On Jan. 1, 1919, Tampa residents woke to find Tampa had become a "dry city." Panicked citizens bought up the remaining supplies from local liquor stores, and a cloud of depression enveloped would-be drunks, vagrants and future Buccaneer fans. The law led to 16 years of non-compliance and made Tampa one of the top sellers of illegal liquor in the United States.
Tampa's baseball notoriety developed long before the Tampa Bay Rays came into existence in 1998. During a 1919 spring training game, Boston's Babe Ruth—yes, that Babe Ruth—hit a 587-foot home run at Plant Field. When the ball was returned to Ruth, he autographed it and gave it to Tampa's Reverend Billy Sunday, who was considered "the greatest revivalist in American history, perhaps the greatest since the days of the apostles." Looks like the Red Sox could have used Ruth along with some divine intervention in the 2008 American League Championship Series when they lost to the Rays.
John Perry Wall, mayor of Tampa from 1878 to 1880, was the first American to conclude that yellow fever is carried by mosquitos. His medical contemporaries, who thought they knew better, ridiculed Wall, notwithstanding the reduction of yellow fever incidents in Tampa while Wall was its health officer. His simple remedy was to control the mosquito population, which proves that eliminating disease is slightly less difficult than eliminating ignorance.
Although economic sanctions prevent trade with Cuba for modern-day Floridians, no sanctions were in effect when Levi Coller built a boat, sailed to Cuba, and created the first nursery from the seeds of spoiled fruit. From these trees came the beginnings of the oldest citrus grove in the state, located in Old Tampa Bay. In addition to changing Florida's economy, Coller made it possible for college football fans everywhere to enjoy bowl games named after citrus fruits. Touchdown!
Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders continue to make a lasting impression on students of American history. Their arrival on June 3, 1898, however, made little impression with the locals as Teddy and his troops arrived in the area with nobody to greet them. Roosevelt decided to camp his Roughriders and the rest of his troops at what is now believed to be Armenia Avenue and Kennedy Boulevard. Chances are, if you bring a couple thousand of your coworkers to downtown Tampa today, you may have trouble finding spots to set up your tents.
The world's first scheduled airline service was established on January 1, 1914, with flights from St. Petersburg to Tampa and landings that took place in the Hillsborough River. The flight service lasted only a few months. A year later, an unknown pilot flew into the side of Gordon Keller Hospital and was able to walk into the hospital to receive medical assistance. It is not clear whether these early attempts at commercial aviation required exorbitant bag fees. What is clear is that Tampa has one of the world's best airports, at least according to Conde Nast Travel, which ranked it No. 3 in 2010.
Dr. Frederic N. Weightnovel came to Tampa in the early 1880s and established a Free Love Society. Soon after the society's formation, the doctor hosted the Free Love Banquet at the Old Havana Hotel. The banquet featured bottomless waitresses who served Oriental teas laced with aphrodisiacs. The Tampa Vice Squad ended the party. Weightnovel's other contributions to Tampa history include leading a parade of Russian squatters into a deactivated Fort Brooke and renaming it Moscow.
On July 28, 1942, Mrs. Alma Brown became the first female to join the local 432 Boilermakers Union after completing a 10-week welding course. Her inclusion in the union helped end a 62-year prohibition against accepting women into the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers. Contrary to popular expectation, the entire social structure of Western civilization did not crumble instantly. In fact, female boilermakers became commonplace in Tampa.
Panfilo De Narvaez is credited with the Spanish discovery of Tampa Bay in 1528—but in truth, pilot Diego de Miruelo found it in 1513. Don Francisco Maria Celi was the first to produce a map of the bay in 1757 so he would no longer have to ask for directions, according to rumors that cannot be confirmed. The map's whereabouts were unknown until University of South Florida professor Charles Arnade and Tampa historian Tony Pizzo found the original at the Spanish Naval Museum in Madrid.
Tampa in the summer is all but intolerable without the generation of cool air. Perhaps that's why Tampa native Dr. John Gorrie became an early pioneer in artificial refrigeration. Gorrie patented the first mechanical refrigeration system in 1851. That should give you something to talk about when you drive past John Gorrie Elementary School, the oldest operating elementary school in the state of Florida.
Know about the history of Tampa—liquor love and all? Read up on the history of Fort Myers.