Florida History Timeline

By | May 12, 2022

Author Buddha Schulberg once quipped of Florida, ” … It’s a melting pot, a frontier, a place to improve your health or your luck.”

First seen and explored by Juan Ponce de León in 1513 while on his famous quest for the mythical Fountain of Youth, he subsequently claimed the land of Spain and named it La Florida, meaning ” Land of Flowers. Florida has undergone many transformations since this time and is now one of the most popular vacation and retirement destinations in the world.

This tourist magnet is world famous as the land of light, orange groves, Disney World, Universal Pictures Orlando and the Kennedy Space Center. Florida is home to Miami’s electric city, stylish beach communities such as South Beach and West Pham, Florida Keys, Everglades, and so much more to fill a lifetime of Florida vacations.

Florida Attractions, Vacations & Accommodation

Around the World now delivers information on the best Florida attractions in some of the hottest vacation areas at this southern family playground. Check out our Orlando Attractions page for unique Discovery Cove (Swimming with dolphins!), Aquatica Water Park and the famous “Universal Pictures” Florida.

Accommodation is easy, the snorkeling is spectacular and it all feels right inKey West Florida, the southern most point of the country and home of the most brilliant sunsets on the East Coast. The Tampa attraction page, as with all of our City pages, features a map pinpointing the location of all the activities discussed, including the world famous Tampa Bush Gardens.

Florida is the most popular retirement destination on the planet, so if you’re looking for Ponce de Leon’s legendary Fountain of Youth, then Florida will certainly complete that search.

For seniors or kids of all ages who want to play, live and feel young, the Florida lifestyle has a lot to offer.

Florida timeline

1500s

  • (1513) Spanish explorer, Juan Ponce de León landed near (present day) St. Augustine, named by him La Florida, and claimed it for Spain
  • (1539) Hernando De Soto explored central and northern Florida
  • (1565) Spanish established St. Augustine, first permanent European settlement
  • (1586) British navigator, Sir Francis Drake, conquered and burned St. Augustine

1700s

  • (1763) Britain gained control in exchange for Havana, Cuba
  • (1781) Spanish captured Pensacola
  • (1783) Spanish troops reclaimed ownership of Florida
  • (1785-1795) Spain left St. Augustine and Pensacola to England

1800s

  • (1803) United States claimed West Florida and Pensacola as part of the Louisiana Purchase
  • (1813) Andrew Jackson captured Pensacola
  • (1816) Cannonball exploded in abandoned British fort, killing nearly 300 freed and runaway slaves
  • (1818) General Jackson fought the Seminole Indians
  • (1821) General Jackson established a new American territorial government
  • (1822) United Government of Florida established; William Duvall first Territorial Governor
  • (1830-1840) Population grew rapidly, settlers arrived
  • (1834-1837) First railroads started operation; the second Seminole War occurred, Major Francis Dade and two US Army troops ambushed and destroyed
  • (1837) General Zachary Taylor commanded forces against the Seminoles at Lake Okeechobee
  • (1842) Second Seminole War ended with many dead Indians, the rest forced from Florida
  • (1845) Florida became 27th state
  • (1851) Dr. John Gorry patented the ice making process
  • (1855-1858) Third Seminole War occurred
  • (1861-1865) The Civil War began; Florida seceded from the Union, joined the Confederacy
  • (1868) Florida re-admitted to the Union
  • (1878) Tourism started in Silver Spring, Hullam Jones invented the glass bottom boat
  • (1881) Phosphate discovered in Peace River Valley
  • (1888) Yellow fever epidemic hit, 40% of Jacksonville population fled, over 400 died
  • (1894-1899) Frosts killed many citrus trees
  • (1898) Embarkation camps established in Tampa, Miami, and Jacksonville due to the Spanish–American War

1900s

  • (1914) First American scheduled airline service flight from Petersburg to Tampa occurred
  • (1920) Hurricanes hit Florida, destroyed property, killing hundreds
  • (1926) Hurricane devastated Miami, 200 killed
  • (1927) Sugar growth and milling started at Clewiston in the Everglades
  • (1928) 1500 people drowned by water driven from Lake Okeechobee by hurricane
  • (1933) Guiseppi Zangara attempted to assassinate President-elect Roosevelt in Miami, Chicago mayor Anton Sermak assassinated
  • (1935) Storm hit the Florida Keys, killed almost 400
  • (1947) Everglades National Park dedicated by President Truman
  • (1950) Cape Canaveral became the center of rockets and space; frozen juice concentrate has become the main industry
  • (1954) 2-mile Sunshin Skyway Bridge across lower Tampa Bay opened
  • (1954) US Supreme Court ruled segregation of unconstitutional public schools
  • (1958) National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) begins operations at Cape Canaveral; first satellite, Explorer 1, launched
  • (1959) Fidel Castro became leader of Cuba; Cuban immigrants began to arrive in Miami
  • (1961) Cape Canaveral launched the first manned ship into space
  • (1963) President Lyndon Johnson changed the name of Cape Canaveral to Cape Kennedy and installations to the John Kennedy Space Center.
  • (1964) Hurricane Cleo caused $115,320,000 in property damage
  • (1968) Republicans held national convention in Miami Beach; statewide teacher strike occurred
  • (1969) Apollo, 11 launched, carried the first men to the moon
  • (1971) Apollo 14 landed on the moon; Walt Disney World has opened
  • (1972) Apollo 16 landed on the moon; Tropical Storm Agnes wreaks havoc on Florida’s east coast
  • (1973) Miami Dolphins win Super Bowl; 25.5 million people visit Florida; “freedom flights” from Cuba ended
  • (1977) Serious cold devestated citrus and vegetable crops
  • (1980) 16 killed, 300 injured in Miami race riots; Mariel boatlift brought 140,000 Cubans to Florida
  • (1983) Challenger launched, first American woman, Sally Ride, on board; 38 overseas highway bridges from Key Largo to Key West open
  • (1986) The worst space tragedy happened when the Challenger exploded, killing all seven astronauts; Spanish galleon “Nuestra Senora de Atosha” found, saved gold and silver
  • (1988) Shuttle flights resumed
  • (1990) Rivers in Panhandle flooded, forced evacuation of 2,000 home; Tampa awarded franchise in National Hockey League
  • (1991) Eastern Airlines went bankrupt; Queen Elizabeth II visited Miami and Tampa; Miami awarded Major League Baseball franchise
  • (1992) Hurricane Andrew devastated The Farm and South Florida; 58 deaths occurred, 25,000 houses destroyed, 10,000 damaged, 80,000 in shelters
  • (1993) Janet Reno became the first woman to serve as US Attorney General

2000s

  • (2000) Six-year-old Elian Gonzalez taken from relatives’ home by federal officials; reunited with his father and returned to Cuba; Florida Supreme Court Orders Presidential Ballot Recount, George W. Bush Announces Winner
  • (2001) Driver Dale Earnhardt killed in Daytona 500 accident; anthrax bacteria found in offices of Florida magazine publishers
  • (2003) Shuttle Columbia destroyed on reentry, all seven crew members killed; The Tampa Bay Pirates won the Super Bowl; a plane hijacked in Cuba landed in Key West; boiler on blown up cruise ship killed four, injured 21; The Marlins won the World Series; Orlando Seals win Atlantic Coast Hockey League President’s Cup
  • (2004) Four hurricanes hit Florida causing extensive damage, killing at least 19
  • (2005) Florida hit twice by hurricanes; shuttle Discovery launched after a long delay
  • (2005) Miami Heat won the NBA Finals; FBI Arrests Seven People in Miami Who Planned to Bomb Chicago’s Sears Tower
  • (2007) Severe thunderstorms and tornadoes killed 19, caused major damage
  • (2010) Boat used for human smuggling capsized off Florida coast, 10 killed, number unknown missing
  • (2011) Shuttle launch final Atlantis lifted off Cape Canaveral
  • (2012) Shooting to death of unarmed black teenager sparked protests, calls for shooter to be arrested

Florida History