Florida Museum of Natural History

Natural History & Early Tourism in Florida

Image Gallery 1

Images courtesy of the Florida State Photographic Archives
jessie dakin

Jessie Dakin, pole fishing along the railroad tracks, Georgetown, 1888, in a photograph taken by her husband, Leonard Dakin. Note the rowboats and different attire of the two men with Mrs. Dakin. The houses across the St. John's River are large estates.


Tea Time under a live oak tree draped with Spanish moss in Racemo, 1887. In this photograph, taken by Leonard Dakin, a pet dog joins George Dakin, his wife Anne Maria, and daughter Florence as they take tea outdoors on a table set with a linen cloth.

racemo mrs d

In this photo taken off Racemo in 1888 by Leonard Dakin, the steamboat "Chattahoochee" travels upriver, or to the north, to Jacksonville and passes the athletic Mrs. Dakin rowing on the St Johns River.

jax dock

Businessmen exchange news on the dock in Jacksonville. Stopping at landings upriver, local steamers like this one, carried housewares, lumber, and farm animals on the first deck and passengers on the upper deck.

Stowe home

A photograph attributed to C. Seaver, Jr., c. 1873 shows the home in Mandarin, Florida, of Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-96), author of Uncle Tom's Cabin. Here she sits with her husband and daughters. Steamers carried crowds of visitors to this house, situated within shouting distance of the landing pier. In 1873, Mrs. Stowe published Palmetto Leaves, a book of letters to women friends about her life in north Florida. Photo Credit: State Archives of Florida


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Two women swing in a hammock as they enjoy leisure time at the Magnolia Springs Hotel, 1891, in this photograph by O. Pierre Havens. Note the river landing. Visitors arrived by steamboat on the St Johns River or via railroad from Jacksonville (28 miles to the north). Hotel rates were $6.00 a day with meals. This hotel boasted an early dark room for photographers and tennis courts, later used for tournaments.

gail borden

Gail Borden's Home and Park, Green Cove Springs, 1892. Five years earlier, John G. Borden, founder of "Borden's Milk" (at first, a condensed milk product) purchased 400 acres around the springs, which he landscaped with parks, courts, and drives.

bath house

Spring Bath Houses, Green Cove Springs, c. 1874. Steaming up the St Johns River from Jacksonville, tourists stopped to bathe at the springs and dine at the nearby Clarendon Hotel or its rival, the Palmetto House.

men's time

Men's Time in the Pool, Green Cove Springs, April 3, 1883. Gone are the simpler facilities of earlier decades. These gents, wearing their birthday suits, have paid 25 cents to swim in the improved spring pool, an area 25 x 60 ft and 4 ft deep. Men and women used the pool at different hours.


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Two men wait in a large and comfortable rowboat near Astor (Alexander Spring Run) on the St Johns River, perhaps to ferry in tourists from a river steamer to the beautiful Alexander Springs, now the site of a state park. This photo was taken in February of 1896.

Waterfront, Palatka, 1892. A crowded excursion boat leaves the dock for Silver Springs, the last stop on the Ocklawaha River. Before the Civil War, fallen logs, low limbs, and floating plants made the Ocklawaha impassable beyond Silver Springs.


The St Johns Hotel, c. 1873, in a photograph by Rufus Morgan. This small hotel in Palatka charged guests $3.50 a day. Look closely: the men standing below with their wives crowded in the balcony above have come to visit Silver Springs.

Although mounted bands of rowdies frequently disturbed the peace in this frontier town, by 1870, Palatka could boast a band of sorts, and

The popular tourist spot of Palatka boasted wedding facilities at two hotels and two churches, as well as two steam mills, two sawmills, horse-drawn streetcars, and a newspaper named the Florida Rambler, happy to run announcements and ads for all from 1873-75.

curiosity shop

In a word, Palatka was a tourist trap, the gateway town for travelers from the St. Johns River to springs in central Florida and for hunters. In this photograph by Irving Haas, at Heiss's Old Curiosity Shop, c. 1875, everything, including the "Centennial" alligator, was for sale. The place was literally filled with living and dead animals, stuffed specimens, and odd body parts.

shell shop

Here folks gathered round the front of a shell shop for a photo op, along with a trophy 'gator. This group, including many well-dressed children, look fresh and crisp and may have just arrived on a steamer for a Florida outing.


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The steamer Astatula navigates the narrows of the Ocklawaha River in this 1893 photograph by Jonas G. Mangold. Leaving Palatka at 10 o'clock in the morning, tourists to Silver Springs made a memorable river trip of some 100 miles before entering the famous 8-mile spring run. They returned to Palatka by train.

Steaming on the Ocklawaha River in smaller often overloaded vessels, tourists were literally face to face with nature.

Carolina Quoli
Carolina paraquets

One tourist to Silver Springs wrote: "innumerable paraquets, alarmed at our intrusion scream out their fierce indignation, and then, flying away flash upon our admiring eyes their green and golden plumage." These birds, illustrated by John James Audubon (1785-1851)in his great book, Birds of America, were the now extinct Carolina parakeet.


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