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State of Florida

ORIGIN OF STATE NAME: Named in 1513 by Juan Ponce de León, who landed during Pascua Florida, the Easter festival of flowers.

NICKNAME: The Sunshine State.

CAPITAL: Tallahassee.

ENTERED UNION: 3 March 1845 (27th).

SONG: "Old Folks at Home" (also known as "The Swanee River").

MOTTO: In God We Trust.

FLAG: The state seal appears in the center of a white field, with four red bars extending from the seal to each corner; the flag is fringed on three sides.

OFFICIAL SEAL: In the background, the sun's rays shine over a distant highland; in the foreground are a sabal palmetto palm, a steamboat, and an Indian woman scattering flowers on the ground. The words "Great Seal of the State of Florida" and the state motto surround the whole.

BIRD: Mockingbird.

FISH: Largemouth bass (freshwater), Atlantic sailfish (saltwater).

FLOWER: Orange blossom.

TREE: Sabal palmetto palm.

GEM: Moonstone.

LEGAL HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Martin Luther King Jr. Day, 3rd Monday in January; Memorial Day, last Monday in May; Independence Day, 4 July; Labor Day, 1st Monday in September; Veterans' Day, 11 November; Thanksgiving Days, 4th Thursday and Friday in November; Christmas Day, 25 December.

TIME: 7 AM EST = noon GMT; 6 AM CST = noon GMT.


Located in the extreme southeastern United States, Florida is the second-largest state (after Georgia) east of the Mississippi River, and ranks 22nd in size among the 50 states.

The total area of Florida is 58,664 sq mi (151,939 sq km), of which land takes up 54,153 sq mi (140,256 sq km) and inland water, 4,511 sq mi (11,683 sq km). Florida extends 361 mi (581 km) e-w; its maximum n-s extension is 447 mi (719 km). The state comprises a peninsula surrounded by ocean on three sides, with a panhandle of land in the nw.

Florida is bordered on the n by Alabama and Georgia (with the line in the ne formed by the St. Mary's River); on the e by the Atlantic Ocean; on the s by the Straits of Florida; and on the w by the Gulf of Mexico and Alabama (separated by the Perdido River).

Offshore islands include the Florida Keys, extending form the state's southern tip into the Gulf of Mexico. The total boundary length of Florida is 1,799 mi (2,895 km). The state's geographic center is in Hernando County, 12 mi (19 km) nnw of Brooksville.


Florida is a huge plateau, much of it barely above sea level. The highest point in the state is believed to be a hilltop in the panhandle, 345 ft (105 m) above sea level, near the city of Lakewood, in Walton County. The lowest point is at sea level at the Atlantic Ocean. The mean elevation is about 100 ft (31 m). No point in the state is more than 70 mi (113 km) from saltwater.

Most of the panhandle region is gently rolling country, much like that of southern Georgia and Alabama, except that large swampy areas cut in from the Gulf coast. Peninsular Florida, which contains extensive swampland, has a relatively elevated central spine of rolling country, dotted with lakes and springs. Its east coast is shielded from the Atlantic by a string of sandbars. The west coast is cut by numerous bays and inlets, and near its southern tip are the Ten Thousand Islands, a mass of mostly tiny mangrove-covered islets. Southwest of the peninsula lies Key West, which, at 24°33n, is the southernmost point of the US mainland.

Almost all the southeastern peninsula and the entire southern end are covered by the Everglades, the world's largest sawgrass swamp, with an area of approximately 5,000 sq mi (13,000 sq km). The Everglades is, in a sense, a huge river, in which water flows south-southwest from Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay. No point in the Everglades is more than 7 ft (2 m) above sea level. Its surface is largely submerged during the rainy season, April to November, and becomes a muddy expanse in the dry months. Slight elevations, known as hammocks, support clumps of cypress and the only remaining stand of mahogany in the continental United States. To the west and north of the Everglades is Big Cypress Swamp, covering about 2,400 sq mi (6,200 sq km), which contains far less surface water.

Lake Okeechobee, in south-central Florida, is the largest of the state's approximately 30,000 lakes, ponds, and sinks. With a surface area of about 700 sq mi (1,800 sq km), it is the fourth-largest natural lake located entirely within the United States. Like all of Florida's lakes, it is extremely shallow, having a maximum depth of 15 ft (5 m), and was formed through the action of groundwater and rainfall in dissolving portions of the thick limestone layer that underlies Florida's sandy soil. The state's numerous underground streams and caverns were created in a similar manner. Because of the high water table, most of the caverns are filled, but some spectacular examples thick with stalactites can be seen in Florida Caverns State Park, near Marianna. More than 200 natural springs send up some 7 billion gallons of groundwater per day through cracks in the limestone. Silver Springs, near Ocala in north-central Florida, has the largest average flow of all inland springs, 823 cu ft (23 cu m) per second.

Florida has more than 1,700 rivers, streams, and creeks. The longest river is the St. Johns, which empties into the Atlantic 19 mi (42 km) east of Jacksonville: estimates of its length range from 273 to 318 mi (439 to 512 km), an exact figure being elusive because of the swampy nature of the headwaters. Other major rivers are the Suwannee, which flows south from Georgia for 177 mi (285 km) through Florida and empties into the Gulf of Mexico; and the Apalachicola, formed by the Flint and Chattahoochee rivers at the Florida-Georgia border, and flowing southward across the panhandle for 94 mi (151 km) to the Gulf. Jim Woodruff Lock and Dam is located on the Apalachicola about 1,000 ft (300 m) below the confluence of the two feeder rivers. Completed in 1957, the dam created Lake Seminole, most of which is in Georgia.

More than 4,500 islands ring the mainland. Best known are the Florida Keys, of which Key Largo, about 29 mi (47 km) long and less than 2 mi (3 km) wide, is the largest. Key West, less than 4 mi (6 km) long and 2 mi (3 km) wide is a popular resort, and the westernmost.

For much of the geological history of the United States, Florida was under water. During this time, the shells of countless millions of sea animals decayed to form the thick layers of limestone that now blanket the state. The peninsula rose above sea level perhaps 20 million years ago. Even then, the southern portion remained largely submerged, until the buildup of coral and sand around its rim blocked out the sea, leaving dense marine vegetation to decay and form the peaty soil of the present-day Everglades.


A mild, sunny climate is one of Florida's most important natural resources, making it a major tourist center and a retirement home for millions of transplanted northerners. Average annual temperatures range from 65° to 70°f (18° to 21°c) in the north, and from 74° to 77°f (23° to 25°c) in the southern peninsula and on the Keys. At Jacksonville, the average annual temperature is 69°f (20°c); the average low is 58°f (14°c), the average high 79°f (26°c). At Miami, the annual average is 76°f (24°c), with a low of 69°f (21°c) and a high of 83°f (28°c). Key West has the highest annual average temperature in the United States, at 78°f (25°c). The record high temperature, 109°f (43°c), was registered at Monti-cello on 29 June 1931; the record low, 2°f (19°c), at Tallahassee on 13 February 1899.

Florida's proximity to the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico, and the state's many inland lakes and ponds, together account for the high humidity and generally abundant rainfall, although precipitation can vary greatly from year to year and serious droughts have occurred. At Jacksonville, the average annual precipitation (19712000) was 52.3 in (132.8 cm), with an average of 116 days of precipitation a year. At Miami during the same period, precipitation averaged 58.5 in (148.6 cm), with 130 rainy days a year. Rainfall is unevenly distributed throughout the year, more than half generally occurring from June through September; periods of extremely heavy rainfall are common. The highest 24-hour total ever recorded in the United States, 38.7 in (98.3 cm), fell at Yankeetown, west of Ocala on the Gulf coast, on 5-6 September 1950. Despite the high annual precipitation rate, the state also receives abundant sunshine with about 63% of the maximum possible at Jacksonville, and 70% at Miami. Snow is virtually unheard of in southern Florida but does fall on rare occasions in the panhandle and the northern peninsula.

Winds are generally from the east and southeast in the southern peninsula; in northern Florida, winds blow from the north in winter, bringing cold snaps, and from the south in summer. Average wind velocities are 7.9 mph (12.7 km/hr) at Jacksonville and 9.2 mph (14.8 km/hr) at Miami. Florida's long coastline makes it highly vulnerable to hurricanes and tropical storms, which may approach from either the Atlantic or the Gulf coast, bringing winds of up to 150 mph (240 km/hr). On 23-24 August 1992, Hurricane Andrew caused over $10 billion in damage in Florida. The 2005 hurricane season had devastating effects on various regions in Florida. On July 10, Hurricane Dennis made landfill near Pensacola as a Category 3 storm, causing flood damage and power outages for about 400,000 residents. On 26 August 2005, Hurricane Katrina made landfall near Miami as a Category 1 storm, causing extensive damage from wind and flooding and power outages for about 1.3 million. As of early 2006, there were at least 11 related fatalities reported in Florida as a result of this storm. Two months later, Hurricane Wilma made landfall near Naples on October 25 2005 as a Category 3 storm. Wilma caused at least six fatalities in Florida and power outages for another 6 million people, as well as flooding and wind damage. As of early 2006, the estimated cost of damage from all these storms was over $2 billion dollars for the state.


Generally, Florida has seven floral zones: flatwoods, scrublands, grassy swamps, savannas, salt marshes, hardwood forests (hammocks), and pinelands. Flatwoods consist of open forests and an abundance of flowers, including more than 60 varieties of orchid. Small sand pines are common in the scrublands; other trees here are the saw palmetto, blackjack, and water oak. The savannas of central Florida support water lettuce, American lotus, and water hyacinth. North Florida's flora includes longleaf and other pines, oaks, and cypresses; one giant Seminole cypress is thought to be 3,500 years old. The state is known for its wide variety of palms, but only 15 are native, and more than 100 have been introduced; common types include royal and coconut. Although pine has the most commercial importance, dense mangrove thickets grow along the lower coastal regions, and northern hardwood forests include varieties of rattan, magnolia, and oak. Numerous rare plants have been introduced, among them bougainvillea and oleander. All species of cacti and orchids are regarded as threatened, as are most types of ferns and palms.

Florida once claimed more than 80 land mammals. The white-tailed deer, wild hog, and gray fox can still be found in the wild; such small mammals as the raccoon, eastern gray and fox squirrels, and cottontail and swamp rabbits remain common. Florida's bird population includes many resident and migratory species. The mockingbird was named the state bird in 1927; among game birds are the bobwhite quail, wild turkey, and at least 30 duck species. Several varieties of heron are found, as well as coastal birds such as gulls, pelicans, and frigates. The Arctic tern stops in Florida during its remarkable annual migration between the North and South poles.

Common Florida reptiles are the diamondback rattler and various water snakes. Turtle species include mud, green, and loggerhead, and various lizards abound. More than 300 native butterflies have been identified. The peninsula is famous for its marine life: scores of freshwater and saltwater fish, rays, shrimps, live coral reefs, and marine worms.

Everglades National Park hosts a rich array of plant and animal species. including over 300 species of migratory birds, over 1,000 species of seed-bearing plants and over 120 tree species. There have been at least 25 orchid species found in the area. Also noted are 25 species of terrestrial mammals, 4 salamander species, 6 kinds of lizards, 10 land and freshwater turtle species, 12 frog species, and 23 snake species. The Everglades is the only location in the world to serve as home to both the American alligator and the American crocodile. Pelican Island serves as a nesting ground for at least 10 species of birds (about 800 nesting pairs per year) and supports 11 threatened or endangered species, including the manatee. Okefenokee Swamp (which extends into Georgia) supports 233 bird species, 48 mammal species, 66 reptile species, 37 amphibian species, and 36 fish species. One of the largest US populations of the American alligator can be found there as well. All of Florida's lands have been declared sanctuaries for the bald eagle, of which Florida has about 350 pair (second only to Alaska among the 50 states).

In April 2006, a total of 108 species occurring within the state were on the threatened and endangered species list of the US Fish and Wildlife Service. These included 54 animal (vertebrates and invertebrates) and 54 plant species. The state's unusually long list of threatened and endangered wildlife included the American crocodile, shortnose sturgeon, six species of sea turtle, red-cockaded woodpecker, Florida panther, key deer, West Indian (Florida) manatee, six species of mouse, Key Largo woodrat, Everglade snail kite, two species of sparrow, Atlantic salt marsh snake, eastern indigo snake, Okaloosa darter, Stock Island tree snail, and Schaus swallowtail butterfly.


Throughout the 20th century, a rapidly growing population, the expansion of agriculture, and the exploitation of such resources as timber and minerals have put severe pressure on Florida's natural environment.

The state agency principally responsible for safeguarding the environment is the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), created in 1993 by the merger of the Departments of Natural Resources and Environmental Regulation. Its duties include implementing state pollution control laws and improving water-resource management. The department oversees and coordinates the activities of the state's five water-management districts, which have planning and regulatory responsibilities. The department also protects the state's coastal and marine resources. Its Division of State Lands acquires environmentally endangered tracts of land in what has been called the nation's largest environmental land-buying program. More than 1.2 million acres of environmentally important lands have been purchased. The department administers state parks and wilderness lands as well.

The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services' Division of Forestry manages four state forests plus the Talquin State Lands. The Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission manages nature preserves and regulates hunting and fishing.

Growth, contamination of groundwater, and control of storm-water (nonpoint sources) are the state's most serious environmental problems. Groundwater supplies 90% of the drinking water in the state, as well as 8.2% of industry's needs and 53% of agricultural uses. Groundwater, surface water, and soil contamination have been found across the state. Among the major contaminants were the pesticides ethylene dibromide (2,300 wells statewide) and other chemicals (about 1,000 additional wells). The state's program to clean groundwater contaminated by leaking underground storage tanks is one of the nation's largest and pioneered the pattern followed by many other states. Florida's groundwater quality standards are among the most stringent in the nation.

Contamination of groundwater is not the state's only water problem. The steadily increasing demand for water for both residential and farm use has reduced the subterranean runoff of fresh water into the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. As a result, saltwater from these bodies has begun seeping into the layers of porous limestone that hold Florida's reserves of fresh water. This problem has been aggravated in some areas by the cutting of numerous inlets by developers of coastal property.

The DEP and South Florida Water Management District are undertaking, with various federal agencies, a massive restoration program for the Kissimmee River, Lake Okeechobee, the Everglades, and Florida Bay. This undertaking resulted from the settlement of a lawsuit brought by the federal government. The restoration effort includes: rechannelization of the Kissimmee River canal to restore its floodplains and prevent water pollution from entering Lake Okeechobee; other measures to reduce pollutants in the lake caused by agricultural operations around its edges; creation of large stormwater treatment areas within the Everglades to treat nutrient-rich agricultural waters that are upsetting the ecological balance of the Everglades; and hydrological corrections to improve water delivery to the Everglades and Florida Bay.

In 1960, the only undersea park in the United States, the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, was established in a 75-sq mi (194-sq km) sector off the Atlantic coast of Key Largo, in an effort to protect a portion of the beautiful reefs, rich in tropical fish and other marine life, that adjoin the Keys. Untreated sewage from the Miami area, runoff water polluted by pesticides and other chemicals, dredging associated with coastal development, and the removal of countless pieces of live coral by growing numbers of tourists and souvenir dealers have severely damaged large areas of the reefs. However, most of the Keys is now a National Marine Sanctuary and efforts are being made to improve water quality.

Florida is home to three Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance. The Okefenokee Swamp (which extends into Georgia) was designated in 1986; it is the second largest wetland in the nation. The site is federally owned and managed, in part, under the Okefenokee Wilderness Act of 1974. Everglades National Park was designated in 1987 as an important nesting, staging, and wintering bird habitat. The park was also designated as a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve in 1976 and as a World Heritage Site in 1979. Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge, located in the Indian River Lagoon along the Atlantic Coast, was designated by Ramsar in 1993. This site has shared ownership between the state and federal government.

In 2003, the US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) database listed 598 hazardous waste sites in Florida, 50 of which were on the National Priorities List as of 2006, including 4 military sites. Florida ranks sixth in the nation for the most National Priority List sites. In 2005, the EPA spent over $8 million through the Superfund program for the cleanup of hazardous waste sites in the state. Also in 2005, federal EPA grants awarded to the state included over $37.9 million for water-quality control and protection projects. A federal research grant of $992,000 was awarded to the Florida Department of Citrus to pursue improved harvesting techniques. In 2003, 126.5 million lb of toxic chemicals were released by the state.


Florida, the most populous state in the southeastern United States, is also one of the fastest growing of the 50 states. In 1960, it was the 10th most populous state; by 1980, it ranked 7th with a population of 9,746,324; and by 1990, it ranked 4th, with a population of 12,937,926. Between 1990 and 2000, Florida had the third-largest population gain among the states, surpassed only by California and Texas. In that decade, Florida's population grew from 12,937,926 to 15,982,378, an increase of 23.5% (also one of the largest percentage gains in the country). In 2005, Florida had the fourth-largest population of all 50 states, with an estimated total of 17,789,864, an 11.3% increase since 2000. Florida is expected to have a population of 21.2 million by 2015 and 25.9 million by 2025.

The first US census to include Florida, in 1830, recorded a total population of only 34,730. By 1860, on the eve of the Civil War, the population had more than quadrupled, to 140,424 people; about 80% of them lived in the state's northern rim, where cotton and sugarcane plantations flourished. Newcomers migrating southward in the late 19th century through the early 1920s sharply increased the state's population; the 1930 census was the first in which the state passed the million mark. Migration from other states, especially of retirees, caused a population explosion in the post-World War II period, with much of the increase occurring along the south Atlantic coast. From 1950 to 1960, Florida's population increased 79%, the fastest rate of all the states. From 1960 to 1970, the growth rate was 37%; from 1970 to 1980, 44%; from 1980 to 1990, 33%; and from 1990 to 1998, 15.3%.

In 2004, the average population density was 322.7 per sq mi, the eighth highest in the nation. The median age of the population was 39.3, the fifth-highest median of the 50 states. Nearly 23% of the population was under age 18, while over 16.8% of was 65 years of age or older.

The most populous city in Florida is Jacksonville, the 13th-largest city in the United States in 2004. Its population in that year was estimated at 777,704. Miami is Florida's second-largest city, with an estimated 2004 population of 379,724. The Miami-Ft. Lauderdale-Miami Beach metropolitan area, the state's largest metropolitan region, had an estimated 5,361,723 residents in 2004; the Jacksonville metropolitan area's population was 1,225,381. Florida's second-largest metropolitan area was Tampa-St. Peters-burg-Clearwater, with an estimated 2,587,967 residents; the city of Tampa had an estimated 321,772 people, and St. Petersburg had 249,090. Ft. Lauderdale had an estimated population of 164,578. Tallahassee, the state capital, had a population of 156,612.


Florida's population consists mainly of whites of northern European stock, blacks, and Hispanics. European immigrants came primarily from Germany and the United Kingdom. Germans were particularly important in the development of the citrus fruit industry. Since World War II, the development of southern Florida as a haven for retired northerners has added new population elements to the state, a trend augmented by the presence of numerous military bases.

Florida's foreign-born population numbered 2,670,828 in 2000, or 16.7% of the state total, the fourth-highest percentage of foreign born in the nation. The largest group of first- and second-generation residents are Cubans, who represented 5.2% of Florida's population in 2000. There were 2,682,715 Hispanics and Latinos in 2000, including 833,120 Cubans (more than 100,000 of whom arrived on Florida shores as refugees in 1980), 482,027 Puerto Ricans, and 363,925 Mexicans. In 2004, 19% of the population was of Hispanic or Latino origin.

The nonwhite population, as reported in 2000, was 3,517,349, or 12% of the total state population. Black-white relations in the 20th century were tense. There were race riots following World War I, and the Ku Klux Klan was openly active until World War II. One of the worst race riots in US history devastated black areas of Miami in the spring of 1980. The black population was estimated at 2,335,505 as of 2000, the fourth-largest in the nation. In 2004, 15.7% of the population was black.

Florida's indigenous inhabitants resisted encroachment from settlers longer and more militantly than tribes in other seaboard states. The leaders in resistance were the Seminole, most of whom by the 1850s had been killed or removed to other states, had fled to the Florida swamplands, or had been assimilated as small farmers. No peace treaty was signed with the Seminole until 1934, following the Indian Reorganization Act that attempted to establish tribal integrity and self-government for Indian nations. In 1939, the Native American population was reported as only 600, but the 2000 census reported a figure of 53,541 Native Americans. The difference is too large to be explained by natural increase, and there is no evidence of marked in-migration; presumably, then, it reflects a growing consciousness of Indian identity. There are seven Indian reservations: five for the SeminoleBig Cypress, Hollywood, Brighton, Immokalee, and Tampa, and two for the Miccosuckeeone on the Tamiami Trail and one north of Alligator Alley near Big Cypress. In 2004, 0.4% of the population was American Indian.

As of 2000 Florida had an Asian population of 266,256 (eighth largest in the nation), or 1.7% of the total state population. That figure had increased to 2% of the population by 2004. The number of Pacific Islanders was estimated at 8,625. In 2004, 0.1% of the population was composed of Pacific Islanders. In 2000 there were 54,310 Filipinos, 46,368 Chinese, 70,740 Asian Indians (up from 22,240 in 1990), 33,190 Vietnamese (up from 14,586 in 1990), 10,897 Japanese, 19,139 Koreans, and 2,131 native Hawaiians. In 2004, 1.2% of the population reported two or more races of origin.


Spanish and English settlers found what is now Florida inhabited by Indians recently separated from the Muskogean Creeks, who, with the addition of escaped black slaves and remnants of the Apalachee Indians of the panhandle, later became known as the Seminole Indians. Although the bulk of the Seminole were removed to Indian Territory in the 1840s, enough remained to pro-vide the basis of the present population. Florida has such Indian place-names as Okeechobee, Apalachicola, Kissimmee, Sarasota, Pensacola, and Hialeah.

FloridaCounties, County Seats, and County Areas and Populations
Alachua Gainesville 901 223,852 Lake Tavares 954 277,035
Baker MacClenny 585 24,569 Lee Ft. Myers 803 544,758
Bay Panama City 758 161,558 Leon Tallahassee 676 245,756
Bradford Starke 293 28,118 Levy Bronson 1,100 37,998
Brevard Titusville 995 531,250 Liberty Bristol 837 7,773
Broward Ft. Lauderdale 1,211 1,777,638 Madison Madison 710 19,092
Calhoun Blountstown 568 13,290 Manatee Bradenton 747 306,779
Charlotte Punta Gorda 690 157,536 Marion Ocala 1,610 303,442
Citrus Inverness 629 134,370 Martin Stuart 555 139,728
Clay Green Cove Springs 592 171,095 Monroe Key West 1,034 76,329
Collier East Naples 1,994 307,242 Nassau Fernandina Beach 649 64,746
Columbia Lake City 796 64,040 Okaloosa Crestview 936 182,172
Miami-Dade Miami 1,955 2,376,014 Okeechobee Okeechobee 770 39,836
DeSoto Arcadia 636 35,406 Orange Orlando 910 1,023,023
Dixie Cross City 701 14,647 Osceola Kissimmee 1,350 231,578
Duval Jacksonville 776 826,436 Palm Beach West Palm Beach 1,993 1,268,548
Escambia Pensacola 660 296,772 Pasco Dade City 738 429,065
Flagler Bunnell 491 76,410 Pinellas Clearwater 280 928,032
Franklin Apalachicola 545 10,177 Polk Bartow 1,823 542,912
Gadsden Quincy 518 46,428 Putnam Palatka 733 73,568
Gilchrist Trenton 354 16,402 St. Johns St. Augustine 617 161,525
Glades Moore Haven 763 11,252 St. Lucie Ft. Pierce 581 241,305
Gulf Port St. Joe 559 13,975 Santa Rosa Milton 1,024 143,105
Hamilton Jasper 517 13,983 Sarasota Sarasota 573 366,256
Hardee Wauchula 637 28,286 Seminole Sanford 298 401,619
Hendry La Belle 1,163 39,561 Sumter Bushnell 561 64,182
Hernando Brooksville 478 158,409 Suwannee Live Oak 690 38,624
Highlands Sebring 1,029 95,496 Taylor Perry 1,058 19,622
Hillsborough Tampa 1,053 1,132,152 Union Lake Butler 246 14,916
Holmes Bonifay 488 19,264 Volusia DeLand 1,113 490,055
Indian River Vero Beach 497 128,594 Wakulla Crawfordville 601 28,212
Jackson Marianna 942 48,985 Walton De Funiak Springs 1,066 50,324
Jefferson Monticello 609 14,490 Washington Chipley 590 22,299
Lafayette Mayo 545 7,953 TOTALS 54,154 17,789,864

The rapid population change that has occurred in Florida since World War II makes accurate statements about the language difficult. Massive migration from the North Central and North Atlantic areas, including a large number of speakers of Yiddish, has materially affected the previously rather uniform Southern speech of much of the state. Borrowing from the Spanish of the expanding number of Cubans and Puerto Ricans in the Miami area has had a further effect.

Representative words in the Southern speech of most native-born Floridians are light bread (white bread), pallet (temporary bed on the floor), fairing off (clearing up), serenade (shivaree), tote (carry), snap beans (green beans); mosquito hawk (dragonfly), crocus sack (burlap bag), pullybone (wishbone), and comforter (tied and filled bedcover), especially in south Florida. Largely limited to the northern half of the state are pinder (peanut), croker sack instead of crocus sack, fire dogs (andirons); also, in the Tampa Bay area, comfort (tied and filled bedcover), and, in the panhandle, whirlygig (merry-go-round). Some north-Florida terms are clearly imported from Georgia: mutton corn (green corn), light-wood (kindling), and co-wench! (a call to cows).

In 2000, 11,569,739 Floridians, representing 76.9% of the resident population five years old and older, spoke only English at home, down from 82.7% in 1990.

The following table gives selected statistics from the 2000 Census for language spoken at home by persons five years old and over. The category "Other Indo-European languages" includes Albanian, Gaelic, Lithuanian, and Rumanian.

Population 5 years and over 15,043,603 100.0
  Speak only English 11,569,739 76.9
  Speak a language other than English 3,473,864 23.1
Speak a language other than English 3,473,864 23.1
  Spanish or Spanish Creole 2,476,528 16.5
  French Creole 208,487 1.4
  French (incl. Patois, Cajun) 129,118 0.9
  German 89,656 0.6
  Italian 67,257 0.4
  Portuguese or Portuguese Creole 55,014 0.4
  Tagalog 38,442 0.3
  Chinese 35,071 0.2
  Arabic 32,418 0.2
  Vietnamese 30,962 0.2
  Polish 24,850 0.2
  Greek 23,041 0.2
  Russian 19,729 0.1
  Other Indo-European languages 18,473 0.1
  Yiddish 18,225 0.1
  Korean 16,702 0.1
  Hebrew 15,360 0.1


Dominican and Franciscan friars, intent on converting the Indians, arrived with the Spanish conquistadors and settlers in the 1500s, and for some 200 years Florida's white population was overwhelmingly Catholic. Protestant colonists from Britain arrived in the late 1700s, and significant influx of Protestant settlers from the southern United States followed in the early 1800s. Sephardic Jews from the Carolinas also moved into Florida around this time, although the largest influx of Jews has occurred during the 20th century.

The Roman Catholic Church is the largest religious organization, with 2,316,652 adherents in about 460 parishes in 2004. The next largest group is the Southern Baptist Convention with 1,292,097 adherents in 2,054 congregations in 2000; in 2002 there were 37,234 newly baptized members. Judaism claimed 628,485 adherents in 2000. In 2003, the United Methodist Church reported 477,758 adherents from all of the state's conferences (which include some congregations from Alabama). In 2000, the Assemblies of God had 189,387 members; Presbyterian Church USA, 157,751; and Episcopalians, 152,526. The same year, about 58.9% of the population did not specify affiliation with any religious organization.

Orlando is home to the world headquarters for Campus Crusade For Christ International, an interdenominational Christian evangelical ministry.


Railroad building in the 19th century opened southern Florida to tourism and commerce. During the 20th century, long-distance passenger trains and, more recently, planes and automobiles have brought millions of visitors to the state each year.

The first operating railway in Florida was the St. Joseph Railroad, which inaugurated service on an 8-mi (13-km) track between St. Joseph Bay and Lake Wimico on 14 April 1836, using mules to pull the train. The railroad soon put into operation the state's first steam locomotive on 5 September 1836. By the time the Civil War broke out, railroads connected most of northern Florida's major towns, but the rapid expansion of the state's railroad system, and with it the development of southern Florida, awaited two late-19th-century entrepreneurs: Henry B. Plant; and Henry M. Flagler. Plant's South Florida Railroad extended service to Tampa in 1884. Flagler consolidated a number of small lines in the 1880s into the Florida East Coast Railway with service as far south as Daytona. He then extended service down the Atlantic coast, reaching Palm Beach in 1894, Miami in 1896, and, after construction of an extensive series of bridges, Key West in 1912. The "over-seas" railway down the Keys was abandoned in 1935 after a hurricane severely damaged the line.

In 2003, there was a total of 2,956 rail mi (4,759 km) of track in Florida, operated by 14 railroads. In the same year, nonmetallic minerals were the top commodities (by weight) shipped by rail from and to the state. CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern were the state's operating Class I railroads in 2003, with about 1,896 route mi (3,052 km) of Class I track between them. As of 2006, Amtrak provided passenger rail service to 24 Florida stations.

On 7 June 1979, construction began on a surface rail system for Miami and surrounding areas of Dade County. The first stage of this $1.1 billion mass transit system (known as Metrorail), a 20.5-mi (33-km) line serving Hialeah, Miami International Airport, downtown Miami, and areas to the south, was opened on 20 May 1984.

In 2004, Florida had 119,525 mi (192,435 km) of public roads. The Florida Turnpike's 265-mi (426-km) main section extends from Wildwood in north-central Florida to Ft. Pierce on the Atlantic coast and then south to Miami. A 50-mi (80-km) extension runs between Miramar and Homestead. The Overseas Highway down the Keys, including the famous Seven Mile Bridge (which is actually 35,716 feet, or 10,886 meters6.8 miin length), is part of the state highway system. In 1983, 37 of the 44 bridges connecting the Florida Keys were replaced at a cost of $189 million.

Florida in 2004 had some 15.205 million registered motor vehicles. As of that same year, 13,146,357 people held active Florida drivers' licenses.

Inland waterways in Florida include the southernmost section of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and the easternmost section of the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, encompassing approximately 1,200 navigable mi (1,931 km) of federally maintained coastal channels for commercial vessels and pleasure craft. Construction began on 27 February 1964 on a barge canal across northern Florida to connect the two intracoastal systems. However, work was ordered stopped by President Richard Nixon on 19 January 1971 because of the threat the canal posed to flora and fauna in the surrounding area.

Florida has several commercially important ports. By far the largest in terms of gross tonnage is Tampa, which handled over 48.289 million tons of cargo in 2004, ranking it the 16th-busiest port in the United States. Other major ports and their 2004 tonnage handled include: Port Everglades in Ft. Lauderdale, 24.899 million tons; Jacksonville, 21.451 million tons; Port Manatee, 4.428 million tons; Miami, 9.754 million tons; Panama City, 2.751 million tons; Port Canaveral, 4.629 million tons; and Palm Beach, 4.146 million tons. In 2004, Florida had 1,540 mi (2,479 km) of navigable waterways. In 2003, waterborne shipments totaled 131.570 million tons.

In 2005, Florida had a total of 832 public and private-use aviation-related facilities. This included 491 airports, 286 heliports, 14 STOLports (Short Take-Off and Landing), and 41 seaplane bases. In addition to civil aviation activity, Florida had more than 20 military airfields. Florida's busiest airport is Orlando International with a total of 15,270,347 enplanements in 2004, making it the 14th-busiest airport in the United States. Other major airports in the state include Miami International with 14,515,591 enplanements in 2004 (15th-busiest in the United States); Tampa International with 8,436,025 enplanements in 2004 (28th-busiest in the United States); Ft. Lauderdale-Hollywood International with 10,040,598 enplanements in 2004 (24th-busiest in the United States); and Fort Myers-Southwest Florida International with 3,320,019 enplanements in 2004 (50th-busiest in the United States).


American Indians entered Florida from the north 10,000 to 12,000 years ago, and had reached the end of the peninsula by 1400 bc. As they grew in number, they developed more complex economic and social organization. In northeastern Florida and nearby Georgia, they apparently invented pottery independently about 2000 bc, some 800 years earlier than any other Indian group in North America.

In north Florida, an agricultural and hunting economy organized around village life was typical by this time. South of Tampa Bay and Cape Canaveral, Indians lived mostly along the coast and relied heavily on wild plants and on a large variety of aquatic and land animals for meat. The southern groups did not practice agriculture until about 450 bc, when they began to plant corn in villages around Lake Okeechobee.

As they spread over Florida and adjusted to widely different local conditions, the Indians fell into six main divisions, with numerous subgroups and distinctive cultural traits. When Europeans arrived in the early 16th century, they found nearly 100,000 Indians: 25,000 Apalachee around Tallahassee; 40,000 Timucua in the northeast; on Tampa Bay, 7,000 Tocobaga; on the southwest coast and around Lake Okeechobee, 20,000 Calusa; on the lower southeast coast, 5,000 Tequesta; and in the Jupiter area, 2,000 Ais and Jeaga.

The Spanish who began arriving in the 16th century found the Indians in upper Florida to be relatively tractable, but those in the lower peninsula remained uniformly hostile and resisted to the last. The Spaniards sought to convert the Indians to Christianity and settle them around missions to grow food, to supply labor, and to help defend the province. By 1674, 70 Franciscan friars were working in dozens of missions and stations in a line running west from St. Augustine and north along the sea island coast to Carolina.

The impact of the Europeans on the Indian population was, on the whole, disastrous. Indians died of European-introduced diseases, were killed in wars with whites or with other Indians, or moved away. Raids from South Carolina by the Creeks, abetted by the British, between 1702 and 1708 completely destroyed the missions. When the Spanish departed Florida in 1763, the remaining 300 of the original 100,000 Indians left with them.

As early as 1750, however, small groups of Creek tribes from Georgia and Alabama had begun to move into the north Florida area vacated by the first Indian groups. Called Seminole, the Creek word for runaway or refugee, these Indians did not then constitute a tribe and had no common government or leadership until resistance to white plans to resettle them brought them together. They numbered only 5,000 when Florida became part of the United States.

Pressures on the US president and Congress to remove the Seminole intensified after runaway black slaves began seeking refuge with the Indians. In 1823, the Seminole accepted a reservation north of Lake Okeechobee. Nine years later, an Indian delegation signed a document pledging the Seminole to move within three years to lands in present-day Oklahoma. The Indians' subsequent resistance to removal resulted in the longest and most costly of Indian wars, the Seminole War of 183542. The warfare and the Indians' subsequent forced migration left fewer than 300 Seminole in Florida.

The history of the twice-repeated annihilation of Florida Indians is, at the same time, the history of white settlers' rise to power. After Christopher Columbus reached the New World at Hispaniola in 1492, the Caribbean islands became the base for wider searches, one of which brought Juan Ponce de León to Florida. Sailing from Puerto Rico in search of the fabled island of Bimini, he sighted Florida on 27 March 1513 and reached the coast a week later. Ponce de León claimed the land for Spain and named it La Florida, for Pascua Florida, the Easter festival of flowers; sailing southward around Florida, he may have traveled as far as Apalachicola, on the shore of the panhandle. In 1521, he returned to found a colony at Charlotte Harbor, on the lower Gulf coast, but the Indians fought the settlers. After Ponce de León was seriously wounded, the expedition sailed for Cuba, where he died the same year.

Other Spaniards seeking treasure and lands to govern, followed. Pánfilo de Narváez arrived in 1528, landing near Tampa Bay and marching inland and northward to Tallahassee. Hernando de Soto, a rich and famous associate of Francisco Pizarro in the conquest of Peru, found many men eager to try the same with him in Florida. Appointed governor of Cuba and adelantado (loosely, conqueror) of Florida, he followed the route of Narváez to Tallahassee in 1539, finding some food but no promise of wealth. In 1559, Spain sought to establish a settlement on Pensacola Bay, but it was abandoned at the end of two years.

In 1562, Jean Ribault, with a small expedition of French Huguenots, arrived at the St. Johns River, east of present-day Jacksonville, and claimed Florida for France. Another group of French Huguenot settlers built Ft. Caroline, 5 mi (8 km) upriver, two years later. In the summer of 1565, Ribault brought in naval reinforcements, prepared to defend the French claim against the Spaniards, who had sent Pedro Menéndez de Avilés to find and oust the intruders. Menéndez selected St. Augustine as a base, landing on 28 August, and with the aid of a storm withstood the French effort to destroy him. He then marched overland to take Ft. Caroline by surprise, killing most of the occupants and later captured Ribault and his shipwrecked men, most of whom he slaughtered. St. Augustine, the first permanent European settlement in the United States, served primarily, under Spanish rule, as a military outpost, maintained to protect the wealth of New Spain. The Spanish established a settlement at Pensacola in 1698, but it too remained only a small frontier garrison town. In 1763, when Spain ceded Florida to England in exchange for Cuba, about 3,000 Spaniards departed from St. Augusta and 800 from Pensacola, leaving Florida to the Seminole.

British Florida reached from the Atlantic to the Mississippi River and became two colonies, East and West Florida. Settlers established farms and plantations, traded with the Indians, and moved steadily toward economic and political self-sufficiency. These settlers did not join the American Revolution, but Florida was affected by the war nonetheless, as thousands of Loyalists poured into East Florida. In 1781, Spain attacked and captured Pensacola. Two years later, Britain ceded both Floridas back to Spain, whereupon most of the Loyalists left for the West Indies.

The second Spanish era was only nominally Spanish. English influence remained strong, and US penetration increased. Florida west of the Perdido River was taken over by the United States in 1810, as part of the Louisiana Purchase (1803). Meanwhile, renegade whites, runaway slaves, pirates, and political adventures operated almost at will.

Present-day Florida was ceded to the United States in 1821, in settlement of $5 million in claims by US citizens against the Spanish government. At this time, General Andrew Jackson, who three years earlier had led a punitive expedition against the Seminole and their British allies, came back to Florida as military governor. His main tasks were to receive the territory for the United States and to set up a civilian administration, which took office in 1822. William P. DuVal of Kentucky was named territorial governor, and a legislative council was subsequently elected. The new council met first in Pensacola and in St. Augustine, and then, in 1824, in the newly selected capital of Tallahassee, located in the wilderness of north-central Florida, from which the Indians had just been removed. Middle Florida, as it was called, rapidly became an area of slave-owning cotton plantations and was for several decades the fastest-growing part of the territory. The war to remove the Seminole halted the advance of frontier settlement, however, and the Panic of 1837 bankrupted the territorial government and the three banks whose notes it had guaranteed. Floridians drew up a state constitution at St. Joseph in 183839 but, being proslavery, had to wait until 1845 to enter the Union paired with the free state of Iowa.

In 1861, Florida, with only 140,000 people, about 40% of them blacks (mostly slaves), only 400 mi (644 km) of railroad, and no manufacturing, seceded from the Union and joined the Confederacy. Some 15,000 whites (one-third of whom died) served in the Confederate army, and 1,200 whites and almost as many blacks joined the Union army. Bitterness and some violence accompanied the Republican Reconstruction government in 186876. The conservative Bourbon Democrats then governed for the rest of the century. They encouraged railroad building and other forms of business, and they kept taxes low by limiting government services. Cotton production never recovered to prewar levels, but cattle raising, citrus and vegetable cultivation, forestry, phosphate mining, and, by late in the century, a growing tourist industry took up the slack.

The Spanish-American War in 1898, during which Tampa became the port of embarkation for an expedition to Cuba, stimulated the economy and advertised the state nationwide, not always favorably. Naval activity at Key West and Pensacola became feverish. Lakeland, Miami, Jacksonville, and Fernandina were briefly the sites of training camps.

In 1904, Napoleon Bonaparte Broward was elected governor on a moderately populist platform, which included a program to drain the Everglades lands which the state had received under the Swamp and Overflowed Lands Act of 1850. Drainage did lower water levels, and settlements grew around Lake Okeechobee, developments whose full environmental impact was recognized only much later. By the time Broward took office, Jacksonville had become the state's largest city, with Pensacola and Tampa not far behind, and Key West had dropped from first to fourth. During World War I, more than 42,030 Floridians were in uniform.

Boom, bust, and depression characterized the 1920s. Feverish land speculation brought hundreds of thousands of people to Florida in the first half of the decade. Cresting in 1925, the boom was already over in 1926, when a devastating hurricane struck Miami, burying all hope of recovery. Yet population jumped by more than 50% during the decade, and Miami rose from fourth to second place among Florida cities. Florida's choice of Republican Herbert Hoover over Al Smith in the 1928 presidential election reflected the Protestant and prohibitionist attitudes of most of the state voters at that time.

The 1930s were marked first by economic depression, then by recovery, new enterprise, and rapidly growing government activity. Bank and business failures, as well as defaults on city and county bond issues and on mortgage payments, produced growing economic distress. The state joined the federal government in assuming responsibility for relief and recovery. The legalization of pari-mutuel betting in 1931 created a new industry and a new tax source. The state's first paper mill opened in the same year, revolutionizing the forest industry. Private universities in Miami, Tampa, and Jacksonville were started during the Depression years.

The 1940s opened with recovery and optimism, arising from the stimulus of production for World War II, production that began well before the actual entry of the United States into the war. New army and navy installations and training programs brought business growth. After 1941, Florida seemed to become a vast military training school. The number of army and navy airfield flying schools increased from 5 to 45. Tourist facilities in all major cities became barracks, mess halls, and classrooms, with 70,000 rooms in Miami Beach alone being used to house troops in 1942. Families of thousands of trainees visited the state. Florida was on the eve of another boom.

First discovered but nearly last to be developed, Florida reached a rank of 27th in population only in 1940. Migration brought Florida's ranking to fourth in 1990, increasing its population to more than 12.8 million people. In 1986, Florida absorbed 1,000 arrivals a day. Until the early 1980s, many of those migrants were 65 years of age or over, swelling the proportion of senior citizens in Florida to 50% above the national average. In the mid-1980s, however, the preponderance of newcomers was somewhat younger, 25-44 years old. With an influx of younger residents, of family-rearing age, schools became overcrowded by the 1990s. Nevertheless, Florida is expected to double its 65 and older population between 2000 and 2030, meaning that one in every four residents will be age 65 and older in 2030 in Florida. Approximately 8% of the total US population will live in Florida by that date, which does not include all those holding second homes in Florida.

Newcomers have come in search of opportunities provided by Florida's growing and diversifying economy. Whereas the state once depended on the three industries (tourism, citrus, and construction) for its survival, military spending increased the presence of high-tech, banking, and service industries.

The management of growth in Florida dominated state politics through the second half of the century and promised to remain at the fore at least through the early 2000s. The state's low taxes combined with its rapid population growth to overburden the infrastructure. Roads, water supply, and sewer systems were pushed beyond capacity, posing real environmental threats. Development, both residential and commercial, eroded the state's natural beauty.

Efforts to reapportion Florida's 23 congressional districts and the state legislature's 40 Senate and 120 house seats were complicated by battles between blacks (holding steady at 14% of the population in 1999) and Hispanics over the number and character of minority districts. The absence of black state congressmen or senators, and the paucity of black officials at the state and local levels provoked demands for the creation of "safe districts" for blacks that thereby ensure their representation. Likewise Hispanics, whose numbers grew from 8.8% of the state population in 1980 to 14% by 1999, called for Hispanic districts. However, in the 1990s, Florida's third congressional district, which had a majority of black voters, was declared unconstitutional and ordered redrawn by the US Supreme Court.

Racial and ethnic relations have been another central issue. Tensions between blacks and Hispanics led to violence in 1989 when a Hispanic police officer shot and killed a black motorcyclist who was speeding and driving erratically. Riots broke out in the predominantly black Overton section of Miami and continued for three days.

Miami was again the site of rioting in late April 2000, as some Cuban Americans took to the streets to protest the federal government's handling of the custody case of six-year-old Cuban refugee Elian Gonzalez. The child was the center of an international debacle after he was rescued offshore in November 1999; a fisherman found the boy clinging to a raft after the boat in which he and his mother escaped Cuba had capsized. His mother having died, Miami relatives claimed and cared for the boy while federal officials, including the US attorney general, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, and several courts, grappled with the problem of returning him to his Cuban father. The incident, which ended when the boy arrived back in Havana, remained a point of protest for Miami's Cuban American community, among whom the prevailing sentiment was that, for political reasons, the child should have remained in the states.

The state's crime level received nationwide attention in the early 1990s when a series of incidents claimed the lives of several foreign tourists. For most of the decade Florida held the unwelcome distinction of leading the nation in violent crime. Numbers began to decline, and in 1998, the rate of violent crime per 100,000 residents dropped below 1,000 (to 939), according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation. (That year New Mexico recorded 955 violent crimes per 100,000 residents, making it the most violent state in the nation.)

Tropical storms and hurricanes periodically strike Florida. In August 1992, Hurricane Andrew caused $26.5 billion in damages in south Florida, primarily in and around Homestead. In October 1995, Hurricane Opal wrought an estimated $3 billion in damage in the Panhandle, destroying marinas and shipyards. The 2004 hurricane season devastated Florida: four hurricanesCharley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeannedamaged 20% of Florida's homes, and 124 people died. In October 2005, Hurricane Wilma hit southern Florida, and millions of people were left without power.

In December 1998, Floridians mourned the death of Governor Lawton Chiles; the Democrat first rose to prominence in 1970 when he made a 1,000-mi (1,600-km) trek through the state as he successfully campaigned for the US Senate, earning him the nick-name "Walkin' Lawton."

Florida became the center of national and international attention in the 7 November 2000 US presidential election. The race between Democratic vice president Al Gore and Republican challenger George W. Bush was extremely close, and on election night, Florida's 25 electoral college votes became the ones that would decide the election. In the early morning hours of 8 November, Gore called Bush to concede the election, but he subsequently retracted his concession when it became apparent that the vote was in question. Because the vote was so close, Florida's election officials began a mandatory recount. In addition to the automatic recount, an investigation was launched into voting irregularities denying rights to minority voters.

Democrats requested hand recounts in four counties, but Bush called for an order banning them. The Florida Supreme Court intervened in the certification process run by the Florida Secretary of State, permitting hand recounts in Broward and Palm Beach counties and blocking certification until an appeal by Gore was heard. The United States 11th Circuit Court of Appeals refused Bush's request that it stop the hand recounts, and Miami-Dade county officials began a manual recount. Bush's lead was gradually reduced from the 537 votes certified on 26 November to 154 by adding votes from partial recounts in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. When the Florida Supreme Court ordered a manual recount of 43,432 "under votes" from as many as 62 counties, the Bush campaign appealed to the United States Supreme Court to stop any vote recounts in Florida. On 9 December 2000, the US Supreme Court, divided 5-4, stepped in to order a stay of the Florida Supreme Court-ordered manual recounts, and on 12 December, it decided, in Bush v. Gore, that the Florida Supreme Court had erred in its decision to order manual vote recounts. On 13 December, Gore conceded the election to Bush, who became the nation's 43rd president after the electoral college votes cast on 18 December 2000 were tallied, including Florida's 25 votes.


Florida's first constitutional convention, which met from December 1838 to January 1839, drew up the document under which the state entered the Union in 1845. A second constitutional convention, meeting in 1861, adopted the ordinance of secession that joined Florida to the Confederacy. After the war, a new constitution was promulgated in 1865, but not until still another document was drawn up and ratified by the statethe Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitutionwas Florida readmitted to statehood in 1868. A fifth constitution was framed in 1885 and adopted the following year; extensively revised in 1968, this is the document under which the state is now governed. In 1998, Florida voters approved extensive revisions to the constitution; in 2002, voters approved a death penalty amendment, adding the death penalty to the constitution. In addition, in 2002, Florida voters approved several amendments: one requires the state to offer prekin-dergarten for four-year-olds by 2005; another, to reduce class size in schools by 2010; another animal rights measure protects pregnant pigs from unnecessary confinement; and another prohibits smoking in certain work environments. Overall, the constitution had been amended 104 times by January 2005.

The 1968 constitutional revision instituted annual (rather than biennial) regular sessions of the legislature, which consists of a 40-member Senate and a 120-member House of Representatives. Sessions begin the Tuesday after the first Monday of March and are limited to 60 calendar days. Senators serve four-year terms, with half the Senate being elected every two years; representatives serve two-year terms. All legislators must be at least 21 years old, and must have been residents of Florida the district for two years. The maximum length of a regular legislative session is 60 calendar days, unless it is extended by a three-fifths vote of each house. Special sessions may be called by the governor or by joint action of the presiding officers of the two houses (the president of the Sen-ate and speaker of the House of Representatives). The legislative salary in 2004 was $29,916.

The governor is elected for a four-year term; a two-term limit is in effect. The lieutenant governor is elected on the same ticket as the governor. An amendment adopted by voters in 1998, which took effect in 2002, merged the cabinet offices of treasurer and comptroller into one chief financial office. The other elected cabinet members include the attorney general and agriculture commissioner; the amendment eliminated the offices of secretary of state and education commissioner from the cabinet. State officials must be at least 30 years old, US citizens, and registered voters, and must have been residents of Florida for at least seven years. As of December 2004, the governor's salary was $120,171.

Passage of legislation requires a majority vote of those present and voting in both houses. A bill passed by the legislature becomes law if it is signed by the governor; should the governor take no action on it, it becomes law seven days after receipt if the legislature is still in session, or 15 days after presentation to the governor if the legislature has adjourned. The governor may veto legislation and, in general appropriations bills, may veto individual items. Gubernatorial vetoes may be overridden by a two-thirds vote of the elected legislators in each house.

Amendments to the constitution may originate in three ways: by a joint resolution of the legislature passed by a three-fifths majority of the membership of each house; by action of a constitutional revision commission which, under the constitution, must be periodically convened; or by initiative petition (signed by 8% of the total votes cast in the state in the last election for presidential electors), which may call for a constitutional convention. A proposed amendment becomes part of the constitution if it receives a majority vote in a statewide election. One exception is that under the initiative procedure, an amendment for a new state tax or fee not in effect as of 7 November 1994 requires a two-thirds majority of voters to become part of the constitution.

Florida Presidential Vote by Political Parties, 19482004
*Won US presidential election.
**REFORM candidate Pat Buchanan received 17,484 votes.
1948 8 *Truman (D) 281,9880 194,280 89,755 11,620
1952 10 *Eisenhower (R) 444,950 544,036
1956 10 *Eisenhower (R) 480,371 643,849
1960 10 Nixon (R) 748,700 795,476
1964 14 *Johnson (D) 948,540 905,941
1968 14 *Nixon (R) 676,794 886,804 624,207
1972 17 *Nixon (R) 718,117 1,857,759
1976 17 *Carter (D) 1,636,000 1,469,531 21,325
1980 17 *Reagan (R) 1,417,637 2,043,006 30,457
1984 21 *Reagan (R) 1,448,816 2,730,350 744
1988 21 *Bush (R) 1,656,701 2,618,885 6,665 19,796
1992 25 Bush (R) 2,072,798 2,173,310 1,053,067 15,079
1996 25 *Clinton (D) 2,546,870, 2,244,536 483,870 23,965
2000** 25 *Bush, G. W. (R) 2,912,253 2,912,790 97,488 16,415
REFORM (Nader)
2004 27 *Bush, G. W. (R) 3,583,544 3,964,522 32,971 11,996

To vote in state elections, a person must be at least 18 years old, a US citizen, and a resident in the county of registration. Restrictions apply to convicted felons and those judged by the court as mentally incapacitated.


The Democratic and Republican parties are Florida's two principal political organizations. The former is the descendant of one of the state's first two political parties, the Jeffersonian Republican Democrats; this party, along with the Florida Whig Party, was organized shortly before statehood.

Florida's Republican Party was organized after the Civil War and dominated state politics until 1876, when the Democrats won control of the statehouse. Aided from 1889 to 1937 by a poll tax, which effectively disfranchised most of the state's then predominantly Republican black voters, the Democrats won every gubernatorial election but one from 1876 through 1962; the Prohibition Party candidate was victorious in 1916.

By the time Republican Claude R. Kirk Jr. won the governorship in 1966, Florida had already become, for national elections, a two-party state, although Democrats retained a sizable advantage in party registration. Beginning in the 1950s, many registered Democrats became "presidential Republicans," crossing party lines to give the state's electoral votes to Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952 and 1956 and to Richard M. Nixon in 1960.

A presidential preference primary, in which crossover voting is not permitted, is held on the second Tuesday in March of presidential election years. Because it occurs so early in the campaign season, this primary is closely watched as an indicator of candidates' strength. Primaries to select state and local candidates are held in early September, with crossover voting again prohibited; runoff elections are held on the Tuesday five weeks before the general election.

In 2004, there were 10,301,000 registered voters; an estimated 41% were Democratic, 38% Republican, and 21% unaffiliated or members of other parties. In addition to the Democratic and Republican parties, organized groups include the Green, Reform, and Libertarian parties. Minor parties running candidates for statewide office can qualify by obtaining petition signatures from 3% of the state's voters.

In the 1996 presidential election, Florida backed a Democrat for the first time in 20 years, giving 48% of the vote to Bill Clinton; 42% to Republican Bob Dole; and 9% to Independent Ross Perot. In the 2000 presidential election, a mere 275 votes separated Republican candidate George W. Bush from Democrat Al Gore as of 13 December 2000, when the US Supreme Court ruled a controversial hand recount of the Florida vote be stopped. George W. Bush won Florida's 25 electoral votes and became president; in 2004, Bush won 52% of the vote to Democrat John Kerry's 47%.

Former US Senator Lawton Chiles (Democrat) was elected governor in 1990 and reelected in 1994. In 1998, Florida voters elected Republican Jeb Bush to the gubernatorial spot; he was reelected in 2002. Connie Mack, a Republican, was reelected to a second US Senate term in 1994 but decided not to seek a third term in 2000. Democrat Bill Nelson was elected to the Senate in 2000. Democratic Senator Robert Graham was reelected in 1998. Graham mounted a bid for the presidential nomination in 2003, giving up his bid for reelection to the Senate in 2004. Republican Mel Martinez narrowly won the seat formerly held by Graham, with 49.3% of the vote to Democrat Betty Castor's 48.3%.

Florida's US House delegation following the 2004 elections had 18 Republicans and 7 Democrats. The state Senate in 2005 was comprised of 14 Democrats and 26 Republicans, and the state House had 84 Republicans and 36 Democrats.


In 2005, Florida had 67 counties, 404 municipalities, and 626 special districts. There were 67 school districts.

Generally, legislative authority within each county is vested in a five-member elected board of county commissioners, which also has administrative authority over county departments, except those headed by independently elected officials. In counties without charters, these elected officials usually include a sheriff, tax collector, property appraiser, supervisor of elections, and clerk of the circuit court. County charters may provide for a greater or lesser number of elected officials, and for a professional county administrator (city manager). Before 1968 there was state legislation that restricted county government operations; most of these laws have now been repealed. Counties may generally enact any law not inconsistent with state law. However, the taxing power of county and other local governments is severely limited.

Municipalities are normally incorporated and chartered by an act of the state legislature. Except where a county charter specifies otherwise, municipal ordinances override county laws. Municipal governments may provide a full range of local services. But as populations rapidly expand beyond municipal boundaries, many of these governments have found they lack the jurisdiction to deal adequately with area problems. Annexations of surrounding territory are permissible but difficult under state law. Some municipal governments have reached agreements with county or other local governments for consolidation of overlapping or redundant services or for provision of service by one local government to another on a contract basis. Complete consolidation of a municipal and a county government is authorized by the state constitution, requiring state legislation and voter approval in the area affected. Jacksonville and Duval County succeeded in consolidating by 1985.

The problem of overlapping and uncoordinated service is most serious in the case of the state's 626 special districts. These districts, established by state law and approval of the affected voters, provide a specified service in a defined geographic area. An urban area may have dozens of special districts. State legislation in the 1970s attempted to deal with this problem by permitting counties to set up their own special-purpose districts, whose operations could be coordinated by the county government.

Regional planning councils resulted from the need to cope with problems of greater than local concern. These councils deal with such issues as land management, resource management, and economic development.

In 2005, local government accounted for about 657,329 full-time (or equivalent) employment positions.


To address the continuing threat of terrorism and to work with the federal Department of Homeland Security, homeland security in Florida operates under state statute; the public safety commissioner, designated as the state homeland security adviser, oversees programs in training and law enforcement.

A "Sunshine" amendment to the constitution and a statutory code of ethics require financial disclosure by elected officials and top-level public employees; the code prohibits actions by officials and employees that would constitute a conflict of interest. An auditor general appointed by the legislature conducts financial and performance audits of state agencies.

Educational services are provided by the State Department of Education, which sets overall policy and adopts comprehensive objectives for public education, operates the state university and community college systems, and issues bonds (as authorized by the state constitution) to finance capital projects. The Department of Transportation is responsible for developing long-range transportation plans and for construction and maintenance of the state highway system. The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles licenses drivers, regulates the registration and sale of motor vehicles, and administers the Florida Highway Patrol.

Health services are the responsibility primarily of the Agency for HealthCare Administration. It is also responsible for disease prevention and for assisting localities in performing health services. The Department of Children and Families administers such social welfare programs as Medicaid, food stamps, and foster care and adoption.

The Department of Corrections maintains approximately 60 major correctional institutions. The Corrections Commission reviews the state's correctional efforts, recommends policies, and evaluates the implementation of approved policies. The Department of Law Enforcement is responsible for maintaining public order and enforcing the state criminal code; enforcement activities emphasize combating organized crime, vice, and racketeering. The state's Army and Air National Guard are under the jurisdiction of the Department of Military Affairs. The Florida Highway Patrol, within the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, is the only statewide uniformed police force.

The Florida Division of Housing and Community Development assists the Department of Community Affairs in carrying out its duties related to housing. The Department's Division of Emergency Management is responsible for Florida hazards and disaster prevention.

The Agency for Workforce Innovation is responsible for implementing policy in the areas of workforce development, welfare transition, unemployment compensation, labor market information, early learning and school readiness. The Florida Department of Veterans Affairs is responsible for serving the needs of veterans.

The Department of State manages state historic sites, archives, museums, libraries, and fine arts centers. Enterprise Florida supports new business starts in the state. The Department of Management Services provides administrative support for state agencies and state employees including human resource, insurance, retirement, office facility, purchasing, vehicles/aircraft, property surplus, and information technology services.


The state's highest court is the Supreme Court, a panel of seven justices that sits in Tallahassee. Every two years, the presiding justices elect one of their number as chief justice. All justices are appointed to six-year terms by the governor upon the recommendation of a judicial nominating commission. They may seek further six-year terms in a yes-no vote in a general election. If the incumbent justice does not receive a majority of "yes" votes, the governor appoints another person to fill the vacancy from the recommended list of qualified candidates.

The Supreme Court has appellate jurisdiction only. The state constitution, as amended, prescribes certain types of cases in which an appeal must be heard, including those in which the death penalty has been ordered and those in which a lower appellate court has invalidated a state law or a provision of the state constitution. The court also hears appeals of state agency decisions on utility rates and may, at its discretion, hear appeals in many other types of cases.

Below the Supreme Court are five district courts of appeal, which sit in Tallahassee, Lakeland, Miami, West Palm Beach, and Daytona Beach. There are 61 district court judges. The method of their selection and retention in office is the same as for supreme court justices. District courts hear appeals of lower court decisions and may review the actions of executive agencies. District court decisions are usually final, since most requests for Supreme Court review are denied.

The state's principal trial courts are its 20 circuit courts, which have original jurisdiction in many types of cases, including civil suits involving more than $5,000, felony cases, and all cases involving juveniles. Circuit courts may also hear appeals from county courts if no constitutional question is involved. Circuit court judges are elected for six-year terms and must have been members of the Florida bar for at least five years before election. There were 468 circuit court judges in 1999.

Each of Florida's 67 counties has a county court with original jurisdiction in misdemeanor cases, civil disputes involving $5,000 or less, and traffic-violation cases. County court judges are elected for four-year terms and must be members of the bar only in counties with populations of 40,000 or more.

As of 31 December 2004, a total of 85,533 prisoners were held in Florida's state and federal prisons, an increase from 82,012, or 4.3% from the previous year. As of year-end 2004, a total of 5,660 inmates were female, up from 5,165, or 9.6%, from the year before. Among sentenced prisoners (one year or more), Florida had an incarceration rate of 486 per 100,000 population in 2004.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Florida in 2004 had a violent crime rate (murder/nonnegligent manslaughter; forcible rape; robbery; aggravated assault) of 711.3 reported incidents per 100,000 population (the second highest among states, exceeded only by South Carolina), or a total of 123,754 reported incidents. Crimes against property (burglary; larceny/theft; and motor vehicle theft) in that same year totaled 727,141 reported incidents, or 4,179.7 reported incidents per 100,000 people. Florida has a death penalty, which can be carried out by lethal injection or electrocution, depending upon the prisoner's request. From 1976 through 5 May 2006 the state executed 60 persons, of which the most recent execution was in 2005. As of 1 January 2006, there were 388 inmates on death row, the third-highest number in the nation after California and Texas.

In 2003, Florida spent $777,539,269 on homeland security, an average of $48 per state resident.


In 2004, there were 71,241 active-duty military personnel in Florida, 20,107 civilian personnel, and 3,068 Reserve and National Guard. Military and civilian personnel were stationed at facilities in Pensacola, Orlando, Jacksonville, and at Eglin AFB. In October 1979, the Key West Naval Air Station was made the headquarters of a new Caribbean Joint Task Force, established to coordinate US military activities in the Caribbean. The state had 29,967 active-duty Air Force personnel in 2004 the largest Air Force bases were Eglin, in Valparaiso; MacDill, near Tampa; and Tyndall, west of Tallahassee. The US Air Force Missile Test Center at Cape Canaveral (called Cape Kennedy from 1963 to 1973) has been the launching site for most US space flights, including all manned flights. US Department of Defense procurement contracts in Florida in 2004 totaled $8.3 billion, seventh-highest in the United States for that year. Defense payroll, including retired military pay, amounted to $9.3 billion. Florida had the highest amount paid to retired military in the United States in 2004.

There were 1,788,496 veterans of US military service in Florida as of 2003, of whom 327,034 served in World War II; 223,057 in the Korean conflict; 457,695 during the Vietnam era; and 246,271 during 19902000 (in the Gulf War). US Veterans Administration spending in Florida in 2004 totaled $4.6 billion.

As of 31 October 2004, the Florida Highway Patrol employed 1,671 full-time sworn officers.


Florida is populated mostly by migrants. In 1990, only 30.5% of all state residents were Florida born, compared with 61.8% for the United States as a whole. Only Nevada had a lower proportion of native residents. Migration from other states accounted for more than 85% of Florida's population increase in the 1970s. From 1985 to 1990, net migration gains added another 1,461,550 new residents. Between 1990 and 1998, net domestic migration added 1,035,000 while international migration added 553,000. Florida's overall population increased 15.3% during that same period.

The early European immigrants to Floridafirst the Spanish, then the Englishnever populated the state in significant numbers. Immigration from southern states began even before the United States acquisition of Florida and accelerated thereafter. In the 20th century, US immigrants to Florida came, for the most part, from the Northeast and Midwest, their motivation to escape harsh northern winters. A large proportion of migrants have been retirees and other senior citizens. Between 1970 and 1980, the number of Floridians 65 or over increased by 70%, compared with a 44% increase for the US population as a whole. By 1998, 18.3% of the Florida populace was age 65 or older. In the period 200005, net international migration was 528,085 and net internal migration was 1,057,619, for a net gain of 1,585,704 people.

Since the 1960s, Florida has also experienced large-scale migration from the Caribbean and parts of Latin America. Although the state has had a significant Cuban population since the second half of the 19th century, the number of immigrants surged after the Cuban revolution of 1959. From December 1965 to April 1973, an airlift-agreed to by the Cuban and US governments landed a quarter of a million Cubans in Miami. Another period of large-scale immigration from Cuba, beginning in April 1980, brought more than 100,000 Cubans into Florida harbors. At the same time, Haitian "boat people" were arriving in Florida in significant numbers, often reaching the southern peninsula packed in barely seaworthy small craft. The number of ethnic Haitians in Florida was reported at 105,495 in 1990. By 1990, a reported 541,011 ethnic Cubans were living in southern Florida, mostly in and around Miami, where the Cuban section had become known as "Little Havana." The US government classified some of them as illegal aliens, fleeing extreme poverty in their native country, but the immigrants claimed to be political refugees and sued to halt deportation proceedings against them. In 1996, a reported 2,186,000 Floridians (15%) were foreign-born. In 1998, 59,965 foreign immigrants were admitted into Florida, the third-highest total of any state, accounting for over 9% of all foreign immigration that year. Of that total, 14,265 were from Cuba; 6,613 from Haiti; and 4,795 from Jamaica. As of 1998, Florida's Hispanic population numbered 2,080,000; those of Hispanic origin numbered 2,243,000.


In 1953, Florida became a signatory to the Alabama-Florida Boundary Compact. Among the interstate regional compacts in which Florida participates are the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin Compact, Southern Regional Education Board, Southern States Energy Board, Southeastern Forest Fire Protection Compact, Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, and Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission. Federal grants to Florida in fiscal year 2005 totaled $16.266 billion; in fiscal year 2006 federal grants amounted to an estimated $16.176 billion, and were estimated at $17.041 billion for fiscal year 2007.


Farming, lumbering and naval stores industries, all concentrated in northern Florida, were early mainstays of the economy. In the late 19th century, the extension of the railroads down the peninsula opened up an area previously populated only by Indians. Given the favorable climate, central and southern Florida soon became major agricultural areas. Tourism, aggressively promoted by the early railroad builders, became a major industry after World War I and remains so today.

Tourists and winter residents with second homes in Florida contribute billions of dollars annually to the state economy and make retailing and construction particularly important economic sectors. However, this dependence on discretionary spending by visitors and part-time dwellers also makes the economy, and especially the housing industry, highly vulnerable to recession.

The arms buildup during Ronald Reagan's administration helped to expand Florida's aerospace and electronics industries. Even in 1991, after the reduction of the national military budget, Florida ranked seventh nationally in the value of Department of Defense contracts awarded. Florida ranked fourth in the nation in defense electronics manufacturing employment in 1999.

The state's economy, particularly that of the Miami area, has also benefited from an influx of Latin American investment funds. Miami is said to have one of the largest underground economies in the United States, a reference both to the sizable inflow of cash from illicit drug trafficking and to the large numbers of Latin American immigrants working for low, unreported cash wages. Florida's population increased by 16% between 1990 and 1999, due primarily to migration. Strong annual economic growth rates in the late 1990s (averaging 6.6% in 19982000) were only moderated to 4.2% in the national recession of 2001. Growth continued damped in 2002, reflecting, particularly, a slowdown in Florida's tourist industry, but remained above the national average. By July 2002, the state was experiencing positive, if small (less than 1%), job growth. As was true in much of the country, the share of manufacturing in Florida's economy decreased in both absolute and relative terms coming into the 21st century. From a peak of $31 billion in 1999, output from the manufacturing sector declined 6.3% by 2001. As a share of the Florida economy, manufacturing declined from 7.7% in 1997 to 5.9% in 2001. By contrast, the financial services and trade sectors (wholesale and retail) each grew by more than 27% 1997 to 2001, and general services (including hotels and tourist services) grew 36.9% during this period.

Florida's gross state product (GSP) in 2004 totaled $599.068 billion, of which the real estate sector accounted for the largest portion at $93.036 billion or 15.5% of GSP, followed by healthcare and social assistance at $44.590 billion (7.4% of GSP) and wholesale trade at $39.285 billion (6.5% of GSP). In that same year, there were an estimated 1,633,574 small businesses in Florida. Of the 449,070 businesses having employees, a total of 444,066 or 98.9% were small companies. An estimated 77,754 new businesses were established in Florida in 2004, up 11.5% from the previous year. Business terminations that same year came to 54,498, down 3.8% from the previous year. Business bankruptcies totaled 1,183 in 2004, down 22.9% from 2003. In 2005, the personal bankruptcy (Chapter 7 and Chapter 13) filing rate was 556 filings per 100,000 people, ranking Florida as the 25th highest in the nation.


In 2005 Florida had a gross state product (GSP) of $674 billion, which accounted for 5.4% of the nation's gross domestic product and placed the state at number four in highest GSP among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, in 2004 Florida had a per capita personal income (PCPI) of $31,469. This ranked 25th in the United States and was 95% of the national average of $33,050. The 19942004 average annual growth rate of PCPI was 3.8%. Florida had a total personal income (TPI) of $547,107,143,000, which ranked fourth in the United States and reflected an increase of 6.9% from 2003. The 19942004 average annual growth rate of TPI was 5.9%. Earnings of persons employed in Florida increased from $346,386,466,000 in 2003 to $375,116,379,000 in 2004, an increase of 8.3%. The 200304 national change was 6.3%.

The US Census Bureau reports that the three-year average median household income for 200204 in 2004 dollars was $40,171, compared to a national average of $44,473. During the same period an estimated 12.3% of the population was below the poverty line, as compared to 12.4% nationwide.


According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in April 2006 the seasonally adjusted civilian labor force in Florida numbered 8,903,500, with approximately 265,300 workers unemployed, yielding an unemployment rate of 3%, compared to the national average of 4.7% for the same period. Preliminary data for the same period placed nonfarm employment at 8,013,900. Since the beginning of the BLS data series in 1976, the highest unemployment rate recorded in Florida was 9.7% in March 1976. The historical low was 3% in April 2006. Preliminary nonfarm employment data by occupation for April 2006 showed that approximately 7.7% of the labor force was employed in construction; 4.9% in manufacturing; 19.9% in trade, transportation, and public utilities; 6.7% in financial activities; 17.1% in professional and business services; 11.9% in education and health services; 11.4% in leisure and hospitality services; and 13.6% in government.

The US Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that in 2005, a total of 401,000 of Florida's 7,389,000 employed wage and salary workers were formal members of a union. This represented 5.4% of those so employed, down from 6% in 2004, and below the national average of 12%. Overall in 2005, a total of 532,000 workers (7.2%) in Florida were covered by a union or employee association contract, which includes those workers who reported no union affiliation. Florida is one of 22 states with a right-to-work law, which is part of the state's constitution.

As of 1 March 2006, Florida had a state-mandated minimum wage rate of $6.40 per hour. In 2004, women in the state accounted for 46.3% of the employed civilian labor force.


Florida's most important agricultural products, and the ones for which it is most famous, are its citrus fruits. Florida continues to supply the vast majority of orange juice consumed in the United States. Florida produced 82% of the nation's oranges and 78% of its grapefruits in 2003. It is also an important producer of other fruits, vegetables, and sugarcane.

The total value of Florida's crops in 2005 exceeded $6 billion, fourth highest among the 50 states. Total farm marketings, including livestock marketings and products, exceeded $7.4 billion in 2005 (ninth in the United States). There were about 43,000 farms covering some 10.1 million acres (4.08 million hectares) in 2004; the total represented nearly 30% of the state's entire land area.

The orange was introduced to Florida by Spanish settlers around 1570. Oranges had become an important commercial crop by the early 1800s, when the grapefruit was introduced. In 1886, orange production for the first time exceeded 1 million boxes (1 box equals 90 lb/41 kg). Much of this production came from groves along the northern Atlantic coast and the St. Johns River, which offered easy access to maritime shipping routes north. The expansion of the railroads and severe freezes in the 1890s encouraged the citrus industry to move farther south. Polk, St. Lucie, Indian River, Hendry, and Hardee counties in central Florida are the largest producers of citrus fruits.

The orange crop totaled 242,000,000 boxes each weighing 90-lb (41-kg) in the 200203 season. The grapefruit crop was 40,900,000 boxes at 85-lb (39-kg); tangerines, 6,500,000 boxes at 95-lb (43-kg); and tangelos and temple oranges, 2,400,000 boxes at 90-lb (41-kg). There are about 50 processing plants in Florida where citrus fruits are processed into canned or chilled juice, frozen or pasteurized concentrate, or canned fruit sections. Production of frozen concentrate orange juice totaled 195.4 million gallons in 2002. Stock feed made from peel, pulp, and seeds is an important byproduct of the citrus-processing industry; annual production is nearly 1 million tons. Other citrus byproducts are citrus molasses, D-limonene, alcohol, wines, preserves, and citrus seed oil.

Florida is the country's second leading producer of vegetables. Vegetable farming is concentrated in central and southern Florida, especially in the area south of Lake Okeechobee, where drainage of the Everglades left exceptionally rich soil. In 2004, Florida farmers harvested 15,120,000 hundredweight of tomatoes; they sold 9,246,000 hundredweight of potatoes. Florida's tomato and vegetable growers, who had at one time enjoyed a near-monopoly of the US winter vegetable market, began in the 1990s to face increasing competition from Mexican growers, whose lower-priced produce had captured about half the market by 1995. About two-thirds of all farm laborers are hired hands.

Florida's major field crop is sugarcane (mostly grown near Lake Okeechobee), which enjoyed a sizable production increase in the 1960s and 1970s, following the cutoff of imports from Cuba. In 2004, Florida's sugarcane production was 14,255,000 tons. Florida's second-largest field crop is peanuts (364,000,000 lb/165,400,000 kg in 2004), followed by cotton, hay, corn, tobacco, soybeans, and wheat. Florida leads the nation in the production of watermelons. Greenhouse and nursery products were valued at over $1.6 billion in 2004, 23.8% of farm receipts.


Florida is an important cattle-raising state. Receipts from cattle and calves in 2004 totaled $443.1 million, or 6.5% of total farm receipts. The Kissimmee Plain, north of Lake Okeechobee, is the largest grazing area. In 2005, Florida had an estimated 1.74 million cattle and calves valued at an estimated $1.4 billion. During 2004, Florida had an estimated 20,000 hogs and pigs valued at around $2.3 million. An estimated 2.8 billion eggs were produced in 2003, worth $145.1 million. Florida had an estimated 142,000 milk cows in 2003 that produced around 2.2 billion lb (1 billion kg) of milk. Also during 2003, Florida poultry farmers produced 511.3 million lb (232.4 million kg) of broilers, valued at $178.9 million.


In 2004, Florida's total commercial fish catch was 124.5 million lb (56.6 million kg), worth $190.6 million. About 66% of the volume and 76% of the value came from fishing in the Gulf of Mexico. The remainder was from Atlantic waters. The most important commercial species of shellfish are shrimp, spiny lobster, and crabs. Gulf coast shrimp landings totaled 18.2 million lb (8.2 million kg) in 2004. Valuable finfish species include grouper, swordfish, and snapper. Florida's commercial fishing fleet had 4,438 boats and 1,934 vessels in 2002. In 2003, Florida had 376 processing and wholesale plants with an average 4,745 employees.

Florida's extensive shoreline and numerous inland waterways make sport fishing a major recreational activity. Both freshwater and saltwater fishing are important sports. Tarpon, sailfish, and redfish are some of the major saltwater sport species; largemouth bass, panfish, sunfish, catfish, and perch are leading freshwater sport fish. Florida had 1,296,328 sport fishing license holders in 2004.


About 47% of Florida's land area16,285,000 acres (6,590,000 hectares)was forested in 2003, when the state had about 2.2% of all forested land in the United States. A total of 4,016,000 acres (1,625,000 hectares) was owned by the forest industry. The most common tree is the pine, which occurs throughout the state but is most abundant in the north.

Florida's logging industry is concentrated in the northern part of the state. The most important forestry product is pulpwood for paper manufacturing. Lumber production in 2004 was 1.07 billion board feet, mostly softwoods, accounting for 2.2% of US production.

Four national forestsApalachicola, Ocala, Osceola, and Choctawhatcheecovering 1,434,000 acres (580,000 hectares) are located in Florida. State forests covered 1,403,000 acres (568,000 hectares) in 2003. Three of the main activities of state forests are forest management, outdoor recreation, and wildlife management.

Virtually all of Florida's natural forest had been cleared by the mid-20th century; the forests existing today are thus almost entirely the result of reforestation. Since 1928, more than 5.6 billion seedlings have been planted in the state.


According to US Geological Survey data, Florida's total nonfuel mineral production in 2004 was valued at $2.32 billion, up 12.1% from 2003, making the state fourth among the 50 states in the production, by value, of all nonfuel minerals and over 5% of all US output in 2004.

In 2004, Florida led the nation in phosphate rock mining, producing more than six times as much as the next ranking state. By value, the state's top five nonfuel minerals that same year were (in descending value) phosphate rock, crushed stone, cement (port-land and masonry) construction sand and gravel, and zirconium concentrates. These five commodities accounted for approximately 94% of all nonfuel mineral output, by value. Florida is also the only state that produces rutile concentrates and staurolite.

Output of crushed stone in 2004 totaled 105 million metric tons and was valued at $675 million, while output of portland cement totaled 5.23 million metric tons and was valued at an estimated $432 million. Construction sand and gravel that same year totaled 29.3 million metric tons and was valued at $146 million.


As of 2003, Florida had 54 electrical power service providers, of which 32 were publicly owned and 16 were cooperatives. Of the remainder, 5 were investor owned, and 1 was an owner of an independent generator that sold directly to customers. As of that same year there were 8,732,766 retail customers. Of that total, 6,649,226 received their power from investor-owned service providers. Cooperatives accounted for 887,981 customers, while publicly owned providers had 1,195,476 customers. There were 83 independent generator, or "facility" customers.

Total net summer generating capability by the state's electrical generating plants in 2003 stood at 49.418 million kW, with total production that same year at 212.610 billion kWh. Of the total amount generated, 88.4% came from electric utilities, with the remainder coming from independent producers and combined heat and power service providers. The largest portion of all electric power generated, 68.293 billion kWh (32.1%), came from natural gas-fired plants, with coal-fired plants in second place at 67.674 billion kWh (31.8%) and petroleum-fired plants in third at 37.204 billion kWh (17.5%). Other renewable power sources accounted for 2.7% of all power generated, with nuclear plants at 14.6%. Hydroelectric power accounted for only 0.1% of power generated.

As of 2006, Florida had three nuclear power-generating plants: the Crystal River Energy Complex in Citrus County; the St. Lucie plant near Fort Pierce; and the Turkey Point nuclear power station near Miami, in Dade County.

Although Florida produces some oil and natural gas, it is a net importer of energy resources. Its mild climate and abundant sunshine offer great potential for solar energy development, but this potential has not been extensively exploited.

As of 2004, Florida had proven crude oil reserves of 65 million barrels, or less than 1% of all proven US reserves, while output that same year averaged 8,000 barrels per day. Including federal offshore domains, the state that year ranked 16th (15th excluding federal offshore) in proven reserves and 20th (19th excluding federal offshore) in production among the 31 producing states. In 2004, Florida had 70 producing oil wells and accounted for less than 1% of all US production. The state has no refineries.

In 2004, Florida's marketed gas production (all gas produced excluding gas used for repressuring, vented and flared, and non-hydrocarbon gases removed) totaled 3.123 billion cu ft (0.088 billion cu m). As of 31 December 2004, proven reserves of dry or consumer-grade natural gas in 2004 totaled 78 billion cu ft (2.2 billion cu m). There was no data available on the number of producing natural gas and gas condensate wells in the state.


Florida is not a center of heavy industry, and many of its manufacturing activities are related to agriculture and exploitation of natural resources. Leading industries include food processing, electric and electronic equipment, transportation equipment, and chemicals. Nearly 20% of the nation's boat manufacturers are also located in the state. Electric components are primarily manufactured in three east coast counties (Brevard, Palm Beach, and Broward), where about half of the state's electronic component workers reside. Since the perfection of the laser by Martin-Marietta in Orlando in the 1950s, the greater Orlando area has grown to have the third-highest concentration of electro-optics and laser manufacturers in the United States.

The cigar-making industry, traditionally important in Florida, has declined considerably with changes in taste and the cutoff of tobacco imports from Cuba. In the late 1930s, the Tampa area alone had well over 100 cigar factories, employing some 10,000 people. However, by 1997 the number of people employed in the state's cigar-making industry had shrunk to 1,581.

According to the US Census Bureau's Annual Survey of Manufactures (ASM) for 2004, Florida's manufacturing sector covered some 21 product subsectors. The shipment value of all products manufactured in the state that same year was $84.301 billion. Of that total, computer and electronic product manufacturing accounted for the largest share at $13.383 billion. It was followed by food manufacturing at $10.457 billion; chemical manufacturing at $8.520 billion; miscellaneous manufacturing at $6.491 billion; and fabricated metal product manufacturing at $5.994 billion.

In 2004, a total of 354,186 people in Florida were employed in the state's manufacturing sector, according to the ASM. Of that total, 232,136 were actual production workers. In terms of total employment, the computer and electronic product manufacturing industry accounted for the largest portion of all manufacturing employees at 46,769, with 19,562 actual production workers. It was followed by fabricated metal product manufacturing at 40,714 employees (31,091 actual production workers); transportation equipment manufacturing at 31,121 employees (21,016 actual production workers); miscellaneous manufacturing at 30,607 employees (17,028 actual production workers); and food manufacturing with 30,585 employees (21,516 actual production workers).

ASM data for 2004 showed that Florida's manufacturing sector paid $13.967 billion in wages. Of that amount, the computer-and electronic product-manufacturing sector accounted for the largest share at $2.547 billion. It was followed by fabricated metal product manufacturing at $1.382 billion; miscellaneous manufacturing at $1.318 billion; transport equipment manufacturing at $1.180 billion; and food manufacturing at $1.055 billion.


According to the 2002 Census of Wholesale Trade, Florida's wholesale trade sector had sales that year totaling $219.4 billion from 31,332 establishments. Wholesalers of durable goods accounted for 19,158 establishments, followed by nondurable goods wholesalers at 10,024 and electronic markets, agents, and brokers accounting for 2,150 establishments. Sales by durable goods wholesalers in 2002 totaled $104.8 billion, while wholesalers of nondurable goods saw sales of $83.9 billion. Electronic markets, agents, and brokers in the wholesale trade industry had sales of $30.6 billion.

In the 2002 Census of Retail Trade, Florida was listed as having 69,543 retail establishments with sales of $191.8 billion. The leading types of retail businesses by number of establishments were: clothing and clothing accessories stores (11,360); food and beverage stores (8,276); miscellaneous store retailers (8,141); motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts dealers (7,913); and gasoline stations (6,544). In terms of sales, motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts stores accounted for the largest share of retail sales at $54.8 billion, followed by food and beverage stores at $27.6 billion; general merchandise stores at $26.7 billion; and gasoline stations at $13.4 billion. A total of 902,760 people were employed by the retail sector in Florida that year.

The value of all exports sent from Florida was over $33.3 billion in 2005, ranking the state eighth in the nation. Duty-free goods for reshipment abroad pass through Port Everglades, Miami, Orlando, Jacksonville, Tampa, and Panama City, all free-trade zones established to bring international commerce to the state. Imports, including motor vehicles, apparel, aircraft and spacecraft, and machinery came primarily from Japan, Germany, Brazil, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic.


The Division of Consumer Services, a division of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, is the state's clearinghouse for consumer complaints and information and performs the initial review under the Motor Vehicle Warranty Enforcement Actthe so-called Lemon Law. The Division also regulates ballroom dance studios, charitable organizations, health studios, motor vehicle repair shops, pawnshops, sellers of travel, sellers of business opportunities and telemarketers, and maintains the state's No Sales Solicitation Calls list. The Florida Consumers' Council advises the commissioner of agriculture on consumer issues.

The public counsel to the Public Service Commission (PSC), appointed by a joint committee of the legislature, represents the public interest in commission hearings on utility rates and other regulations. The public counsel can also seek judicial review of PSC rulings, and may appear before other state and federal bodies on the public's behalf in utility and transportation matters.

The Department of Business and Professional Regulation oversees pari-mutuel betting; land sales; the operations of condominiums, cooperative apartments, hotels, and restaurants; professions and professional boards; real estate; certified public accounting; and the regulation and licensing of alcoholic beverage and tobacco sales.

In 1983, the state legislature enacted the Motor Vehicle Warranty Enforcement Act, which forces automobile dealers to replace new cars or refund the purchase price if the cars are in constant need of repairs.

Florida's Office of the Attorney General is the enforcement authority for the state's consumer protection activities as per Florida's Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. Under that law, the state's Attorney General's Office can initiate civil (but not criminal) proceedings; nor can it represent the state before state and federal regulatory agencies. The Office can administer consumer protection and education programs, and the handling of consumer complaints, and does have broad subpoena powers. In antitrust actions, the Attorney General's Office: can act on behalf of those consumers who are incapable of acting on their own; can initiate damage actions on behalf of the state in state courts; can initiate criminal proceedings; and can represent counties, cities and other governmental entities in recovering civil damages under state or federal law.

The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service, along with the Office of the Attorney General, its Economic Crimes Division and its Multi-State Litigation and Intergovernmental Affairs office are located in Tallahassee. Regional offices are located in Fort Lauderdale, Orlando, Tampa and West Palm Beach. County consumer protection offices are located in Clear-water, Fort Lauderdale, Miami, New Port Richey, Orlando, Tampa and West Palm Beach.


The Florida Department of Financial Services, Division of Banking, has regulatory and supervisory authority over state-chartered financial institutions in Florida, including commercial banks and nondeposit trust companies, credit unions, savings associations, offices of foreign banks operating in Florida, and money transmitters. The Florida Department of Financial Services also has regulatory and supervisory authority over mortgage brokers and mortgage lenders, consumer finance companies, motor vehicle sales finance companies, commercial and consumer debt collection agencies, cemeteries, and abandoned property.

As of June 2005, Florida had 293 insured banks, savings and loans, and saving banks, plus 97 state-chartered and 125 federally chartered credit unions (CUs). Excluding the CUs, the Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Miami Beach market area had 118 financial institutions in 2004, with $138.101 billion in deposits, followed by the Tampa-St Petersburg-Clearwater area with 65 institutions and $42.620 billion in deposits. As of June 2005, CUs accounted for 22% of all assets held by all financial institutions in the state, or some $37.121 billion. Banks, savings and loans, and savings banks collectively accounted for the remaining 78%, or $131.430 billion in assets held.

International banking grew in Florida during the late 1970s and early 1980s with the establishment of the Edge Act banks in Miami. Located close to Central and South America, with a bilingual population, Florida (especially Miami) has become a Latin American banking center. Many banks in Miami have headquarters outside Florida and engage exclusively in international banking.

In 2004, the median net interest margin (the difference between the lower rates offered to savers and the higher rates charged on loans) of Florida's banks stood at 3.99%, up from 3.97% in 2003. The median percentage of past-due/nonaccrual loans to total loans stood at 0.56%, down from 0.83% in 2003.


In 2004, there were 8 million individual life insurance policies in force with a total value of over $724 billion; total value for all categories of life insurance (individual, group, and credit) was over $1 trillion. The average coverage amount is $90,100 per policy holder. Death benefits paid that year totaled over $3.4 billion.

In 2003, 19 life and health insurance companies and 111 property and casualty insurance companies were domiciled in Florida. In 2004, direct premiums for property and casualty insurance totaled $32.3 billion. That year, Florida ranked first in the nation in flood insurance, with 1.87 million flood insurance policies in force, with a total value of over $315.7 billion, accounting for about 42% of the national total. About $206 billion of coverage was offered through FAIR plans, which are designed to offer coverage for some natural circumstances, such as wind and hail, in high-risk areas.

In 2004, 47% of state residents held employment-based health insurance policies, 5% held individual policies, and 27% were covered under Medicare and Medicaid; 19% of residents were uninsured. Florida tied with four other states for the fourth-highest percentage of uninsured residents in the nation. In 2003, employee contributions for employment-based health coverage averaged at 21% for single coverage and 30% for family coverage. For family coverage, an average 30% employee-contribution rate is one of the highest in the country. The state offers an 18-month health benefits expansion program for small-firm employees in connection with the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA, 1986), a health insurance program for those who lose employment-based coverage due to termination or reduction of work hours.

In 2003, there were over 10 million auto insurance policies in effect for private passenger cars. Required minimum coverage includes property damage liability of $10,000 and personal injury protection. In 2003, the average expenditure per vehicle for insurance coverage was $1,015.11, the fifth-highest average in the nation.

The insurance industry is regulated by the state's Department of Insurance.


No securities exchanges are located in Florida. In 2005, there were 8,870 personal financial advisers employed in the state and 17,740 securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents. In 2004, there were over 576 publicly traded companies within the state, with over 160 NASDAQ companies, 73 NYSE listings, and 35 AMEX listings. In 2006, the state had 14 Fortune 500 companies; Publix Supermarkets (based in Lakeland) ranked first in the state and 104th in the nation with revenues of over $20.7 billion, followed by Tech Data (Clearwater), AutoNation (Fort Lauderdale), Office Depot (Delray Beach), and Lennar (Miami). Tech Data is listed on NASDAQ and the other four companies are listed on the NYSE.


The Office of Planning and Budget of the governor's office prepares and submits to the legislature the budget for each fiscal year (FY), which runs from 1 July to 30 June. The largest expenditure items are education, health and social concerns, general government, and transportation. By prohibiting borrowing to finance operating expenses, Florida's constitution requires a balanced budget.

The issuance of state bonds is overseen by the State Board of Administration, which consists of the governor, the state treasurer, and the comptroller. Three principal types of bonds are issued. The first consists of bonds backed by the "full faith and credit" of the state and payable from general revenue. Issuance of such bonds generally requires voter approval. The second type consists of revenue bonds, payable from income derived from the capital project financed, for example, from bridge or highway tolls. The third type consists of bonds payable from a constitutionally specified source, for example, higher education bonds backed by the state gross receipts tax, or elementary and secondary education bonds backed by the motor vehicle license tax.

In fiscal year 2006, general funds were estimated at $30.3 billion for resources and $26.8 billion for expenditures. In fiscal year 2004, federal government grants to Florida were nearly $19.6 billion.

In the fiscal year 2007 federal budget, Florida was slated to receive: $233 million, an increase of $12 million over 2006, for activities that will benefit the ecosystem of South Florida including the Everglades, while supporting future population growth. This includes $48 million to move forward with the Modified Water Delivery project, which will allow more water to pass under Tamiami Trail (US Highway 41) and enter Everglades National Park. Under the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, Army Corps of Engineers work on seepage control north and south of Tamiami Trail, the Kissimmee River, and aquifer storage and recovery pilot projects will also be a priority; $10 million to replace the air traffic control tower at Palm Beach International Airport in West Palm Beach.

FloridaState Government Finances
(Dollar amounts in thousands. Per capita amounts in dollars.)
Abbreviations and symbols:zero or rounds to zero; (NA) not available; (X) not applicable.
source: U.S. Census Bureau, Governments Division, 2004 Survey of State Government Finances, January 2006.
Total Revenue 75,176,415 4,324.21
  General revenue 56,671,550 3,259.80
    Intergovernmental revenue 16,736,684 962.71
   Taxes 30,534,283 1,756.36
      General sales 17,128,515 985.25
      Selective sales 6,280,891 361.28
      License taxes 1,774,881 102.09
      Individual income tax - -
      Corporate income tax 1,441,338 82.91
      Other taxes 3,908,658 224.83
   Current charges 3,677,747 211.55
   Miscellaneous general revenue 5,722,836 329.18
  Utility revenue 18,529 1.07
  Liquor store revenue - -
  Insurance trust revenue 18,486,336 1,063.35
Total expenditure 59,943,442 3,448.00
  Intergovernmental expenditure 16,473,396 947.56
  Direct expenditure 43,470,046 2,500.43
    Current operation 30,053,727 1,728.72
    Capital outlay 4,999,409 287.57
    Insurance benefits and repayments 5,624,775 323.54
    Assistance and subsidies 1,665,466 95.80
    Interest on debt 1,126,669 64.81
Exhibit: Salaries and wages 7,001,138 402.71
Total expenditure 59,943,442 3,448.00
  General expenditure 54,256,955 3,120.91
   Intergovernmental expenditure 16,473,396 947.56
   Direct expenditure 37,783,559 2,173.34
  General expenditures, by function:
   Education 17,737,233 1,020.26
   Public welfare 15,415,221 886.70
   Hospitals 236,046 13.58
   Health 2,829,993 162.78
   Highways 5,066,358 291.42
   Police protection 403,244 23.19
   Correction 2,185,039 125.69
   Natural resources 1,472,203 84.68
   Parks and recreation 153,633 8.84
   Government administration 2,072,853 119.23
   Interest on general debt 1,126,669 64.81
   Other and unallocable 5,558,463 319.73
 Utility expenditure 61,712 3.55
 Liquor store expenditure - -
 Insurance trust expenditure 5,624,775 323.54
Debt at end of fiscal year 23,194,784 1,334.18
Cash and security holdings 177,451,104 10,207.14


In 2005, Florida collected $33,895 million in tax revenues or $1,905 per capita, which placed it 37th among the 50 states in per capita tax burden. The national average was $2,192 per capita. Property taxes accounted for 0.9% of the total: sales taxes, 56.2%; selective sales taxes, 19.0%; corporate income taxes, 5.3%; and other taxes, 18.7%.

As of 1 January 2006, Florida had no state income tax, a distinction it shared with Alaska, Wyoming, Washington, Nevada, Texas, and South Dakota. The state taxes corporations at a flat rate of 5.5%.

In 2004, state and local property taxes amounted to $18,500,291,000 or $1,064 per capita. The per capita amount ranks the state 19th highest nationally. Local governments collected $18,223,505,000 of the total and the state government, $276,786,000.

Florida taxes retail sales at a rate of 6%. In addition to the state tax, local taxes on retail sales can reach as much as 1.50%, making for a potential total tax on retail sales of 7.50%. Food purchased for consumption off-premises is tax exempt. The tax on cigarettes is 33.9 cents per pack, which ranks 44th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Florida taxes gasoline at 14.9 cents per gallon. This is in addition to the 18.4 cents per gallon federal tax on gasoline.

According to the Tax Foundation, for every federal tax dollar sent to Washington in 2004, Florida citizens received $1.02 in federal spending.


In the late 1990s, Florida intensified its efforts to attract high-tech, high-wage industries such as silicon technologies and aviation/aerospace industries. Florida became the first state in the nation to close its Department of Commerce. All of the state's economic development and international trade strategies are now handled through a partnership of business and government, Enterprise Florida. This new approach calls for collaboration among leaders in government, business, and academia. Enterprise Florida and its regional and local partner organizations provide a statewide network of business assistance resources in the areas of capital acquisition, technology commercialization, manufacturing competitiveness, training, minority and rural business development, incentives, site selection, permitting, and trade development. Through buying blocks of discounting tickets, arranging for bargain airfares, setting up meetings with local business people, and providing a distinctive Florida booth, Enterprise Florida lowers the cost of attending trade shows for Florida exporters. Promoting Florida exports has been a major concern of recent economic policy. The International Trade and Business Development unit of Enterprise Florida is based in Miami with 6 field offices in the state and 14 international offices, including ones in Frankfurt, Germany; London, England; Taipei, Republic of China; Toronto, Canada; Seoul, South Korea; Mexico City, Mexico; Tokyo, Japan; and Sao Paolo, Brazil. Florida has 14 deep-water commercial seaports; 5 barge ports; 9 major shallow-water ports; 4 river ports; and 16 customs ports of entry. As of 2006, 20 Free Trade Zones (FTZs) had been designated, all located at or near seaports and international airports. Value-added in the FTZs is not subject to US customs duties unless processed goods are imported for sale in the domestic market.


Reflecting the age distribution of the state's population, Florida has a relatively low birthrate and a high death rate. The infant mortality rate in October 2005 was estimated at 7.1 per 1,000 live births. The birthrate in 2003 was 12.5 per 1,000 population. The abortion rate stood at 31.9 per 1,000 women in 2000. In 2003, about 85.5% of pregnant woman received prenatal care beginning in the first trimester. In 2004, approximately 89% of children received routine immunizations before the age of three; this represented one of the highest immunization rates in the country.

The crude death rate in 2003 was 9.9 deaths per 1,000 population. As of 2002, the death rates for major causes of death (per 100,000 resident population) were: heart disease, 294.6; cancer, 234.2; cerebrovascular diseases, 61.4; chronic lower respiratory diseases, 54.2; and diabetes, 27.4. The mortality rate from HIV infection was 10.3 per 100,000 population, representing the third-highest rate in the nation (following the District of Columbia and Maryland). In 2004, the reported AIDS case rate was about 33.5 per 100,000 population, representing the third-highest rate in the nation (following the District of Columbia and New York). In 2002, about 53.9% of the population was considered overweight or obese. As of 2004, about 20.1% of state residents were smokers.

In 2003, Florida had 203 community hospitals with about 50,700 beds. There were about 2.2 million patient admissions that year and 22 million outpatient visits. The average daily inpatient census was about 32,800 patients. The average cost per day for hospital care was $1,387. Also in 2003, there were about 693 certified nursing facilities in the state with 82,546 beds and an overall occupancy rate of about 87.2%. In 2004, it was estimated that about 68.2% of all state residents had received some type of dental care within the year. Florida had 258 physicians per 100,000 resident population in 2004 and 780 nurses per 100,000 in 2005. In 2004, there were a total of 9,072 dentists in the state.

In 2004, Florida tied with Pennsylvania and Arkansas for the third-highest percentage of residents on Medicare at 17% (following West Virginia and Maine). Approximately 19% of the state population was uninsured in 2004. In 2003, state health care expenditures totaled $15.3 million.


In 2004, about 300,000 people received unemployment benefits, with the average weekly unemployment benefit at $223. In fiscal year 2005, the estimated average monthly participation in the food stamp program included about 1,381,804 persons (657,576 households); the average monthly benefit was about $96.37 per person. That year, the total of benefits paid through the state for the food stamp program was about $1.59 billion.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the system of federal welfare assistance that officially replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) in 1997, was reauthorized through the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. TANF is funded through federal block grants that are divided among the states based on an equation involving the number of recipients in each state. Florida's TANF program is called the Welfare Transition Program. In 2004, the state program had 116,000 recipients; state and federal expenditures on this TANF program totaled $293 million in fiscal year 2003.

In December 2004, Social Security benefits were paid to 3,381,970 Floridians. This number included 2,294,180 retired workers, 297,870 widows and widowers, 377,030 disabled workers, 178,720 spouses, and 234,170 children. Social Security beneficiaries represented 19.5% of the total state population and 85.6% of the state's population age 65 and older. Retired workers received an average monthly payment of $951; widows and widowers, $924; disabled workers, $895; and spouses, $472. Payments for children of retired workers averaged $453 per month; children of deceased workers, $613; and children of disabled workers, $267. Federal Supplemental Security Income payments in December 2004 went to 412,970 Florida residents, averaging $395 a month. An additional $755,000 of state-administered supplemental payments were distributed to 14,800 residents.


Florida's housing market fluctuated widely in the 1970s and early 1980s. During the mid-1970s recession, home buying dropped of markedly and much newly completed housing could not be sold. By late in the decade, however, the unused housing stock had been depleted and a new building boom was under way. The number of housing units in Florida increased 73.2% between 1970 and 1980, but only by 39.4% between 1980 and 1990. As of 2004, an estimated 29.8% of all housing units had been built in 1990 or later; only 2.5% were built before 1940.

In 2004, there were an estimated 8,009,427 housing units in Florida, ranking the state third in the nation for total number of housing units (after California and Texas). About 6,819,280 of the units were occupied; 70.5% were owner occupied. About 53.3% of all units were single-family, detached homes; 12.3% were in buildings with 20 units or more; and about 10.4% were mobile homes. It was estimated that about 305,291 units were without telephone service, 19,379 lacked complete plumbing facilities, and 26,983 lacked complete kitchen facilities. Over 76% of all units relied on electricity for heating; about 1,845 units were equipped for solar-power heating. The average household had 2.49 members.

In 2004, 255,900 new privately owned housing units were authorized for construction. Multifamily housing ranges from beachfront luxury high rises along the Gold Coast to dilapidated residential hotels in the South Beach section of Miami Beach. The median home value was $149,291. The median monthly cost for mortgage owners was $1,143, while renters paid a median of $766 per month. In September 2005, the state received a grant of $150,000 from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for rural housing and economic development programs. For 2006, HUD allocated to the state over $29.2 million in community development block grants. Also in 2006, HUD offered an additional $82.9 million to the state in emergency funds to rebuild housing that was destroyed by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma in late 2005.

The Division of Florida Land Sales and Condominiums, within the Department of Business Regulation, registers all sellers of subdivided land and oversees the advertising and selling of land, condominiums, and cooperatives. A major controversy involving condominiums in the early 1970s centered on "rec leases." Until the practice was outlawed in mid-decade, condominium developers often retained ownership of such recreational facilities as the swimming pool, clubhouse, and tennis courts, requiring apartment purchasers to pay rent for their use. The rents were generally set quite low at the time of sale, but raised sharply soon after.


In the 1970s, Florida was an innovator in several areas of education, including competency testing, expansion of community colleges, and school finance reform. Further advances were made in 1983 and 1984, when the state increased taxes to help fund education, raised teachers' salaries, initiated the nation's strictest high school graduation requirements, and reformed the curriculum.

Student achievement in reading, writing, and mathematics is measured by national norm-referenced tests selected at the district level, and by the High School Competency Test (HSCT), measuring communication and math skills of 11th grade students. In 2004, 85.9% of Floridians 25 years of age or older were high school graduates; 26% had four or more years of college.

The total enrollment for fall 2002 in Florida's public schools stood at 2,540,000. Of these, 1,809,000 attended schools from kindergarten through grade eight, and 731,000 attended high school. Approximately 51.3% of the students were white, 24.3% were black, 22.1% were Hispanic, 2% were Asian/Pacific Islander, and 0.3% were American Indian/Alaskan Native. Total enrollment was estimated at 2,567,000 in fall 2003 and expected to be 2,790,000 by fall 2014, an increase of 9.9% during the period 2002 to 2014. There were 323,766 students enrolled in 1,803 private schools in fall 2003. Expenditures for public education in 2003/04 were estimated at $2.9 billion or $6,784 per student. Since 1969, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has tested public school students nationwide. The resulting report, The Nation's Report Card, stated that in 2005 eighth graders in Florida scored 274 out of 500 in mathematics compared with the national average of 278.

As of fall 2002, there were 776,622 students enrolled in college or graduate school; minority students comprised 37.4% of total postsecondary enrollment. As of 2005, Florida had 169 degree-granting institutions. Of Florida's state universities, the largest is the University of Florida (Gainesville). Also part of the state university system are special university centers, such as the University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Science, which provide advanced and graduate courses. The State University System also offers instruction at strategic sites away from the regular campuses. In 1972, Florida completed a community college system that put a public two-year college within commuting distance of virtually every resident. Of Florida's 90 private four-year institutions of higher education, by far the largest is the University of Miami (Coral Gables).

The policy-making body for the state university system is the Board of Regents; the chancellor is the system's chief administrative officer. Florida's school finance law, the Florida Education Finance Act of 1973, establishes a funding formula aimed at equalizing both per-pupil spending statewide and the property tax burdens of residents of different school districts.


The State of Florida's Division of Cultural Affairs (DCA) was established in 1969. The Florida Arts Council (previously the Fine Arts Council of Florida) serves in an advisory capacity to the DCA. The DCA has a partnership with the Southern Arts Federation. The DCA also coordinates a touring program, a public art program that acquires artwork for new state buildings, an arts license plate program, and the Florida Artists Hall of Fame, which includes such luminaries as Zora Neale Hurston, Ernest Hemingway, Ray Charles, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, and Robert Rauschenberg. In 2005, Florida arts organizations received 56 grant awards from the National Endowment of the Arts that totaled $1,691,800.

The Florida Humanities Council, established in 1973, sponsors grant programs, a speakers bureau the Florida Center for Teachers, and FORUM, a statewide magazine about Florida culture. In 2005, the National Endowment for the Humanities supported 24 Florida based programs with grants totaling $2,722,345.

Florida is home to a vibrant and diverse cultural community. Florida ranks near the top nationally in state funding for culture and the arts. Cultural organizations thrive in virtually every county and include museums, galleries, symphonies, dance and opera companies, and literary organizations. Offerings range from the Miami Book Fair International at one end of the state, to the widely renowned Jacksonville Jazz Festival, to the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola at the other end. Key West has long been a gathering place for creative artists, ranging from John James Audubon and Winslow Homer to Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams.

Regional and metropolitan symphony orchestras include the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra (Fort Lauderdale), Florida Orchestra (Tampa), Jacksonville Symphony, and Florida West Coast Symphony (Sarasota). Opera companies include the Florida Grand Opera (Miami) and the Sarasota Opera. The four state theater companies are the Caldwell Theatre Company (Boca Raton), Hippodrome State Theatre (Gainesville), Coconut Grove Playhouse (Miami), and the Asolo Theatre Company (Sarasota). The annual Florida International Festival (FIF), established in 1966, features world-renowned artists in music and dance. The London Symphony Orchestra, which has a summer residency in Daytona Beach, provides an annual concert series for the FIF and the city. In 2005 the London Symphony Orchestra celebrated its 100th anniversary.

Florida is also home to premier museums and performing arts halls, such as the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art (Sarasota), the Norton Gallery (West Palm Beach), the Miami Art Museum, Orlando Museum of Art, Philharmonic Center for the Arts (Naples), Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center, and the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts (West Palm Beach).

Truly unique cultural institutions also located in Florida include Fairchild Tropical Garden (Miami), the Atlantic Center for the Arts (New Smyrna Beach), and Bok Tower Gardens (Lake Wales), which as of 2006, still had a working carillon, a set of fixed chromatically tuned bells sounded by hammers and controlled from a keyboard.


For the fiscal year ending in September 2001, Florida had 72 public library systems, with a total of 473 libraries, of which 417 were branches. In that same year, a total of 29,826,000 volumes of books and serial publications were available, while circulation totaled 81,334,000. The system also had 1,317,000 audio and 1,200,000 video items, 65,000 electronic format items (CD-ROMs, magnetic tapes, and disks), and 32 bookmobiles. The largest public library systems are those of Miami-Dade County (3,886,852 volumes in 1999) and Jacksonville (2,351,104 volumes). The State Library in Tallahassee housed 661,849 volumes. The State Library also distributes federal aid to local libraries and provides other assistance. In fiscal year 2001, total operating income for the public library system was $383,109,000. For that same year, federal aid to Florida's public libraries totaled $2,988,000, while state aid to public libraries was $34,696,000. Operating expenditures that year amounted to $350,251,000, of which 58.9% of spending was on the staff and 17% on the collection. The largest university library in the state is that of the University of Florida, with holdings of more than 3.4 million volumes in 1999. Other major university libraries are those of the University of Miami and Florida State University (2.2 million each).

Florida has about 278 museums, galleries, and historical sites, as well as numerous public gardens. One of the best-known museums is the John and Mabel Ringling Museum of Art (Sarasota), a state owned facility which houses the collection of the late circus entrepreneur, featuring Italian and North European Renaissance paintings. Also in Sarasota are the Ringling Museum of the Circus and the Circus Hall of Fame, and Ca'd'Zan, the Ringling mansion. The estates and homes of a number of prominent former Florida residents are now open as museums. The Villa Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Miami, originally the estate of International Harvester founder James R. Deering, displays his collection of 15th-18th-century antiques. Railroad developer Henry Morrison Flagler's home in Palm Beach is now a museum in his name. The Society of the Four Arts is also in Palm Beach. On Key West, Ernest Hemingway's home is also a museum. The John James Audubon house in Key West and Thomas Edison's house in Ft. Myers are two of Florida's other great homes.

The Metrozoo-Miami, with an average annual attendance of 650,000, and the Jacksonville Zoological park, 522,000, are among the state's leading zoos. Both Busch Gardens (Tampa) and Sea World of Florida (Orlando) report average annual attendances of over 3,000,000.

The largest historic restoration in Florida is in St. Augustine, where several blocks of the downtown area have been restored to their 18th-century likeness under the auspices of the Historic St. Augustine Preservation Board, a state agency. Castillo de San Marcos, the 17th-century Spanish fort at St. Augustine, is now a national monument under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service and is open to the public. Other Florida cities having historic preservation boards are Pensacola, Tallahassee, and Tampa.


As of 2004, 93.4% of the state's occupied housing units had telephones. In addition, by June of that same year there were 11,916,615 mobile wireless telephone subscribers. In 2003, 61.0% of Florida households had a computer and 55.6% had Internet access. By June 2005, there were 2,979,706 high-speed lines in Florida, 2,602,957 residential and 376,749 for business.

Florida's first radio station was WFAW (later WQAM) in Miami, which went on the air in 1920. In 2005, the state had 66 major AM stations and 145 major FM radio stations. Miami was also the site of the state's first television station, WTVJ, which began broadcasting on 27 January 1949. Film and television production in Florida is a billion-dollar per year industry with over 5,000 production companies providing more than 100,000 jobs. There were 62 major TV stations in Florida in 2005.

In 1999, the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Sarasota area had 1,485,980 television households, 74% of which had cable. The Orlando-Daytona Beach-Melbourne area had a 77% penetration rate for cable in television-owning households. At West Palm Beach-Fort Pierce, 85% of television households had cable. The Miami-Fort Lauderdale area had 1,441,570 television households, with a 73% penetration rate for cable. A total of 471,645 Internet domain names were registered in Florida by 2000, the fourth-most of any state.


The East Florida Gazette, published in St. Augustine in 178384, was Florida's earliest newspaper. The oldest paper still publishing is the Jacksonville Times-Union (now Florida Times-Union ), which first appeared in February 1883.

In 2005, the state had 38 morning papers, 3 evening papers, and 37 Sunday papers.

The leading English-language dailies and their circulations in 2005 were:

Ft. Lauderdale South Florida Sun-Sentinel (m,S) 266,889 356,619
Jacksonville Florida Times-Union (m,S) 165,425 227,891
Miami Herald (m,S) 315,988 431,928
Orlando Orlando Sentinel (all day,S) 258,881 374,576
St. Petersburg St Petersburg Times (m,S) 330,091 419,289
Sarasota Sarasota Herald-Tribune (m,S) 110,783 133,970
Tampa Tampa Tribune (m,S) 226,573 304,451
West Palm Beach West Palm Beach Post (m,S) 168,257 204,938

Spanish language newspapers include Diario Las Americas and El Nuevo Herald, both published in Miami with circulations under 100,000. In 2005, there were 166 weekly publications in Florida. Of these there are 72 paid weeklies, 62 free weeklies, and 32 combined weeklies. The total circulation of paid weeklies (582,448) and free weeklies (1,726,985) is 2,309,433. Two Florida combined weeklies ranked fifth and sixth by circulation in the United States, Melbourne's Times (51,300) and East Pasco's News (50,725), respectively. Two Florida shopping publications ranked fifth and eighth in the United States, the Miami Flyer (1,256,294) and the Tampa Flyer (870,656), respectively.

The most widely read periodical published in Florida is the sensationalist National Enquirer. There were 11 book publishers in Florida in 2005, including DC Press and University Presses of Florida.


In 2006, there were over 12,860 nonprofit organizations registered within the state, of which about 9,430 were registered as charitable, educational, or religious organizations. Commercial, trade, and professional organizations based in Florida include the American Accounting Association (Sarasota), American Welding Society (Miami), American Electroplaters and Surface Finishers Society (Winter Park), Florida Citrus Mutual (Lakeland), the International Songwriters Guild (Orlando), and Florida Fruit and Vegetable Association (Orlando).

Sports groups include the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR), USA Waterski, International Game Fish Association, and International Swimming Hall of Fame. The American Association for Nude Recreation is based in Kissimmee.

The Academy of Arts and Sciences of the Americas and the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts are located in Miami. State and regional organizations for the arts include the Florida Cultural Alliance, the Florida Keys Council of the Arts, and the Jazz Society of Pensacola. State organizations for the environment include the Florida Wildlife Federation and Friends of the Everglades.

The world headquarters of campus Crusade for Christ is located in Orlando.


Tourism is a mainstay of the state's economy. Most of Florida's tourists are from elsewhere in the United States although Miami also attracts large numbers of affluent Latin American travelers, lured at least in part by the Latin flavor the large Cuban community has given the city. In 2005, there were about 85 million visitors to the state.

Supporting the industry is VISIT FLORIDA, a public and private partnership organization established in 1996 in cooperation with the Florida Commission on Tourism. A portion of the funding for the organization comes from the state's $2.05 per day rental car surcharge. Most funding comes from the private sector.

In 2005, over 944,000 Floridians worked directly in tourist-and recreation-related businesses, which generated over $57 billion. The state ranks second in the nation in the number of travel and tourism employees. More than half of all hotels were located in Dade County, where hotels and other tourist accommodations stretch for miles along Collins Avenue in Miami Beach, in the heart of the state's tourist industry.

Florida's biggest tourist attractions are its sun, sand, and surf. According to the state's Department of Commerce, leisure-time activity is the principal reason why more than four-fifths of auto travelers enter the state. Major tourist attractions include Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, and Sea World Orlando. Other major attractions are the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral and the St. Augustine historic district.

Nine parks and other facilities in Florida operated by the National Park Service, including Biscayne National Park and Everglades National Park, draw millions of visitors annually. The most popular destination is the Gulf Islands National Seashore, located near Pensacola, followed by the Canaveral National Seashore. Approximately 110 facilities are operated by the Division of Recreation and Parks of the state's Department of Natural Resources. These facilities include 28 state parks, 28 state recreation areas, and 18 state historical sites. Fishing and boating are major recreational activities at these sites. Florida has more waterparks than anywhere else in the United States: Adventure Island in Tampa; Water Mania in Kissimmee; Disney's Blizzard Beach in Lake Buena Vista; and Wet 'N Wild in Orlando, to name a few.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, the Miami Beach tourist hotels faced increasing competition from Caribbean and Latin American resorts. The city's business community, seeking to boost tourism, strongly backed a 1978 statewide referendum to authorize casino gambling along part of Collins Avenue in Miami Beach and Hollywood; however, the proposal was defeated by a wide margin. In a local advisory referendum in March 1980, Miami Beach voters approved development in South Beach of an $850 million, 250-acre (100-hectare) complex that included hotels and a convention center. Off-track betting, horse racing (four thoroughbred racetracks and one harness racetrack), dog racing (18 greyhound tracks), jai alai (nine frontons), and bingo are all legalized and operative forms of gaming. NASCAR has a huge presence in Florida. The Richard Petty Driving Experience, where courses are offered on a real race course, is located in Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando. Major League Baseball has spring training in several Florida cities.


Florida has nine major professional sports teams: the Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Jacksonville Jaguars of the National Football League (NFL); the Miami Heat and the Orlando Magic of the National Basketball Association (NBA); the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers of the National Hockey League; and the Florida Marlins and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays of Major League Baseball. Two Women's National Basketball Association teams and two Major League Soccer teams folded or relocated in 2002. The Miami Heat won the NBA Championship in 2006. Of the football teams, the Dolphins have been by far the most successful, winning the Super Bowl in 1973 (following the NFL's only undefeated season) and 1974, and appearing in three other Super Bowls (in 1972, 1983, and 1985). The Tampa Bay Buccaneers captured a Super Bowl title in 2003, their first ever since joining the NFL in the 1970s. The Florida Marlins won the World Series in 1997 and 2003. Many Major League Baseball teams have their spring training camps in Florida and play exhibition games (in the "Grapefruit League") in the spring.

Several tournaments on both the men's and women's professional golf tours are played in Florida. In auto racing, the Daytona 500 is a top race on the NASCAR Nextel Cup circuit, and the Pennzoil 400 is run at the Homestead-Miami Speedway, while the 24 Hours of Daytona is one of the top sports car races in the world. Three of the major collegiate football bowl games are played in the state: the Orange Bowl in Miami, the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, and the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando.

In collegiate sports, football dominates. The University of Florida, Florida State, and the University of Miami all emerged as nationally ranked powerhouses in the 1980s and 1990s. Miami won the Orange Bowl in 1946, 1984, 1988, 1989, 1992, and 2004, the Sugar Bowl in 1990 and 2001; the Gator Bowl in 2000; and the Cotton Bowl in 1991. The Hurricanes were named national champions in 1983, 1987, 1989, 1991, and 2001. Florida State won the Orange Bowl in 1993, 1994, and 1996; the Sugar Bowl in 1989, 1998, and 2000; and the Cotton Bowl in 1992. The Seminoles were named national champions in 1993 and 1999. The University of Florida won the Orange Bowl in 1967, 1999, and 2002; the Gator Bowl in 1984 and 1993; the Florida Citrus Bowl in 1998; the Sugar Bowl in 1994; it defeated Florida State in the 1997 Sugar Bowl to win the national championship.

Other annual sporting events include rodeos in Arcadia and Kissimmee and the Pepsi 400 Auto Race in Daytona Beach. Emmitt Smith, Steve Carlton, Chris Evert, and Tracy McGrady were all born in the Sunshine State.


The first Floridian to serve in a presidential cabinet was Alan S. Boyd (b.1922), named the first secretary of transportation (196769) by President Lyndon Johnson. Florida also produced one of the major US military figures of World War II, General Joseph Warren Stilwell (18831946), dubbed "Vinegar Joe" for his strongly stated opinions. Graduated from West Point in 1904, he served in France during World War I. First posted to China in the 1920s, he became chief of staff to General Chiang Kai-shek and commander of US forces in the China-Burma-India theater during World War II. He was promoted to full general in 1944 but forced to leave China because of his criticism of the Chiang Kai-shek regime. Janet Reno (b.1938), attorney general of the United States in the Clinton administration, was born in Miami.

David Levy Yulee (b.St. Thomas, 181086) came to Florida in 1824 and, after serving in the US House of Representatives, was appointed one of the state's first two US senators in 1845, thereby becoming the first Jew to sit in the Senate. He resigned in 1861 to serve in the Confederate Congress. Yulee built the first cross-state railroad, from Fernandina to Cedar Key, in the late 1860s. Ruth Bryan Owen Rohde (b.Illinois, 18851954), a longtime Miami resident and member of the US House of Representatives (192933), in 1933 became the first woman to head a US diplomatic office abroad when she was named minister to Denmark.

Prominent governors of Florida include Richard Keith Call (b.Virginia, 17921862), who came to Florida with General Andrew Jackson in 1821 and remained to become governor of the territory in 182639 and 184144. In the summer of 1836, Call commanded the US campaign against the Seminole. Although a southerner and a slaveholder, he steadfastly opposed secession. Napoleon Bonaparte Broward (18571910) was, before becoming governor, a ship's pilot, and owner of St. Johns River boats. He used one of these, The Three Friends, a powerful seagoing tug, to run guns and ammunition to Cuban rebels in 1896. As governor (190509), he was noted for a populist program that included railroad regulation, direct elections, state college reorganization and coordination, and drainage of the Everglades under state auspices. As governor in 195561, Thomas LeRoy Collins (190991) met the desegregation issue by advocating moderation and respect for the law, helping the state avoid violent confrontations. He served as chairman of both the southern and national governors' conferences, and he was named by President Johnson as the first director of the Community Relations Service under the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Military figures who have played a major role in Florida's history include the Spanish conquistadors Juan Ponce de León (c.14601521), the European discoverer of Florida, and Pedro Menéndez de Avilés (151974), founder of the first permanent settlement, St. Augustine. Andrew Jackson (b.South Carolina, 17671845), a consistent advocate of US seizure of Florida, led military expeditions into the territory in 1814 and 1818 and, after US acquisition, served briefly in 1821 as Florida's military governor before leaving for Tennessee. During the Seminole War of 183542, one of the leading military tacticians was Osceola (c.18001838), who, although neither born a chief nor elected to that position, rose to the leadership of the badly divided Seminole by force of character and personality. He rallied them to fierce resistance to removal, making skillful use of guerrilla tactics. Captured under a flag of truce in 1837, he was imprisoned; already broken in health, he died in Fort Moultrie in Charleston harbor. During the Civil War, General Edmund Kirby Smith (182493), a native of St. Augustine who graduated from West Point in 1845, served as commander (186365) of Confederate forces west of the Mississippi River. He surrendered the last of the southern forces at Galveston, Texas, on 26 May 1865.

Among the late-19th-century entrepreneurs who played significant roles in Florida's development, perhaps the most important was Henry Morrison Flagler (b.New York, 18301913). Flagler made a fortune in Ohio as an associate of John D. Rockefeller in the Standard Oil Co. and did not even visit Florida until he was in his 50s. However, in the 1880s he began to acquire and build railroads down the length of Florida's east coast and to develop tourist hotels at various points, including St. Augustine, Palm Beach, and Miami, helping to create one of the state's major present-day industries. Henry Bradley Plant (b.Connecticut, 181999) did for Florida's west coast what Flagler did for the east. Plant extended railroad service to Tampa in 1884, built a huge tourist hotel there, developed the port facilities, and established steamship lines.

Among Floridians prominent in science was Dr. John F. Gorrie (b.South Carolina, 180255), who migrated to Apalachicola in 1833 and became a socially and politically prominent physician, specializing in the treatment of fevers. He blew air over ice brought in by ship from the north to cool the air in sickrooms, and he independently developed a machine to manufacture ice, only to have two others beat him to the patent office by days.

The noted labor and civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph (18891979) was a native of Crescent City. Mary McLeod Bethune (b.South Carolina, 18751955) was an adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt on minority affairs, became the first president (1935) of the National Council of Negro Women, and was a consultant at the 1945 San Francisco Conference that founded the United Nations. A prominent black educator, she opened a school for girls at Daytona Beach in 1904. The school merged with Cookman Institute in 1923 to become Bethune-Cookman College, which she headed until 1942 and again in 194647.

Prominent Florida authors include James Weldon Johnson (18711938), perhaps best known for his 1912 novel Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. He was also the first black to be admitted to the Florida bar (1897) and was a founder and secretary of the NAACP. Marjory Stoneman Douglas (b.Minnesota, 18901998), who came to Miami in 1915, is the author of several works reflecting her concern for the environment, including The Everglades: River of Grass (first published in 1947), Hurricane (1958), and Florida: The Long Frontier (1967). Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (b.Washington, DC, 18951953) came to Florida in 1928 to do creative writing. After her first novel, South Moon Under (1933) came the Pulitzer Prizewinning The Yearling (1938), the poignant story of a 12-year-old boy on the Florida frontier in the 1870s. Zora Neale Hurston (190160), born in poverty in the all-Negro town of Eatonville and a graduate of Barnard College, spent four years collecting folklore, which she published in Mules and Men (1935) and Tell My Horse (1938).

Entertainers born in Florida include Sidney Poitier (b.1927), Charles Eugene "Pat" Boone (b.1934), Faye Dunaway (b.1941), and Ben Vereen (b.1946).

Florida's most famous sports figure is Chris Evert Lloyd (Christine Marie Evert, b.1953), who became a dominant force in women's tennis in the mid-1970s. After turning pro in 1973, she won the Wimbledon singles title in 1974, 1976, and 1981 and the US Open from 1975 to 1978 and in 1980 and 1982. She retired from tennis in 1990.


Council of State Governments. The Book of the States, 2006 Edition. Lexington, Ky.: Council of State Governments, 2006.

Danese, Tracy E. Claude Pepper and Ed Ball: Politics, Purpose, and Power. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2000.

Davis, Jack E., and Raymond Arsenault (eds.). Paradise Lost?: The Environmental History of Florida. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2005.

DeGrove, John Melvin. Planning Policy and Politics: Smart Growth and the States. Cambridge, Mass.: Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, 2005.

Faherty, William Barnaby. Florida's Space Coast: The Impact of NASA on the Sunshine State. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2002.

Gannon, Michael (ed.). The New History of Florida. Gainesville, Fla.: University Presses of Florida, 1996.

Groene, Janet, and Gordon Groene. Florida Guide. Cold Spring Harbor, N.Y.: Open Road Publishing, 2000.

Jordan, Jeffrey L. Interstate Water Allocation in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2006.

Lejeune, Jean-François. The Making of Miami Beach, 19331942: The Architecture of Lawrence Murray Dixon. Miami Beach, Fla.: Bass Museum of Art, 2000.

Mormino, Gary Ross. Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams: A Social History of Modern Florida. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2005.

Singletary, Wes. Florida's First Big League Baseball Players: A Narrative History. Charleston, S.C.: History Press, 2006.

US Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, US Census Bureau. Florida, 2000. Summary Social, Economic, and Housing Characteristics: 2000 Census of Population and Housing. Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office, 2003.

Williams, Horace Randall (ed.). No Man's Yoke on My Shoulders: Personal Accounts of Slavery in Florida. Winston-Salem, N.C.: John F. Blair, 2006.

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FLORIDA. The state of Florida consists of a peninsula and a strip of mainland at the southeastern corner of the United States. It is bounded on the west by the Gulf of Mexico and on the east by the Atlantic Ocean. The Gulf Stream runs only a few miles off the southeastern coast. Low-lying barrier islands and mangrove swamps fringe the long, flat coastline. Lake Okeechobee lies near the center of the peninsula. The Everglades, a grassy water-land, once extended over nearly all of southern Florida but is now restricted to the southwestern tip of the peninsula.

The first humans reached Florida at least twelve thousand years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age. Because sea level was lower then, Florida was much larger, with the Gulf coast some 100 miles west of its current position. The first people found a drier, cooler climate than today, in which they hunted and gathered edible plants, collected shellfish, and used the fibers of palms and saw palmetto to make rope and mats. As the glaciers melted and the sea level rose, Florida shrank, and the climate grew wetter and hotter. The human population grew, with major centers at the present-day Saint Johns River, Tampa Bay, and Belle Glade. By 2000 b.c. people were living in villages and making pottery; by 750 a.d. they were growing corn.

European Exploration and Settlement

Juan Ponce de León sailed along the eastern coast of the peninsula in 1513 and named it La Florida because of its lush beauty and because it was the season of Pascua Florida, the Easter feast of flowers. In 1521 Ponce de León tried to establish a settlement in southern Florida but the local Indians quickly drove him off. In 1528 Pánfilo de Narváez landed at Tampa Bay with three hundred men and forty horses and disappeared into the wilderness. Eight years later the last four survivors of his expedition stumbled back to Mexico. Landing somewhere on Florida's Gulf coast in 1539, Hernando de Soto marched north on an unsuccessful trek that covered four thousand miles in four years.

The next European attempt to settle Florida came from French Huguenots, who built Fort Caroline on the Saint Johns River in 1564. Alarmed, Spain sent Pedro Menéndez de Avilés in 1565 to wipe out Fort Caroline and establish a permanent Spanish presence. This settlement, Saint Augustine, remains the oldest continually inhabited European settlement in North America. As French and English interests grew in North America, Saint Augustine anchored the Spanish hold on the Caribbean. But during the Seven Years' War, Spain joined the French against the English, who seized Havana. To recover the Cuban city, the Spanish surrendered Florida in 1763. Diseases introduced by Europeans had already decimated the natives, and the last few indigenous Floridians joined the Spanish exodus to Cuba when the British took over.

British Rule

The British divided Florida at the Apalachicola River. West Florida extended as far as the Mississippi. With the Spanish gone, there were almost no whites in either territory. Peninsular Florida was still a wilderness of man-grove swamp, sawgrass, and everglades. The Seminoles, who had moved south into Florida beginning around 1700, maintained peaceful relations with the British.

The British crown offered settlers free land in Florida, often in tracts of thousands of acres. At first landholders used free labor and indentured servants, who balked at the brutal work. Therefore plantation owners began to import slaves. Since Indians could escape, and suffered terribly from European-borne diseases, the new owners brought in enslaved Africans. Under the Spanish, slavery had been relatively humane, and many free blacks thrived in Florida. The British brought the much harsher chattel slavery to Florida.

Coastal Florida was infertile, the cost of living high, the tropical fevers lethal. Nonetheless, the British began to squeeze profits from the new territories. Besides producing timber for the treeless West Indies, tar and pitch for ships, and furs and deerskins, West Florida maintained a vigorous clandestine trade with Spanish-controlled New Orleans. East Florida, where the plantations were larger, produced indigo and naval stores, and carried out an embryonic commerce in oranges, which the Spanish had introduced.

Florida remained loyalist throughout the American Revolution. American forces invaded Florida on several raids but the greatest danger came from Spain, eager to recover its old colony. A vigorous Spanish campaign took back West Florida, and when the British finally settled the issue with the Americans in the Treaty of Paris in 1783, they ceded Florida back to Spain, which was in no position to enjoy the recovery. The infant United States of America wanted Florida, and European troubles allowed her to take the territories piecemeal. In 1810 local people west of the Perdido proclaimed a Republic of West Florida, which the United States absorbed in 1812. Over the next several years, the pro-British Seminoles raided Alabama and Georgia, culminating in the first Seminole War (1817–1818). Andrew Jackson invaded West Florida in 1818 and took Pensacola. Although he eventually withdrew,

the Spanish grip on Florida was clearly failing. Spain entered into negotiations with the United States, ceded Florida to the United States through the Adams-Onís Treaty in 1819, and on 17 July 1821 the American flag went up.

U.S. Territory and State

Florida was organized as a territory in 1822, and Jackson became its first governor. In 1824 Tallahassee became the capital, and the surrounding area rapidly became the dominant region. The cotton-growing counties surrounding Tallahassee produced 80 percent of the territory's crop. In 1830 Florida's census recorded a total population of more than 33,000, of whom 16,000 lived in the area around Tallahassee, so-called Middle Florida. In 1845 Florida was granted admission to the Union as a slave state.

Throughout this period, small farmers from Georgia and the Carolinas, often called crackers, were migrating to Florida. While the Tallahassee planters grew their cotton and the large landowners south of Saint Augustine turned to sugar cane, the crackers built small farms to raise cattle, corn, vegetables, tobacco, and citrus fruit. These newcomers quickly came into conflict with the Seminoles. Tensions between white settlers and the Indians grew, and white landowners pressed the government to wipe out or remove the Indians. The federal government's efforts to do so led to the second Seminole War (1835–1842), following which only a few hundred Seminoles remained in Florida. These isolated, outnumbered bands fought a third Seminole War (1855–1858), after which attempts to remove the few remaining Seminoles ceased.

At the beginning of the Civil War, the Union seized Saint Augustine, and the small Union garrison at Pensacola managed to hold on against a much larger Confederate force under Braxton Bragg. Conscription gangs roamed the countryside forcing men into the Confederate Army; more than 16,000 Florida men (from a total white population of about 77,746 in the 1860 Census) went north to fight for the Confederacy. Left behind to fend for themselves were women, old men, and children, and more than sixty thousand slaves, all trapped inside the Union blockade. Most lived in direst poverty. Florida's civic structure collapsed.

After the Civil War, Federal troops occupied the state to enforce Reconstruction. Radical Republicans, composed of Unionist Floridians (scalawags), newly arrived Northerners (carpetbaggers), and recently enfranchised blacks, dominated the constitutional convention of 1868; but a white conservative faction managed to lock the radicals out and ram through its own constitution. However odd its inception, this document allowed the army to give Florida back to civil government, and the battle for control heated up in earnest. White Democrats were devoted to restoring Florida to the same social order it had known before the war. Republican Harrison Reed of Massachusetts was elected the first postwar governor in 1868, but he spent his nearly five years in office fighting off impeachment efforts.

Meanwhile, white conservatives worked to under-mine the Republican base by intimidating black voters. Even during the war, occupying Federal authorities had broken up confiscated lands and distributed them to blacks, but after Lincoln's murder Federal policy reversed, the lands were returned to their original owners, and the blacks were kicked off. Discriminatory local laws, the Ku Klux Klan, and even cavalry charges into lines of voters terrorized former slaves. By 1881 the Democratic Party was in charge of the government, and a new constitution in 1885 imposed segregation and a poll tax. For the next eighty years all state elections were decided within the Democratic Party. Florida was still largely a frontier state, isolated and wretchedly poor. Sharecropping and tenant farming dominated agriculture. The state government was largely insolvent. With the lowest literacy rate in the south, the governor in 1876 nonetheless proposed eliminating public high schools.

Still, the seeds of modern Florida were germinating. The balmy climate had attracted tourists as early as the 1840s. By 1873, 50,000 people a year were boating up the Saint Johns River. New railroads, used at first to transport lumber, made other areas of the state accessible; economic troubles in the north encouraged people to move down into peninsular Florida. In 1880 the population was 269,493, of whom 126,690 were black. Beginning in 1883 Henry Flagler, an associate of John D. Rockefeller, developed resorts on Florida's Atlantic coast, starting at Saint Augustine. His East Coast Railroad reached West Palm Beach in 1894, bringing tourists and supplies to the extravagant resort hotels Flagler built there. The 1894–1895 freezes, which destroyed the citrus crop in the north, convinced Flagler to build on into Miami, where heiress Julia Tuttle had founded an ambitious but empty city. The Spanish-American War, with its bases in Tampa and Key West, further stimulated the economy. By 1912 Flagler's railroad had reached Key West, then a sleepy fishing and cigar-making community. The railroad linked Florida from its southernmost tip to the continental United States. The opening of the Panama Canal brought a steady increase in commerce to the area. Nonetheless, political power remained with North Florida.

Ongoing political dissension split the dominant Democratic Party, pitting "wool hats" (farmers and small businessmen) against "silk hats" (wealthy businessmen and landowners). Farmers black and white found common ground in the Florida Farmers Alliance, whose Ocala Demands formed the basis for the platform of the national Populist Party formed in 1891. The threat of empowerment of black Floridians led to a savage backlash among whites; new laws segregated blacks and locked them into poverty and powerlessness. Yet blacks kept striving for equality, and whites resorted to increasing force to keep them down, including lynchings and the burning of black towns.

The Rise of South Florida

The Panama Canal brought another boon to Florida: weapons against the dreaded yellow fever. Terrifying epidemics of the "black vomit" had swept the state for years; the techniques that cleared the steaming jungles of Panama soon tamed the disease in Florida as well. Nonetheless, the state remained too poor to attract investors. Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, elected governor in 1904, was a wool hat liberal; he began the reclamation of the Everglades, building canals to drain off the water. In 1900 the census counted 528,542 people in Florida; 1910, there were 752,619.

The Progressive movement sweeping the nation influenced Florida as well. Progressives demanded socially responsible government; May Mann Jennings, the wife of Governor William Sherman Jennings, promoted conservation, Seminole reservations, education, and public libraries. In 1905 the Buckman Act established the University of Florida for white men, the Florida Female College for women, and the Colored Normal School for blacks.

World War I brought a new boom to Florida. Flying schools took advantage of the consistent good weather and Key West was the site of a major submarine base. Toward Prohibition Florida exhibited the same fractured sensibility as the rest of the nation. Much of the state had passed local dry laws even before the Volstead Act of 1919; yet the long coastline and steady high demand made Florida a major nexus of liquor smuggling.

During the 1920s Florida experienced a spectacular land boom, especially in Miami Beach, Dade County, up and down both coasts, and into central Florida. Speculators designed and sold whole communities, like Coral Gables and Boca Raton. Between 1922 and 1925, 300,000 people arrived in Florida. The 1930 census showed a population of 1,468,211 (29 percent black). Many people arrived in cars, feeding the motel industry. Land values soared.

In 1926, like a harbinger of bad times to come, a terrible hurricane killed four hundred people and left five thousand homeless. The great boom was fizzling out. Undermined by speculation, banks began to fail; Florida was in a depression before the rest of the nation followed in 1930. The railroads went bankrupt; there was no money and no work. The state had no funds for relief, and no inclination to deliver it anyway. Local agencies took over as best they could. By 1932, 36 percent of blacks and 22 percent of whites were on relief.

In the 1932 presidential election Franklin Delano Roosevelt won Florida with 74 percent of the vote. The index of industrial production continued to drop, Prohibition was repealed in 1933, and Roosevelt's New Deal steadied the banks and provided employment through public works. In 1931 Florida had legalized pari-mutuel gambling, and thoroughbreds, greyhounds, and jai alai become major revenue producers. By 1934 tourism was making a comeback.

The New Deal stabilized Florida's economy but World War II ended the Great Depression. After Pearl Harbor, military bases opened around the state and the shipbuilding industry boomed. This resulted in a labor shortage, which authorities in some areas dealt with by rounding up "vagrants," mostly black, and putting them into peonage. The sugar industry, booming after the fall of the Philippines, was especially bad, with labor conditions like prison camps.

In 1940 the population of Florida was 1,897,414, making it the least populated state in the Southeast. Between 1940 and 1990 an average of 1.8 million people entered Florida each decade. Air conditioning and mosquito controls made South Florida livable in the summer. Key West, nearly bankrupt in the 1930s, got a new water pipeline from the federal government in 1942, and its population tripled by the end of the war. Miami and the Gold Coast above it was transformed as new military recruits came there to train, many stationed in luxury hotels because of the severe housing shortage. These recruits included blacks, who fought with distinction in the war, and chafed angrily under Jim Crow laws at home.

After the war Florida was clearly divided into two camps: the north, which clung to Jim Crow, and the south, which, flooded with newcomers, felt no attachment to customary norms and practices. Still the north controlled the state government: less than 20 percent of the population elected more than half the legislature. The stage was set for a major confrontation between Jim Crow and the civil rights movement.

Modern Florida

In 1954, when the U.S. Supreme Court struck down segregated education in Brown v. Board of Education, white supremacists struggled to hold the color line, but blacks now had the federal government on their side. In 1949, five black students challenged the segregation of the University of Florida, and in 1959 the courts finally ordered the institution open to African Americans. Martin Luther King went to Saint Augustine in 1964 to preach and lead protest marches that drew national news attention. At the same time flourishing industries were realizing that race riots were bad for business. In 1968 another state constitution shifted legislative control to the south and modernized the government. Claude Kirk (1967–1971) became the first Republican governor since Reconstruction and in 1992 the first black Floridians in over a hundred years went to the House of Representatives. Leander Shaw in 1990 became the first black chief justice of the Florida supreme court.

Liberated from the long race war, which had sucked up the energies and suppressed the aspirations of so many, Florida transformed itself. No longer part of the Deep South, it now belonged to the Sunbelt, affluent and modern. Its business-friendly politics and balmy climate attracted growth industries. Starting in 1950, rockets from Cape Canaveral sent people into space and to the moon. Housing construction, high technology, and tourism pushed agriculture into the background of the economy. Disney World, opened in Orlando in 1965, drew millions of tourists a year, feeding the hotel and airline industries.

Florida's population was diversifying as it grew. In the thirty years after Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba in 1959, more than 800,000 Cubans moved to the Miami area. Haitians and Nicaraguans also fled to Florida from oppressive regimes in their homelands. People from all over Latin America and beyond came seeking jobs and advancement. From the northern states, retirees flooded into the sunshine and warmth. By 1990, 25 percent of the population was elderly. In 1990 the census counted 12,937,926 people, only 30 percent of them native Floridians.

This human tidal wave devastated Florida's natural environment. Starting at the turn of the twentieth century, developers drained the Everglades, diked Lake Okeechobee, and built high-rise hotels and condominiums on beaches and barrier islands—communities built not to exploit a local resource or serve local needs but simply to provide people a place to go that was not home. Rapid development strained water and energy supplies. The danger of such development in a hurricane zone was amply illustrated in August 1992, when Hurricane Andrew leveled extreme south Florida, killing more than 20 people and causing $20 billion in damage.

In 2000 Florida decided a presidential election. With the presidency in the balance, Democrat Albert Gore contested election results in Florida (where the governor was the brother of the Republican candidate, George W. Bush), demanding a recount; the subsequent confusion finally ended up in the U.S. Supreme Court, which stopped the recount and awarded the election to Bush.

In fifty years Florida evolved from the poorest and most isolated part of the South to a cosmopolitan, multicultural society, a winter playground for millions from the icy north, and a tourist mecca for the entire world. In 2000 the population was 15,982,378, and still growing.


Gannon, Michael, ed. The New History of Florida. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1996.

Newton, Michael. The Invisible Empire: The Ku Klux Klan in Florida. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2001.

Storter, Rob. Crackers in the Glade: Life and Times in the Old Everglades. Edited and compiled by Betty Savidge Briggs. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2000.

Williams, Joy. The Florida Keys: A History and Guide. 9th ed. New York: Random House, 2000.


See alsoEverglades National Park ; Jim Crow Laws ; Removal Act of 1830 ; Seminole Wars ; andvol. 9:Maya in Exile: Guatemalans in Florida .

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Florida (state, United States)

Florida (flôr´Ĭdə, flŏr´–), state in the extreme SE United States. A long, low peninsula between the Atlantic Ocean (E) and the Gulf of Mexico (W), Florida is bordered by Georgia and Alabama (N).

Facts and Figures

Area, 58,560 sq mi (151,670 sq km). Pop. (2010) 18,801,310, a 17.6% increase since the 2000 census. Capital, Tallahassee. Largest city, Jacksonville. Statehood, Mar. 3, 1845 (27th state). Highest pt., 345 ft (105 m), Walton co.; lowest pt., sea level. Nickname, Sunshine State. Motto, In God We Trust. State bird, mockingbird. State flower, orange blossom. State tree, Sabal palmetto palm. Abbr., Fla.; FL


The Florida peninsula, warmed by surrounding subtropical and tropical waters and cooled by the trade winds, is famous for its pleasant climate, abundant sunshine, and scenery. The NW of Florida is a gently rolling panhandle area, cut into by deep swamps along the Gulf coast. The St. Marys River in the northeast and the Perdido River in the northwest form part of the boundary with Georgia and Alabama. Much of the east coast is shielded from the Atlantic Ocean by narrow sandbars and barrier islands that protect the shallow lagoons, rivers, and bays. Immediately inland, pine and palmetto flatlands stretch from the Georgia border almost to the southern tip of the state. Central Florida abounds in lakes, with Lake Okeechobee being the largest. The Everglades, which includes Big Cypress Swamp, is a unique wilderness region of subtropical plant growth and animal life and extends over the center of the southern part of the peninsula. Florida's SW coast, on the Gulf of Mexico, is dotted with tiny islands, and the Florida Keys, extending south and west from the southern tip of the state, are linked to the mainland by a causeway. Florida is separated from Cuba to the south by the Straits of Florida.

Tallahassee is the capital, and Jacksonville, Miami, Tampa, Saint Petersburg, Hialeah, and Orlando are the largest cities.


Tourism plays a primary role in the state's economy; in 1996 visitors to Florida spent over $48 billion. Walt Disney World, a massive cluster of theme parks near Orlando that is one of the world's leading tourist attractions; Universal Studios, a combination theme park and film and television production facility, also near Orlando; and other attractions draw millions yearly. Famed beaches, such as those at Miami Beach, Daytona Beach, and Fort Lauderdale, attract hordes of vacationers. With more than 4,000 sq mi (10,360 sq km) of inland water and with the sea readily accessible from almost anywhere in the state, Florida is a fishing paradise. Other attractions include Everglades National Park, with its unusual plant and animal life; Palm Beach, with its palatial estates; and Sanibel Island's picturesque resorts.

Famous for its citrus fruits, Florida leads the nation in the production of oranges, grapefruits, tangerines, and market-ready corn and tomatoes. Other important crops include sugarcane and many varieties of winter vegetables. Cattle and dairy products are important, as is commercial fishing, with the catch including crabs, lobsters, and shrimp.

Cape Canaveral is the site of the John F. Kennedy Space Center, and many defense and scientific-research companies are in the area. Space flights, including those to the moon and the space shuttle missions, have been launched from Cape Canaveral. There are also major air and naval facilities, especially near Tampa and Pensacola. Construction is a major industry in fast-growing Florida, and Miami is a center of international (especially Latin American) trade.

Florida's leading manufactured items are food products, printed and published materials, electrical and electronic equipment, and transportation equipment. Lumber and wood products are also important. Most of the state's timber is yellow pine. Florida's mineral resources include phosphate rock, sand, and gravel.

Government, Politics, and Higher Education

In 1968, Florida adopted a new state constitution. The governor is elected for a term of four years, and the legislature has a senate of 40 members and a house of representatives of 120 members. The state elects 27 representatives and 2 senators to the U.S. Congress and has 29 electoral votes.

The state has authorized the creation of special governing districts that give to commercial entities certain rights usually restricted to elected governments. A special district approved for Disney World in the 1960s allows it to oversee land drainage, and its powers have since been vastly expanded.

Florida has generally favored Republicans in presidential elections. Democrat Lawton Chiles, elected governor in 1990 and reelected in 1994, was succeeded by Republican John Ellis "Jeb" Bush, elected in 1998 and reelected in 2002. Charlie Crist, also a Republican, won the governorship in 2006, and Republican Rick Scott was elected to succeed him in 2010. Scott was reelected in 2014, defeating Crist (who ran as a Democrat).

Florida's institutions of higher education include the Univ. of Florida, at Gainesville; the Univ. of Miami, at Coral Gables; Florida State Univ. and Florida Agricultural and Mechanical Univ., at Tallahassee; Univ. of Central Florida, at Orlando; Rollins College, at Winter Park; the Univ. of Tampa and the Univ. of South Florida, at Tampa; Florida Southern College, at Lakeland; Stetson Univ., at DeLand; Barry College, at Miami; and Bethune-Cookman College, at Daytona Beach.


Early Spanish and French Exploration

Although the Florida peninsula was probably sighted by earlier navigators, the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León is credited as the first European to visit the area. Landing near the site of Saint Augustine in 1513, he claimed the area, which he thought was an island, for Spain, naming it Florida, probably because it was then the Easter season (Pascua Florida). The legend that he was seeking the fabled fountain of youth was fabricated after his death by an enemy at court who sought to discredit him. Other Spanish adventurers, notably Pánfilo de Narváez and Hernando De Soto, later explored the region and established that Florida was not an island. The vast region that comprises most of the SE United States was claimed for Spain, the whole being known as Florida.

It was the activity of the French in the area, however, that led to actual Spanish settlement of the Florida peninsula. In May, 1562, Jean Ribaut had discovered the St. Johns River, and two years later René de Laudonnière built Fort Caroline at its mouth. Alarmed at this encroachment by the French, Philip II of Spain commissioned Pedro Menéndez de Aviles to drive the French out of the area; this he did ruthlessly. Spanish colonization began when Menéndez founded St. Augustine in 1565. Florida had no precious metals to spur conquest (as in Mexico and Peru), its soil seemed infertile (Spanish Florida was never self-sufficient agriculturally), and the Native Americans resented their encroachment. However, the Spanish were compelled to hold Florida because of its strategic location along the Straits of Florida, through which rich treasure ships from the south sailed for Spain.

English Colonization

In the 1600s the English, who were trying to expand their American colonial holdings after 1607, began to threaten Florida. St. Augustine was attacked several times by English corsairs and in 1702–3 was besieged by a force from the English colony in South Carolina. In 1742, English colonists from Georgia under James E. Oglethorpe, Georgia's founder, defeated the Spanish in the battle of Bloody Marsh on St. Simons Island, making Florida's northern boundary the St. Marys River. Spain's last-minute entry (1762) into the Seven Years War cost her Florida, which the British acquired through the Treaty of Paris (1763).

Under the British (1763–83), Florida was divided into two provinces, and St. Augustine and Pensacola were respectively made the capitals of East Florida and West Florida. Under the Treaty of Paris (1783), Florida was returned to Spain. Many colonists in Florida abandoned the region and moved to British possessions in the West Indies. Spain's hold over Florida, however, was extremely tenuous. Boundary disputes developed with the United States (see West Florida Controversy). In the War of 1812, Pensacola served as a British base until captured (1814) by U.S. General Andrew Jackson.

U.S. Occupation

In 1819, after years of diplomatic wrangling, Spain reluctantly signed the Adams-Onis treaty ceding Florida to the United States in return for U.S. assumption of $5 million in damages claimed by U.S. citizens against Spain. Official U.S. occupation took place in 1821, and Andrew Jackson was appointed military governor. Florida, with its present boundaries, was organized as a territory in 1822, and William P. Duval became its first territorial governor.

Settlers poured in from neighboring states, settling especially in the area around the newly founded capital of Tallahassee. A plantation economy flourished there, with cotton and tobacco the chief crops, and slavery became widespread. Settlement expanded southward and displaced the Seminoles, and wars with them seriously impeded Florida's development. A group of Seminole, under Osceola, resisted attempts to move them to the West, but eventually most of them were transported out of the region at the end of the Second Seminole War (1835–42). However, a small band fled to the wilderness of the Everglades and their descendants live on reservations in the Lake Okeechobee area.

Statehood, Civil War, and Reconstruction

Florida was admitted to the Union in 1845 as a slaveholding state. After Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860 proslavery sentiment in Florida led the state to secede from the Union in 1861 and join the Confederacy. Florida furnished vital supplies (particularly salt and cattle) to the Confederacy. The most important Civil War engagement fought in Florida was the battle of Olustee (Feb. 20, 1864), a Confederate victory.

After the war Florida was placed under military rule by Congress. A constitution was drafted providing for black suffrage, and the state was readmitted to the Union in 1868. The constitution had been drafted by moderate Republicans, some of whom were from the North, and these same Republicans held most political offices until 1876, when the Democrats were returned to power and African Americans were once again relegated to an inferior position. In 1885 a new constitution replaced the Reconstruction charter of 1868.

Land Booms

In 1881 Florida sold 4,000,000 acres (1,618,800 hectares) of land to real-estate promoters. Northern capitalists such as Henry M. Flagler built railroads and hotels, and Florida began to develop. The drainage of the N Everglades, begun in 1906, precipitated one of the state's periodic land booms. Because of environmental degradation due to farming these drained lands, areas are now being restored to their natural state. The most famous of Florida's land booms started after World War I and reached its peak in 1925 when land values achieved fantastic heights, only to collapse completely the following year.

From Depression to Postwar Growth

Florida weathered the depression of the 1930s with the help of the federal government, and during World War II prospered from army, navy, and air force installations. After the war the state enjoyed phenomenal growth. Virtually unlimited water resources, as well as the pleasant climate, were important factors in attracting new industries. Manufacturing, particularly industries related to aeronautics, developed at an extraordinary rate.

Relations with Latin America

Close to Cuba, Florida has often been involved in the affairs of that island. During the latter half of the 19th cent., Cubans rebelling against Spain received sanctuary and aid in Florida, and the state enthusiastically supported and profited economically from the Spanish-American War (1898), in which Tampa was the chief U.S. base. Florida's relationship with Cuba has become even closer in the 20th cent. Political refugees from the Cuban revolution of 1958–59 poured into Florida by the thousands, creating acute resettlement problems. In 1980 more than 100,000 Cuban refugees came to the United States, mostly through Florida, after Fidel Castro briefly opened the port of Mariel to a flotilla of privately chartered U.S. ships (see Cuba).

In the early 1990s, Florida was again the receiving ground for thousands of refugees, this time from Haiti, following the 1991 military coup in that country, as well as another wave from Cuba in 1994. Miami has been profoundly influenced by the massive influx of Cubans and other Caribbean people, both culturally and commercially. The city functions as the trade center of Latin America.

Florida has been one of the fastest growing states in the country for many decades. During the 1980s it surpassed Ohio, Illinois, and Pennsylvania to become the fourth largest state, and has retained that position. Thousands of retired persons have settled in the state, particularly in St. Petersburg on the west coast and on the eastern coast from West Palm Beach to the vicinity of Miami, nicknamed the "Gold Coast." The central interior of the state is the fastest growing region, particularly the corridor along Interstate 4, which connects the Tampa Bay–St. Petersburg area through Orlando to Daytona Beach.

Florida is subject to hurricanes, and the extensive development during the late 20th cent. has led to an increase in the damage caused by such storms. Hurricane Andrew devastated much of S Florida in 1992, leaving over 200,000 people homeless and costing property insurers more than $15 billion. In 1995, Hurricane Opal raged along the Panhandle coast. Four hurricanes struck Florida in 2004, resulting in widespread damage, and Hurricane Wilma also caused extensive damage in S Florida the following year. In 1994 the state approved a $685 million program to restore the deteriorating Everglades ecosystem, and in 1996 the federal government substantially enlarged the Everglades plans. Those plans, however, were complicated by expenses associated with the state's 2008 decision to purchase sizable farmland acreage in the N Everglades, but in 2010 the proposed purchases were scaled back significantly.

In Nov., 2000, Florida became the focus of unlooked-for national attention when George W. Bush and Al Gore found themselves separated by a thin margin in the contest for the state's electoral votes, which both needed to win the presidency. With Bush holding a lead of a few hundred out of several million, the outcome was fought over in the state government, state and federal courts, and the media. Ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court weighed in on Bush's side in December, but deficiencies that were exposed in voting systems, recount methods, and even ballot design guaranteed that victory would be tarnished no matter who won (and led to an overhaul of Florida's election system).


See R. B. Marcus and E. A. Fernald, Florida: A Geographical Approach (1975); C. W. Tebeau, A History of Florida (rev. ed. 1981); D. Marth, ed., Florida Almanac, 1988–89 (1989); T. D. Allman, Finding Florida: The True History of the Sunshine State (2013).

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The state of Florida still has a certain exotic reputation. With its balmy climate, Spanish influences, citrus groves, and miles of beaches and tourist attractions, Florida continues to draw both visitors and new residents. Florida is a very modern state, however, with a manufacturing and commercial base to match its tourist attractions and, at the same time, environmental problems brought on by its rapid growth.

In 1513, Ponce de Leon (14601521) was the first European to sight Florida, claiming it for Spain. Hernando de Soto (c15001542) later tried to establish a colony in Florida but abandoned hope for finding wealth there. In 1565 the Spanish successfully defended French claims in Florida and made St. Augustine a military outpost to protect Spain's interests. In 1763 Spain ceded Florida to the British in exchange for Cuba.

The Spanish who came to Florida found nearly 100,000 Native Americans living there. Franciscans soon began to establish missions up and down the coast. In addition to attempts to convert the native population, the Spanish used the Indians to assist the Spanish in growing food, supplying labor, and defending the province. As in other areas where Europeans came to dominate, the Indian population was gradually decimated by disease or by wars with whites or other Indians. The Seminole War of 18351842 finally eliminated most of the Indians in Florida.

When the British took over the area, Florida's territory spanned from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River and eventually split into two colonies, East and West Florida. Settlers established farms and began to be self-sufficient. During the American Revolution (17751783), Florida became home to thousands of Loyalists to the British crown. In 1781 Spain successfully attacked and captured Pensacola; in 1783 Great Britain returned Florida to Spain.

Though the Spanish were formally in control of the region, several cultures clashed in the territory during this time. In addition to the Native Americans, runaway slaves, renegade whites, pirates, and other adventurers roamed the land. British influence was strong, and the United States continued to penetrate into the territory. By terms of the Louisiana Purchase (1803), all of Florida west of the Perdido River was taken over by the United States in 1810. What later became the state of Florida was finally ceded to the United States in 1821. The first military territorial governor was Andrew Jackson (17671845), who had led a successful expedition against the Seminoles and their British allies. Tallahassee was set up as the first capital, and soon the middle region of Florida became known for its slave-owning cotton plantations. Settlement was hindered for a time by the war to remove the Seminoles and by the Panic of 1837, but in 1845 Florida entered the Union as a pro-slavery state.

Florida did not remain part of the Union for long. In 1861, at the start of the American Civil War (18611865), the state seceded and became part of the Confederacy. Florida at that time had only around 140,000 people40 percent of them slavesno manufacturing, and only a few hundred miles of railroad. After Reconstruction (18651877), conservative Democrats governed Florida for the remainder of the century. These politicians were pro-business, promoted the expansion of railroads, and kept taxes low. Although cotton production did not return to its prewar levels, Florida became known for its citrus and vegetable farms, cattle raising, forestry, and phosphate mining, as well as for a growing tourist industry.

Both tourists and developers were helped by the railroad builders who appeared in the late nineteenth century. By far the best known of these entrepreneurs was Henry M. Flagler (18301913), who completed an East cost railroad line that ended in Daytona, Florida, in 1890. Despite numerous construction difficulties, a line was completed to West Palm Beach in 1894, and later to Miami. Flagler's most ambitious project was a railroad all the way to Key West.

Flagler and other railroad magnates built magnificent hotels in Florida, which attracted many of the tourists who began to trek to the state to enjoy the sun. More important, the railroads brought in more settlers, who soon began to transform the swamps and sand dunes of southern Florida into an important agricultural and commercial area. Key West cigar makers transferred many of their operations into mainland factories in Tampa. The Spanish-American War (1898) stimulated the economy, since Tampa was the point of embarkation to Cuba. Many soldiers returning from the war also eventually settled in the state.

The cities of St. Petersburg, Clearwater, Sarasota, Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and Miami soon began to thrive. Orlando became the largest city in south central Florida. When parts of the Everglades were drained, towns sprouted up in the Lake Okeechobee area. Governor Napoleon B. Broward, who took office in 1905, emphasized drainage projects. Thousands of acres were drained and made available for agriculture over the next 20 years. By 1920 the farms of the state were producing more than $80 million in income, with oranges as the single largest crop. Other agricultural products included grapefruit, potatoes, cotton, tobacco, domestic animals, and meat. The fact that no one crop was dominant made the risk of economic disaster less likely.

During the 1920s Florida's population soared by almost 50 percent, starting a land boom. The 1930s saw alternate periods of depression and recovery. Despite the difficulties of the nationwide Great Depression (19291939), Florida created some new sources of income in paper mills and a type of betting known as pari-mutuel. During World War II (19391945), several Army and Navy bases in the state also stimulated growth.

Though agriculture, especially citrus farming, was basic to the postwar economy, during the period between 1947 and 1963, Florida manufacturing also grew considerably. The most important manufacturing sectors were foods, chemicals, paper, publishing, and electrical machinery. By 1963, moreover, the value of retail trade had increased 225 percent since 1948. Adequate power and water, as well as the convenience of Florida ports to fuel supplies, was beneficial to commerce in the state during this time.

Tourism continued to thrive in Florida, bringing in an era of expansion in spectator sports and amusements. In addition, the increasing demand for government services brought a 37 increase in government employees between 1960 and 1965. Federal facilities expanded as well, the most famous of which became the Air Force Missile Test Center on Cape Canaveral, home base for future space exploration.

In 1971 the Disney World theme park opened its doors, becoming one of the biggest economic booms to Orange and Osceola counties. It is estimated that nearly 60 percent of the millions of tourists who visit Florida come specifically to visit Disney World. In 1986 the number of people visiting the park equaled the number who visited the entire state 14 years earlier.

Environmentalists continued to be concerned about the rapid development of Florida. Thousands of acres of former forests, agricultural fields, and orange groves have been destroyed to make way for commercial development. Natural water drainage patterns have been altered, often creating problems for both human consumption and animal habitats. Of particular concern has been the disruption of the wetlands known as the Everglades. Contamination of the groundwater that supplies nearly all of Florida's water has also been aggravated in recent decades. After the settlement of a federal lawsuit, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and other agencies have undertaken a program for restoration of several watersheds.

Some natural upheavals beyond human control are the hurricanes that periodically wreak havoc on the Florida coast. A hurricane in 1926 brought a land boom to an early halt; in the late 1930s, another destroyed most of the Florida East Coast Railroad line to Key West, leading to the building of a modern highway along the old railroad lines. In 1960 Hurricane Donna caused extensive damage to the Tampa and Orlando areas, as well as along the southwest coast and in mid-Florida. In 1992 Hurricane Andrew caused more than $10 billion in damage to southern Florida, and Hurricane Opal caused $2.1 billion in losses in the Pensacola area in 1995.

Contemporary Florida is rather vulnerable to recession because of its many visitors and part-time dwellers, who bring many dollars to the state but do not create a permanent tax base. The economic downturn of the early 1980s hit Florida especially hard, especially in the housing industry. The aerospace and electronics industries, however, were aided by the defense buildup during the administrations of President Ronald Reagan (19811989). The Miami area has also benefited from an influx of Latin American investment funds. Floridians are less proud, however, of the state's socalled "underground economy," which provides unreported low-wage income to many illegal immigrants and also funnels large amounts of cash into the state from the illegal drug trade.


Derr, Mark. Some Kind of Paradise: A Chronicle of Man and the Land in Florida. New York: William Morrow, 1989.

Gannon, Michael, ed. The New History of Florida. Gainesville: University Presses of Florida, 1996.

Hanna, Kathryn T. Abbey. Florida: Land of Change. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1948.

Jahoda, Gloria. Florida: A Bicentennial History. New York: Norton, 1976.

Patrick, Rembert W. Florida Under Five Flags. Gainesville: University Presses of Florida, 1960.

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Jacksonville . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 107

Miami . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 121

Orlando . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 137

St. Petersburg . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 151

Tallahassee . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 165

Tampa . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 177

The State in Brief

Nickname: Sunshine State

Motto: In God we trust

Flower: Orange blossom

Bird: Mockingbird

Area: 65,754.59 square miles (2000; U.S. rank: 22nd)

Elevation: Ranges from sea level to 345 feet above sea level

Climate: Humid with abundant sunshine; ranges from subtropical to tropical

Admitted to Union: March 3, 1845

Capital: Tallahassee

Head Official: Governor John Ellis Bush (R) (until 2007)


1980: 9,746,000

1990: 12,938,000

2000: 15,982,378

2004 estimate: 17,397,161

Percent change, 19902000: 23.5%

U.S. rank in 2004: 4th

Percent of residents born in state: 32.7% (2000)

Density: 296.4 people per square mile (2000)

2002 FBI Crime Index Total: 905,957

Racial and Ethnic Characteristics (2000)

White: 12,465,029

Black or African American: 2,335,505

American Indian and Alaska Native: 53,541

Asian: 266,256

Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander: 8,625

Hispanic or Latino (may be of any race): 2,682,715

Other: 477,107

Age Characteristics (2000)

Population under 5 years old: 945,823

Population 5 to 19 years old: 3,102,809

Percent of population 65 years and over: 17.6%

Median age: 38.7 years (2000)

Vital Statistics

Total number of births (2003): 212,144

Total number of deaths (2003): 168,598 (infant deaths, 1,576)

AIDS cases reported through 2003: 43,223


Major industries: Agriculture, tourism, manufacturing, services, trade, government

Unemployment rate: 4.5% (December 2004)

Per capita income: $29,972 (2003; U.S. rank: 25th)

Median household income: $29,294 (3-year average, 2001-2003)

Percentage of persons below poverty level: 14.9% (3-year average, 2001-2003)

Income tax rate: None

Sales tax rate: 6.0% on most items

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Florida State in the extreme se USA, occupying a peninsula between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico; the capital is Tallahassee. Florida forms a long peninsula with thousands of lakes, many rivers and vast areas of swampland. At the s tip there is a chain of small islands, the Florida Keys, stretching w. The biggest attractions are the Everglades, Florida Keys, and Disney World in Orlando. Discovered in 1513, the first permanent settlement in Florida was at St Augustine. Originally Spanish, the land passed to the English (1763), then returned to the Spanish (1783). America purchased Florida in 1819 and, although the state seceded from the Union in 1861, it was little affected by the Civil War. It developed rapidly after 1880, when forest clearing and drainage schemes began. Florida's historic ties with Cuba are particularly evident in Miami, Florida's second-largest city (after Jacksonville). Industries focus on the John F. Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral. Chief agricultural products are citrus fruits, sugar cane, and vegetables. Area: 151,670sq km (58,560sq mi). Pop. (2000) 15,982,378.

Statehood :

March 3, 1845

Nickname :

Sunshine State

State bird :


State flower :

Orange blossom

State tree :

Sabal palm

State motto :

In God we trust;

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Florida (ship)

Florida: see Confederate cruisers.

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Floridabidder, consider, Jiddah, kidder, whydah •bewilder, builder, guilder, Hilda, Matilda, St Kilda, Tilda, tilde •Belinda, Cabinda, cinder, Clarinda, Dorinda, hinder, Kinder, Linda, Lucinda, Melinda, tinder •Drogheda • shipbuilder • bodybuilder •coachbuilder • boatbuilder • Candida •spina bifida •calendar, calender •Phillida • cylinder • Phasmida •Andromeda • Mérida • Florida •Cressida • lavender • provender •chider, cider, divider, eider, glider, Guider, Haida, hider, Ida, insider, Oneida, outsider, provider, rider, Ryder, Saida, slider, spider, strider, stridor •Wilder •binder, blinder, finder, grinder, kinda, minder, ringbinder, winder •Fassbinder • spellbinder • highbinder •bookbinder • pathfinder •rangefinder • viewfinder • backslider •paraglider • childminder • outrider •joyrider • roughrider • ringsider •Tynesider • sidewinder

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