Historian Carol Kammen has treated this popularization of the local color style as a unique development in the tradition of local history. 1930s newspaper writers found that their readers responded to feature articles and weekly columns on local histories. "Journalists who revelled in an anecdote, or a joke, or regional dialect would take a story, polish it, and present it to the paper's readers. Their interest was in the telling of highly specific stories, which they did with verve" (31).

The priorities of these journalists, the desire to write upbeat and entertaining material, had certain implications for how history was represented in these local history/local color pieces: often in amusing, whimsical terms.

Some of these same dynamics can be seen in Florida: A Guide to the Southernmost State, although it was not exclusively written in the local color voice. The "Contemporary Scene" essay, as the introductory piece to the larger work that included more formal sections on history, took the sweeping, stylized approach to the overview of Florida's development. The authors and editors were reaching for effect more than for accuracy.

Addressing the image of Florida as "playground of the rich," the narrative turns to the "reality" behind the hype:

click on image to see the passage in its context...look for the red arrow

In identifying a particular vision of Florida as "false," the narrative suggests that the image of Florida life it can reveal is the real McCoy. This move to assert a realist claim on authenticity is unsurprising in a tour guidebook, though the "Contemporary Scene" essay does undermine this pretense elsewhere. The passage then slips into the tone of a fable, where the figure of the cracker, the white backwoods Floridian, appears as a timeless storybook character, floating out of history while all around him changes are taking place. He remains virtually unchanged in his primitive "pattern of thought" until one day, all of a sudden, the roads just open up around him. The history of modern development is collapsed (through the perspective of the cracker) into an overnight transformation.




Juliet Gorman, May 2001



Links that take you outside this discussion:

If you're intrigued by how the essay undermines the conventions of its own genre, you might want to check out a more in-depth discussion...

(You can also get to that later and finish here by explore some of the implications of this passage...)