As souvenirs become a recognized source for interpreting and appreciating the artistry of the past, this authoritative and beautifully illustrated guide to one of Florida's least-known industries opens a new chapter in the study of the state's history and culture. More than 500 color illustrations in this lavish book showcase an incredible array of travel treasures purchased by Florida's first tourists - primarily wealthy northerners - during the years 1890-1930, the golden age of Florida tourism, when souvenirs were works of art. Larry Roberts links the keepsakes to the state's history and provides expert insights into the artistic quality of the items, elevating them above the category of mere collectibles. Beginning with an overview of the developing years of tourism in Florida from 1820 to 1880, Roberts ties the souvenir industry to an account of the state's settlement and the first great influx of tourists in the 1890s. These visitors were America's first rich and famous, with a taste for elegance, and they eagerly purchased silver, china, and carved ivory items in refined designs and decorative motifs that rendered aspects of Florida ranging from picturesque wilderness to luxurious hotels. In this excellent reference for institutional and individual collectors alike, Roberts discusses the appeal and describes the various manufacturing processes of wood carvings, figurines, prints, jewelry, pottery, glass and metal ware, and traditional scenic china and spoons. He also examines some types of memorabilia made exclusively by Florida artists, including the obscure alligator carvers of Jacksonville, whose finely crafted canes and corkscrews are highly regarded among contemporary folk-art collectors; Olive Commons, who captured the Florida wilderness in minute detail on porcelain; E. G. Harris and Esmond Barnhill, traveling photographers who hand-tinted and printed landscapes; and the Seminole Indians, who created the colorful handsewn dolls that they still sell today.
Larry A. Roberts, a consultant for the Museum of Florida History in Tallahassee and the author of articles in such publications as Antiques and Art Around Florida, has been a collector of antiques and memorabilia for more than twenty years.