ohn T. Foster Jr. makes a compelling argument that the birth of tourism in Florida did not begin with the railroad barons of the 1880s as is popularly believed, but with abolitionist writers of the Reconstruction era, following the Civil War. Progressive Northerners were lured to the state with colorful descriptions of desirable weather and abundant natural beauty. It was with these forward-thinking writers that Modern Florida was born.
“The extraordinary rush of visitors continues [in Florida.] There has never such a crowd as there has been this season, and still they come. The hotels are full and would be were there twice as many of them. It is plain that Florida is to be a greater place for winter tourists than Saratoga is in summer. Already the number in … Florida exceeds the aggregate of the summer crowd at Newport, Saratoga and Long Branch. Every winter brings more, and new hotels keep going up. The St. James in Jacksonville has just made a cash dividend of 88.1 per cent, for its year in business.
The crowd of northerners in Florida are a lot like boys just let out of school, it is one continuous frolic and holiday. Finding themselves really safe, out of the rigors of northern winter, and in a climate of flowers and fruit and sunshine, they give themselves up to enjoyment. Excursions on the river every day; rambles after fruit and flowers; drives, card parties, sailing parties—it is one round pleasure. Even Canada is beginning to learn that there is such a place as Florida and the frozen western states are pouring in. Two or three winters hence Florida will be full of them.”
-- Oswego Daily Palladium, March 18, 1875