It may come as a surprise to many contemporary European visitors to the modern theme parks centred on Orlando that Florida's tourism industry is just as old as many long-established European resorts, such as Blackpool or the French Riviera.
Just as in the case of many European resorts, climate and health were major motivational factors in bringing those early tourists on the long journey south. After the Civil War, a Philadelphia medic, Dr Daniel Garrison Brinton (1837-1899), talked up the concept of Florida's balmy climate resembling that of Italy and being beneficial to couples whose marriages "were not blessed with offspring". Brinton seems to have been no lover of culture, as he also suggested that the absence of art, cold damp churches and galleries was a point very much in Florida's favour as opposed to Italy.
Among the the early tourist sites in Florida was the winter home of the celebrity author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe (1811-1896), at Mandarin on the east bank of the St Johns River. It is said that some of the steamboat companies paid her a fee for sitting out on her lawn and waving to their passengers. Stowe, best known for her ant-slavery work, also wrote about Florida with a series of essays entitled Palmetto Leaves published in 1872.
Towards the end of the 19th century the railroads reached Florida and moved its tourist development into a new era; more in future blog.