a) Quick Facts
population: 14 650 950 (ranks
area: 59 960 square miles (ranks
shoreline: 8 426 mi. (ranks 2nd)
border states: Alabama, Georgia
largest city: Jacksonville
others: Miami, Orlando, Tampa
statehood: March 3, 1845
governor: John Ellis Bush
nickname: Sunshine State,
highest point: Walton County
In 1513 Juan Ponce de León sailed around Florida and landed near St. Augustine. He named his discovery Florida after Pascua Florida (the "Feast of Flowers", or Easter). Attempts of colonization failed until 1565 when Spanish smuggler Pedro Menéndez de Aviles destroyed a French Huguenot colony and established St. Augustine, the nation oldest continuos settlement.
Throughout the next two centuries Spain struggled to control Florida, but in 1763, under the First Treaty of Paris, England gained the region after it returned Cuba to Spain following Seven Years' War. For easier control England divided Florida in half, but during the American Revolution, Spain encroached upon West Florida.
In 1783 the Second Treaty of Paris returned all of Florida to Spain, but in 1819 Spain finally sold Florida to the United States.
Streams of northerners flocked to the new world, but once again Florida was divided: This time the conflict was between the settlers and the Seminole Indians, who were forced to move farther south. The Indians rebelled, burning the new settlements.
In 1817 General Andrew Jackson came to punish the Indians for attacking the settlers, thus instigating the First Seminole War, which lasted until 1818. The Second Seminole War erupted in 1835 when Seminol leader Osceola refused to obey Jackson's demands to move the tribes west of the Mississippi. The war continued for 7 years and ended with the capture of Osceola and all Seminoles were forced to what is now Oklahoma.
Finally peace came to Florida. Statehood was achieved on March 3, 1845. But the tranquility was short-lived, for the new state soon found itself in the midst of the Civil War. Most of Florida's towns and forts were captured, although Tallahassee was the only capital east of the Mississippi that did not fall into Union hands.
After the war political and economic reform came quickly. Northerners were lured by Florida's subtropical atmosphere. With the help of two great financiers, Henry Flagler and Henry Plant, the state became a vacation destination. Beginning in 1885 millionaire Flagler laid down the Florida East Coast Railroad, crowning it with Palm Beach. Meanwhile, on the west coast, Henry Plant had the same idea; he build the Atlantic Coast line Railroad.
Bad times soon swept over the booming peninsula. A freeze in 1894 practically wiped out the state's citrus crop, and hurricanes in 1926 and 1928 killed thousands and destroyed much new development. The stock market crash in 1929, coupled with the great depression, made many of the once wealthy entrepreneurs penniless. But as the Depression ended, Florida steadily recaptured its flow of tourists. By 1940 the state's population was nearly 2 million.
Following World War II growth continued. The west coast became a haven for retirees, while many disillusioned Cubans fled to south Florida following the overthrow of their government by Communist leader Fidel Castro. Cape Canaveral on the east coast became home to the aerospace industry. In 1949 the U.S. Air Force began an Air Force Missile Test Center on Cape Canaveral, and in 1958 the first satellite Explorer I was launched from the site. Before the year's end the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) was created.
Another boon to Florida's economy was the opening of the Walt Disney World in 1971, which brought with it an explosion of new tourists attractions and thousands of new jobs.
South Florida was visited by a different kind of tourist on August 24, 1992, as Hurricane Andrew devastated the area just south of Miami. The storm cut a 60-mile swath through the state. One of the most destructive storms ever to strike the united States, Hurricane Andrew left behind an estimated $30 billion in damages.
Florida is a low-lying peninsula separating the Atlantic Ocean from the Gulf of Mexico. On the Atlantic side, barrier beaches enclose the Intracoastal Waterway, which separates at St. Lucie Inlet. The west coast, deeply indented with bays south of the Suwannee River, becomes low and marshy as it approaches the Ten Thousand Islands. Because of its countless bays, island and inlets, Florida has the longest tidal coast of any state (8 462 miles).
In the north the terrain slopes gradually from the central panhandle into the Atlantic. The central backbone of the peninsula rises in the area north of Lake Okeechobee, the n dips to sea level. The 135-mile chain of island known as the Florida Keys curves southwestward into the Gulf of Mexico.
Reflecting the warm, moist climate, the vegetation and wildlife are characteristic of both the temperate and tropical zone. Pines, oaks, cypresses and palms predominate. In the swamps dense mangrove forests flourish.
With increasing numbers of animals threatened with extinction, laws protecting species have been enacted and are beginning to show results. The first national bird sanctuary (Pelican Island) was established in 1903, and Ocala National Forest, organized 1908, was the first in the eastern states.
A long growing season makes agriculture a major factor in Florida's economy. Strawberries,. winter vegetables, sugar cane and some 27 varieties of melons are produced in the central lakes region (contains about 30 000 lakes) and in the rich mucklands south of Lake Okeechobee. Field crops are grown and forests maintained the northern countries. The Suwanee River Valley is the primary tobacco section. Orange, grapefruit and tangerine groves in central and south Florida contribute to the state's tremendous citrus industry.
As an important nonmetallic mineral-production state, Florida ranks first in the nation in the production of phosphate and fuller's earth. Bartow, Brooksville and Lakeland are the primary production centers.
The sea is as generous as the soil. Commercial fishermen catch more than 60 kinds of fish for food, oil and fertilizers. The Gulf of Mexico also provides a large quantity of shellfish. 13 deepwater ports make Florida one of the nation leaders in shipping.
The qualities that have drawn tourists and new residents to Florida have recently attracted a new industry - motion pictures and television. Universal and Disney have opened studios in Orlando, and producers of films, television programs, commercials and music videos pump more than $220 million a year into the state's economy.
Yet all this activity does not dim tourism's contribute to Florida's economy. Tourism is still the Sunshine State's number one industry. Millions of visitors each year flock to Florida's long sandy beaches and hot attraction, bringing billions of dollars into the state.