February 22 – Anniversary of the Florida Treaty

Posted on February 22, 2015

For centuries, North America was the home of a variety of peoples, from Inuit and Tlingit in the north to Apalachee and Hopi in the south. 

But starting in the late 1400s, Europeans came, explored, and settled in North America. Explorer and conquistador Ponce de Leon led an expedition to a land he named Florida, or Festival of Flowers; he claimed the land for Spain in 1513.

Fast forward a smidge more than three centuries. On this date in 1819, Spain ceded Florida to the United States.

I saw in several sources that the U.S. purchased Florida from the Spanish crown, but actually, the U.S. did not pay for the territory. Instead, the United States agreed to pay the legal claims of American citizens against Spain. The maximum that would be paid was a goodly sum – five million dollars.

The Florida Treaty was considered a triumph of American diplomacy. Since the nation was still relatively young compared to other nations in 1819, obtaining territory through peaceful negotiation was not necessarily an easy accomplishment!

Seas and Keys

Florida is considered by many to be one of the best states in the nation. After all, it has mild winters and lots of sunshine, great beaches and state parks, Disney World and other amusement parks, and year-round camping and outdoor activities. 

I live in Southern California, and we have all of those things, too! But Florida has a few extra-extra-special features: loads of islands (the Florida Keys), and awesome diving and snorkeling (in the Caribbean Sea).

The Florida Keys are islands that are the remnants of an old coral reef. There are many islands – about 1,700 of them! – but only about 30 are inhabited.

Only 43 islands are connected by bridges. The rest – most of which are really small – have to be explored by water. The Seven Mile Bridge connects Knight's Key to Little Duck Key. It is one of the longest bridges ever built.

Key West is (you guessed it) the westernmost of the inhabited islands. Key Largo is (as you might also guess) the largest of the keys.

Those two keys get mentioned a lot, but there are a lot of Keys I had never heard of before. I love the names No Name Key and Knockemdown Key! There are also keys named after flowers (Wisteria Key), animals (Raccoon Key), state names (Ohio Key), general nouns (Boot Key) and verbs (Crawl Key) and adjectives (Ragged Keys).

As you can imagine, tourism is key to the Keys' economies. Many visitors love to scuba dive in the waters of the Caribbean Sea. Commercial and recreational fishing are also important.

Also on this date:

Anniversary of the announcement of a cure for tuberculosis 

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