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Tampa Celebrates 132nd Birthday With A Dive Into Its History

Tampa's skyline.
The city of Tampa turned 132 this week. To celebrate, city officials are holding Archives Awareness Week to show people how they can connect with history through records.

By Carrie Pinkard

Tampa celebrated its 132nd birthday on Monday.

Instead of cake and candles, the city marked the occasion by opening the doors to Old City Hall and inviting people to hear about Tampa’s history.

The city council chambers were packed as three historians spoke about key events that have shaped the city.

Fred Hearns spoke about a 1969 football game at the old Tampa Stadium between Florida A&M University and the University of Tampa.

Nearly 50,000 people attended the game, which was the first played in the South between all-black and predominatly white teams. It was, at the time, the largest interracial gathering in Florida’s history. 

While the thousands of fans witnessed FAMU defeat UT,  Hearns points to this as a trigger for schools being desegregated in Hillsborough County within two years.  

Andy Huse, USF Associate Librarian and historian, took the crowd back to the early 20th century and Prohibition - a time when liquor stands lined the streets, disguised as Coca-Cola booths.

A Coca-Cola stand.
Credit Andy Huse
Vendors in Tampa during Prohibition would sell alcohol from "soft drink" stands, according to historian Andy Huse.

Huse said Tampa restaurants thrived during this time selling illegal booze. He said the historic Columbia Restaurant was one of the roughest spots in town for bar fights.

“In 1908, city council wanted to shut down the Columbia because there was constantly beatings, knifings and shootings. There was even a disemboweling incident in front of the restaurant,” Huse said.

E.J. Salcines transported the crowd back to a time when cigar factories sat on every corner. 

Salcines, a longtime Tampa judge and attorney who was knighted by the King of Spain in 1979, talked about the rise and fall of the cigar industry.

“The cigar industry became the economic engine of our city for almost 50 years,” Salcines said. “The city of Tampa created 365 million cigars a year. That’s over a million cigars a day, 365 days a year, including Saturdays and Sundays.”

Many cigar workers left the industry because their wages couldn’t keep up with the cost of living in Tampa. Cigar factories began consolidating, and many workers were replaced by machines.

These historians shared their stories as part of  Tampa’s Archives Awareness week, an event held annually to remind people of the access they have to historical records.

Throughout the week, events highlighting Tampa’s history are being held around the city.

Here's a list of remaining events:

July 16, 3:30- 5:00 p.m.- “Letters from Tampa: Two Spanish-American War Stories” at Henry B. Plant Museum.

July 17, 1:00 p.m.-  “Tampa in 1919” at Tampa Bay History Center.

July 17, 2:00 p.m.- “Personal Archiving” at Robert W. Saunders Senior Library

July 18,  2:00 p.m. - "Images from the Archive: Photography, Art, and More" at USF Libraries Special Collections. 

July 18,  4:00 p.m. - "Photoshop: Make yourself part of history"  at John F. Germany Public Library, Auditorium.

July 18,  6:30 p.m. - "Thirty on Thursday: The Influence of Abstract Expressionism" at Tampa Museum of Art. 

July 19, 10:00-11:30 a.m.- Downtown Walking Tour at Gaslight Park.

July 19, 1:00-4:00 p.m.- Microfilm Demonstration and Discussion at Robert Saunders Sr. Library. 

July 20,  11:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.- Tampa Historical Society Open House.


People standing in a row.
Credit Alison Smith
The Honorable E.J. Salcines, Jennifer Dietz, Andy Huse and Shirley Foxx-Knowles at the Archives Awareness Week event on Monday.

Carrie Pinkard is the Stephen Noble news intern for the summer 2019 semester. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Florida State University in English, before heading to USF St Pete to pursue a master’s in journalism.
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