David Nelson


More than any other moment in Florida's history, the debut of the state's exhibit at Chicago's Century of Progress world's fair in 1933 marked the beginning of modern Florida tourism. From this point until the end of the 20th century and beyond, Florida promoted and depended upon tourism more than upon any other industry. This proved to be the moment Florida ceased to be southern in the popular mind and assumed the image of a racially-and regionally-neutral land of sunshine, fun, and endless opportunity. It was at Chicago in 1933 that Florida became genuinely and definitively exotic and tropic in the public's eye. And as presented at the fair, Florida emerged as a playground devoid of class, race, unemployment lines, labor disputes, or foreign immigration. That image transformation marked a revolution from above, a civic-elite revolution-quiet and subtle, but revolutionary nonetheless-with far-reaching consequences for the state's economic, political, and social future.