Gilded Age Florida is characterized by the extreme wealth and power of industrialists, as well as corrupt politics. For Florida, this time period is characterized by industrialization (railroads, cigars and phosphate, for example), magnates such as Henry Flagler, and changes to the Florida constitution. This reading deals with cigars, one way in which Florida industrialized.
Florida Cigars: Artistry, Labor, and Politics in Florida's Oldest Industry
Three web pages of photos with commentary at the Florida Memory Project http://www.floridamemory.com/onlineclassroom/cigar-industry/photos/
Information about Ybor City from the National Park Service (click on readings 1, 2, and 3)
"Vicente Martinez Ybor, one of the most significant figures in the history of cigar making in Florida, established a cigar factory in Key West in 1869. Ybor had run a very successful cigar manufacturing business in Cuba, but he fled the country after colonial authorities discovered his connections with revolutionaries.
In 1885, he moved his cigar making operation from Key West to Tampa. Steamships could bring tobacco leaves from Cuba for the cigar factories, and Henry Plant's new railroad connected the small town of Tampa to the rest of the country. The area around the cigar factories grew and became known as Ybor City.
Immigrants came not just from Cuba, but from Italy, Spain, and throughout Eastern Europe and Latin America in search of work. At its height in the 1880s, there were more than 100 factories in Key West. By 1910, there were 150 factories in the Tampa area employing more than 10,000 workers. Of the 50,000 residents of Tampa, 14,000 were Cuban, 7,500 were Spanish, and 1,500 were Italian." -- From Florida Memory Project - Click on Title for full article
"Strong union culture was an essential aspect of the Cuban cigar factory, upon which many of the Florida factories were modeled.
The Lector was a factory worker usually selected by fellow workers to read aloud during work hours to help pass the time and keep the workers’ minds occupied. Although the Lectors read all sorts of materials from fiction to news articles, choices were often very pro-union, in favor of Cuban independence, and in Tampa, increasingly leftist and anti-corporation. By 1931, after years of dispute over the role of Lectors in changing factories, the major Tampa companies banned them once and for all." -- From Florida Memory Project - Click on Title for full article
Jose Marti on the iron steps of a cigar factory where he made a speech for Cuban independence. Courtesy of the Florida Memory Project. Click on the image for more information.
José Martí is in the center of the photograph on the top step with his jacket open and his hands in his pockets. Photographed on the iron steps of the Vicente Martinez Ybor cigar factory, where he made one of his most famous speeches to supporters of the Cuban revolutionary movement.