Florida, which joined the union as the 27th state in 1845, is nicknamed the Sunshine State and known for its balmy climate and natural beauty. Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon, who led the first European expedition to Florida in 1513, named the state in tribute to Spain's Easter celebration known as "Pascua Florida," or Feast of Flowers. During the first half of the 1800s, U.S. troops waged war with the region's Native American population. During the Civil War, Florida was the third state to secede from the Union. Beginning in the late 19th century, residents of Northern states flocked to Florida to escape harsh winters. In the 20th century, tourism became Florida's leading industry and remains so today, attracting millions of visitors annually. Florida is also known for its oranges and grapefruit, and some 80 percent of America's citrus is grown there.
More to Explore
During the 1950s and '60s, the United States and the Soviet Union engaged in a heated competition to see which superpower would dominate the exploration of space.
Years after the earliest Viking expeditions, European nations began a centuries long quest of exploration and conquest in the Americas.
In 1860-61, after years of rising tensions, 11 southern states seceded from the Union to form the Confederate States of America, leading to the American Civil War.
Stretching more than 3,000 miles from the Atlantic to the Pacific, the United States of America is comprised of 50 states, each with its own unique traditions and history.
Did You Know?
Walt Disney World Resort, which opened near Orlando in 1971, is the planet's biggest and most visited recreational resort. Spread over some 30,500 acres (about the same size as San Francisco, California), Disney World attracts approximately 46 million annual visitors.
Date of Statehood: March 3, 1845
Population: 18,801,310 (2010)
Size: 65,758 square miles
Nickname(s): Sunshine State
Motto: In God We Trust
Tree: Sabal Palm
Flower: Orange Blossom
- Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés established the first permanent European settlement in the United States at St. Augustine in 1565.
- Before he was president of the United States, General Andrew Jackson led an invasion of Seminole Indians in Spanish-controlled Florida in 1817. After Florida became a U.S. Territory in 1821, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams appointed Jackson its military governor.
- Constructed over a 21-year period from 1845 to 1866, Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West was controlled by Federal forces during the Civil War and used to deter supply ships from provisioning Confederate ports in the Gulf of Mexico. The fort was also used during the Spanish-American War.
- In 1944, airman and pharmacist Benjamin Green from Miami developed the first widely used sunscreen to protect himself and other soldiers during World War II. He later founded the Coppertone Corporation.
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This Day in History
Jaws released, 1975
On this day in 1975, Jaws, a film directed by Steven Spielberg that made countless viewers afraid to go into the water, opens in theaters. The story of a…
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Classroom Study Guides
Curriculum companion to the program focusing on the dramatic clash between the Spanish and French for control over modern-day Florida.
Curriculum companion to the program about the conquest of the Northwest coast of North America, one of the last territories to be conquered by Europeans.
Curriculum companion to the program following Henry Hudson's voyages that play an unexpected and major role in the mapping of the North American continent.