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Wednesday, Dec 19, 2018
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Tampa Bay History Center telling Florida's history through maps

A 500-year history of Florida is mapped out in Tampa Bay History Center's “Charting the Land of Flowers” exhibit opening Saturday.

More than 150 maps, including one from 1493, are on display.

Some are like colorful works of art. Others are both art and history.

Some focus on one topic, such as tourism, roads and railroads. There also are nautical maps, geological surveys, land sale and phosphate deposit maps.

There are various kinds of globes, atlases and even some maps from the Internet (accessed by computer).

The earliest world map on exhibit doesn't even have Florida on it.

The stunning creation by German historian and cartographer Hermann Schedel was made one year after Christopher Columbus' discoveries in the new world, so both North America and South America are missing.

“The information hadn't filtered back to Schedel yet, so he was drawing from his imagination and what was the known world from the European perspective,” says Rodney Kite-Powell, the Center's Saunders Foundation Curator of History.

Schedel's imaginative map does include some bizarre creatures that were thought to inhabit the unexplored corners of the world, including a Cyclops, a dog-headed man, a six-armed man and a half-man/half horse creature.

Florida begins to show-up on European maps in the early 1500s, including “Admiral's Map” (Tabula Terre Nova), a popular 1513 map.

It was printed the same year that Ponce de Leon “discovered” Florida and named it the land of flowers. “This map suggests that others had visited Florida before Ponce de Leon named it and got the credit,” says Kite-Powell.

He says that “one of the fun things about looking at these old maps is that Florida is so oddly shaped in some of them but in other respects they do a pretty good job of getting Florida right.”

On some maps, Florida is a little stub jutting out into the ocean while on others most of Georgia and the East Coast are labeled as “Florida.”

Kite-Powell says the exhibit shows why maps have become sought-after by collectors.

The exhibit also includes other maps such as a dramatic 1998 tourism map that highlights attractions in Jacksonville, Tampa. Orlando and Miami; an 1864 map from the Civil War that shows the Union capture of Tampa; and a 2009 NASA photograph of Florida taken from space by astronaut and Clearwater native Nicole Stott.

Also included are maps of Tampa from the 1700s; maps showing the Flagler railroad system on Florida's east coast and the Plant railroad system on the west coast; a bird's eye view map of Key West from the 1800s; and a 1960s “best-places-to-fish” map of the Tampa Bay area.

There's a story and history lesson with each map, Kite-Powell says. For example, a map of Tampa's Davis Islands from November 1924 shows lots that are for sale in the north “Hyde Park” section. Developer D.P. Davis used the map as a sales tool.

Kite-Powell says that on the first day of sales, Davis made $1.6 million in about 20 minutes — and lots sold for $3,000 each.



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