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3 Works 274 Membros 11 Reviews

About the Author

Christopher Knowlton is a former staff writer and London bureau chief for Fortune magazine. He has contributed to the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. He also spent fifteen years in the investment business. He is the author of Cattle Kingdom: The Hidden History of the Cowboy West.

Obras de Christopher Knowlton


Conhecimento Comum

País (para mapa)
Locais de residência
Jackson, Wyoming, USA



Bubble in the Sun
This is such an interesting book, though very long and detailed. It explains the history of Florida’s building boom and connects it to The Great Depression. Florida was fertile and ripe for Real Estate investment. The weather and opportunities for vacation were enormous. Boating, swimming, and beaches inspired the success of communities and hotels. The rich and famous were drawn to this playground, as well as the tourist and just plain curious. The environment and social life were easy to enjoy, until nature intervened. Weather in Florida can be capricious.
Waterfront homes were very desirable. Communities were designed to be independent, offering services to the residents. Well-known names, Mizner, Urban, Douglas, Flagler, Ford, Collier, White, Fisher, Wyeth, investors, architects and builders, and so many others became wealthy and well-known because of Florida’s growth. Not all involved were stellar personalities, but they were innovative and demanding. All were driven by ambition and eventually, greed. Many had already, or soon would, achieve fame elsewhere.
Clearing land, road construction, and the housing boom soon put Florida on the map. Miami Beach, Palm Beach and Coral Gables became centers of hospitality for certain people of “acceptable backgrounds”. The hoi polloi was not welcome. As roads expanded access, cars eliminated horses, machinery improved and remote areas were developed and expanded, the growth continued. The growth and development did not bring advantages to everyone, however. The super rich with acceptable backgrounds, were the residents. Blacks were not welcome, except as employees, or perhaps as work crews from prisons. They were slowly moved from the prime property. Jews were not welcome either. Indigenous people provided entertainment. The rich and famous preferred to be embraced by their own kind. Florida served that need. It was being developed, at first, for the high and the mighty. Only later, was consideration given to those on lower rungs of the ladder.
So many prominent names were involved in the Florida boom. Firestone, Chevrolet, Penny, Stutz, Waugh, Wyatt, Singer, Ziegfeld, Douglas, Hutton, Johnny Weissmuller, Jack Dempsey, Josephine B, Al Capone and Ponzi, criminals and many others of political fame are just a few mentioned. As Miami Beach began to rival Palm Beach under the guidance of Carl Fisher, The Roaring Twenties roared, but at the end of the decade it whimpered with the rest of the country.
The origins of Mar A Lago, The Boca Raton Resort, The Breakers, Hobe Sound, the Cocoanuts, the original owner of the Hope Diamond, the creation of Singer Island, Fisher Island, Coral Gables, Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, The Royal Poinciana, The Everglades Club, etc. are all revealed as the growth of Florida in the Roaring Twenties is tied to The Great Depression. There are fun facts and tragic facts. In some places money poured in, lots were sold, but no houses were built. They were akin to stocks on Wall Street, sold and resold for the market price which seemed to keep rising. Money flowed from the North to the South and the financial systems from whence the money came began to suffer. The message was controlled by the movers and shakers and the banks and newspapers were heavily invested in by them, compromising their freedom to act responsibly and reveal the cracks forming. It doesn’t sound like much has changed today.
The ever-expanding growth robbed the state of its natural resources. Wild life and natural inhabitants were removed. Magnificent neighborhoods were created, with access to beautiful beaches, but it altered the natural state of the Everglades permanently. The building and progress also robbed the state of its diversity in certain places, as those living there were forced out as gentrification began and luxurious homes appeared where their homes once stood. Environmentalists were slow to react, and there were few, though eventually they would succeed in some small way, to save The Everglades. The land was bled of water as roads were built. Native life and insects suffered. The Everglades, populated by all sorts of wild life underwent tremendous negative changes that would be felt for years to come. Fashion trends were created, with some considered shameful, as in skimpier bathing suits. Greed propelled the continued expansion of Florida as it also promoted the decline of morality and ethics. It encouraged drinking, sex, and frivolity, in the locations developed.
The character flaws as well as the achievements of many of those involved is detailed and illuminating, especially about those were able to accomplish this gargantuan feat. The personalities were sometimes larger than life with pets that were also unusual. Monkeys, kinkajous and elephants were buddies. The lack of regulations, weather, business conditions, people’s choices coupled with greed, altered the image of Florida. The money invested was in danger when the business climate changed, but the banks were compromised and warnings went unheeded. So, did Florida’s expansion and then decline, cause the market to crash? After reading this, you will certainly believe it was a factor.
… (mais)
thewanderingjew | outras 6 resenhas | May 9, 2023 |
In as much as the author's book about the Florida real-estate boom of the 1920s really impressed me, I was expecting rather a lot from this book, and Knowlton delivered quite handsomely. The sub-title of this work is a bit of a misnomer, as Knowlton's topic is really the great cattle-ranching boom that basically stretched from the close of the American Civil War, until the mid-1880s, when the whole ranching industry had a catastrophic bust. Before that though, the investment money poured in and men with aristocratic antecedents, such Moreton Frewen (from a very-well-to-do English gentry family), the Marquis de Mores (from a French military family), and eminent Harvard man Hubert Teschemacher (who sold Teddy Roosevelt on the notion of coming west), sought to carve out personal empires, only to see their dreams collapse in a very ugly fashion.

The ugliness of it all culminated in the so-called Johnson County War, wherein the most important men in the state tried to run the "little" men in the Powder River Region off their land, after first killing the local political leadership. The self-supposed great men saw their hired-gun mercenaries suppressed by the proverbial county posse and the surviving leadership of the Cheyenne Club were lucky to obfuscate matters enough that no one was ever actually prosecuted; though reputations were destroyed. That a lot of the facts about this incident have only come out rather recently is what justifies the word "Hidden" in the title.

And what of Teddy Roosevelt, who is the exemplar of this book. Unlike his friend Teschemacher, he handled his financial reverses in a responsible fashion, and came out of ranching experience a better man. Though maybe he was just lucky not to be a close crony of the gang in Cheyenne; let's just say that there was a lot of "performative masculinity" taking place. It probably also didn't hurt that Roosevelt was mostly just looking to run a business and engage in some self-therapy; not build a personal empire.

Apart from that, Knowlton considers numerous other issues, up to and including how the meat-packing industry wound up being the dominant players in cattle industry. Highly recommended.
… (mais)
Shrike58 | outras 3 resenhas | Apr 28, 2023 |
While interesting, I didn't really learn anything new about cowboys or cattle. Some parts seemed superfluous and others glossed over too quickly.
pacbox | outras 3 resenhas | Jul 9, 2022 |
A rather fascinating history. I didn't know much about Florida beyond some very, very basic info but this book shows how the 1920s really impacted Florida and the Great Depression. Plus how much environmental damage was done to build up the state to what it is now. Recommend.
pacbox | outras 6 resenhas | Jul 9, 2022 |


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