Unique Jacksonville History from the Past 200 Years

How much do you know about Jacksonville? Here's some history for you.

We’re celebrating Jacksonville’s 200th birthday with some unique history about the area. There won’t be a quiz at the end but take note – you never know when this info will come in handy for local trivia night or final Jeopardy.

The Official Founding

The earliest use of the name “Jacksonville” was in an 1822 petition to the U.S. Secretary of State asking to officially recognize the town as a port of entry. Prior to being Jacksonville, the area was known as Cowford.

The city is named after Andrew Jackson, although he never visited Northeast Florida. He was the first military-governor of the state following Spain's ceding of Florida in 1819.

Lights, Camera, Action

Before Hollywood, Jacksonville was the “Winter Film Capital of the World” with the first of more than 30 movie studios opening in 1908. The only known remaining studio, and only intact silent film studio in Florida, is Norman Studios in the Arlington area. Founded by Richard Norman, the studio produced visionary films with positive lead-roles for Black actors, a stark contrast to the standards of the time.

“The Flying Ace,” released in 1926 by Norman Studios, is billed as the “greatest airplane thriller ever filmed.” The film was inspired by Bessie Coleman, America’s first black female licensed pilot who was killed in a plane crash while practicing for an air show at the former Paxon Airfield in Jacksonville. “The Flying Ace” was recently inducted to the Library of Congress National Film Registry.

Music That’s Good for the Soul

Jacksonville’s music history roots run deep and through multiple genres:

  • Born and raised in Jacksonville, James Weldon Johnson and his brother John Rosamond Johnson wrote and composed “Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing,” which is often referred to as the Black national anthem.
  • Arthur “Blind” Blake was the “King of Ragtime Guitar.” It’s believed that he was born in Jacksonville and spent a significant amount of time in the city. His popular song “West Ashley Street Blues” was named after the street in the LaVilla neighborhood that was known for music and dining in the early 20th century.
  • Jacksonville is the birthplace of southern rock music. The members of Lynyrd Skynyrd grew up on the Westside, while The Allman Brothers were officially established in the Riverside neighborhood. Molly Hatchet, .38 Special, Blackfoot and the Tedeshi Trucks Band all hail from Jax as well.
  • Numerous rock bands formed in Jax including Limp Bizkit, Yellowcard, Shinedown, and The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus with many members attending local high schools.
  • The Miami bass insurgence of the early 1990s saw local acts 95 South, Ma$e, 69 Boyz and Quad City DJs rise to fame.

By Land, Air and Sea

By the time you reach 200, there’s a few historical facts, and artifacts, worth mentioning:

  • While Jacksonville is turning 200, its oldest resident is estimated to be older – 250 to be exact. Treaty Oak, on the Southbank near Downtown, is a southern live oak tree that provides a beautiful backdrop for a selfie.
  • At the end of World War II, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Chester Nimitz instructed the formation of a flight demonstration team to boost Navy morale and keep the public interested in Naval aviation. A flight commander was chosen, and the rest of the pilots were selected for the groups first aerial demonstration at Craig Field in Jacksonville on June 15, 1946. A little more than a month later, the group was named the Blue Angels.
  • Buried deep in the St. Johns River near the Mandarin neighborhood, the Maple Leaf shipwreck contains artifacts from the Civil War. The ship struck a mine in 1864, tearing apart the bow of the ship and it quickly sank. Since then, more than 3,000 individual artifacts have been recovered from the ship and some are on display at the Mandarin Museum.

Are you ready to celebrate Jacksonville’s history and birthday? Join us Saturday, June 11 from noon to 10:30 p.m. in Downtown for the Bicentennial Street Festival and Fireworks.

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