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Historical Museum of Southern Florida


Maritime, Marsh and Ranching Traditions

Nick Toth with sponge diving helmet (Tarpon Springs)
Glen Simmons with glade skiff (Homestead, Miami-Dade Co.)

Florida’s extensive coastlines, lakes, rivers and wetlands have generated a particularly rich material culture. A wide range of equipment is fabricated for both the economic and recreational use of these aquatic resources. Though much of this equipment is machine-made and mass-produced, there is also substantial demand for artisans who can create items that are customized to meet the specific requirements of their users. There are specially made oyster skiffs and tongs for working the waters along the Florida panhandle, traps for baiting lobsters in the Florida Keys, gigs for the nighttime spearing of frogs in the Everglades, lively artificial flies for tricking fish in streams and bays, and metal helmets for diving for sponges in the depths of the sea off Tarpon Springs. The individuals who craft these and similar objects objects are highly respected in their communities for their ability to adapt traditional designs to contemporary environmental conditions.

The personal customizing of occupational equipment is also prevalent in another of Florida’s prominent industries: cattle ranching in the lowlands to the north and west of Lake Okeechobee. Cowmen need saddles, spurs and cow whips that enable them to effectively work their herds in this hot and wet region. Each ranch also has a variety of branding irons for identifying its cattle, which have been specially bred for survival in a subtropical climate. Florida cowmen take great pride in their unique ranching tradition, which extends back to the Spanish colonial period.

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Florida Folklife Traditions Start
Maritime, Marsh and Ranching Domestic and Decorative
Ritual and Festive Musical

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