Business, Agriculture, and Tourism,
During the final quarter of the nineteenth century, large-scale
commercial agriculture in Florida, especially cattle-raising,
grew in importance. Industries such as cigar manufacturing
took root in the immigrant communities of the state.
Potential investors became interested in enterprises that
extracted resources from the water and land. These extractive
operations were as widely diverse as sponge harvesting in
Tarpon Springs and phosphate mining in the southwestern
part of the state. The Florida citrus industry grew rapidly,
despite occasional freezes and economic setbacks. The development
of industries throughout the state prompted the construction
of roads and railroads on a large scale.
Beginning in the 1870s, residents from northern states
visited Florida as tourists to enjoy the state's natural
beauty and mild climate. Steamboat tours on Florida's winding
rivers were a popular attraction for these visitors.
The growth of Florida's transportation industry had its
origins in 1855, when the state legislature passed the Internal
Improvement Act. Like legislation passed by several other
states and the federal government, Florida's act offered
cheap or free public land to investors, particularly those
interested in transportation. The act, and other legislation
like it, had its greatest effect in the years between the
end of the Civil War and the beginning of World War I. During
this period, many railroads were constructed throughout
the state by companies owned by Henry Flagler and Henry
B. Plant, who also built lavish hotels near their railroad
lines. The Internal Improvement Act stimulated the initial
efforts to drain the southern portion of the state in order
to convert it to farmland.
These development projects had far-reaching effects on
the agricultural, manufacturing, and extractive industries
of late-nineteenth-century Florida. The citrus industry
especially benefited, since it was now possible to pick
oranges in south Florida; put them on a train heading north;
and eat them in Baltimore, Philadelphia, or New York in
less than a week.
Text from: A Short History of Florida
Used with the permission of Florida's Division of Historical