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A Special Documentary Feature: The Florida Fiber Co.

Florida Atlantic University
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  • Agricultural Science


A SPECIAL DOCUMENTARY FEATURE [Edito r s Not e: This issue's docum entary f eature is th e product of a research and publication project at th e Fort Lauderdale Historical Society kno wn as Look Back, Fort Lauderdale. The proj ect. directed by Ralph J . M egna and Patrick R. Currie, is sup- ported by a grant fro m the' National Endow- m ent for the Humanities. It should appear in book form this fall under the title of New River Chronicle: Life in the Fort Lauderdale Region before 1911.) Though William Cooley and Richard Fitzpatrick had suggested in th e 1820s that large-scale commercial farms in south Florida might be profitable , unreliable transportation and th e ad vent of the Second Seminole Ind ian W ar cut short th eir hopes of exp anding upon th e small coonti starch manufacturing plant on th e New River. It was not until 1890 that another agricultural ent re preneur, Duncan U. Fletcher of Jack- sonville , along with some financial backers , came to the region to establish what he be- lieved would be the seed for a tremendou s new industry: the cultivation and proces- sing of hemp for use in rope and other similar textiles . Th e basis for Fletcher' s dream s was the favorabl e comparisons which were drawn between sub -tropical Florida and similar areas in Central America . Th e parallels fre- quently appeared in his firm 's - the Florida Fiber Company - solicitation and advertising. In a 1890 prospectus, th e compan y reported that its princip als had travelled extens ive ly: A. Mr. J. R. Kuchler, of Jacksonville, Fla. having occasion to visit Yucatan last winter, and seeing the evidences of the enormous wealth of planters of the Sisal hemp, investigated the subject thoroughly , and finding the soil and climate about the same as that of the southern portion of this State, decided that the industry would thrive equally well here as there. On the 19th of July, 1890, a meeting of some parties interested in this matter was held in Jacksonville for the purpose of taking the necessar

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