Farmers’ incomes declined sharply after the Civil War, while their living and operating costs rose. Growers of cotton, then Florida’s chief cash crop, were especially hard hit because the price of cotton fell and stayed low until the turn of the 20th century. In the 1870s and 1880s American farmers formed cooperative groups called farmers’ alliances, which were part of a movement of agrarian unrest and protest called populism. Among the causes of unrest were the interest rates charged by banks and the discriminatory freight rates charged by railroads. The alliances soon realized that their grievances had to be addressed with political action. At its 1890 national convention in Ocala, Florida, the National Farmers Alliance adopted its Ocala Platform calling for a “subtreasury” system to replace national banks and make low-interest loans to farmers; an increase in the money supply; free and unlimited coinage of silver; government control of transportation; and an income tax. This platform led to creation of a third party, the People’s Party, to challenge the Democrats and Republicans.
In Florida, however, third-party sentiment was stalled by a powerful Florida Alliance faction that preferred to work within the Democratic Party. The Florida Democrats did endorse the Ocala Platform in 1891, but it was not implemented. Dissatisfied Alliance members put the People’s Party on the ballot in 1892, but because most black farmers—who were a substantial part of Alliance supporters—could not vote, it was defeated and withered away. The Democrats ruled without serious challenge for many years afterward.”
Although agriculture was depressed, Florida’s economy began its first major period of rapid growth in the 1880s. Hamilton Disston, a Northern industrialist, bought 1,600,000 hectares (4 million acres) of Florida land in 1881 and became one of the state’s first real estate developers.
Two Northern financiers, Henry M. Flagler and Henry B. Plant, encouraged the development of Florida as a resort area by building railroads, hotels, and tourist facilities. Exploitation was begun of the state’s phosphate deposits, which were discovered in 1884, and new lands were opened for agriculture in southern Florida. During the 1890s a series of comparatively severe winters damaged the citrus fruit crops of northern Florida. Citrus fruit growers moved southward on the peninsula in order to lessen the risk of frost. Florida’s resort business expanded during World War I (1914-1918), when foreign travel was restricted. "Florida" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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