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Florida, The Sunshine State

The first part of the continental U.S. to be discovered by Europeans, Florida occupies the largest peninsula in the nation, over 400 miles of low, flat land that separates the Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico. Florida’s rich history, which includes three centuries of Spanish rule, lives in the relics of the original St. Augustine and in tales of French and Spanish explorers. Unlike the other States on the Atlantic coast, Florida was not one of the original thirteen; it became a Territory in 1819, a State in 1845.

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Florida’s shape, location and climate have greatly influenced its history and development. In the sixteenth century, its location near the treasures of Central America brought Spanish and French explorers and pirates; in the nineteenth, its mild climate stimulated organized farming and experiments with citrus fruits, which became the chief crop; in the twentieth, its 4,000 mile coast, with many harbors, bays and beaches, has attracted increasing numbers of tourists and residents, and the beaches, sailing, and deep-water fishing have made famous such resorts as Miami Beach, Palm Beach, Tampa, and St. Petersburg.

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Besides oranges and grapefruit, Florida raises garden crops, peanuts, tobacco and sugar cane. Lumbering, paper mills and dairy farms are found in the north; cattle-raising is concentrated in the south-central section. The processing and canning of frozen foods has become one of the State’s major industries. It is perhaps symbolic that the coast, which has meant so much to Florida, should link together two points that encompass the State’s entire history: four centuries but only 120 miles apart are the nation’s oldest city (St. Augustine) and the gateway to space at Cape Kennedy.

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