Collections from Florida National Parks

National Park Service, Centennial One Object Exhibit

In celebration of the National Park Service Centennial in 2016, this exhibit showcases one object from every national park museum collection in Florida. We invite you to explore museum collections from Big Cypress National Preserve, Biscayne National Park, Canaveral National Seashore, Castillo De San Marcos National Monument, De Soto National Memorial, Dry Tortugas National Park, Everglades National Park, Fort Caroline National Memorial, Fort Matanzas National Monument, Southeast Archeological Center, and Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve.

This crosscut saw was used for logging cypress trees in what is now Big Cypress National Preserve. Two loggers were needed to use this saw, each grasping a wooden handle (one handle is missing from this saw). Cutting occurs as loggers pull the saw between them across a standing tree or felled timber.

The land within what is now the national preserve was heavily logged for its durable, rot­ resistant cypress. This wood was used for everything from pickle barrels and stadium seats to railroad ties and even PT boats during World War II. When the timber industry first developed an interest in the cypress trees of the Big Cypress Swamp in the 1920s, it was not uncommon to find trees up to 25 feet wide and 150 feet tall.

Much of the hard, dangerous work of logging, laying tracks for trains to transport the timber, and working in the sawmills was done by African Americans. Many were from Georgia, Alabama, and North Florida and had moved south as other forests in the Southeast were no longer productive. They lived in the “company towns” in and around the Big Cypress swamp like Copeland, Jerome, and Deep Lake.

As logging in the Big Cypress began in earnest in the 1940s, estimates were that it would take 40-50 years to exhaust the cypress in the swamp. With the advent of power saws in the 1950s, the logging rates increased dramatically. Between 1944 and 1956, a single sawmill shipped out 360 million board feet of cypress lumber from the Big Cypress swamp. Today visitors to Big Cypress National Preserve can see a stand of old growth trees that escaped the loggers at Robert's Lake Strand.

Big Cypress National Preserve, BICY 15419

This dinner plate was recovered from the 'English China Wreck' in Biscayne National Park. Whieldonware, an early type of creamware, was pioneered by Thomas Astbury and Thomas Whieldon in Staffordshire, England in 1750. Finished in shades of brown, yellow, and green, it was also called clouded ware. Initially popular because the vibrant colors offered an alternative to plain white stonewares, it declined in popularity in England after an uncolored creamware pattern was produced for the Queen's table in 1762. Production ended in 1775.

The English China Wreck is one of the park's most important submerged cultural resources. The ship, which sank between 1762 and 1770, was a merchant vessel of colonial English manufacture, about 70 feet long with a cargo capacity of 100 to 150 tons. At the time it sank, the ship was carrying primarily English export ceramics and the wreck contains one of the largest collections of colonial salt-glazed stoneware, creamware, and whieldonware in the world.

Whieldonware is the most common type of ceramic found on the English China site. Its presence in high numbers, together with even older white salt-glazed stoneware, suggests that the ship's cargo may represent the dumping of outdated, unfashionable patterns on the “less cultured” American colonial market.

The identity of the ship is unknown but archeologists studying the wreck have learned new information about the trade relationships between English merchants and American colonists, as well as the realities of trade in the American colonies during the 1700s. At the time, each crown dictated that its colonies only trade with the mother country. The presence of what appears to be Spanish bricks and figurines on the English China Wreck hints at illicit trade networks on the edges of empires, where laws were difficult to enforce from across the sea.

Biscayne National Park, BISC 6856

Located on a barrier island between the Atlantic Ocean and Mosquito Lagoon, Eldora once served as a stopping point for water traffic along the east coast of Florida. Residents imported supplies and raw materials and exported their own products for income. These products reached places all over the state. One industry that had national impact was production of a medicine made from dried saw palmetto berries. Not only did Eldora’s impact reach far beyond the borders of the island on which it was founded, but the development of this small town actually mirrors the development of Florida itself. It presents photographic stills of Florida’s various phases starting with Native American habitation, then Spanish explorations for gold, small agricultural homesteads, winter homes, sportsman’s paradise and health resort, culminating with the development phase in response to Florida’s budding tourism industry. This in-depth inquiry into the history of Eldora exposes the trials and tribulations experienced by people striving to tame the wilderness of Florida, America’s last great frontier.

Canaveral National Seashore, CANA 6500

For more than 300 years, Castillo de San Marcos National Monument has stood in silent vigil, defending the people who called the community of St. Augustine home. This portion of an 18-pounder iron cannon barrel exploded while firing during the British Siege of 1702, killing three Spanish soldiers and wounding several more. Today, this remnant of another time reminds us of the dangers and risks associated with defending our way of life.

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, CASA 1620

Many suits of armor are composite, having been assembled by armorers from components made in different places and at different times. In some cases, mismatched pieces were reworked to adjust their size or to match decorative motifs. In other instances, new pieces were fabricated to match missing pieces so that a complete suit could be assembled. All of these common traits are found in object. The close helmet (1515-1520) has been traced through four auction sales since 1876 prior to becoming part of this suit. Several pieces are marked indicating they were made in the city of Nuremburg. Armorer Raymond Bartel assembled this suit for collector Carl Otto Kretzschmar von Kienbusch and in the process modified original pieces and replicated others. Bartel added a culet of three lames to the original German backplate (ca 1520-1530) sometime between 1924 and 1937. Aspects of the arm and leg defenses have been altered and original pieces copied to provide matching pairs.

Although this suit was never worn by Hernando de Soto or his men, it represents some of the armor elements available to conquistadors at the time of De Soto's expedition in 1539. De Soto's army of soldiers, hired mercenaries, craftsmen, and clergy made landfall at Tampa Bay in what is now Florida. During their four-year, 4,000 mile quest for gold and glory, they met with fierce resistance from indigenous people protecting their homelands. De Soto's odyssey was one of intrigue, warfare, disease, and discovery. Disease and warfare brought to the New World by De Soto and other explorers had devastating consequences for Native Americans.

De Soto National Memorial, DESO 89

This album was given by Captain H.D. Brown of the 100th New York Volunteers to Emma, ca 1864. The commercially available album, embossed with the words “Leaves of Friendship”, includes pre-printed drawings and pages to insert the algae or seaweed specimens. Pressing and mounting seaweed and algae (referred to as “sea mosses”) was a common pastime in the 1800s for those who lived near the sea. Cards of mounted specimens were sold by individuals and dealers or traded among collectors. During the 1860s-1870s, some soldiers and prisoners at Fort Jefferson combated boredom and earned money by making “moss cards.” Some were sent home to family and friends, while some were sold to sailors or others who came on ships that docked at the Dry Tortugas.

This album is one of four in the Dry Tortugas National Park's museum collection. Although considered historic artifacts, these albums also represent the earliest algae and seaweed specimens in the collection. Unlike scientists who generally only put one species on each sheet or card, creators of “moss cards” were encouraged to disregard that rule and use multiple species for best artistic effect. The specimens were sometimes incorporated into drawings as wreaths or plants. Although the collector of the specimens in this album is unknown, the artistry evident in it suggests considerable practice in preparing the moss cards.

Most specimens in the album have been identified by an algae specialist, at least to genus level. The sea mosses present in this album are common and known to be present at the Dry Tortugas. Although unsurprising from a scientific standpoint, their decorative use provides insight into aspects of daily life at Fort Jefferson in the 1800s.

Dry Tortugas National Park, DRTO 4325

In 1974, the National Park Service commissioned American Modernist artist Charley Harper (1922-2007) to create a series of eight paintings to represent the habitats at Anhinga Trail in Everglades National Park during the wet and dry seasons. This view is of the dense vegetation and animals found in a hardwood hammock. The strangler fig and gumbo limbo trees are readily recognizable. His use of three-dimensional leaves provides added depth to the canvas and at least 16 animals can be found in its detail. Harper's eight paintings were the basis for oversized replicas which were on exhibit at the Royal Palm area of Everglades National Park for over 30 years.

Everglades National Park, EVER 62328

This book contains 42 engravings and accompanying narration depicting Florida, the French settlement of La Caroline and the Timucua people. It was one of the first sets of images of the New World widely available to Europeans. The engravings are based on watercolors by Jacques LeMoyne, who was an artist on French expeditions to America in 1562 and 1564. Only one of the original LeMoyne paintings of this series is known to exist today. Due to the exaggerated size of animals and geographic features, the engravings’ origins are brought into question and may actually be based on paintings of South America, adding further to the mysteries surrounding Fort Caroline.

Fort Caroline National Memorial, FOCA 257

This Spanish cannon, along with a second nearly identical weapon, has stood guard at St. Augustine’s “back door” since it arrived at Fort Matanzas in 1793. This eight pound cannon could fire a solid iron ball as far as 1-½ miles. From the deck of Fort Matanzas, it kept constant vigil to assure that no enemy ever managed to use the southern river approach to attack the city.

Fort Matanzas National Monument, FOMA 307

This pass was carried by Lieutenant Jeremiah H. Gilman on his journey from Pensacola, Florida to Washington, DC as “Special Messenger.” Lt. Gilman's presence was required to serve as a prosecution witness in the court martial of Captain James Armstrong , US Navy, for the surrender of the Pensacola Navy Yard on January 10, 1861 to a mixed force of Alabama and Florida militias. Lt. Gilman was second-in-command to Lt. Slemmer who, with the 54 men of Company G, 1st US Artillery and 31 sailors from the navy yard , prevented state troops from occupying Fort Pickens at the mouth of Pensacola Bay prior to the outbreak of the Civil War.

This document, although damaged and stained, is notable for several reasons. It is an artifact of the Secession Crisis, that period between the election of Abraham Lincoln in November of 1860 and the firing on Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861, du ring which Forts Pickens and Sumter were considered equally likely to be the scene of conflicts between state and federal forces. The “agreement lately entered into between the Federal and State Authorities” mentioned was a “gentlemen's agreement” between (lame-duck) President James Buchanan, Senator (and soon-to­ be Secretary of State) William H. Seward, and Senator (and soon-to-be Confederate Secretary of the Navy) Stephen Mallory that state forces would not attack Fort Pickens as long as the Federal government did not reinforce the fort. The damaged signature at lower left is the approval of William Henry Chase, “Commanding forces of Florida,” who had served for over 30 years as the Army Corps of Engineers' senior officer on the Gulf coast. In that role he had supervised the construction of every fort on that coast, including Fort Pickens. This is from a collection recently donated by the descendants of Lt. Gilman.

Gulf Islands National Seashore, GUIS 72793

This painting was produced by the Southeast Archeological Center (SEAC) as part of the Society for Historical Archaeology's Unlocking the Past project in 2003. The concept for the image was developed by SEAC staff members in consultation with the artist, Martin Pate, and members of the Society for Historical Archaeology Public Information and Information Committee. It depicts the importance of research and public interpretation of objects made, used, and discarded by people from the many cultures that have contributed to the history of North America. The painting hangs in the hallway just outside the SEAC library.

Southeast Archeological, SEAC 52703

Leg stocks were designed to limit mobility by holding the ankles of those being punished or the enslaved. These stocks were found in the basement of Kingsley Plantation Planter's House, which was built in 1798. The plantation used enslaved labor to grow sea island cotton, indigo, and other cash crops. It is unknown if the leg stocks were actually used at the plantation, but they are very worn and are a tangible reminder of the inhumane way in which people were treated.

Timucuan Ecological & Historic Preserve, TIMU 3227

Credits: Story

Park museum staff from: Big Cypress National Preserve, Biscayne National Park, Canaveral National Seashore, Castillo De San Marcos National Monument, De Soto National Memorial, Dry Tortugas National Park, Everglades National Park, Fort Caroline National Memorial, Fort Matanzas National Monument, Southeast Archeological Center, and Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve.

National Park Service, Museum Management Program Staff: Amber Dumler, Stephen Damm, Ron Wilson, and Joan Bacharach

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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