Charting the Land of Flowers: 500 Years of Florida Maps

Maps Open Up The World

Maps occupy a unique place in our culture. They can teach us about the rise and fall of great civilizations. They can show us where people are going, where they have been, and what they are doing. Maps can trace the impact humans have had on the planet and on each other. Maps act as a cornerstone of our understanding of history. This timeline was created by the Tampa Bay History Center in conjunction with the exhibition, "Charting the Land of Flowers: 500 Years of Florida Maps," and is designed as an interactive tool for teachers and their students.

Henry B. Plant Railroad System

All aboard the iron horse! A new mode of transportation swept the nation in the 1800s – the railroad. Before the railroad, most people travelled long distances by horse, wagon, or ship. In Florida, railroad magnate Henry Plant began building new rail lines, especially in Tampa. This map shows where he built railroads in Florida and also Plant’s steamship lines. The illustrations on the map are of several fancy hotels Plant built along his lines for passengers. Look closely and notice the Tampa Bay Hotel (bottom center) is included in the drawings.

John Bachmann

Ever wondered what Florida would look like from a bird’s perspective? John Bachmann created this map with a “bird’s eye view.” This map focuses on the Civil War, which lasted from 1861-1865, and was an incredibly difficult period in American history. This map shows what Florida looked like during the Civil War – to the north are parts of Alabama and Georgia. There are both Union and Confederate forts on the map, including one in Key West. Notice the ships in the water all around Florida. These are Union ships blockading the Florida coastline to keep enemy ships from getting supplies.

Martin Waldseemüller

Martin Waldseemüller was a German cartographer who created this world map in 1507. The grid on the map represents lines of latitude and longitude – mapmakers still did not know everything about these lines when this map was made. At the top of the map is a drawing which includes the explorer Amerigo Vespucci. This is the first map to use the name “America” (far left). Little was known at this time about the shape of North and South America. Today, this map hangs in the Thomas Jefferson room in the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C.

Gerónimo de Chavez

Like Ponce de Leon, Hernando de Soto came to Florida in search of gold and riches. He explored Florida and parts of the southern United States from 1539 to 1543. Hernando de Soto kept journals about his travels – this map was later created by Gerónimo de Chavez who used de Soto’s stories. The little brown markers show the many Indian groups de Soto met during his travels. Also notice the title of this map. To the Spaniards, “La Florida” was much bigger than today’s state.

Jacques Le Moyne de Morgues

Many Spanish explorers came to Florida but they were not the only Europeans to visit the area. The French also explored Florida and established forts in the New World. This map was created by Jacques Le Moyne who travelled to northeast Florida in 1564. A French fort – Fort Caroline (“Carolina”) – was located on today’s St. Johns River. This map also includes a compass rose on the right side. Look closely – early cartographers thought Florida was much wider than today’s state.

Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas

As the French continued to create settlements in the New World, the Spanish strengthened the hold on their territories – conflicts would soon arise over who controlled portions of the New World, including Florida. This 1601 map by Herrera shows Spanish territories in the Caribbean Sea. A skinny-looking Florida is clearly visible above the island of Cuba. The map also shows part of the Yucatán Peninsula and the top of South America. This is the first printed map to include the name “Tampa” (“b. de tampa”).

Pierre Mortier

By 1700, the French, British, Dutch, and Spanish built settlements in the New World. However, wars in Europe threatened Spain’s control of the Caribbean Sea. This colorful map by Pierre Mortier shows the route of the annual Spanish treasure fleet (flota). The treasure fleet had as many as 50 ships full of gold and silver. Other European countries sometimes raided these galleons and claimed their cargo. The drawing on the left corner of the map shows gold and silver being taken to the ships from mines in the New World.

Powder Horn Map

One of Spain’s most important settlements in Florida was St. Augustine. The Spanish built a fort called Castillo de San Marcos in 1672 after the British attacked the area. The British eventually gained control of St. Augustine in 1763. A map of St. Augustine was created by an unknown British soldier stationed at the fort. It is carved into a powder horn. This horn is from a cow or ox and was used to store gunpowder used in muskets. The map shows buildings, animals, and Indians who lived near the town.

Benjamin Franklin

How fast did those treasure and merchant ships travel back to Europe? Benjamin Franklin wondered about this and drew a map showing the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic Ocean. The dark line follows the Gulf Stream as it heads away from America and Canada and out into the ocean. Look closely at the line – three ships are in the Gulf Stream and show the direction of the waves. The map also has a lively cartouche in the bottom right corner. In it, Franklin appears to talk to King Neptune, Roman god of the sea, about the Gulf Stream.

American Automobile Association (AAA)

While people still liked travelling by railroad it was soon time to hit the road – in a car. Thanks to industrialists like Henry Ford and the introduction of his Model T automobile in the early 1900s, the car soon became the popular mode of transportation. The American Automobile Association (AAA) was founded in 1902 to popularize the car and help with the improvement of roads. This AAA map features a legend listing the types of roads in Florida in 1917. The roads range from good to very poor – some of the best roads were in the Tampa Bay area. The roads in Florida have certainly changed since this time!

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