Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hillsborough County History: Part Five of a Series

Captian James McKay
TBHC Collection
The only profitable (legal) ventures [in the Tampa Bay area] were cattle and timber.  As early as the 1850s, cattle traders established a route from Florida to Cuba. This trade resumed shortly after the conclusion of the Civil War.  Cubans were able to pay in gold for cattle, so area ranchers soon were back on their feet.  The trade was pioneered by Tampan James McKay. He shipped his cattle to Cuba from Gadsden Point, at the lower end of the Interbay Peninsula.  McKay was joined in this endeavor by other Hillsborough County residents, notably the Lesleys, Lykes and Hookers.

Florida, and Tampa, however, remained destitute for almost two decades.  Finally, in 1881, relief was on the northern horizon.  Henry Plant was bringing his new railroad south, and he picked Tampa as his railhead. 

The railroad arrived in 1884, and the following year construction began on Tampa's first two cigar factories, Sanchez y Haya and V. M. Ybor and Co., in a new suburb -- Ybor City.  The railroad and cigars would shape Tampa like nothing else had.  Plant improved the fledgling port at the southwestern tip of the Interbay Peninsula, and soon Port Tampa was shipping goods and people throughout ports along the Gulf of Mexico.

Hillsborough County's population grew, as did its prosperity.  Immigrants from Cuba, Spain and Italy came to work in the cigar factories of Ybor City and West Tampa. 

Ignacio Haya
TBHC Collection
Tens, and later hundreds, of millions of hand rolled cigars were produced in Tampa factories.  The industry enjoyed its status as Tampa's biggest money-maker until the 1930s, when the Great Depression, mechanization and cigarette smoking began to take their toll.

Loading phosphate at Port Tampa
TBHC Collection
The same year that Ybor and Haya opened their factories, 1886, pebble phosphate was discovered in the Peace River in Polk County, Florida.  Phosphate was later discovered in the Hillsborough River and in the largely undeveloped southern portion of Hillsborough County.  Though not mentioned as much as the cigar industry and the railroad, the phosphate industry outlasted both.  Daily, trains traverse the tracks through downtown Tampa, as they have done since 1889, carrying their loads of phosphate to the docks at Port Tampa.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Tampa Bay History Center Celebrates Moms

The Tampa Bay History Center will celebrate Mother’s Day by offering free admission for moms on Saturday, May 7 and Sunday, May 8, from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. To commemorate the day, the History Center will offer arts and crafts for kids in the Lykes Atrium and a 15% discount in the Museum Store on select items.

Complimentary admission to the History Center is made possible by Verizon.

The Mother’s Day celebration will take place during regular business hours at the History Center. Call (813) 228-0097 or check our website for more information.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Civil War Sesquicentennial Week Recap

Florida Volunteer, Library of Congress
  The 150th anniversary of the Civil War has recieved quite a bit of attention this week with our own Rodney Kite-Powell appearing on several local broadcasts and many more news stories appearing in the local papers and national media. The New York Times blog DISUNION is a particularly good read.

Of course, if you haven't gotten a chance to see it yet, be sure you check out Blue and Gray in Tampa Bay: The Civil War of Florida's Gulf Coast, on exhibit in the Wayne Thomas Gallery at the History Center through May.

Also, coming up on May 22, Historian Daniel Schafer will be at the History Center to talk about his book, Thunder on the River: The Civil War in Northeast Florida. The free lecture is part of the Florida Conversations Lecture Series.

To round out the week of Civil War coverage, Studio 360 featured a series of Civil War-releated interivews and podcasts marking the sesquicentennial. An interview with historian Adam Goodheart, author of the new book 1861: The Civil War Awakening is embeded below:

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Florida Conversations Explores Environmental ‘Insanity’

The History Center welcomes award-winning St. Petersburg Times environmental reporter Craig Pittman to the Florida Conversations Lecture Series on Sunday, April 17, at 3:00 p.m. 

A three-time Waldo Proffitt Award winner for Distinguished Environmental Journalism in Florida, Pittman’s investigative reporting has exposed flaws and corruption in Florida’s regulation of sensitive wetlands and water resources. In a 2004 story for the Times, he uncovered a secret plan by Florida’s business leaders to transfer water from sleepy North Florida to booming South Florida. The stories caused such an uproar that then-Gov. Jeb Bush scuttled the plan.

Pittman’s previous book, Paving Paradise: Florida’s Vanishing Wetlands and the Failure of No Net Loss, was recognized by the Society of Environmental Journalists.

Co-sponsored by the USF Libraries Florida Studies Center and supported by WUSF Public Media, Florida Conversations features authors and presenters covering a variety of Florida topics, from politics to fiction, history to environmental issues.

Florida Conversations is free and open to the public. Public parking is available at St. Pete Times Forum East Lot, the Channelside garage and other city-owned lots. For more information, contact the Tampa Bay History Center at (813) 228-0097 our website.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

History Center Curator Discusses 150th Anniversary of the Civil War on Good Day Tampa Bay

The War Between the States started 150 years ago today and it remains one of the most compelling topics in American history.

In fact, 800 new books are reportedly published on the Civil War each year. The four-year war changed us and the way we see ourselves.

While the issue of slavery, of course, is definitely one of the root causes of the war, there were other reasons that so many young men put on the blue and gray -- and some say those same causes are alive and well today.

Rodney Kite-Powell, curator of the Tampa Bay History Center, discussed the Civil War on Good Day Tampa Bay.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Hillsborough County History Part 3 of a Series

Within the first two decades of the 1800s, two distinct settlements had grown in present-day Hillsboroough County -- the Cuban settlement of Spanishtown Creek, near today's Hyde Park, and the Seminole village of Thlonotosassa, on the shore of Lake Thonotosassa.  These enclaves attracted little attention until after the transfer of Florida to the United States in 1821.

National and international attention shifted to Florida when General Andrew Jackson made an illegal foray into the territory in 1817 to aid Americans living on the Florida/Georgia border who were fighting the Seminoles and to capture runaway slaves.  Eventually, the United States would fight three wars against the Seminoles, with the last one (1855-1858) ending with the deportation of all but approximately 300 Seminoles from the state to the Indian Territory in Oklahoma.  This last group lived deep in the Everglades of south Florida.  From this determined group grew the Seminole Tribe of Florida and the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida of today.

As a result of early fighting between the Seminoles and white settlers, the American government established a series of forts throughout Florida. 

One of these, Fort Brooke, is now the nucleus of modern Tampa.  Fort Brooke was established in 1824 by Colonel George Mercer Brooke and Colonel James Gadsden.  During the Second Seminole War (1835-1842), the fort served as the United States Army's Southern Headquarters.  Future U. S. President Zachery Taylor, a general during the war, served at Fort Brooke.

Within a few years of its founding, a small village sprang from the northern boundary of the fort.  The first post office (1831) officially named the village Tampa Bay, but the name was soon shortened to Tampa.  The meaning and origin of the name has been debated for years, with no consensus, but a strong theory is it was the name of a native village (sometimes spelled Tanpa) on the bay.

The first town plots were laid out in the 1830s by Judge Augustus Steele, but these were invalidated by the US government because they included Fort Brooke property.  In 1847, the government reduced the size of the fort and donated the excess land to Hillsborough County.  The land was platted for sale, the proceeds of which would fund the construction of a new county courthouse in Tampa, which by this point was the county seat.  John Jackson completed the survey and drew the first official map of Tampa in 1853.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Kids ‘Dig’ Archaeology at the History Center

Uncover your inner archaeologist when the Tampa Bay History Center continues its children's program, A Little History, on Thursday, April 7th from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. with Dig This! Archaeology Adventures.

Dig in to Florida’s past, when giant sloths and saber toothed tigers roamed free. Learn how archaeologists study artifacts and discover what life was like for Florida’s first people. Children will play age-appropriate games and dig up a few tasty “artifacts” as they unearth chocolate chip cookies.

A Little History is open to children ages 3 to 5 with an adult companion. Programs are held once each month from 10:30-11:30 a.m. Each program is $10.00 per child and $6.00 per adult. Members of the Tampa Bay History Center receive a $2.00 discount for children and adults. One adult must accompany every two children. Space is limited, pre-registration is required.

For more information on A Little History, contact Assistant Curator of Education, Jennifer Tyson, at (813) 675-8960 or jtyson@tampabayhistorycenter.org.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Tampa Bay's Island History

There have probably been islands in Hillsborough Bay for almost as long as the bay has existed. The original delta islands were created as sediment, and other material flowed out of the Hillsborough River and into the bay. Plants eventually took root, and more material accumulated on the growing islands, more on the southerly island than on the one closer to the river's mouth.

Small sandbars extended out from the two islands, further demonstrating the shallow nature of Hillsborough Bay. It was these two islands, and the surrounding tidal area, that formed the nucleus for Seddon Island (now Harbour Island), created in 1904 as part of Tampa's growing port, and Davis Islands, developed by David P. Davis from 1924 to 1926 during Florida's land boom. Read the full Tampa Tribune article here.


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