Paradise reclaimed: the end of frontier Florida and the birth of a modern state, 1900-1940

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University of Alabama Libraries

The question of whether Florida remained a frontier region well into the twentieth century is examined. For the purposes of this study, the concept of a frontier is not based on geography, but on social perception and infrastructural development. Specific areas of interest include disease prevention, the development of roads and railroads, promotional literature, and advertising as a state sponsored business. Data gathered in pursuit of these questions comes from a variety of sources. A broad selection of Florida newspapers are combined with a detailed examination of the papers of several governors, a selection of prominent businessmen and boosters, and the personal recollections of individuals interviewed by the Works Progress Administration. Also included are travel accounts, promotional publications by individual towns and cities, and a selection of photographs and illustrations from the era. There are several limitations on the depth of the research, primarily due to the loss of materials in several disasters, both man-made and natural. The WPA also interviewed only a handful of individuals, resulting in a rather meager selection of recollections. The ultimate conclusion is that Florida was very much a frontier, both physically and psychologically, until the Great Depression of the 1930s. At that point, the state was fully integrated into the United States and ceased to be a place apart. There is more work to be done, with greater emphasis on federal legislation and perhaps starting earlier in the nineteenth century, should anyone wish to delve deeper.

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American history, Modern history