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Five of the Most Amazing Things About Jacksonville

Without Jacksonville the world would be a poorer and less interesting place. It is no exaggeration to say that some of the most important cultural and social trends of the past hundred years are rooted either in Jax or people from Jax. Without Native Jaxson Don Estridge, for example, would we all be connected online right now? What would people yell at concerts around the world, "Blackbird!"? Join us after the jump as Stephen Dare compiles five amazing facts that no one seems to know about Jacksonville!

Published April 3, 2013 in History      15 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article


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1.  It is the City that First Named "The Blues" Officially.

http://etd.lib.fsu.edu/theses_1/available/etd-03312006-171940/unrestricted/pds_dissertation.pdf

Lynn Abbot and Doug Seroff have identified the first published account of blues singing on a public stage. The word was used to describe a performance in LaVilla on April 16, 1910.

In an Indianapolis Freeman “Stage” section article entitled “Jacksonville Theatrical Notes,” the reviewer states that Prof. John W. F. Woods, a ventriloquist, and his doll Henry, “set the Airdome wild by making little Henry drunk.

He uses the ‘blues’ for little Henry in this drunken act.”

We can be fairly certain that visiting vocalists had adopted this style elsewhere and carried it into these theaters.

LaVilla regular, Gertrude “Ma” Rainey was the conduit through which the blues first moved onto many vaudeville stages. When John W. Work interviewed Ma Rainey at the Douglas Hotel in Nashville during the early thirties, she described memories of her first experience of this music. While touring with a tent show through a small Missouri town around 1902, she heard a girl who “came to the tent one morning and began to sing about the ‘man who had left her.’”

Rainey learned this “strange and poignant” song and used it in her act as an encore. The overwhelming response to this song convinced her to give this music a “special place” in her act.

Work documented that, “many times she was asked what kind of a song it was, and one day a few years later she replied, in a moment of inspiration, ‘It’s the Blues.’”

Check out Metrojacksonville forum research on the "Black Bottom Blues" that Ma Rainey is singing about in the video above!
Black Bottom Blues Originated in Jacksonville






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15 Comments

Noone

April 03, 2013, 06:40:08 AM
Always enjoy the history of Jacksonville. And let's not forget the next chapter in Downtown that is our St. Johns River our American Heritage River a Federal Initiative in a newly created 20 square plus mile DIA zone. Open for business.

sheclown

April 03, 2013, 07:24:16 AM
And the sixth, home of Stephen Dare!!  Thank you for this, and all of your articles which remind us to embrace who we are and strive for what we could be.

Jason

April 03, 2013, 08:58:53 AM
Excellent article!

avonjax

April 03, 2013, 10:00:13 AM
Great article Stephen!

Cheshire Cat

April 03, 2013, 03:11:34 PM
This is a great piece Stephen and the takeaway from this and the other informative and engaging pieces on Jacksonville's history is that we are a unique and special piece of Southern Americana and have much to celebrate.  Now how about a Jacksonville "Birth of The Blues" themed event?  Let's continue to  capitalize on our history and historic structures and remind everyone how important that is to who we are now and who we will become.  Good stuff!

sheclown

April 03, 2013, 04:57:30 PM
This is a great piece Stephen and the takeaway from this and the other informative and engaging pieces on Jacksonville's history is that we are a unique and special piece of Southern Americana and have much to celebrate.  Now how about a Jacksonville "Birth of The Blues" themed event?  Let's continue to  capitalize on our history and historic structures and remind everyone how important that is to who we are now and who we will become.  Good stuff!

great idea. 

stephendare

April 03, 2013, 05:28:12 PM
Thanks for the compliments guys.

You know, Ennis and I were discussing some of this stuff over coffee today at Bold Bean.

He was talking about another conversation he'd had with someone about the source of southern culture in the southern cities, and the other person had listed Atlanta, Charleston, Richmond, Savannah, and other cities:  But when it comes right down to it, Jacksonville might very well be the most important source for southern culture of all.

Blues, Soul, Southern Fried Rock, containerization, and even personal computers.  What would the south be like without those things?

Cheshire Cat

April 03, 2013, 06:11:51 PM
Thanks for the compliments guys.

You know, Ennis and I were discussing some of this stuff over coffee today at Bold Bean.

He was talking about another conversation he'd had with someone about the source of southern culture in the southern cities, and the other person had listed Atlanta, Charleston, Richmond, Savannah, and other cities:  But when it comes right down to it, Jacksonville might very well be the most important source for southern culture of all.

Blues, Soul, Southern Fried Rock, containerization, and even personal computers.  What would the south be like without those things?
I wouldn't be the south without these things Stephen and Jacksonville should step up and claims it's heritage as a proud Southern City.  I have always wondered if there was not some wonderful food that Jacksonville could lay claim to?  You know like "Bean Pie" and such.  Know of any?

chrismhoward

April 03, 2013, 08:20:13 PM
Cool article.  One minor thing, the Main Street bridge is named for John Alsop.

stephendare

April 03, 2013, 08:25:18 PM
From Bill Foley:

Six months of bellicosity 100 years ago - war was declared on April 25, 1898, retroactive to April 21 - shaped Jacksonville sure as the Fire of 1901, the Great Depression and the Jaguars.

The rest of America had a part, of course. That's why they call it the Spanish-American War. Unseemly to call it the Spanish-Jacksonville War.

Yet, let us consider:

On March 2, 1897, the Jacksonville City Council condemned Spain for cruelties in Cuba, doubtless sending spasms of terror through the Spanishspeaking world.

''This was said to be the first official action of this character in the United States,'' says Jacksonville historian T. Frederick Davis.

 Gen. Fitzhugh Lee in front of his tent at Jacksonville's Camp Cuba Libre.-- File photoDeep and dark forces in Jacksonville already had been at war for years.

Here in Jacksonville was the headquarters of the Cuban revolutionary junta in Florida.

Here was her future president.

Here was the ''Cuban Navy.''

Here the intrigue, the moneychanging, the endless course of men and arms to fuel the Insurrectos and buckle the Butcher Weyler, Spain's heavyhanded master of the Pearl of the Antilles.

From Jacksonville the sea-going tugs Three Friends, Dauntless, Bermuda, and the ill-fated Commodore raced toward the tropic night, chock-a-block with the stuff of war.

Jose Marti, the Apostle of Cuban independence, was in and out of Jacksonville; he had tried to invade Cuba from Fernandina a couple years before.

Our town was ahead of the national curve of indignation over Spanish excesses in Cuba, genuine and fabricated. Cigarmaking was our second-largest industry.

War hysteria and a new imperialism whipped by the Yellow Press swelled through in the land. A generation itched to match the glory of its past. America had no war since 1865, no foreign war since 1848. Volunteers strained at the bit.

''The jingo bacillus is indefatigable in its work,'' said U.S. Rep. Champ Clark of Missouri.

Pro-Spanish mobs rioted in Havana in January 1898, in nosmall part because of the continued filibustering from Jacksonville.

Consul General Fitzhugh Lee wired from Havana American ships might be needed to protect American life and property, ''but not now.''

On Jan. 24, the U.S. sent the battleship Maine, anyway.

The Maine exploded Feb. 15 in Havana harbor. More than 250 died. War came on April 25, and Jacksonville asked immediately: ''Why not us?''

Troops would sail from Tampa, a point of embarkation long decided. But what better place to mass than Jacksonville? Certainly better than Chickamauga, Tenn., the original site proposed, said C.E. Garner of the Jacksonville Board of Trade.

Come on down

 Troops pass by the reviewing stand at the corner of Hogan and Duval streets in 1898.-- File photoOn April 29, a mass meeting of citizens and Board of Trade, the forerunner of the Chamber of Commerce, volunteered the city for an Army base.

In mid-May Brig. Gen. H.W. Lawton picked his spot for an Army base in Jacksonville: East Springfield between Ionia Street and the railroad tracks, between Third and Eighth streets.

Fitzhugh Lee, the same major general who had called in the Maine, took command. He named the place Camp Cuba Libre, headquarters of his 7th Corps.

Jacksonville's own military companies already had recruited to war strength. The entire city turned out May 12 to cheer away the Jacksonville Light Infantry and Jacksonville Rifles to Tampa. The Women's Christian Temperance Union gave a going-away party at the Armory.

Ten days later soldiers from the rest of America began pouring into the city; 2nd Illinois and 1st Wisconsin were the first to encamp at Cuba Libre.

Day after day the soldiers detrained in Jacksonville. Sons of Johnny Reb and Billy Yank side by side, with bugles and drums, bayonets, massed bands and mules: great stretches of massed military marching down Bay Street to whoops and whistles and cheers from small boys, the entire mercantile establishment and the brightest lights of the hospitality industry.

In they poured: 1st North Carolina, 2nd Virginia, 15th Iowa, 4th Illinois, every train bringing a new complement of youth from the several parts of the nation to this sleepy Southern seaport.

The rain began in June and continued through July.

Hard as it may be to believe, city drainage proved inadequate. Camp Cuba Libre turned to muck and mire.

Flies swarmed. Scores fell to typhoid fever. ''Many unfavorable reports were published in the Northern papers,'' says Davis.

First Wisconsin up and moved in late July, to the neighborhood of Fifth and Silver Streets. Other regiments moved to high ground north of Evergreen Cemetery, near Phoenix Park and Panama.

All was not gloom and doom, however. Actually much was raising Ned.

''Barring the wave of typhoid that swept Camp Cuba Libre, the service of the volunteers here was not an unpleasant one,'' says Davis.

''Unfortunately, there was considerable drunkeness, as Jacksonville was a wide-open liquor town those days,'' wrote Davis, in the darkest days of Prohibition.

''It was considered only a prank when an officer rode his horse into a saloon, up to the bar and took his drink on horseback. And another, as Mary and Martha, the police patrol horses, galloped by in answer to a call and a squad of soldiers jumped aboard and broke Black Maria down.''

Colorful cavalry

No Jacksonville-based outfit was more publicized than Torrey's Rocky Mountain Boys.

 Infantry troops wait in Jacksonville for assignment in the Spanish-American War; the fervor to fight was whipped up as military men from across the nation waited for their opportunity.-- File photoTorrey's 2nd Wyoming Cavalry was one of three special regiments of horsemen and marksmen specially recruited for the strenuous trade of war fighting. Roosevelt's Rough Riders and Griggsby's Cowboys were the others.

Four hundred mules preceded the Rocky Mountain boys through the town and set the tone for their rowdy camp north of the city.

''There are camped Torrey's Tigers, the pride of the West, who are never found wanting when put the test,'' jingled the Times-Union and Citizen.

Col. Jay L. Torrey was a rancher and judge, ''a man of robust physique, tall and commanding, the ideal of an army officer,'' the newspaper said.

Unfortunately, Torrey himself had been discommoded in a train wreck in Tupelo, Miss., on the way to camp and was unable to engage in strenuous activity.

Torrey's formal entrance to Jacksonville society occasioned a banquet at the Windsor Hotel. The banquet featured a head table ''at which Torrey and 28 beautiful women sat down to a feast of tempting viands and sparkling wines'' and was attended by everybody of any significance whatsoever.

A reception at the Seminole Club for commissioned officers of the 7th Corps was described in the morning paper as ''probably the most elegant social event that has ever marked the history of the city, or of the state.''

When Jacksonville dedicated its Confederate monument that June, 1,000 7th Corps escorted the Legion of the Lost Cause to the site in what would become Hemming Park.

''The Star-Spangled Banner and the Starry Cross mingled in the same procession, and splendid tributes of praise to Confederate heroes fell from eloquent lips, all giving evidence of a united nation that can never fall,'' the TimesUnion said.

Inspecting Gen. O.D. Howard found the sprawling Camp Cuba Libre ''decidedly the best'' of six encampments on the East Coast, ''due to Lee's paternalism and Jacksonville's liberality.''

Red Cross President Clara Barton toured the camp and was reported ''delighted with its location and arrangement,'' aside from the muck, mire, flies and fever.

Drummers and tobacco men came from miles around to supply the troops with sundries and smokes. Feed salesmen made fortunes. A commodious jail was erected on the fringe of the Tenderloin.

''It did not seem like war, but more like a large body of troops off on a frolic,'' says Davis.

War fever

The 29,000 soldiers and countless civilian consorts gave Jacksonville a flesh-and-blood feel for the not-so-far-away war.

Headlines were one thing, but bands and soldiers and mules, banquets and brawls, the sound of shot and the smell of leather quite another.

Indeed, the very headlines came from Jacksonville's daring Dauntless and Three Friends, now dispatch boats racing reports from the front.

Adm. George Dewey's ringing naval victory at Manila Bay in May had set the tone of the pulse-raising war. The tiny and ill-equipped American army tumbled from Tampa toward Cuba to a crescendo of Sousa marches. The Spanish fleet was destroyed at Santiago.

'  Soldiers lived at Camp Cuba Libre in Jacksonville in 1898, where the accommodations weren't deluxe.-- File photo'The Spanish-American War, though short, provided more than its measure of thrills,'' summed up historian Thomas A. Bailey.

Spirits soared with the siege of Santiago, the capture of Kettle and San Juan hills. In a single season, the Spaniard was whipped, American imperialism was born and the soldier boys of Cuba Libre trickled toward their homes with tales of romance and adventure and lifelong memories of the curious place called Jacksonville.

It was all over but the shouting by fall, and of shouting there was plenty.

Jacksonville troops of 1st Florida returned home from Tampa in October, bearing blue-satin patches embroidered with ''To Hell With Spain.''

Fourth Illinois and 161st Indiana greeted the troops. The Indiana band played ''Dixie'' and the town went wild.

The war ended with the Treaty of Paris on Dec. 10, 1898.

Most of 7th Corps was gone by then. Last soldier out was the aptly named Capt. R.E. Lee, of 6th Missouri, in charge of the last of the horses. Last government agent was private detective E.T. Chicott, trying to find horses said stolen by Torrey's cowboys.

The effect of the SpanishAmerican War on Jacksonville was just beginning.

Wholesale houses here reaped a fortune. The local political alignment for a decade was forged by their commerce.

Veterans of Cuba Libre helped select Black Point for an Army base in World War I, the location that would become Jacksonville Naval Air Station in World War II, the launch pad for Jacksonville's onceenormous Navy presence.

Others drawn here by the long-ago war would impact Jacksonville through the generations, such as Georgia Captain John Alsop, who returned to become Jacksonville's six-time mayor, and the dashing Irish adventurer Patrick Foley, whose grandson just wrote this story.

thelakelander

April 03, 2013, 09:02:47 PM
Thanks for the compliments guys.

You know, Ennis and I were discussing some of this stuff over coffee today at Bold Bean.

He was talking about another conversation he'd had with someone about the source of southern culture in the southern cities, and the other person had listed Atlanta, Charleston, Richmond, Savannah, and other cities:  But when it comes right down to it, Jacksonville might very well be the most important source for southern culture of all.

Blues, Soul, Southern Fried Rock, containerization, and even personal computers.  What would the south be like without those things?
I wouldn't be the south without these things Stephen and Jacksonville should step up and claims it's heritage as a proud Southern City.  I have always wondered if there was not some wonderful food that Jacksonville could lay claim to?  You know like "Bean Pie" and such.  Know of any?

Perhaps the Camel Rider, Steak-in-a-sack, Cherry Limeade, Mayport Shrimp or the Lubi?

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/01/dining/in-jacksonville-camel-rider-sandwiches-are-ubiquitous.html?_r=2&ref=dining&

http://www.metrojacksonville.com/forum/index.php/topic,3068.0.html

http://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2010-oct-vicarious-delis-of-riverside-avondale

Camel Rider


Steak-in-a-sack


The Lubi

heights unknown

April 26, 2013, 11:09:19 AM
Super article Stephen. Looks like you did your homework and then some!

Dog Walker

April 26, 2013, 04:46:37 PM
The story of the Lebanese/Syrian/Palestinian community as well as the Jewish community here in Jacksonville is another interesting and important part of our history.

MajorCordite

May 12, 2013, 07:27:50 PM
For many years I have thought about why Jacksonville was the epicenter of Southern Rock.  Everybody always mentions the various groups and how they got their start in Jacksonville, but I can't recall an article discussing theories as to "why" Jacksonville gave birth to this genre.   

Danny Joe Brown, of Molly Hatchet was a year ahead of me at Terry Parker High School and I remember hearing bands such as Lynyrd Skynyrd play in our school auditorium.   The late 1960's and early 1970's in Jacksonville were quite different culturally when compared to today.  I have some ideas as to why this type of music flourished in Jax and I would like to discuss it with someone if they are interested in developing a presentation and or article on the subject.   Shoot me an email or reply here if interested.

RockStar

May 13, 2013, 12:44:49 AM
Woody Allen should do 'Midnight in Jacksonville'.

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