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Florida State History

History | Symbols | Interesting Facts | Famous People


1513—Juan Ponce de León names Florida and claims the land for Spain

1539—Hernando de Soto explores central and northern Florida

1565—St. Augustine, the first permanent settlement, is founded

1763—Spain gives control of Florida to England

1783—Spain regains control of Florida

1821—Florida becomes part of the United States

1845—Florida becomes the 27th state

1861—Florida secedes from the Union and joins the Confederacy

1868—Florida is readmitted to the Union

1896—The east coast railroad reaches Miami

1958—Explorer I, the first U.S. satellite is launched

1969—Apollo 11 is launched from Cape Canaveral, sending the first men to the moon

1971—Walt Disney World opens near Orlando

1992—Hurricane Andrew kills 38 people in southern Florida

In 1513, Spaniard Juan Ponce de León became the European to explore Florida.  He claimed the region for Spain but was unable to establish a colony due to Indian attacks.  In 1539, Hernando de Soto landed in the Tampa Bay.  He explored central and northern Florida on his way to the Mississippi River.

French missionaries settled Fort Caroline near present-day Jacksonville in 1564.  The following year, Spanish troops arrived and drove the French out of Florida.  They established St. Augustine, the first permanent European settlement. 

In 1763, Spain lost Florida to England.  During the Revolutionary War, Spanish troops entered Florida and repossessed the land by 1783.  Settlers attempted revolution several times against Spain.  During the War of 1812, Spain allowed Britain to use Pensacola as a naval base.  In 1814, American troops captured the base.  Other battles eventually led to U.S. control of Florida in 1821. 

In 1822, the Florida Territory was organized and settlers entered by the thousands.  The U.S. government offered land in Oklahoma to the Seminole Indians who lived in Florida.  Some refused to leave and fought for their lands.  The Seminole Wars killed many of the Indians and forced all but a few out of Florida in 1858. 

Florida was admitted to the Union as a slave state on March 3, 1845.  Conflict over slavery led to the Civil War (1861-1865).  Florida seceded from the Union and joined the Confederacy.  Although most of Florida’s coast was captured, Confederate troops won the Battle of Olustee in 1864 and protected Tallahassee and Florida’s interior region.  After the war ended, Florida was placed under military control.  In 1868, Florida was readmitted to the Union with a new state constitution guaranteeing civil rights and giving blacks the right to vote. 

Florida grew immensely during the early 1900s.  Railroads expanded to Key West in 1912, opening new land for development.  Swamps were drained and the growing tourist industry attracted people from all over the world.  Citrus groves expanded throughout northern and south-central parts of the state.  Florida’s population grew considerably at this time. 

Depression hit the economy in Florida during the 1920s.  Hurricanes swept through the state destroying property and killing hundreds of people.  As the state’s economy was struggling to recover, the Great Depression occurred in 1929.  Banks closed, tourism stopped, and thousands lost their jobs.  The U.S. government helped to provide jobs by developing Florida’s natural resources. 

World War II (1939-1945) provided several government jobs as military bases were established along the coast of Florida.  After the war, many who had served in the military remained in Florida.  Tourism continued as the state’s leading industry and new industries diversified the economy, such as chemical, computers, electronics, and oceanography.  In 1950, Cape Canaveral became a space and rocket center. 

During the early 1960s, thousands of Cubans fled Cuba and settled in Florida.  Racial problems increased.  In 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled segregation of public schools unconstitutional.  Florida began integration in 1959; by the late 1960s, most public schools had integrated and several new universities were built. 

Recently, Florida continues to be one of the fastest growing states in the country.  The economy still depends greatly on tourism, but expanding industries in business and manufacturing are strengthening its growth potential.  State leaders are working on problems created due to huge population increases and environmental concerns.