Segments in this Video

Introduction: The Swamp (02:22)


In 1947, Author Marjory Stoneman Douglas's publications transformed perspectives on the Everglades. The area has been vital to Florida commerce, and an example of man's quest to conquer nature without considering ecological or economic consequences.

Entrepreneurial Challenge (04:06)

Historian Jack Davis explains Hamilton Disston's vision for the Everglades; he aspired to drain the wetlands for agriculture, industry and tourism. After a fishing trip in 1877, he purchased four million acres and began dredging. (Credits)

Man vs. Nature (04:24)

Disston promoted Southern Florida to farmers and real estate developers; Fort Myers tripled in population. Drainage canals opened agriculture and grazing lands; he established a sugar cane plantation. Heavy rains flood reclaimed lands; the State Commission declared the project a failure.

Unknown Lands (04:34)

In 1823, the Everglades were unexplored by white settlers. In the 1830s, Seminoles were forced out of North Florida to swamplands; Betty Osceola discusses indigenous perspective on her ancestor's struggles and bravery.

Ecosystem (02:33)

Thomas Van Lent explains South Florida's climate and geography; it is warm, humid, and watery; see a map of water flow through Everglades. The wetlands are part of an ecology connected to Biscayne Bay, Key's coral reefs, and a cypress swamp.

Industrious Governor (03:41)

Douglas Brinkley discusses Industrial Revolution era attitudes and technological advancements. On January 3rd, 1905, Napoleon Broward became Florida Governor; his inauguration speech addressed intents to drain wetland and economically develop the state. Sutter explains the political prowess to be gained by accomplishing the drainage project.

Federal Approval (07:49)

Florida was vastly unsettled when Broward took office; he planned canals and began dredging on July 4th, 1906; Theodore Roosevelt saw it as great reclamation. The operation was criticized by some, predicting environmental consequences and high costs; USDA official James O'Wright issued a biased and misleading report of the drainage project, leading to government prioritization.

Swamp Boomers (04:35)

In 1911, the Florida train rush brought land investors taking advantage of Dicky Bolles's public proposition. He sold acres of "muckland," promoting with false claims; some buyers sued; he was indicted on mail fraud. Historians discuss the determination to drain the swamp in juxtaposition to the project scope and early failures.

Early Naturalists (08:12)

The geography of the Everglades supports unique biodiversity. In 1903, Charles Tori Simpson retired to southern Florida, publishing books on conservation. He and May Mann Jennings fought to protect Paradise Key from development; her persistent Women's Club Federation succeeded in opening Royal Palm State Park on November 23rd, 1916.

Tamiami Trail (06:34)

In 1913, a state commission planned to end Lake Okeechobee flooding by channeling overflow to the Atlantic Ocean. In 1915, construction began on a road connecting South Florida's east and west coasts, and cutting through Seminole territory; Osceola discusses the disappearance of tribal hunting and planting lands, and conversion to tourist economy.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas (07:05)

In the 1920s, South Florida's real estate market boomed. Douglas moved there in 1915; historians describe her writing career and attachment to the area; she uses her Herald column to promote smart growth and conservation. She predicted great wealth in the Everglades inevitable development.

Political Environmentalist (03:19)

In 1923, Franklin Roosevelt visited the Everglades, hoping to recover from polio. He became enamored with Florida, feeling it worth preserving. He advocated for a bird sanctuary and national park, urging for prompt action.

Controlling Water (06:11)

In the 1920s, Fred Elliot managed Florida's drainage project. Sutter explains problems arising from development; lake flooding spurred numerous complaints from farmers. Crops were continually threatened by heavy rainfall and droughts. A dyke was built on Okeechobee's southern edge to protect farms; journalist Howard Sharp criticized management and logistical decisions, predicting disaster.

Great Miami Hurricane (04:43)

Historians discuss the real estate bust caused by Ponzi schemes and the 1926 storm. Moore Haven drownings were blamed on Elliot; he recognized engineering faults and resolved to solve problems with bigger canals and a stronger dyke. The drainage project was put on hold due to lack of financial and political support.

Okeechobee Hurricane (11:12)

In 1928, 5,000 black migrants settled near the lake, looking for farm work. After record rainfall, Sharp advised Elliot to lower the lake; the storm created a wall of water from Lake Okeechobee, breaking the levy and flooding the countryside. The National Guard buried corpses in unmarked mass graves or burned them.

Government Intervention (02:08)

Herbert Hoover toured damage from the Okeechobee Hurricane, and vowed to help residents. Grunwald discusses the federal role in preventing storm destruction and fatalities. Ten years and 20 million dollars were spent constructing a massive levy wall, protecting residents and permanently altering Everglade’s ecology.

Everglades National Park (07:55)

In 1925, Ernest Coe moved to Miami and worked to preserve the environment, recruiting Douglas to generate publicity; in 1930, Douglas and National Park officials tour South Florida by blimp. In 1934, Roosevelt became president and prioritized the park system; he signed off on Everglades National Park, but the state must first buy back lands.

Burning Wetlands (05:54)

During the Great Depression, people migrated to Lake Okeechobee to work on plantations; in 1931, the United States Sugar Corporation was established. Drained peat initially benefitted agriculture, but exhausted quickly and desertified. In 1939, sweeping fires incinerated one million acres of sawgrass prairies and biomass rich soil.

"The Everglades: River of Grass" (06:18)

In 1943, Douglas wrote a book transforming views on wetlands; she consulted geological surveyor Garald Parker. He invented stream gauging, studying Florida ecology and water use; he found that replenishment of the Everglades was vital to preventing salt water intrusion on city wells. Historians discuss the publication’s impact on public perception of ecology.

Conservation Triumph (04:25)

On December 6th, 1947, President Truman formally dedicated Everglades National Park; after 13 years of negotiations, one million acres were obtained, much Seminole territory. Natives and capitalists criticize the decision for different reasons; Sutter discusses the shortcomings of incomplete ecological protections.

Fixing and Creating Problems (02:39)

During the 1950s, the Army Corps of Engineers constructed a complex water control system leading to population and agricultural booms; regulation of competing interests for water supply, were not concerned with environmental impacts. By the 1970s, half of the Everglades were developed, the other on the verge of ecological collapse. Historians and scientists discuss responsibility for preservation of South Florida.

Credits: The Swamp (01:20)

Credits: The Swamp

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The Swamp

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The Swamp explores the repeated efforts to reclaim, control and transform what was seen as a vast wasteland into an agricultural and urban paradise, and, ultimately, the drive to preserve America’s greatest wetland.

Length: 114 minutes

Item#: BVL169136

Copyright date: ©2019

Closed Captioned

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