By Jane Feehan
Florida’s land boom made Northern bankers nervous during the early 1920s. Their banks were being drained of millions of dollars to fund Florida dreams. Bankers banded together to pay for ads in the New York Times and other newspapers warning about the dangers of speculation and likelihood of a bust.
Anxious to keep the money spigot open in 1925, Florida Governor John W. Martin (1884-1958) brought a group of respected businessmen to New York to downplay notions about speculation in a “Truth about Florida” meeting at the Waldorf Astoria with media and bankers.
Afterward, Florida businessmen established “Truth about Florida” committees to raise money to pay for advertisements in northern newspapers to counter bad publicity about the boom.
George E. Merrick (1886-1942), developer of Coral Gables, one of the first planned communities in the United States, announced in June, 1926 that his city would raise $1,000,000 “to get the message across to 110,000,000 people of the U.S.* that they should be informed of the real truth about Florida.” He also suggested that the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce raise $1.5 million for the same cause.
By the end of 1926, northern bankers ceased their ad campaign but the Truth about Florida committees could not claim success. Two hurricanes filled the Everglades with water, dampening dreams about
development there and along the coast. The boom quickly receded like the seas before a dangerous tidal wave, taking with it the Truth about Florida campaign.
* Merrick also paid William Jennings Bryan $100, 000 to sell Coral Gables land. See:
Burnett, Gene M. Florida’s Past: People and events that shaped the state. Sarasota: Pineapple Press (1997), p. 160.
Miami News, Nov. 13, 1925, Section B, p. 2.
Miami News, June 9, 1926, p. 5.
Tags: South Florida in the 1920s, Florida history, South Florida real estate boom, George E. Merrick, Gov. John W. Martin, Jane Feehan, film researcher