor and Wright Langley, authors of Gator History: A Pictorial History of the University of Florida are correct in pointing out that “most newspapers favored consolidation, although there was opposition in communities like Bartow that seemed likely to lose their institutions” (Proctor and Langley 24). This post will look at the manner in which the Buckman Act was discussed during the 1905 legislative session. Notably, we’ll look at the Weekly True Democrat from Tallahassee, which supported the bill and also reported opinions printed in other papers in the state, and the Gainesville Daily Sun which, while initially against the act, warmed up to it considerably once Gainesville’s name began to be mentioned as the possible location of the University of Florida.
The history of higher education in Florida can be traced back to January 22, 1851 when “the Legislature passed a bill authorizing establishment of two seminaries, one in east Florida and the other in west Florida” (Proctor and Langley 18). In the wake of the organization of these two institutions, other small state schools opened throughout the remainder of the 19th century. By the early 20th century, there were eight total public colleges and institutes. At the beginning of the 1905 legislative session, some officials were of the opinion that the proliferation of these unregulated institutions was placing an unreasonable financial burden on the state. These institutions competed for students, which, in turn, allowed them to ask for more financial support from the state. The result of this competition led to “interschool rivalry” and the fear among many was that “Florida had more schools than it could afford to maintain, and without change, none would be able to achieve preeminence” (Proctor and Langley 23). This attitude is reflected in the May 19th issue of the Weekly True Democrat from Tallahassee. While the editors are “doubtful” that the bill can be enacted, they nonetheless state that its very existence is “an indication that the taxpayers of the State have become weary of witnessing successive Legislatures fritter away their hard-earned money in wasteful efforts to build up local schools for the sole benefit of ambitious local communities.”
The goal of Buckman’s bill was threefold: it intended to condense the number of state funded institutions of higher learning, place the consolidated institutions under the authority of the governor-appointed of the Board of Control, and create gender segregated schools for white students. The bill gained popularity and ultimately replaced the “Regent’s Bill” proposed by Senator Stockton and Congressman Wall which supported oversight without school closures and said nothing about gender segregation. While there is simply not enough space to discuss the gendered aspect of the Buckman Act, an article by Shira Birnbaum on the topic notes that “most of these state-financed public institutions-like their private and locally supported counterparts-had been made coeducational before the turn of the century” (Birnbaum 225).
So what do papers from the time have to say about the Buckman bill? In short, quite a bit. The legislation was one of the more publicly discussed bills of the 1905 legislative session. A search for the term in Florida Chronicling America papers for only the year 1905 yields an impressive number of articles from across the state, often occupying prime front-page space.
The Weekly True Democrat from Tallahassee is one of our papers that frequently reported on the university issue while the bill was being considered, during the contestation of the law at the state Supreme Court, and throughout the implementation process. There are two potential reasons for the coverage. First, the Tallahassee paper features a considerable amount of political news simply because Tallahassee is the state capital and seat of state governance. Additionally, as the host of both Florida State College and the State Normal and Industrial College for Colored Students, citizens of Tallahassee would be affected should either college close. Fears aside, the Weekly True Democrat unabashedly supported the bill. Early in the session, the Weekly True Democrat addressed this issue saying as “much as we deprecate the arbitrary abolishment of some of the institutions thus affected by this bill, and especially our own State College, we feel…that the time has come to cut of the wasting of the people’s money…and if the enactment of the Buckman bill is the only means of accomplishing this purpose, we are in favor of it.”
Perhaps more useful to individuals interested in learning more about public opinion and the Buckman bill is the fact that the Weekly True Democrat regularly included columns containing snippets from other newspapers in the state about certain hot cultural topics. From these columns, we can see the tension that existed surrounding the issue in the language used by supporters and detractors of the bill. For example, the Perry Topics is reported by the Democrat as saying “This is the best bill that could have been passed. The measly little schools were draining the State, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars annually and doing less good than a third grade school in the rural districts.” The Live Oak Democrat echoed similar sentiment saying “the people, we doubt not, would be better satisfied with two or three high-class educational institutions adequately supported by the State than half a dozen or more always ‘on the bum’ through no fault of their own…” On the other side of the issue was the DeFuniak Breeze which was reported as saying “Should the Governor sign it, it may be taken almost as an assured fact that the matter will go into the courts and end no one knows where.” DuFuniak, Florida, it should be noted, was the location of the White Normal School that would be eliminated if the Buckman bill passed. While the majority of the reports in the Weekly True Democrat from other papers are supportive of consolidation, editorial approval for the bill was not universal across the state.
Like DeFuniak, Gainesville (the current home of the University of Florida) was concerned that the passage of the Buckman bill would lead to the closure of East Florida Seminary, which had been located in the city since 1866 and vocally opposed the legislation (Proctor and Langley 19). The Gainesville Daily Sun covered the Buckman bill regularly, including running a story about a committee who ventured to Tallahassee “in the interest of securing if possible the defeat of the famous Buckman bill.” On May 28th, after the bill passed the Senate, the Daily Sun reported that “Senator McCreary made a noble fight against great odds to save East Florida Seminary, but the forces against him and education were too strong.” Clearly, the Gainesville Daily Sun viewed the Buckman Act as something of immense social and cultural importance and framed the issue using the type of rhetoric we often see in reports on issues related to the so-called culture wars today.
As what appeared to be the inevitable passage of the bill loomed, antagonism towards it in the Daily Sun waned due in large part to support around the state to choose Gainesville as the location of the University of Florida, the premier educational institution in this newly organized structure. According to Proctor and Langley, “many Floridians favored Lake City since the University was already established there with several new and modern buildings.” Knowing they faced an uphill battle, “Gainesville launched a major public relations campaign to win statewide support” (Proctor and Langley 25). Knowing that the serving as the home of the university would ultimately be beneficial to the city, the Daily Sun enthusiastically began to support placing the University of Florida in Gainesville.
For obvious reasons, the Daily Sun only ran articles supporting the idea that Gainesville was the best suited location for the university. One such article ran on June 3, 1905 and extensively quotes a June 2ndTampa Tribune piece about the suitability of Gainesville. This contextualized reprint states “Gainesville is unquestionably the best location in the State for the University, which is the most important proposition. The city is located centrally, both geographically and with respect to population and has everything desirable for the maintenance of the University. It has the school spirit, good water, a healthful climate, good buildings, and is a town without a saloon or a disorderly house, with a standard of morality that makes it an ideal college town.” Nearly a month later on June 29th, the Gainesville Daily Sun re-ran an editorial by Maitland resident S.B. Hill that had been first published in Jacksonville’s Times-Union. This editorial is completely complimentary to Gainesville, framing the city as the people’s choice for the flagship school. In Hill’s opinion, not only is Gainesville a better choice, but the school formerly run in Lake City was rife with “discord, enmity, and factionalism” which, prior to its closure by the Buckman Act, had “interfered with the management of the school.” This led Hill to conclude “we cannot afford to trust the University in a place where local politics, with all its blighting influences, has dared to lay its profanating [sic] hands upon the sacred interests of the State school entrusted to fostering care of the community.”
Ultimately, the Board of Control chose Gainesville as the location of the University of Florida on July 6, 1905 in a close 6-4 vote. The same evening, a unanimous vote resulted in the selection of Tallahassee as the location for the Florida Female College. After the successful public relations campaign, the city of Gainesville celebrated their victory. The front page of the Gainesville Daily Sun for the next several days recounts the triumphant vote and reports the city’s response to the news, including an impromptu 51 car parade which met Mayor W.R. Thomas upon his return to the city. This parade included “carriages, buggies and wagons, as well as the bicycles” which “were decorated in the Seminary colors, orange and black, and buttonieres [sic] and lapel streamers were prominent on the persons of all who participated in the parade, as well as ninety-five percent of the people of the city, regardless of age, sex or color.” The front page of the July 10th edition of the paper features a large announcement titled “Our Grateful Thanks” In which the paper, “on behalf of the good people of the city of Gainesville,” expresses its “deep gratitude to the press of the State for the free and generous manner in which it stood by our city in this effort to maintain supremacy as an educational center.” In reflecting on the choice of Gainesville as the home of UF, the paper uses religious language, saying that “a sacred trust has fallen to our city” and that “in whatever position we may be called upon to act, we will ever hold next to Him on high, our duty to these institutions where the minds of our youth are to be molded for the perpetuity of our State and the Nation.” Despite the public celebration, the Gainesville Sun, it seems, viewed the decision of the Board of Control in a more nuanced way, meshing celebration with solemnity and a sense of moral responsibility.
Although the Buckman Act established the University of Florida in Gainesville, not everyone, particularly residents of Lake City, was happy with the decision. During the 1906 move of equipment and furnishings from Lake City to Gainesville, a fracas-both physical and legal- ensued, which is also discussed in our papers. That however, is a story for another day. The Buckman Act, enacted June 5, 1905, resulted in the restructuring of higher education in Florida. Discussion of this publicly debated legislative act and stories about the schools that emerged from this reorganization can be found throughout our historical Florida newspapers.
Citations and Additional Sources
Birnbaum, Shira. “Making Southern Belles in Progressive Era Florida: Gender in the Formal and Hidden Curriculum of the Florida Female College.” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies 16 (2/3 1996): 218-46.
Proctor, Samuel, and Wright Langley. Gator History: A Pictorial History of the University of Florida. Gainesville, FL: South Star Publishing Company, 1986.
While Florida newspapers certainly cover history-making moments, they also serve as a chronicle of the economic and social issues facing readers at the time of publication. Within the pages of papers included in the FPRDNP, few topics are as pervasive as the state’s iconic citrus industry. It may be unsurprising that citrus news dominates a title like DeLand’s Florida Agriculturist, but the reality is news about the citrus industry frequently made headlines across the state.
Although citrus is frequently associated with Florida in terms of cultural memory, it is not native to the state. Prior to European involvement in the Americas, citrus was already a well-known and desired commodity in Europe and Asia. It is believed that “Ponce de Leon, planted the first orange trees around St. Augustine, Florida, sometime between 1513 and 1565” (Florida Citrus Mutual). Although non-native, citrus plants thrived in Florida. In fact, “by 1774, when the naturalist William Bartram traveled up the St. Johns River, he reported finding wild orange groves scattered across the higher regions of land where he camped at night” (Peggy Macdonald). As European Americans settled Florida, cultivation of citrus and transportation methods improved, and by 1893 the state was producing “more than five million boxes” of citrus fruit annually (Florida Citrus Mutual). Due to the important role citrus played in the state’s economy, our newspapers contain articles from a variety of perspectives.
No single dimension of the citrus industry dominates coverage in these papers, and individuals with a variety of historical interests will enjoy searching through the collection. For example, those curious about the agricultural side of things will find stories detailing the agendas of the Florida State Horticultural Society, an organization that was actively involved in developing new and improved methods of fruit cultivation, particularly compelling. Similarly, University of Florida aficionados may enjoy browsing issues of the Punta Gorda Herald containing the “Farm and Grove in Florida” column. Specifically reporting on research done at the UF College of Agriculture, the column includes stories demonstrating the issues facing UF scientists and Florida growers alike-especially the dreaded whitefly.
Individuals interested in the economic and business aspects of the citrus industry may enjoy reading the articles and advertisements by the Florida Citrus Exchange defending their distribution methods and imploring other growers to join the organization. Founded in 1909, the goal of the Exchange was to organize “Florida growers into one cooperative marketing agency.” The idea behind this was to help “improve production by sharing facilities, technology and manpower” and to “maximize returns on citrus growers’ investment, standardize operations and shipping, and increase collective volumes for nationwide marketing” according to Seald Sweet, the company that grew out of the Florida Citrus Exchange.
Despite the technological advances related to citrus cultivation presented in these papers, it is apparent that humans were not the only actors in the citrus industry. One of the biggest adversaries to the citrus industry are the unpredictable natural disasters including hurricanes and freezes. Across all the papers in the FPRDNP, there are reports detailing the losses caused by such events. Notwithstanding the best efforts by growers to cultivate healthy crops, events like the Freezes of 1894-1895 and the 1921 Tampa hurricane were major financial and emotional setbacks. When discussing the hurricane, Ocala Evening Starestimates this particular storm did two million dollars’ worth of damage to the citrus crop in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Polk, Manatee, and Lee counties alone.
Today, some farmers, researchers, and public policy makers are questioning the future of citrus in Florida due to citrus greening and other diseases (NPR). Although citrus trees have thrived overall since their introduction in Florida, our newspapers demonstrate that growers have long had to contend with what nature has thrown at them. Despite nature-based setbacks, our papers tell a story of human determination and perseverance among growers in the state that has helped solidify the association between the State of Florida and citrus production in the public mind.
“In Women’s Realm,” “Society,” “People and Events,” “Over the Coffee Cups”- these are just a few of the names that denote women-centric columns in the English language newspapers within the FPRDNP. But to the contemporary user of historic newspaper archives, what does this mean and why should we care? The first of a two part series celebrating Women’s History Month, this blog post will explore the meaning and content of what historian Alice Fahs refers to as “The Woman’s Page.” To do so, I will use the Pensacola Journal exclusively due to the consistent presence of a woman edited society section in the title spanning from at least January 1905 to at the earliest December 1914, when our archives for this particular paper end.
What is a women’s column and what is its place in newspaper history? As journalism scholar Jan Whitt puts it, they “are a product of the late nineteenth century and were designed to draw a large audience for advertisers interested in marketing to women.” (38). There are multiple types of women’s pages, including separate papers for women known by the same name and single pages within broader-interest papers. While the editors of the Pensacola Journal offered both by 1909, we will concern ourselves with the columns contained within the general paper. Historian Alice Fahs claims in her book Out on Assignment: Newspaper Women and the Making of Modern Public Space that these pages have largely been overlooked by newspaper historians. This is a mistake because these “stories offer compelling insight into a lost world of women’s writings that placed women at the heart of a new public life.” (13)
Looking at the women’s section in the Pensacola Journal broadly, the reader can find a vivid portrait of the social calendar in the city. Beyond simply reporting important life events such as births, deaths, and funerals, the column also includes reports of illness, birthday parties, out of town visitors, and club meetings. Unlike the quick local news sections of the paper, the social events found on the “People and Events” page typically contain a paragraph or more description of the headline. For example, the April 3rd 1909 “Society” column devotes four paragraphs to Miss Victorine Kroenberger “a beautiful young Pensacola girl” who left home to “enter the Convent of the Holy Cross at Notre Dame” in order to become a nun. In this respect, the column provides more context for local events than the rest of the paper.
Not just a source for local news, the “Society” page in the Pensacola Journal also offers insight into national cultural concerns for women. This section of the paper houses the syndicated column “Heart and Home Problems,” written by Mrs. Elizabeth Thompson, that also can be found in the Topeka State Journal (KS), Rock Island Argus (Ill.), and the Oklahoma City Times (OK) just to name a few. Beginning in 1912 and continuing through at least December 1914, these columns by Mrs. Elizabeth Thompson provide practical advice to letter writers regarding a wide variety of issues like courtship, hygiene, and their education. In many ways, her column is a precursor to those like “Dear Abby” or “Miss Manners” found in contemporary newspapers and their online counterparts.While the modern reader may expect a column like this to contain fairly traditional advice regarding gender roles, they sometimes deviated from the norm. For example, in the column below from August 1912, Mrs. Thompson says that “many splendid men have helped their wives with the housework, thinking it more dignified for a man to help his wife than it would be for him to let her become a worn-out drudge” in response to a fourteen year old’s query about being responsible for all house work because her mother is deceased.
Women’s pages also address topics related to the body both inside and out. Fashion and beauty are addressed in these columns in the form of editorials, news reports, and advertisements. For example, the Pensacola Journal contains a sub-column known as “The Journal’s Daily Fashion Feature” in many issues. This feature includes drawings and descriptions of cutting edge women’s clothing styles from around the United States and Europe. From this feature, it becomes obvious that Pensacola women in the early 20th century wanted to stay abreast of fashion trends. Beyond wanting to simply know about fashion, they valued the skills of individuals who were able to reproduce the current styles locally. For example, an article from October 7, 1906 highlights Mrs. Nordstrom’s millinery due to the fact that the store has “one of the best St. Louis milliners.” Why was it so important to report on the talent of employee Miss Nobles? Because “St. Louis is where millinery styles are made.” These women’s sections inform readers of trends and also let them know where they can procure the goods discussed.
When it comes to internal issues, women’s papers feature advertisements for products related to problems typically relegated to women such as the care of the sick and cooking. All manner of new and cutting edge products are promoted that promise improvements in health and digestion. For example, an ad by Cotolene claims women should use it to replace lard because it “makes food that any stomach can digest…and is the most healthful and economical cooking fat on the market.” With the tagline “sunshine in the kitchen,” ads for this particular cotton seed oil are a frequent sight on the “Society” page. While women are targets for ads related to feeding their families in these columns, it is clear they are also responsible for their overall health as well. An ad for “California Syrup of Figs” from October 22, 1913 begins with the phrase “Look at the tongue, mother!” before claiming that the mother would soon have “a well, playful child again” after using the product to eliminate constipation and yellow bile. Beyond the health of their families, advertisements also promise cures to obviously misunderstood maladies grouped together as “womanly troubles.” The tonic known as Carudi, for example, promises to “relieve or prevent headache, backache, side ache, dragging sensations, nervousness, irritability, irregularity, and general female weakness and misery.” Like the Cotolene ad, Carudi advertisements span the run of the section. Regardless of if they bought these products or not, women who read “Over the Coffee Cups” and its other iterations were exposed to advertising with considerable cultural subtext.
Pensacola Journal- March 22, 1912
Pensacola Journal-October 22, 1913
Pensacola Journal February 20, 1909
While much more can and should be said about historic women’s newspaper columns, the fact of the matter is there are easily upwards of 500 pages within just this digitized portion of the Pensacola Journal that are edited by women and deal with people and societal events. This overview barely scratches the surface of the available information in just this one title. However, I hope that after reading this blog post it is abundantly clear that even in the early 20th century, women weren’t simply passive consumers of the news. They were a demographic that is explicitly courted by the inclusion of sections like “People and Events,” “Society,” and “Over the Coffee Cups.”
Works Cited and Additional Information
Fahs, Allice. Out on Assignment: Newspaper Women and the Making of Modern Public Space. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: The University of North Carolina Press, 2011.