Florida Online
Social Studies Glencoe Online
Social Studies Home Product Info Site Map Search Contact Us
Modern Florida

Florida in a New Century
Transportation
Land Boom and Bust
The Great Depression
World War II
Florida's Camps and Bases
The War Comes to Florida
The Space Age
Growth and Change
Growth Creates Challenges
Problems of Sprawl
Florida's Hispanic Americans
Latino Groups
Political Leaders
Native Americans of Florida


Florida in a New Century
By 1900, Florida had a population of 528,000. Nearly one of every four Floridians lived in one of the four most populous counties: Duval, Hillsborough, Alachua, and Escambia. Only 12 Florida cities had a population of more than 2,500. The most populous city, Jacksonville with 28,429 residents, did not rank among the nation's 100 largest cities.

By 1920 Florida had about 970,000 residents. Just five years later, the population had reached 1,263,000. What triggered such great growth?

Back to Top

Transportation

Transportation

Innovation in transportation was one reason. In 1906, there were only 300 cars in Florida and a small number of paved roads. In America, very few people could afford cars before Henry Ford began mass-producing the Model T. By 1919 more than 7 million cars were on American roads. The car gave Americans the freedom to travel where and when they wanted. For many Americans, Florida was the perfect destination. By the early 1920s, roads connecting Florida cities were linked to highways stretching to northern cities. By 1930, tourists could travel north and south along the Dixie Trail and east and west along the Tamiami Trail.

Back to Top

Land Boom and Bust

Hurricane

Vacationers flocked to Florida. Many Americans moved to the state to enjoy the mild climate year-round. Many others came in the hopes of new and better ways to make money. Because the economy was thriving, money was easy to borrow. Many people borrowed money to buy land in Florida. The demand was so great that farming lands were divided and wetlands were drained to create more parcels of land for homes, hotels, and businesses.

Many resorts and cities were born during the land boom. Carl Fisher and John Collin bought and developed the mangrove island off the coast of Miami. A bridge linking the island to the mainland opened in 1913. Miami Beach began to develop into the world-famous resort that it is today. Subdivisions were created around a theme. Coral Gables, incorporated in 1921, had a Mediterranean style. By 1926, the city covered 10,000 acres. Other nearby cities also developed during the land boom, including Hialeah, Boca Raton, and Opa-Locka.

As the demand for land reached a fever pitch, prices kept going up, and property was bought and resold almost overnight. Men and women who buy land on credit are called speculators. They hoped to sell the land at a profit before the balance of the payment was due. Many sellers used dishonest means. Buyers found that the "ideal building plots" they had bought were located in swampland. One real estate developer changed the name of Casey Key to Treasure Island. Rumors spread that treasure was buried at the northern end of the key.

As governor during the land boom, John Wellborn Martin encouraged construction and development. Martin promoted the building of highways throughout the state, financing public schools by direct state appropriations, and supplying free textbooks to all pupils through the sixth grade. In 1924 the Florida legislature passed laws prohibiting state income taxes and inheritance taxes to attract people to move to Florida. Then, just as quickly, the land boom was over. The magazine the Nation reported in its July 1926 issue that

"The world's greatest poker game, played with lots instead of chips, is over. And the players are now paying up."

The demand had driven land prices too high. The sale of land came to a stop. Construction slowed to a trickle. An unusually cold winter in 1925 frightened away many buyers. A devastating hurricane in 1926 killed more than 200 people, damaged many areas, and cut the flow of tourists. By the time the Great Depression began in the rest of the nation, Florida had already experienced difficult economic times.

Back to Top

The Great Depression
The Great Depression was the worst economic slump ever in the United States. The depression began in late 1929 and lasted for more than a decade. Property values declined. Many businesses and banks failed. Many Americans lost their jobs.

Tourism and innovation had helped Florida grow. Still, by 1940 it remained the Southern state with the smallest population. Its total of 1.9 million residents ranked 27th among the 48 states. Only with the beginning of World War II did Florida and the nation emerge from the depths of the Great Depression.


World War II
Florida and its citizens played an important role in the nation's efforts during World War II. More than 250,000 Floridians served in the armed forces. About 4,600 died during the war, Several Floridians received the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest award for soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines. Among the recipients are Alexander Nininger, Jr., of Gainesville, Robert McTureous of Altoona, and James Mills of Fort Meade.

Several native-born or adopted Floridians rose to high ranks in the military. General Joseph Stillwell helped organize Allied forces in the Pacific Theater. Lieutenant General Roy Geiger of the Marines commanded Pacific Theater air units and amphibious corps at Guam and Okinawa. General James Van Fleet commanded troops that landed at Utah Beach on D-Day, then fought at the Battle of the Bulge, the last major offensive by the Germans in World War II.

Back to Top

Florida's Camps and Bases
Because of its flat topography and mild climate, Florida was an ideal place to build military bases and train soldiers. Florida played an important role in the defense of the nation. Planes and ships from Florida bases helped protect sea lanes in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean. Camp Blanding, Florida, located east of Starke in the northwest part of the state, became one of the largest training sites in the nation. By 1942, nearly 60,000 troops were stationed there. Camp Blanding also served as a prisoner of war camp. Today, Camp Blanding serves as the main training site for troops of the Florida National Guard.

Located in northwest Florida, Eglin Air Force Base near Valparaiso served as a major testing center for fighter pilots. In March 1942, the base served as one of the sites for Lieutenant Colonel Jimmy Doolittle to prepare his B-25 crews for their air strikes against Tokyo. Doolittle's raids marked the first time American bombs had been dropped on Japan.

Back to Top

The War Comes to Florida
Few states were as directly affected by the war as Florida. German U-boats sank more than 300 American and Allied vessels along the eastern coast of the United States. Dozens of ships were torpedoed off the Gulf of Mexico and Florida's Atlantic Coast. On February 19, 1942, a U-boat sank the SS Pan Massachusetts 40 miles southeast of Cape Canaveral; there were 18 survivors and 20 lost at sea. Two months later, U-boats sank the SS Gulfamerica, and it exploded into flames just four miles off Jacksonville Beach. The efforts of the Civil Air Patrol and antisubmarine patrols provided some protection, but U-boat attacks remained fairly common until the end of the war.

Spessard Holland of Bartow served as Florida's governor during World War II. He managed the state's defense efforts. He set taxes on cigarettes and gasoline to raise money. With these funds he was able to eliminate the $4 million government debt incurred during the Great Depression.

The war helped Florida's economy recover from the Great Depression. Defense and business contracts helped to rebuild Florida's manufacturing and agricultural businesses. Construction of MacDill Air Field and the establishment of shipbuilding companies revitalized Tampa, providing jobs with good wages for many workers. To meet the growing demand for labor, many women worked in shipyards and military bases. War contracts aided the recovery of many Florida cities, including Miami, Pensacola, Orlando, and Jacksonville.

Back to Top

The Space Age
After World War II, the United States Defense Department wanted to open a missile testing center in an isolated location far from centers of population. Cape Canaveral in Brevard County was the choice. It was the nation's first long-range test center for all three branches of the military. The region, now known as the Space Coast, is the site of the Kennedy Space Center and the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Most of our nation's spacecraft are launched from one of these sites.

The space industry transformed east and central Florida in the 1950s and 1960s. Thousands of engineers and scientists moved into the area. Nearby communities such as Melbourne, Cocoa Beach, and Titusville grew and prospered. The economy of the region is boosted by visitors from many parts of the world who gather to see the spectacular shuttle launches.

In addition to advances in aerospace and aviation, Florida stands at the forefront of other technological advances. In 1981, IBM released their new computer, the IBM PC, designed by a group of engineers working in Boca Raton.

Back to Top

Growth and Change
Many soldiers, sailors, and marines who served in Florida during the war later returned to the state to live. Many moved to Florida to work in agriculture. Technological advances such as air conditioning and mosquito control made living in Florida more comfortable, and drew more residents and visitors. Florida is one of the fastest-growing states. Its population grew from 2.8 million in 1950 to more than 16 million today. Today, Florida is the fourth most populous state.

Growth Creates Challenges

Florida Population 1900-2000

Florida has benefited from a growing population. The job market is large and the economy continues to grow. However, such massive population growth also creates serious challenges. With more people moving to Florida came the need for more homes, schools, roads, and other social services. If current trends continue, Florida will increase its population by 5.5 million by 2025 and the state's population will double to more than 32 million by 2050.

Back to Top

Problems of Sprawl
When populations grow, communities must find places to house, educate, and provide jobs for new residents. This can create sprawl. Sprawl is the spreading out of a city and its suburbs over more and more rural land. With growth, sprawling cities have replaced the state's wild habitats, wetlands, and farmland. South Florida, especially, has felt the effects of sprawl. In 1900, only 5 percent of Florida's residents lived in the southern part of the state. Today, more than 50 percent live in South Florida.

Florida's growth puts pressure on its most important resource, water. Even though water is plentiful in some parts of the state, the underground water supply is not spread evenly across Florida. The places with the largest populations have the least amount of water. Maintaining good water quality and an adequate water supply are critical challenges. In 1972 the state of Florida created five water management districts to improve water resource management. Recent programs have been established to protect and manage groundwater, which provides most of Florida's drinking water.

Back to Top

Florida's Hispanic Americans
Florida's population and economic growth is accompanied with one of the largest migrations in American history. Nearly 3 million of Florida's 16 million people are foreign-born.

A new era in Florida history began in 1959. Fidel Castro's communist revolution took over the island nation of Cuba. Many Cubans who opposed communism fled the island and moved to the United States in the early 1960s. Many more followed in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Between 1966 and 1973, planes called Freedom Flights brought approximately 300,000 Cubans to the United States. A third wave of 125,000 Cuban exiles came by sea by means of the Mariel boat lift in 1980. Between 1960 and 1980, at least one million Cubans, or 10 percent of the nation's people—emigrated to the United States or to Puerto Rico. Cities with large Cuban populations are New York City, Los Angeles, and several Florida cities, including Hialeah and Tampa.

The largest concentration of Cuban emigrants settled in the Greater Miami area. Today, about two of every three of the nation's 1.2 million Cubans live in Florida. More than 800,000 live in Miami-Dade County. To keep family ties strong, the early emigrants held on to traditional moral values and insisted on them for their children. Although the Cuban exiles have adopted American customs over the years, they maintain their sense of community through their traditions and their language.

Back to Top

Latino Groups
Cubans make up the largest Hispanic population in Florida, but other Latino groups are growing at a faster rate. The Puerto Rican population nearly doubled between 1990 and 2000 to more than 480,000. The Mexican population more than doubled to more than 360,000.

Cubans, Puerto Ricans, and Mexicans are not the only immigrants to make an enduring impact on Florida. Many people have come from other parts of the Caribbean and Latin America. Thousands of Haitians, Jamaicans, Nicaraguans, and Peruvians have arrived since the 1980s. Many more have come from Venezuela, Colombia, and the Dominican Republic. They bring with them their blends of Spanish, Portuguese, African, and Native American cultures.

Back to Top

Political Leaders
Many Hispanic Americans make important contributions in government. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen was the first Hispanic woman and the first Cuban American to be elected to the United States Congress. Born in 1952, Ileana and her family fled Cuba in 1959. After completing her studies, she began her career as an educator and then entered politics. She has represented the 18th district since 1989. Ros-Lehtinen has been a leading voice in defending human rights and democracy. Two brothers, Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Mario Diaz-Balart, also represent Greater Miami in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Tampa native Bob Martinez became the first Hispanic to be elected governor of Florida. Martinez was raised in West Tampa and started his career as a teacher in Hillsborough County. He became mayor of Tampa in 1979, a post he held until his run for governor in 1986. In 1991, President George H.W. Bush named Martinez the director of National Drug Control Policy.

Back to Top

Native Americans of Florida
The Seminole people live on six reservations in Florida located in Hollywood, Big Cypress, Immokalee, Tampa, Brighton, and Ft. Pierce. In 1957, the Seminole voted in favor of a constitution which established the federally recognized Seminole Tribe of Florida. In the early 1900s, the Seminole survived by farming and selling crafts. Today, they are involved in a number of different business endeavors. Citrus production, cattle, tourism, and bingo are important revenue sources. Another major source of revenue for the Seminole people are their casino and hotel complexes.

In 1967, Betty Mae Tiger was elected leader of the Seminole tribe, the first woman to hold that position. She worked to improve social, educational and housing conditions for Seminoles. Tiger uses her talents as a storyteller and writer to help others learn about the Seminole way of life.

The Miccosukee Tribe of Florida was incorporated in 1962 by leaders who wanted their people to preserve their way of life in the Everglades. They were granted reservation land adjoining the Tamiami Trail some forty miles west of Miami, where their tribal offices are located.

Back to Top


McGraw-Hill/Glencoe
Back