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Florida Facts

Florida Timeline

  • 1500-There were three large Native American cultures in Florida, the Timicua in Northeast and Central Florida, the Apalachee in the Big Bend area, and the Calusa in South Florida.
  • 1513-Spanish explorer Ponce de Leon and his expedition were the first documented Europeans to land on the Florida peninsula. He landed on the east coast, near present-day St. Augustine. Ponce de Leon named the peninsula "Florida" as the season was "Pascua Florida" (Flowery Easter). He then sailed to south Florida, where he was wounded in a fight with the members of the Calusa.
  • 1539-1542-Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto landed in Florida with an 800-man expedition. After wintering in present-day Tallahassee, the expedition traveled throughout the southeast (covering eleven present-day states), and crossed the Mississippi River twice. After de Soto was killed in 1542, the expedition, now only 300 strong, left for Cuba.
  • 1562-The French first explored Florida. Under Jean Ribault, a fleet of 150 colonists crossed the Atlantic Ocean and explored the mouth of the St. Johns River in modern-day Jacksonville.
  • 1565-Spain established St. Augustine, the first permanent European settlement in North America, located within Timicua territory. In the process, the Spanish expelled the French.
  • 1763-The end of the French and Indian (Seven Years) War resulted in the transfer of Florida from Spain to England. The colony was divided into east and west Florida. British colonists expanded Florida agriculture, especially cotton, rice, and indigo. St. Augustine remained the capital of east Florida, with Pensacola the capital of west Florida.
  • 1783-The Treaty of Paris ended the American Revolution. In return for its assistance to the colonies, the treaty allowed Spain to reoccupy Florida. Most of the English settlers in Florida left for England and the Bahamas.
  • 1821-Florida became a U.S. territory, with Andrew Jackson as its first governor. Hand-colored Spanish land grant maps were among the documents used to establish ownership of land in Florida.
  • 1822- Florida's first Legislative Council, which was supposed to meet in Pensacola on June 10, 1822, did not meet until 44 days later due to hazardous and time-consuming travel.
  • 1824-Tallahassee was established as the capital of Florida by Florida's territorial governor, William P. DuVal.
    • Three log cabins were erected to accommodate the Legislative Council.
  • 1838-In anticipation of statehood, 56 commissioners elected from Florida's 20 counties gathered at Saint Joseph (Port St. Joe) to draft a constitution. The convention lasted from December 3, 1838, until January 11, 1839.
  • 1845-The act establishing statehood for Iowa and Florida was approved on March 3, by the second session of the 28th Congress.
  • 1851-Dr. John Gorrie of Apalachicola patented the process of making ice artificially.
  • 1861-On January 10, the Secession Convention voted 62-7 to adopt an Ordinance of Secession and withdraw Florida from the United States.
    • On April 12, the Civil War began.
  • 1865-Home guards and cadets from West Florida Seminary (now Florida State University) saved Tallahassee from capture at the Battle of Natural Bridge.
    • The Civil War and slavery ended; and Florida fell under federal control.
  • 1868-The Constitution provided that the Seminole Tribe was entitled to a member in the House of Representatives and the Senate.
  • 1890s-Several efforts were made to move the state capital from Tallahassee. Choices included Jacksonville, Ocala, and St. Augustine.
  • 1905-The Buckman Act consolidated the state's institutions of higher learning into three: the University of Florida at Gainesville; and at Tallahassee, the Florida State College for Women, and the Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes.
  • 1914-The first commercial airline service between two U.S. cities was established between St. Petersburg and Tampa.
  • 1917-1918-Florida was the scene of training for World War I fighting men, particularly aviators, as weather permitted year-round activity.
  • 1937-On June 1, Amelia Earhart took off from Miami on the first over-water leg of a round-the-world flight. She and her navigator disappeared over the Pacific on July 2.
  • 1941-On December 7, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and on December 8 the United States entered World War II; Florida mobilized.
  • 1969-On July 16, Apolo II, with astronauts Neil Armstrong, Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, and Michael Collins lifted off at Cape Kennedy on the journey to the Moon. Four days later Armstrong advised the Earth, "The Eagle has landed."
  • 1971-Walt Disney World opened in Orlando, transforming Florida's economy and surrounding Central Florida.
  • 1973-Founded by Rhea Chiles as Florida's "embassy" in our nation's capital, Florida House is owned by the people of the State of Florida. Florida is the only state to have such a facility. It enjoys approximately 10,000 visitors a year. Florida House serves as "home base" for tourists as well as the business community. (
  • 1977-Snow fell in Dade County on January 20.
  • 1978- After the last attempt to move the capital, Florida's fourth and present Capitol was officially opened on March 31 by Governor Reubin Askew.
  • 1981- The first reusable spacecraft, the space shuttle Columbia, was launched at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral.
  • 1990-Senator Gwen Margolis of Miami became the first woman in Florida's history to be elected to serve as President of the Senate.
  • 1996-Toni Jennings was the first Senator in Florida to be elected President of the Senate for two consecutive terms, presiding from 1996-2000. In 2003, she was chosen by Governor Jeb Bush to become Florida's first female Lieutenant Governor following the resignation of Frank Brogan.
  • 2004-The Florida quarter was released by the U.S. Mint as part of its 50 State Quarters Program.

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