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First Families of Florida

Mansion Life

Governors and their families lead busy lives, tending to the state's business and being part of a family. Florida has had two official governor's residences. The first mansion, completed in 1907, was torn down in 1955 and, two years later, a grand, new mansion became the home of Florida's first families. Before the first mansion was built, Florida's governors and their families had lived in a variety of private residences in Tallahassee. While in office, Florida's first families have used the mansion as a private residence and as a setting in which to extend the state's hospitality to tourists and official visitors. The "First Families" exhibit featured many objects and images related to day-to-day activities in the homes of Florida's governors, family life, special events, civic activities and official duties.

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Dated February 26, 1841, this document is a printed commission from Territorial Governor Robert Raymond Reid. It was filled in by his secretary and then signed by the governor. The commission appointed an individual to be an auctioneer in Escambia County (which, at that time, comprised all of Santa Rosa County as well). Four months after he signed this commission, Governor Reid died, along with about ten percent of Tallahassee's population, in a devastating yellow fever epidemic.


First lady Elizabeth Foort Branch carried this parasol, circa 1840-45, to protect her from the sun's heat. Her husband, Governor John Branch, was Florida's last appointed territorial governor.

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This infant's dress, circa 1840-45, was said to have been worn by Governor William D. Moseley's daughter, Susan Hill Moseley. Governor Moseley was the first elected governor of the new State of Florida.


Lieutenant William G. Moseley, eldest son of Governor William D. Moseley, carried this powder horn in 1847 during the Mexican War. The younger Moseley served from Florida with the 3rd U.S. Dragoons (cavalry) Regiment. The horn is inscribed with W. G. Moseley's name and unit and has an American eagle carved on the reverse side. Small powder horns such as this one would have held gunpowder for either loading a pistol or filling the priming pan of a flintlock rifle.

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Two books from the family of Chloe Merrick Reed, 1862-63: Hymn Book for the Army and Navy, published circa 1862 by the American Tract Society; and Bradbury's Golden Chain of Sabbath School Melodies, published in 1863. Chloe Merrick was born to a family that believed strongly in the abolition of slavery. As a young woman, she joined a group of educators that traveled to South Carolina in 1862 and later to Fernandina on Amelia Island, Florida, where they opened schools and taught elementary education to newly freed slaves. She also founded an orphanage for the poverty-stricken families of the area. During this period, she met Harrison Reed, a federal government official. She married him a year after he was elected governor of Florida. These books of music came from the home in Jacksonville where Chloe and Harrison Reed retired after his term of office. The books may have been used by her when she taught in the freedman's schools and founded the orphanage. This photograph of Chloe was taken in 1869, shortly after her marriage to Governor Reed.


At the capitol, Governor Marcellus Stearns welcomed Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of the novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, to Florida in 1874.

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Owned by Governor George Drew and used in his home at Ellaville on the Suwannee River, this sideboard, circa 1875-80, and fashioned in the elaborate Renaissance Revival style, shows the surprisingly modest lifestyle of one of Florida's wealthiest businessmen. Drew became wealthy in the lumber business after the Civil War, built a mansion on the banks of the Suwannee, and furnished it with factory-made furniture.


This Renaissance Revival-style library table, circa 1878, once furnished the library of Governor George Drew's mansion in Ellaville. He may well have done a lot of state business at the table as most of his government papers were written at his home rather than at the capital city of Tallahassee.

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Mary Davis Bloxham and Governor William Bloxham entertained friends in their parlor in Tallahassee, circa 1881-85. The small marble-topped parlor table in the center of the photograph also can be seen in a modern photograph below.


The ornate wooden base and inset marble top of this center table, circa 1850-60, are characteristic of the Rococo Revival style that was popular in the 1850s. The table stood in the parlor of Governor William D. Bloxham, twice governor (1881-85 and 1897-1901). It seems likely that he purchased the table in 1867 from the estate of Catherine Murat, wife of Prince Achille Murat, French expatriate and nephew of French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, who settled in Tallahassee in the 1840s.
(Private Collection)

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This fancy military hat, circa 1889, with a Florida state seal button on the cockade, was worn by Colonel Charles Choate, a member of the honorary military staff of Governor Francis P. Fleming.


Governor William S. Jennings and May Mann Jennings with their son Bryan at Niagara Falls in 1901.

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Academic regalia of May Mann Jennings, 1929. May Austin Elizabeth Mann Jennings (1872-1963) was born in New Jersey and moved with her parents to Crystal River, Fla., in 1874. In 1891, she married William Sherman Jennings, who had a law practice in Brooksville; they had one child. In 1900, W. S. Jennings was elected Florida's eighteenth governor. May Mann Jennings was very active in Florida politics and in a variety of women's organizations. She was a campaigner for Prohibition, women's suffrage, home economics work, and conservation of Florida's history and natural resources. The former First Lady was honored for her work in 1929 by Stetson University with an honorary Doctor of Laws. Mrs. Jennings wore this robe, academic hood, and mortarboard hat to that ceremony.


Though small in numbers, the Seminole Indians of Florida have played a major role in the state's history. This 1927 photograph taken during the construction of the Tamiami Trail highway in south Florida shows Governor John W. Martin shaking hands with an unnamed Seminole man.

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One of the important duties of the governor is to meet with distinguished visitors. Governor David Sholtz visited Jacksonville with President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933-34.


Governor David Sholtz meets with his cabinet on November 24, 1936. The conference table in the photograph is currently on exhibit in the Old Capitol in Tallahassee.

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Many Americans participate in fraternal organizations. Florida's governors have belonged to a wide range of groups. Governor Fred P. Cone and Mildred Thompson Cone attended a Kiwanis Club meeting in St. Augustine, circa 1937-41.


This memorial silver water pitcher was inscribed to Governor Fred Cone from his cabinet and presented to the governor when he was leaving office in January 1941.

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Worn by First Lady Mary Holland, these black velvet and rhinestone decorated pumps, circa 1941-45, were bright and sparkling, a quality she was said to have admired in choosing her attire.


Governors and their families spend a considerable amount of time traveling throughout the state. Mary Groover Holland visited the Seminole Indian encampment at Silver Springs in 1941.

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This Distinguished Service Cross was awarded to Spessard Holland in 1918 for valor while serving in the U.S. Army Air Corps in France during World War I. Later, as Florida's governor during World War II, Holland wore the miniature lapel pin version of this award on his civilian suit. A photograph of Governor and Mrs. Holland at Camp Gordon Johnson in Franklin County near Carrabelle on February 8, 1943, shows him wearing the lapel pin. General Omar Bradley (far left) was a member of the party as well.


First Lady Mary Holland wore this semi-formal, off-the-shoulder dress to a number of events during her husband's administration from 1941 to 1945. The dress is made from a cotton voile floral print, with a satin underskirt. Mrs. Holland's daughters called this gown their mother's "Gone With the Wind" dress.

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Governor Spessard Holland wore this colorful name tag while representing Florida at the National Governor's Conference in Harrisburg, Penn., in 1944. He was also a member of the Orange Bowl Committee during his years as governor.


Mary Caldwell brings out the largest and most elaborately decorated piece from the silver service of the battleship USS Florida: the pelican-handled punch bowl. Created in 1911 by the Gorham Company of Providence, R.I., the service was used on the battleship until 1931 when the ship was decommissioned, and the silver returned to the State of Florida.

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First Lady Mary Harwood Caldwell wore this black-and-white-patterned wool suit on the morning that she left the mansion in January 1949. She and her husband, retiring Governor Millard F. Caldwell, resumed private life at the end of his term of office. The suit was designed by Norene of Los Angeles, Calif.


Mary Harwood Caldwell wore this tan twill pantsuit during a turkey hunt in 1948.

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This cardboard sewing box covered with quilted cotton, circa 1930, frequently was used by First Lady Mary Harwood Caldwell, who was an accomplished seamstress.


Susan and Sally Caldwell, daughters of Governor Millard Caldwell and Mary Harwood Caldwell, prepared for a Christmas party in the dining room of the Governor's Mansion on December 24, 1946.

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Governor Caldwell, Mary Caldwell, and their children, Susan, and Sally, attended a football game at the Orange Bowl on January 1, 1948.


The Seaboard Air Line Railroad used this breakfast menu to promote Florida citrus in 1945. Governor Millard Caldwell picked it up as a souvenir and preserved it at his home, Harwood Plantation, in Tallahassee.

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This envelope from Cobb's Fruit and Preserving Company in 1947, addressed to Governor Millard F. Caldwell, is one colorful example of the wide range of correspondence addressed to Florida's chief executives.


Fuller Warren and Barbara Manning Warren beside their Christmas tree at the Governor's Mansion, December 1950.

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The Tampa Tribune published this political cartoon, "Piccolo Player," by George White in 1949. The idea behind it is that legislation recommended by Governor Fuller Warren as his top priority has been changed by the Florida legislature, which has priorities of its own.


Olie Brown McCarty in the garden at the Governor's Mansion with her youngest daughter, Frances Lela McCarty, circa January-February 1953.

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Governor Charley Johns, Thelma Brinson Johns, and their daughter, Markleyann, hosted a Christmas party at the Governor's Mansion on December 19, 1953.


This light blue wool tweed suit was worn by First Lady Thelma Johns to a number of official functions while her husband, Governor Charley Johns, held office from 1953 to 1954.

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Mary Call Darby Collins and her son, LeRoy, Jr., watched Darby Collins swing on the front gate of the Governor's Mansion in December 1954.


In 1956, Governor LeRoy Collins and his family moved out of the 1906 Governor's Mansion so that it could be demolished and a new mansion built. The Collinses moved next door to their family home, The Grove. This historic plantation home had been built in the 1830s by Mary Call Collins's great grandfather, Territorial Governor Richard Keith Call. It has always been a Tallahassee landmark.

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Governor Farris Bryant, a licensed pilot, inspects a Highway Patrol traffic spotter plane in this photograph from August 1962. The state owns and flies a number of aircraft for the use and benefit of state officials.


The Governor's Mansion staff has always been a small one: the mansion chef, two or three maids, and state maintenance workers to care for the grounds. Julia Bryant poses with mansion staff in January 1961.

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WFSU-TV, Florida State University's public broadcasting station, filmed an interview with Governor Farris Bryant in his office at the capitol on March 19, 1963. This was the first time that television cameras had been used in the governor's office.


This brocade cocktail dress and coat ensemble was worn to several formal events by First Lady Julia Bryant during her husband Farris Bryant's term as governor, 1961-1965.

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Throwing out the first baseball of the season has long been a favorite ceremonial duty of presidents and governors. Governor Haydon Burns opens the Florida State University baseball season with a ceremonial throw on March 19, 1965, in Tallahassee.


Mildred Carolyn Burns, an avid gardener, works in a flower bed at the Governor's Mansion, circa 1965-66. Many of the floral decorations used in the mansion and at the governor's office in the capitol came from her garden.

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Governor Claude Kirk visited Jake Gaither, the nationally renowned coach of the Florida A & M University football team, circa 1967-70.


Erika Mattfeld Kirk reading a Christmas book to her daughters, Adriana and Claudia in December 1969.

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First Lady Erika Kirk bought this hand-crocheted suit in Vienna, Austria, in 1967 and wore it to several official functions during the term of office of her husband, Governor Claude Kirk.


On December 30, 1970, Governor-elect Reubin Askew appointed Athalie Range as secretary of the Department of Community Affairs. The appointment marked the first time in the twentieth century that an African American was appointed to a head a major state agency.

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Bob Graham campaigned for the Florida governorship with Rosalind Carter, wife of President Jimmy Carter; Adele Khoury Graham; and Wayne Mixson, Graham's running mate, on November 4, 1978.


This aqua crepe-de-chine evening gown was worn by First Lady Adele Graham at the Springtime Tallahassee Gala in 1985. It was designed by St. Petersburg fashion designer Peggy Jennings.

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This china and silver flatware place-setting was used for formal dining at the Governor's Mansion in 1987. The china, manufactured by Pickard, is the "Washington & Palace Royale" pattern; the flatware, made by Towle, is the "Benjamin Franklin" pattern.


Mary Jane Marino Martinez and Bob Martinez prepared "trick-or-treat" bags for Halloween visitors on the front porch of the Governor's Mansion in October 1988. Their family pet, Tampa Mascotte, wore a special cape with the legend, "I like kids."

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