Plumb Lines, Politics, and Projections: The Florida Everglades and the Wright Report Controversy
The drainage of the Florida Everglades haw been a highly debated issue since the mid-nineteenth century. In the 1840s, the United State Congress and the state of Florida passed legislation that encouraged reclamation.1 Nothing came from that effort, but during the next decade Congress began transferring Everglades land to the state of Florida, stipulating that all earnings made from the lands be reinvested in their reclamation.2 To manage the development of these lands, in 1855, the state created an Internal Improvement Fund and appointed trustees who oversaw projects that the Sunshine State hoped would attract people, capital, and agricultural developers. But by the beginning of the twentieth century, organized reclamation of the Everglades had proven ineffective, leaving thousands of acres of south Florida swampland untouched.3 During the early twentieth century, a new wave of swampland reclamation projects swept the nation. In 1903, the United States Congress transferred all remaining unsold swamp and overflowed lands in southern Florida to the state for the purposes of cultivation.4 With the expected drainage of Everglades land, speculators made large profits mostly by dishonest means. Oftentimes, entrepreneurs sold honest investors the rights to property still submerged under several feet of water, muck, and sawgrass. One such scandalous period of land speculation occurred between 1908 and 1913. A federal drainage report, written in 1909 by government engineer James O. Wright, precipitated widespread investment by suggesting a rather simple and inexpensive drainage plan for the region.
Purcell, Aaron D.
"Plumb Lines, Politics, and Projections: The Florida Everglades and the Wright Report Controversy,"
Florida Historical Quarterly: Vol. 80:
2, Article 3.
Available at: https://stars.library.ucf.edu/fhq/vol80/iss2/3