History of Florida
It was determined that the first culture that has lived in the region of today’s Florida were Paleo-Indians, who may have lived here as far back as 14,000 years ago. It is believed that they are the first people who have inhabited the continent. In the Archaic period which lasted approximately to 2000 BC, the region was always inhabited by a rather unified people. This culture started diversifying and making separate tribes somewhere around 500 BC. The earliest records of these regions date back to the 16th century and suggest that the region has been inhabited by different tribes, Tequesta that lived on the southern coast of the state, Tocobaga, who mostly inhabited the area of today’s Tampa Bay, the Ais people who lived in the region of central Atlantic coast, the Timucua, located in the central and northern parts of the state and Apalachee living in the Panhandle area.
Florida is the first region of today’s United States that was visited by European explorers. The first of such explorers that there are records of was Juan Ponce de León, a Spanish conquistador that first spotted the region in 1513. It is certain, however, that he wasn’t the first Spaniard to reach this region, as he met some native people that could speak Spanish. He is just the first that was recorded. From his arrival in 1513 onward the region was known as La Florida, except for a part after 1630 and throughout the eighteen century when it was also known as Tegesta because of the Tequesta tribe that inhabited the region. The first map of the region was made in 1630 by Hessel Gerritsz, a Dutch cartographer.
After the discovery of this region, the French and the Spanish started establishing settlements in the area. One of the first attempts to settle in a part of the today’s United States was the settlement established in 1559 by Don Tristán de Luna y Arellano. It was located in region of today’s Pensacola. However, the attempt did not go too well because of the belligerent local tribes, famine and frequent hurricanes. In 1561 Europeans gave up on the attempts to inhabit the region, and they didn’t make another attempt until 1690s.
Some other areas, however, proved to be at least somewhat more hospitable. Fort Caroline was established in 1564 in the area of today’s Jacksonville by French Protestant Huguenots. But their settlement wasn’t long lasting, in the very next year, the Spanish have established a nearby colony St. Augustine and soon conquered the neighboring French colony. The Spanish have tried to dominate the region by converting the indigenous people. However, when the French started establishing more colonies to the west, and the English settlements on the north became more numerous, the Spanish portion of the region started continuously getting smaller. The English have allied themselves with the local Yamasee and Creek tribes, which they were supplying with weapons and urging to perform raids on Apalachee and Timucan tribes that were affiliated with the Spanish. The English were also often mounting attacks on the colony of St. Augustine.
African American slaves from the North America that was currently under British control, came in large numbers to the region, as the Spanish offered them the opportunity of converting to Catholicism and gaining freedom. The region that became a home for most of the freed slaves was known as Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose. The Peace of Paris treaty, signed in 1763, gave the English the control over the region. They divided it into two parts, West Florida, the capital of which was Pensacola and East Florida with the capital in St. Augustine. However, the ownership of the region was once again transferred to Spain in 1783 by the Treaty of Versailles that took place after the English were defeated by the American colonies. The Spanish were willing to give land to new settlers, which attracted a number of Americans. They held on to that ownership until 1819 when they have transferred it to Americans in Adams-Onis Treaty that included Americans giving up on their claims on Texas that they had since the Louisiana Purchase.
The region has already seen many clashes with the local Seminole tribe, but things were calming down until the Indian Removal Act was passed in 1830. Some of the parts of the tribe decided that they will take the offer of the government and move to west where they were promised land, but others decided to stay and fight. The Second Seminole War began in 1835 and it lasted until 1842, costing both parties many lives.
Florida was accepted into the US in 1845 as the 27th state. There were not a lot of settlers present back then, as the Seminoles were still a threat to the settlers in the region. Once again the government tried to make them move to the west, and once again this has caused a conflict. The Third Seminole War began in 1855 and lasted until 1858, when most of the Seminoles were gone from the region. Soon after the situation has calmed down, the settlers began growing cotton on numerous plantations. In 1860 the state had 140,424 inhabitants, 44% of whom were slaves.
Florida seceded from the Union in 1861 and ten days later became one of the founding members of the Confederate States of America. Even though the war only lasted until 1865 it wasn’t until 1868 that the Florida manged to restore its congressional representation. Florida was one of many states that disenfranchised black voters, as well as poor white voters in the 1880s, by introducing different literacy and tax requirements for the potential voters. It wasn’t until 1960s and the Civil Rights Movement that the African Americans were once again able to vote in the Florida.
Until the half of the 20th century Florida had a smaller population than the rest of the southern states. In 1900 it had only 528,542 inhabitants with 44% of them being African Americans. Cotton crops were being destroyed by the boll weevil, and African Americans in the region were often lynched and, generally, treated badly, which made most of them leave Florida and move to northern cities in the Great Migration. It is estimated that the number of African Americans that left amounted to somewhere around 40,000 people. Florida has seen an economic revival in 1920s, when tourism in the state started blossoming, which was coupled by a period of enhanced land development. However, this prosperous period was interrupted by two catastrophic hurricanes at the end of 1920s ad the Great Depression that was to follow.
It wasn’t until the preparations for the World War II that the economy in Florida recovered. The state became a beautiful place to live in because of the low living costs and the increasing availability of the air conditioning systems. Florida has seen a great increase in its population after the war. Now it is the most populous southern state and the 4th most populous in the nation.
In the past, the main sources of Florida’s revenue were agricultural products such as cattle, cotton, sugar and citrus fruits. Agriculture has remained an important part of the state’s economy, but a number of different industries are added to it. This includes commercial space travel, aerospace and defense, simulation training, biomedical and life sciences, international banking, construction, industry and tourism.
Florida’s DSP is $748 billion, which makes it the 4th largest GSP in the US. The state is also the 4th largest exporter of various trade goods. The most important contributions to the state’s economy in 2007 were construction, manufacturing, transportation and public utilities, trade and financial and general services. In 2011 the state was named the 3rd best state for business by the Chief Executive Magazine. It is the 19 metropolitan areas that are making the largest contribution to the state’s economy – they are responsible for 95.7% of the state’s domestic product.
In 2011 the state had the per capita income of $39,563, which is the 27th highest per capita income in the nation. Until 2004 Florida was one of but a few US states that didn’t have their own law on minimum wages and had to use the minimum wage laws set by the federal government. Since then it is the only state in which minimum wages are annually modified in accordance with the inflation. It is also one of just 7 states that don’t have personal income tax. In 2011 the unemployment rate in the state was 11.5%.
Agriculture is still the 2nd largest industry in Florida. This state is producing the majority of citrus fruits in the nation, and it is famous for growing large quantities of oranges. In 2006 the state produced 54% of the nation’s grapefruit, 58% of tangerines, 74% of oranges and 67% of citrus. Somewhere around 95% of the oranges are intended for processing. Apart from citrus fruits Florida produces significant amounts of celery, tomatoes, strawberries and sugarcane.
The 3rd largest industry in the state is phosphate mining. The state produces 25% of the phosphate used in the world and satisfies the phosphate needs of 75% of US farmers. The state also has a number of important military bases and space exploration facilities, such as the already mentioned Kennedy Space Center. Tourism is the largest sector of Florida’s economy. It brings 60 million people to Florida every year and is responsible for the great part of the state’s revenue.
Geography and Climate in Florida
The largest part of Florida’s territory is on a peninsula. The state extends over two time zones. It has Alabama and Georgia on the north and west, and the rest of the state is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. It is quite close to some Caribbean countries such as Cuba and The Bahamas. Florida has the lowest highpoint in the nation. It is located in Britton Hill and it is just 345 feet higher than the sea level. The most of the southern part of the state is quite flat and low, but there are some places with somewhat greater elevation, Clearwater, for instance. It is, however, not uncommon to find lower hills in north and central Florida. The Everglades, usually considered a marsh, but actually a slow flowing and very wide river is found in the southern part of the state. It has its own interesting and unique ecosystem.
The climate in the state is greatly influenced by the fact that most of the land in Florida is not that far from the ocean. In the northern part of the state climate tends to be humid subtropical, while the southern, coastal areas generally have tropical climate. Florida is the warmest state in the nation with the average daily temperature of 70.7 °F. In the late July the average temperature is around 90°F, while in January they are 50°F in the southern parts of the state and around 40°F in the northern. The highest temperature in Florida was recorded in Monticello in 1931 and it was 109 °F, while the lowest temperature of −2 °F was recorded in the state’s capital Tallahassee in 1899. It rarely snows in Florida, but it does happen occasionally. Florida is the state with the most lightning strikes in the US. Tornadoes hail and hurricanes are also not a rarity in this state.
In 2011 Florida’s population numbered 19,057,542 people, which was a 1.36% increase when compared to the previous year. In 2009 the state had 18,537,969 people which was 0.7% or 128,814 more than in 2007. Florida has been determined to be the 30th fastest growing state in the United States. It is estimated that 66% of the people currently inhabiting it were born in some other state and have moved here. The state’s population is made up of 57.9% of non-Hispanic white people, 18.1% of Hispanic white, 16% of African Americans, 0.4% of American Natives and Alaskan Native, 2.4% Asian, 0.1% Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander and 6.1% of people belonging to other races or those who have more than one race in their ancestry. Some 11.8% of people are of German ancestry, 10.3% of Irish, 9.2% of English, 8% of American, 6.3% of Italian, 5.2% of Cuban, 3% of Puerto Rican, 2.8% if French, 2.7% of Polish and 1.8% of Scottish. The people who have said that they are of American ancestry usually have Scottish or English ancestors, but their families have been in the United States for long enough that their original roots were almost forgotten.
In 2005 it was determined that 74.54% of the inhabitants of Florida consider English to be their first language, 18.65% consider Spanish and 1.73% French Creole. It is estimated that, apart from English, there are around 150 languages being spoken in the state. Naturally, the English is the official language of the state.
In 2000 Florida’s largest denominational groups were Catholic, Evangelical and Mainline Protestant. Florida also has the 3rd largest Jewish population in the United States, just behind California and New York. Currently the religious makeup of people in Florida is as follows: 26% of the people are Roman Catholic, 48% Protestant, 3% Jewish, 1% Jehovah’s Witness, 1% Muslim, 1% Orthodox, 1% of the people belong to other religions and 16% are not religious.
Florida Government and Legislation
Florida’s government is split into three branches, executive, legislative and judicial. The executive branch is led by the Governor, who is, among other things, responsible for approving or vetoing the bills proposed by the legislature of the state. Lieutenant Governor is also elected and one of his or her duties is stepping in to perform the Governor’s duties if the need arises. Other officers of the executive branch include Attorney General and the Secretary of State, who are elected for four year terms.
The Legislative branch consists of Florida House of Representatives with 120 members and Florida Senate with 40. They are in charge of proposing different bills and voting for them. The judicial branch encompasses a number of different types of courts, with the highest one being the Florida Supreme Court, which is presided over by the Chief justice and 6 Justices. Florida has 67 Counties, one of which has been incorporated into the city of Jacksonville, so it doesn’t always show in reports.
Florida Department of Transportation is in charge of taking care of the US highways, state highways and interstates that are passing through the state. Its interstate highway system has 1,473 miles of roads, and there are additional 9,934 miles of other types of roads in Florida including US Highways and Florida State Highways. It is estimated that the people of Florida are the 3rd in the nation when it comes to consumption of gasoline, with 21 million of gallons consumed every day in the state. It is then not surprising to learn that there are somewhere around 9,000 gas stations in Florida. The roads in the state are numbered according to a specific formula. The first digits of the road are determined according to the part of the state that the road goes through. The numbers start from 1 in the eastern and northern parts of the state and go to 9 in southern and western. Larger roads that stretch from the south to the north have one or two digits route with the odd last digit, while the larger roads that stretch from west to east have even numbers.
The rail in the state is under the responsibility of Amtrak. It not only connects all of the larger cities in Florida, it is also well connected to other, northern cities. There is number of quite active stations in Florida, including Jacksonville Station, Miami Station, Tampa Union Station and Orlando and Sanford stations. There is a new station being built in Miami – Miami Central Station, which will probably become operational sometime in 2013. Finally the state has a number of airports, with the largest ones being Tampa International Airport, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Orlando International Airport and Miami International Airport. In 2010, all of them are recorded to have processed over 15 million passengers. The fact that its long coastline made Florida an obvious target during the WW II has prompted the building of a great number of airstrips in this state, many of which are still usable and operational.