Aside from natural population growth, the weather and the military had the most significant impact on the increase of people living in four selected Florida cities. Key West, incorporated in 1822, was a desired navy port as it has the deepest natural harbor in U.S. territory between Norfolk, VA and New Orleans, LA and is located in close proximity to the Panama Canal. (Wikipedia and “History of Key West”) Indicated by the red line in the graph, in the early 20th-century Key West was the largest city in Florida based on population. However, due to the limitations in the possibility of expansion, the population of Key West has remained consistent for the past century. Jacksonville, indicated by the blue line, was established and used as a military port from early Spanish colonial days. The English continued to use the port, as did the Spanish when Florida was returned to Spain after the American Revolution. The United States acquired Florida in 1817 and established “Jacksonville” (named after the first territorial governor Andrew Jackson) as the major “port of entry” for the region. After the Civil War, due to the warm temperatures during the winter, it was believed Jacksonville would be a good “winter resort” location for people (particularly the wealthy). In 1888 a “Subtropical Exposition” was held (a kind of mini-world’s fair), however the idea of the wealthy traveling to Florida did not catch on until a few years later an east coast railroad extended its line to Jacksonville, making it “the Gateway to Florida.” America’s involvement in World War I led to the opening of a temporary naval station. In 1940, when the U.S. unofficially began to prepare to fight in World War II, a permanent naval base was built in Jacksonville. After the war, many sailors (especially many from the North) who had gone through Jacksonville during the war settled in and around the city. The dramatic increase in Jacksonville’s population between 1960 and 1970 was due to the merger between the city of Jacksonville and the surrounding Duval County. (Wikipedia) Tampa, illustrated by the green line, was incorporated as the “Village of Tampa” in 1848. Tampa was significant as a naval base beginning in the Civil War as it harbored Blockade Runners and was to be part of a supply line for the Confederacy. Tampa took on greater importance during the War of 1898 as it was the location of training facilities and one of the key ports used to ship war materiel, supplies, and troops to Cuba and Puerto Rico during the war. Based on its proximity to central Florida citrus groves, Tampa became a focal point for export of citrus products, attracting a significant population by the time World War II broke out. (Wikipedia “History of Tampa”) As Florida is part of the Sunbelt, after World War II with the advent of air conditioning, Tampa became a major population center in Florida attracting settlers from the Northeast and Midwest. (Wikipedia “Air Conditioning”) Miami, identified by the yellow line, was cut out of the wilderness of the southern tip of the peninsula and incorporated in 1896. Initially, the main reason for the establishment of Miami was economical as the region survived an extreme freeze that decimated the citrus industry in the late 1880s. Miami’s population was gradual at first, not really impacted by World War I. The Second World War had a significant impact on the growth of the city. Miami became a key port in which supplies and military personnel were sent to Europe and Africa. After the war, many men who came from northern cities and passed through Miami during the war settled there to take advantage of the climate and increasing job opportunities. (Wikipedia) Overall, because of its location, Florida cities grew dramatically throughout the 20th-century. Beginning with the ports in Tampa and Key West, men and supplies were able to quickly be shipped to the warfront. During World War I, Tampa and Jacksonville were used to get supplies to the European Theater of the war and Key West was utilized as a base to protect the newly opened Panama Canal. Also, the arrival of hundreds of men from northern and midwestern locations who were to be trained for the war effort returned to Florida after the war was over for jobs and warmth. With technological developments that made the hot and humid summer months more tolerable beginning in the 1950s, the population of major Florida cities grew at a rapid rate.
“Air Conditioning.” Wikipedia. Accessed November 10, 2022.
“History of Jacksonville, Florida.” Accessed November 10, 2022.
“History of Miami, Florida.” Accessed November 9, 2022.
“History of Tampa, Florida.” Accessed November 10, 2022.
“Key West” Accessed November 9, 2022. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Key_West
Wilkinson, Jerry. “History of Key West.” Keys History. Accessed: November 9, 2022.