Florida State Facts - Florida History Firsts

Catch up on your state trivia with these Florida history firsts and interesting fun facts about the state.

Official Name Florida
Capital Tallahassee
30.45700 N, 084.28139 W
Constitution Ratified 1969
Statehood March 03, 1845
27th state
Number of Counties 67 Counties in Florida
Largest County
(by population)
1,945 sq. mi.

Florida History Firsts & State Facts

  • 1539 - Safety Harbor is the home of the historic Espiritu Santo Springs. Given this name in 1539 by the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto. He was searching for the legendary Fountain of Youth. The natural springs have attracted attention worldwide for their curative powers.
  • 1565, September - St. Augustine (Spanish: San Agustín) is a city in Northeast Florida and the oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement and port in the continental United States. San Agustín was founded in September 1565 by Spanish admiral Pedro Menendez de Aviles, and subsequently served as the capital of Spanish Florida for two hundred years.
  • 1763 - The first graded road built in Florida was Old Kings Road in 1763. It was named for King George of England.
  • 1845 - Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West was built between 1845 and 1866. Controlled by the Union during the Civil War, the fort was the home base for a successful blockade of Confederate ships that some historians say shortened the conflict by a full year. The fort also was active during the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II.
  • 1880 - The water hyacinth, a beautiful flowered aquatic plant, was introduced to Florida accidentally in the 1880s and grows so abundantly it has restricted commercial navigation on portions of the Saint Johns River.
  • 1849 - Fort Meade is the oldest settlement in Polk County. It dates back to 1849 when a settlement grew up around the United States Cavalry fort during the Seminole Indian Wars.
  • 1851 - Dr. John Gorrie of Apalachicola invented mechanical refrigeration.
  • 1885 - New England Congregationalists who sought to bring their style of liberal arts education to the state founded Rollins College, the oldest college in Florida, in Winter Park in 1885.
  • 1914 - The world's first scheduled commercial airline flight occurred in Florida on January 1, 1914. Young aviator Tony Jannus made history when he flew the world's first scheduled passenger service airline flight from St. Petersburg's downtown yacht basin to Tampa.
  • 1944 - Miami Beach pharmacist Benjamin Green invented the first suntan cream in 1944. He accomplished this development by cooking cocoa butter in a granite coffee pot on his wife's stove.
  • 1958 - The first US earth satellite, Explorer I, was launched from the US Air Force Missile Test Center at Cape Canaveral.
  • 1970 - May 20, 1970 Florida lawmakers passed and sent to the Governor a bill adopting the moonstone as the official state gem. Ironically, the moonstone is not found naturally in Florida...nor was it found on the moon.
  • 1987 - The Florida legislature designated the American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) the official Florida state reptile. Long an unofficial symbol of the state, the alligator originally symbolized Florida's extensive untamed wilderness and swamps
  • 1987 - The Sunshine Skyway Bridge is a cable-stayed concrete bridge. Opened in 1987 the bridge coasts through the clouds at 190 feet above water. Its bright yellow support cables spread from the two center pillars. The structure gives drivers unobstructed view of the water during the 4.1 mile trip over Tampa Bay.
  • Dame Point Bridge (officially the Napoleon Bonaparte Broward Bridge) over the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Florida1989 - When first completed in 1989 the Dame Point Bridge (officially the Napoleon Bonaparte Broward Bridge) over the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Florida on the Interstate 295 East Beltway, became the longest cable-stayed span in the United States, the longest concrete span of its type in the Western Hemisphere, and the third longest cable-stayed bridge in the world. Construction began in 1985 and it was completed in 1989. The main span is 1,300 feet (396.2 m), and is 175 feet (53.3 m) high. The bridge was designed by HNTB Corporation and built by Massman Construction Company.
  • 1991 - During the 1991 Gulf War the busiest military port in the country was Jacksonville. From this location the military moved more supplies and people than any other port in the country.
  • 1992 - Hurricane Andrew, which ripped through southeastern Florida in August 1992, killed 41 people and caused property damages in excess of $20 billion.
  • 1999 - Plant City, the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World, holds the Guinness record for the world's largest strawberry shortcake. The 827 square-foot, 6,000 pound cake was made on Feb. 19, 1999 in McCall Park.

More Florida History Firsts & State Facts

  • Greater Miami is the only metropolitan area in the United States whose borders encompass two national parks. You can hike through pristine Everglades National Park or ride on glass-bottom boats across Biscayne National Park.
  • Saint Augustine is the oldest European settlement in North America.
  • The name Punta Gorda, which means, "fat point" when translated from Spanish. The moniker was given to the city because a broad part of the land in Punta Gorda juts into Charlotte Harbor. The harbor itself is somewhat unique, as it is the point where the Peace River meets the ocean.
  • Orlando attracts more visitors than any other amusement park destination in the United States.
  • Inventor Thomas A. Edison maintained a winter home and laboratory in Fort Myers.
  • Cape Canaveral is America's launch pad for space flights.
  • Florida is not the southernmost state in the United States. Hawaii is farther south.
  • A museum in Sanibel owns 2 million shells and claims to be the world's only museum devoted solely to mollusks.
  • The Benwood, on French Reef in the Florida Keys, is known as one of the most dived shipwrecks in the world.
  • Niceville is home to the famous Boggy Bayou Mullet Festival celebrated the third weekend in October.
  • The United States city with the highest rate of lightning strikes per capita is Clearwater.
  • Gatorade was named for the University of Florida Gators where the drink was first developed.
  • Cape Canaveral is America's launch pad for space flights.
  • Key West has the highest average temperature in the United States.
  • Gatorade was named for the University of Florida Gators where the drink was first developed.
  • Fort Lauderdale is known as the Venice of America because the city has 185 miles of local waterways.
  • The stone crab is a Florida delicacy. It is in season from the middle of October until the middle of May. Fishermen, by law, may only detach one of the crab's two claws. The crab is then returned to the water, where it is able to regenerate the lost claw.
  • The crocodile is classified as an endangered species and there are only 400 to 500 remaining in Florida.
  • The Florida Panther is the official state animal. The species is endangered, with only about 50 left in the wild.
  • Neil Smith and his brother of Montverde developed the first Snapper riding lawn mower.
  • Key West has the highest average temperature in the United States.
  • The Saint John's River is one of the few rivers that flows north instead of south.
  • The largest lake in Florida is Lake Okeechobee.
  • Miami installed the first bank automated teller machine especially for rollerbladers.
  • Ybor City was once known as the Cigar Capital of the World with nearly 12,000 tabaqueros (cigar-makers) employed in 200 factories. Ybor City produced an estimated 700 million cigars a year at the industry's peak.
  • Nearly 80 percent of the states intake of sweet Atlantic white shrimp is harvested in Amelia Island waters. Two million pounds of shrimp are delivered to Fernandina docks annually.
  • A swamp such as the Fakahatchee Strand in the Everglades functions in three major ways. First, its vegetation serves as a filter to clean the water as it makes its slow journey southward. Secondly, it's a major habitat for wildlife and plant life. Finally, it actually prevents flooding by slowing down the flow of water after heavy rains.
  • DeFuniak Springs is home to one of the two naturally round lakes in the world.
  • The Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens at Delray Beach is the only museum in the United States dedicated exclusively to the living culture of Japan.
  • Fort Lauderdale is known as the Venice of America because the city has 185 miles of local waterways.
  • The Fred Bear Museum in Gainesville is a tribute to the accomplishments of Fred Bear a promoter of proper wildlife management and the founder of Bear Archery Company.
  • The Hawthorne Trail a part of Florida's Rails to Trails program and attracts many outdoor enthusiasts to walk, cycle, or ride horseback through its 17-mile length.
  • Just north of Haines City is the Baseball City Stadium the spring training home of the Kansas City Royals. Haines City is known as The Heart of Florida.
  • The city of Hypoluxo's name comes from the Seminole expression water all 'round - no get out.
  • Islamorada is billed as the Sports fishing Capital of the World.
  • Key Largo is known as the Dive Capital of the World.
  • Marathon is home to Crane Point Hammock, a 63.5 acre land tract that is one of the most important historical and archaeological sites in the Keys. The area contains evidence of pre-Colombian and prehistoric Bahamian artifacts, and once was the site of an entire Indian village.
  • The longest river sailboat race in the world is the Annual Mug Race. The event runs 42 miles from Palatka to Jacksonville along the St. Johns River.
  • The Olustee Battlefield State Historic Site commemorates the largest battle fought in Florida during the American Civil War.
  • Venice is known as the Shark Tooth Capital of the World. Collecting prehistoric sharks teeth has been a favorite pastime of visitors and residents of the Venice area for years
  • The Florida Museum of Hispanic and Latin American Art in Coral Gables, is the first and only museum in the United States dedicated to the preservation, diffusion, and promotion of Hispanic and Latin American Art.
  • The Pinellas Trail, a 47 mile hiking/biking trail connecting St. Petersburg with Central and north Pinellas County, is the longest urban linear trail in the eastern United States.
  • Titusville, known as Space City, USA, is located on the west shore of the Indian River directly across from the John F. Kennedy Space Center.
  • Florida is the only state that has 2 rivers both with the same name. There is a Withlacoochee in north central Florida (Madison County) and a Withlacoochee in central Florida. They have nothing in common except the name.
County Information and County History
State Facts & History Firsts
State Fun Facts - History Firsts