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Semi-tropical America: popular imagery and the selling of California and Florida, 1869-1919

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posted on 2023-06-07, 15:49 authored by Henry Knight
This thesis examines the promotion of California and Florida from 1869 to 1919, a period when both states were transformed from remote, under-populated locales into two of the most publicised states in America. Using an interdisciplinary approach which analyses cultural representations of the states within a broader socioeconomic context, the thesis traces how railroad and land companies, agriculturists, chambers of commerce, state agencies, and journalists fashioned new identities for California and Florida as Semi- Tropical American lands. As their boosters competed in a bid to attract settlers, tourists, and investors, they played upon republican and colonialist discourses within American society and expansion. Evoking ideas about race, climate, and environment, promoters depicted California and Florida as parts of a benign middle zone between an increasingly urban-industrial North and socially “primitive” tropics. At a time of traumatic industrial change, California and Florida promised American rebirth in nature, through renewing health and leisure, prosperous agriculture, and superior cities. The selling visions were created by and for white Americans, however, and focused on the “semi-tropical” benefits for Anglo visitors and residents. Ethnic and racial minorities were marginalised as romantic, unprogressive peoples who were best suited to manual labour roles which reinforced Anglo-American progress. The thesis thus argues that boosters alloyed republican ideals of independent living to processes of racial hierarchy, creating a seductive, expansionist imagery which sold semi-tropical California and Florida.


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  • American Studies Theses

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  • doctoral

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  • dphil


  • eng


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