(From a 1964 LIFE profile; my favorite line: “It is odd, and probably my fault, that no people seem to name their daughters Lolita anymore. I have heard of young female poodles being given that name since 1956, but of no human beings.”)
Check out Robert Dawson’s images of American libraries at Places. Evocative and even poignant in an age when libraries are under threat in this country, Dawson’s images remind us that libraries are, on one hand a monument to our culture and civilization, and, on the other hand, often the outposts of that civilization.
Historic Photos of Florida Ghost Towns, new from Turner Publishing, pairs beautiful black and white archival photos with detailed commentary by Steve Rajtar to offer a counter-narrative to the traditional history of Florida. Florida’s history is often told in terms of exponential growth, focusing on the Sunshine State’s ecological bounty as a reason for immigration and tourism. Ghost Towns takes a look at the many historical sites in Florida that were destroyed, absorbed, or abandoned as the state bounded to modernity. Rajtar and his editors have organized the book around all the different ways that a town might become a ghost town, including economic (company closings, plantation declines, railroad expansion), sociopolitical (absorption, abandonment, government mandates), and natural (fires, floods, hurricanes).
Appropriate for its title, there’s something haunting about many of the images in the book. Like all images from the past, they speak for what no longer exists, but there’s something melancholy here too. Take for example this 1897 image of the Lamb family from the ironically-named plantation township of Hopewell. Their dour expressions communicate a sense of the difficulties of an agrarian life in Florida over a century ago — more Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings than Miami Vice. What happened to these people after their farms collapsed? Where are their descendants today?
Historic Photos of Florida Ghost Towns will be a welcome addition to any Florida history buff’s library, as well as a handsome book for any Floridian’s coffee table. It’s also a worthy document to testify to an an alternate and often overlooked element of Florida history. Florida has a rich, storied past, and Ghost Towns helps to honor that. As the state heads into an uncertain future, the book also might make some of us reappraise our own cities’ chances of withstanding the test of time. Recommended.
Check out this photo series of William Burroughs’s personal effects at The Morning News. There’s also a really cool interview with the photographer Peter Ross. Great, uh, stuff.
Prejudices up front: not only did I attend the University of Florida, but so did my parents, my wife, and many of my lifelong friends. I was raised on Gator football, and some of my family members, when cut, are known to bleed orange and blue. I think that Tebow is something of a national treasure (surely, had not Clinton succeeded in freeing journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling from a North Korean labor camp, we would’ve sent Tebow), and I acted like a silly fool when I got to meet Urban Meyer last year (he was recruiting players at the high school where I teach English). Not only am I predisposed to liking a book like Historic Photos of University of Florida Football, I also happen to be a former student of the author, University of Florida professor Kevin McCarthy (I will never forget him calling me over to his desk after class one morning, poking me in the chest and commanding me, “Come to class!”).
So, yeah, it’s possible that I’m enthusiastically biased about a book combining archival photos of the Gators with insightful text and captions. Fans of the Florida State Seminoles probably know that this book isn’t for them upfront, but that’s okay. True Gator fans will not be disappointed. Historic Photos of University of Florida Football (new from Turner Publishing) is as much a history text is it is a survey of Gator football, following a team from its humble origins at the turn of last century (McCarthy informs us that “its 1904 team in Lake City was outscored 224-0,”) to its present glories as National Champions.
Most of the book chronicles the early days of Florida football (over half of the 200 images date from before 1960), and while some fans might be disappointed in a lack of more recent photographs, it’s worth pointing out that in our current media-saturated age it’s not so hard to come by these. Far more interesting are pics of the old days, with sweatered all-male cheerleading squads, bulky leather helmets, and folks dressed up to the nines to go to a football game (if you’ve ever lived in Gainesville you know that even in October a suit jacket, let alone a tie and pants, are pretty uncomfortable). Many of these photos capture the energy and intensity of the game, as well as a sense of nostalgia for a time when college football wasn’t so commercialized.
The images collected here transmit a love for both the Florida Gators, as well as a sense of respect for the traditions of college football in general. As the Gators’ indomitable legacy grows, surely this book will one day be referred to as “Volume I,” as there are plenty more touchdowns to be scored, games to be won, and historical moments to be made. Recommended for Bull Gators everywhere.