April 2020 Newsletter Banner Vol VI Issue IV

      Over the past month, the life of the city has changed, but the Jacksonville Historical Society continues. Like so many across the country, our staff and volunteers have been figuring out how to do their work safely, which means working remotely. With help from our technology consultants, we have successfully transitioned a lot of what we do every day to the JHS’s online platforms. We respond to multiple research requests each day, and catalogue the contents of our collections. We are developing innovative educational resources to share with the people of Jacksonville who cannot be physically present with us, for now at least.
      Jacksonville’s many interesting stories continue to accumulate. Elsewhere in this newsletter you’ll see that the JHS is collecting the evidence and contemporary experiences that will become our history. What we are living through in this spring of 2020 isn’t past yet, but we already know that it will have historic reach. We and the people who come after us will want to know, and try to learn from the COVID-19 pandemic and how Jacksonville survived #Pandemic2020Jax and the Great Quarantine.
      The Jacksonville Historical Society does what no other organization does, and the value of our work keeps growing. Knowing what happened to others who came before us is the key to understanding our city today. Historical awareness and understanding is how we take ownership of a place, and become citizens who care about its future.
      Whether it is oral histories, maps, architectural drawings, unique manuscripts, or the tens of thousands of fascinating photographs that the JHS catalogs and preserves, all of our collections are available to you and to Jacksonvillians yet to come. To sustain these resources and make them accessible, we depend on your membership and special donations. That’s true now more than ever, as a significant part of our fundraising comes from special events that are now challenged by the social distancing of a pandemic. Our Great Fire Run, scheduled for May 2, has been postponed until November. Space rentals and public programs are on hold, and some among our membership are experiencing reduced income as well as uncertain prospects for the months ahead.
      The JHS asks that if you can renew your membership, please do promptly and, if at all possible, at a higher level than before. If you are in a position to donate to our operations, the archives or to our facilities, your support will sustain the jobs of those who work in all these areas. To learn more about how you can help, please contact me directly at alan.bliss@jaxhistory.org or call me, at (904) 665-0064. To the dozens of members and donors who have recently renewed their support, our heartfelt thanks!
      Important work lies ahead for the JHS. In two years, we will commemorate the bicentennial of Jacksonville’s establishment, June 15, 1822, and planning is already underway. Forthcoming this May is the 2020 edition of Jacksonville’s Most Endangered Buildings List. The announcement of the Endangered Buildings list is much anticipated, and always takes place during National Historic Preservation Month. Each year we hold a special program around this event, and this year will be no exception, it will be exceptional! Stay tuned for news of our upcoming May “Endangered Buildings” Virtual Program, and more educational programming to follow this summer.
      Fundraising continues for the renovation of the JHS’s Casket Factory building, as our general contractor / design team move ahead with preparations for the day that work begins. Completion of that project will open up 4,500 square feet of safe, air-conditioned space for collections storage, processing and research. The JHS archives will finally be able to breath after years of working in four overflowing rooms in the Old St. Luke’s Hospital Building.
      We have high hopes that conditions will permit the December opening of Jacksonville’s Gingerbread Extravaganza, for which planning is also underway. Our aim is for more, and more amazing, gingerbread creations than ever before. Builders have already signed up to participate, so it’s not too soon for you to let us know what historic or holiday-themed gingerbread house you dream of creating!
      The Jacksonville Historical Society continues to be here for you. We hope that you will remain here for us.

With best wishes for health and peace,

Alan Bliss
Executive Director


      Prospects of demolition continue in the news, with the continuing request of First Baptist Church to demolish its ca. 1927 Sunday School Building, at 125 West Church Street. On February 26th, the Historic Preservation Commission declined the church’s application for a demolition permit, and instead proposed landmark status for the structure. That decision went to the City Council, which referred it to the Council’s Land Use and Zoning (LUZ) Committee.
      Owing to the social-distancing policies currently in place, the City Council and its committees have been meeting only “virtually.” Because of the nature of land use and zoning requests, the LUZ committee has deferred action until it can physically meet in a public setting, where comments can be heard directly. When the matter is scheduled for public discussion, we will notify our membership so that concerned voices can be heard.

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      A little more than a century ago, Jacksonville citizens faced loss in many ways from a series of events that were documented, for the most part, by news reporters and photographers, along with diaries and journals by citizens. The Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1888 (in which St. Luke’s Hospital played a healing role)… the Great Fire of 1901 (which stopped short of St. Luke's Hospital) … the Great War (which came to be known as World War I) … and the Spanish Flu (also called the 1918 Flu Pandemic) all were dramatic events that could have brought our great city to its knees. Today we face a similar life-as-we-know-it-altering situation. How will we tell this story for future generations?

      The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our lives, our communities, and our society is unprecedented in our lifetime. Our individual understanding and reactions to this rapidly developing global event changes daily, which is why it is so important that we act now to document our individual experiences.
      During this time, the Jacksonville Historical Society will be accepting community submissions of documentary material or creative works chronicling the local pandemic experience. Submissions should express how your life has changed and what it is like living during the COVID-19 pandemic.

• Donate physical or digital material documenting your experience during the coronavirus pandemic. Examples include submissions of videos, typed or handwritten diaries, journals, essays, artwork, poems, music or photographs.
• When posting to social media, please use the hashtag #Pandemic2020Jax to contribute to this project.
• Children can also have fun documenting the pandemic with this COVID-19 Time Capsule. It's something for your own family to enjoy using as you create memories of a time when you sheltered in place.
      Future historians need to hear from you! They will want to know what was the local, lived experience of a global pandemic from day to day and week to week. Your perspective is significant and urgently needed. For those interested in contributing their voice to this community legacy, please consider donating now.
      If you have any questions about accepted donations, please email us at archives@jaxhistory.org.

Mitch Hemann
Senior Archivist


          Most of us have had to endure the grueling experience of getting a passport photo taken. All those rules and regulations, and despite your best efforts, the unflattering product resembles something more akin to a mugshot. This ritual of depersonalization hasn’t always been the case. The history of the American passport photo is a lot more interesting than you might expect.

          The Jacksonville Historical Society has an incredible collection of passport photos, mysteriously housed in a repurposed bench docket for the circuit court of Ocala. These photos represent a pivotal moment in the history of photo identification, and what they tell us is fascinating.

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Bench docket repurposed as a scrapbook

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Husbands and wives were often photographed together.

          Photo identification has been around for more than a century, but there were hardly any rules back then. An individual was simply asked to submit a photo, no questions asked. In 1876, at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, a photographic ticket was adopted to address admission concerns, but it would still take some time before it became standard practice. Before photos were added, passports simply listed the distinguishing features of the passport holder. Probably not the most accurate way of confirming that the correct individual was standing in front of you.

          In the earliest days, there was no real standardization for the process, and applicants were able to submit photos of themselves in groups, dressed however they liked, or engaging in their favorite pastimes. Oftentimes they were photos that they already had to avoid the fee associated with having a new photograph taken. Another reason a group photo was used is that married women were traditionally listed alongside their husbands and did not have passports of their own. Sometimes they were only listed as “wife” and the woman had to be accompanied by her husband in order to use the document. This practice continued as late as the 1930s.

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Alexander Merrill of the Merrill-Stevens Shipyards

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Mr. Merrill's Passport Application

          In the 1920s, things changed dramatically and the rules became a lot more rigid with the adoption of a universal individual passport. With strict changes made to immigration laws, steamship companies found themselves shifting their focus and targeting the middle and upper class in hopes of promoting European travel. Society was slow to embrace it.

          Among affluent, white Americans, these documents were perceived as being recorded as a suspicious person. Not everyone was pleased about being reduced to that standard. They were accustomed to being taken at their word, and they felt that they shouldn’t have to prove who they were to the authorities as they travelled. This was before any real documentary infrastructure was in place, such as driver’s licenses or social security numbers, and it took some adjusting. These days, it's nearly impossible to avoid showing identification for one reason or another. Times have certainly changed.

Mitch Hemann
Senior Archivist


Unveiling ceremony of the Jean Ribault Monument at Mayport by the Daughters of the American Revolution (May 1, 1924)

          On April 14, 2020, Jacksonville City Councilman Matt Carlucci introduced a resolution to honor the Jacksonville Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution on its 125th anniversary.
          The chapter, also known as “The Mother Chapter of the State of Florida,” was formed five years after the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) was founded in 1890 soon after the Sons of the American Revolution voted to exclude women from its organization. Four women – whose common bond was a father or grandfather who was a patriot of the American Revolution – laid the groundwork for the Society.
          The NSDAR was incorporated in 1896 by an Act of Congress, and with 3,000 chapters worldwide the Jacksonville Chapter holds a place of honor as the first in Florida. Many old, familiar Jacksonville names are part of the chapter’s history.
          The Jacksonville Chapter’s founding began when Fannie Stockton was appointed in 1892 by Caroline Harrison, the wife of President Benjamin Harrison, to organize the first Florida DAR chapter. Mrs. Harrison passed away five months later from tuberculosis at age 60.
          Fannie was the wife of John N.C. Stockton, an active Episcopalian, was very closely connected with the building of Old St. Andrew’s Church in Jacksonville in 1888, which is located adjacent to the Merrill House Museum on A. Philip Randolph Boulevard.
          Stockton was employed by Jacksonville banker D. G. Ambler as bookkeeper for five years before being admitted to partnership under the firm name of Ambler, Marvin & Stockton.
          Ambler’s wife, Clarissa, was appointed by Letitia Stevenson, wife of Adlai Stevenson I, 23rd vice president of the United States, as Florida State Regent. Mrs. Ambler was later elected State Regent in February 1896, and she served through 1897.
          In addition to Fannie Stockton and Clarissa Ambler, other charter members were Henrietta Shoemaker Christopher, Kate Livingston Eagan, May Livingston Mattair, Fannie Louis Mattair Davidson, Francis Barnard Taylor, Phoebe Caroline Meek, Isabelle Spafford Archibald, Mae Wilson Dancy, Sallie Alison Buckman, Fannie B. Stockton, Fannie B. Stockton Young, Julie Beauclerc Livingston, Mrs. W.S. Wightman and Mrs. J.E. Quimby.
          Although not one of the 15 charter members, Helen P. Merrill held Jacksonville Chapter DAR meetings at her home (now the Merrill House Museum, built in 1878) and was DAR Florida’s First State Secretary-Treasurer 1904-1908 and a State 2nd Vice Regent in 1916.
          During the early 1920s, the Florida Chapters of the Daughters of the American Revolution were instrumental in spearheading the design and installation of a column to commemorate the beginnings of European colonization of Florida half a century prior to the Plymouth Colony. This new column, designed by Charles Adrian Pillars, sculptor of Memorial Park’s “Spiritualized Life” sculpture, would replace a stone column erected by Jean Ribault in 1562 to claim Florida for France.
          In 1924 a piece of land was donated near present-day Mayport for Pillars’ column. When U.S. Naval Station Mayport was established in 1941 the Ribault Monument became inaccessible to the public and was moved. Three moves later, in 1958, the monument found its permanent home on St. Johns Bluff, and became part of the new National Park site, Fort Caroline National Memorial. The Jacksonville Chapter paid for the renovation of the column in time for its rededication in 2012.
          Six years ago, the Jacksonville Historical Society received a collection of materials from Anita Moore, a member of the DAR Jacksonville Chapter. Four trunks and one box of documents and memorabilia were inventoried by Sherrard Ceglia, assistant archivist.
          Among those treasures inventoried was a silver nameplate with the inscription “Jacksonville Chapter – The Mother Chapter of the State of Florida – Organized April 2, 1895 for God and Country.”
          In Carlucci’s resolution, the Jacksonville Chapter is lauded for its focus in patriotism, education and historic preservation, and its involvement with Wreaths Across America for national cemeteries; scholarships for American History degrees; flag retirement ceremonies, and participation in naturalization services, among other activities.
          The Jacksonville Historical Society joins Mr. Carlucci and City Council in recognizing this milestone! Congratulations on your 125th anniversary!

Kate A. Hallock
Marketing & Communications Director


          Running out of ways to keep busy during the shelter-in-place order? Maybe this is a great time to clean out the attic, the basement, the garage, the storage unit and look for items that tell our city's historic stories!
          Military uniforms and medals from Jacksonville ancestors who served in a variety of wars and conflicts...diaries, journals, newspapers, letters and postcards, photographs...household items from late 1800s (or earlier) through the turn of the century, Roaring Twenties, Great Depression, and other notable eras in Jacksonville history would be gladly accepted by the Jacksonville Historical Society.
          Our archivists are standing by...ready to accept appropriate donations into our collections!

Imani Phillips
Assistant Archivist


          Due to concerns about the coronoavirus and in compliance with Mayor Lenny Curry's shelter-in-place mandate, the Jacksonville Historical Society suspended its March and April Speaker Series programs. At this time, the Society is hoping to produce a video for its May program, which typically focuses on its annual list of endangered buildings. Watch for updates on social media in the coming weeks.

          The Jacksonville Historical Society Speaker Series is sponsored by Retina Associates, Fred H. Lambrou, Jr., M.D.

Fire Run logo with date

The Great Fire Run has been tentatively rescheduled for Saturday, November 7.
Watch for updates on social media in the coming weeks.


          The Jacksonville Historical Society is pleased to announce that Silvia Romero has joined the Society as office administrator. Although the timing for onboarding a new employee in the midst of the shelter in place executive order was not the best, Ms. Romero has risen to the occasion and joins staff in handling office business remotely.
         Ms. Romero holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Art History from the University of North Florida. She was employed by The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens, 2005-2012, serving as Associate Director of Education prior to working in education at the DuBow Preschool at the Jacksonville Jewish Center, and at Academie de Montessori before moving to Seattle, Washington in 2016. Ms. Romero returned to Jacksonville early in 2020.


          In continuing to adapt to developments related to the coronavirus pandemic, the Jacksonville Historical Society’s facilities, including the archives and research library, are closed to the public until further notice. As soon as normal operations resume, research appointments can be scheduled.

          In the meantime, the JHS staff remains available and committed to serve the Jacksonville community by telephone and email. As some tasks are being performed remotely, requests for assistance will be answered as soon as possible. Contact our office by phone at (904) 665-0064, or email info@jaxhistory.org. For archives and research assistance, contact archives@jaxhistory.org. For any additional questions or concerns, contact Executive Director Alan Bliss directly at alan.bliss@jaxhistory.org.

          For additional information, please visit www.jaxhistory.org and follow news of the Jacksonville Historical Society through our social media channels. Thank you for continuing to support the work and educational resources of the JHS!

Our Mission

To educate and inspire the greater Jacksonville community to value its history, by fostering understanding of how the region's past shapes our present.

JHS is thankful for the many organizations that support us in our mission!

Logo collage 2020


Alan Bliss, Ph.D. , Executive Director | Mitch Hemann, Archivist | Kate A. Hallock, Marketing & Communications Director | Silvia R. Romero, Office Administrator | Imani Phillips, Archives & Office Assistant | Sherrard Ceglia, Archives Assistant | David Woodard, Facilities Manager

2020 JHS Board

Frederick H. Kent III, Esq., President | David Chauncey, Esq., Vice President | Jeffrey K. Graf, Treasurer | Charisse Thornton, Secretary | Michael Fackler, Esq., Immediate Past-President |Pat Andrews | J. F. Bryan IV | Rev. Canon Dr. J. Allison DeFoor | Hon. Gary Flower | Drew Haramis | David J. Jamison, Ph.D. | Larry Kanter, M.D. | Maggie Means

Historian At Large

Wayne W. Wood, O.D., Honorary AIA


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