Article ID: CBB001553563

Water in Paradise: California, Florida, and Environmental Rivalry in the Gilded Age (2015)


Focusing on the writings of state and local promoters, this article traces how water-based characteristics formed a fundamental differential in the rivalry between California and Florida for settlers and tourists in the Gilded Age. In crude terms California and Florida presented as environmental opposites: while the Pacific state---its southern part, especially---was associated with a scarcity of water, Florida, with its many rivers, lakes, springs, and swamps, appeared to host a troubling abundance of the stuff. An important element of truth underpinned these conceptions. But in their competition to sell their states as “paradises” for Americans, land and tourism boosters accentuated this environmental dichotomy and its potential developmental consequences. “Dry” California was set against “watery” Florida as promoters repeatedly attacked the other's supposed environmental deficiencies. Ultimately, while both states succeeded in becoming leading tourist destinations, Southern California's proponents seemed to hold the upper hand over their Florida counterparts in selling an American homeland. Their championing of irrigation as a “civilizing” process that converted desert into prosperous garden soothed widespread anxieties over living in such an arid land and contrasted with the persistent struggles of Florida's advocates to convince Americans to relocate permanently to the supposedly water-logged peninsula.

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Authors & Contributors
Kaasch, Michael
Trepl, Ludwig
Potthast, Thomas
Höxtermann, Ekkehard
Kaasch, Joachim
Voigt, Annette E.
Pacific Historical Review
Ethics, Place and Environment
Journal of Southern History
Australian Historical Studies
Environment and History
Social Studies of Science
University Press of Florida
Beacon Press
University Press of Kansas
Oxford University Press
New York University
Environmental ethics
Water resource management
Schultze, Max
Bertalanffy, Ludwig von
Cuvier, Georges
Haeckel, Ernst
Abbey, Edward
Thoreau, Henry David
Time Periods
19th century
20th century
21st century
20th century, early
20th century, late
18th century
United States
Florida (U.S.)
California (U.S.)
New Zealand
Great Britain
Montana (U.S.)
Universität Zürich
Humboldt Universität zu Berlin

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