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The Climate and Society of Tampa

The Semi-Tropical


The year 187 found the writer at Omaha, Neb., practicing the profession of medicine with a reasonably lucrative income. As fall approached his wife, whose health had for some years been failing rapidly took a new condition. Tubercle had began to deposit in the upper part of the left lung, and during the winter, so extended as to occupy the whole of the upper lobe. She, as a result, became very feeble and we almost despaired being able to keep her through the spring months. But as summer approached she began to improve slowly, and we commenced to cast about for a new home, being convinced that she could not live another winter in that rigorous climate. Climatology and Medical Geography at once became our almost constant study and we spared no pains in procuring information, especially in relation to points within the United States; in this latter we were greatly assisted by the Government reports, which are a credit to our country.

This much we write that the ready may know the incentive, and he may be sure that the investigation was thorough and without prejudice, if we may except a desire which we have had since our boyhood, to visit the pacific coast.

In September, after thorough investigation of the subject, aided by such means as the profession is able to furnish to guide us in such selections, we came to the conclusion that the west coast of Florida possessed the best climate, all things considered, to be found in the United States, if not the world. Especially for those from the interior Northern states, afflicted with pulmonary diseases.

But, says the reader, why the west coast rather than the east? The answer is short and easy. On the west coast we have constantly present with us a large body of uniformly warm water. The great "Gulf Stream" passing from the Caribbean Sea into the Gulf of Mexico, around the coast of the Yucatan, makes a complete circuit of the Gulf, passing out through the straits of Florida into the Atlantic. The influence of this large stream of warm water, together with the fact that no part of the Gulf extends into a cold climate, keeps the vast body of water at very nearly uniform temperature the year round. But not so on the east coast. The Gulf Stream immediately after leaving the straits of Florida, makes off from the coast, leaving room for a counter current between it and the main-land, of cold water from the North.

In addition to this, that coast is subject to severe changes, caused by those frequent and severe northers and northeasters, which change the temperature sometimes thirty or forty degrees in a remarkably short time. On the west coast, we are not thus afflicted. We sometimes have northers, but when we do the chane is more moderate and not anything like as severe. Again, the east coast is lower, nearer the ocean level, by several feet, than the country about Tampa. The atmosphere more humid, and fogs very much more frequent.

You will also discover, if you will consult the Government Reports, that malarial influences prevail to a degree, some three or four times greater, along the Indian River and the St. John’s country than at Tampa and its immediate vicinity*

Our patient being from the interior and from a state where the changes of temperature are as rapid and severe as in any State of the Union, and wishing to secure as a radical a change of climate as possible; from an interior to the sea coast; from a climate where our patient was compelled to a prison life six months in the year in rooms artificially heated, to one where she could enjoy, almost uninterrupted, out-door exercise, with plenty of sunlight for pure air, we chose Tampa on the west coast of Florida, and after nearly two years’ experience, we are still of the opinion that our faith was well founded, that no more balmy, equitable and lovely climate can be found. Our winters, with a thermometer ordinarily fluctuating between 60° and 80° Fahrenheit, sometimes as high as 83° or 84° and very seldom going below 50°, with fogs very rare, and rains quite frequent, with an atmosphere, pure and sufficiently humid to be soft and balmy, nights cool, could not easily be bettered.

Our summer, extending from April to October is but a perpetual spring. The heat is never so oppressive as in the Middle and Northern States, owing to the cool Gulf breezes, which are almost constant. The influence of this Gulf breeze is a feature not enjoyed to any extent by any other State in the Union. Take our hottest weather and our nights are cool, take our warmest days and but step into the shade, you will enjoy a cool, refreshing breeze that is perfectly remarkable.

Rome has her soft, and at times dreamy atmosphere, but her climate is damp and variable. She has her siroccos from the sea, that bring with them the heat of Africa, and her Tramontane winds that bring down the icy cold from the wintry peaks of the Apennines. Palestine has her long drouths, followed by her rainy, damp, and disagreeable season, as also her miserable simoons. California has her months of dry weather when everything on the face of the land assumes a parched and weathered aspect, and this is followed by weeks of almost constant rain.

We might, in like manner, pass in review the favorable health resorts in the old world, such as Pau, in the South of France, at the foot of the Pyrenees, in latitude 43 1/2, which is blessed with a pure atmosphere, good water, beautiful scenery, etc., but is subject to a very sharp change of temperature. It is in fact no whit better than our own Colorado City in Colorado. The scenery no more magnificently grand and beautiful, atmosphere and water no more pure and refreshing. Pisa in Italy, latitude 43, is a very grand city, around which cluster many very interesting memories, that make it peculiarly attractive to the curiosity seeker, but as a health resort for the afflicted, it has no advantages over Rome before mentioned. Lisbon, on the Tagus, in latitude 39°, Portugal or Cadiz, in the South of Spain, are both very beautiful and interesting cities to the historical traveler, but do not compare with many places in our own varied country for health. Palermo, in Sicily, and Malta still further east in the Mediterranean might to some extent rival our Florida climate, were it not for those hot winds that sweep across from the burning plains of Africa.

But time and space will not allow us to continue the list, or permit us to discuss the comparative merits by a more extended notice. We are convinced, however, after a thorough study of the whole subject, that the diversified climate of the United States renders it unnecessary to take our invalids abroad. And those from the interior Northern States, who are afflicted with lunch or bronchial diseases, and whose condition requires a soft equable, balmy climate, with an atmosphere almost absolutely free from fog, where the changes are slight and slow, cannot do better than come to West Florida.

Prof. Walshe, M.D., of London, in his "Practical Treatise on the Diseases of the Lungs," page 456 says: "There are certain parts of Florida in which, if I can credit the statements made by same patients, the qualities of the climate surpass those of any other part of the globe."

What we shall say as to the society in and about this, our adopted city, will be short. We came here in the fall of 1875, under very unfavorable circumstances, but we were never more kindly treated by our own kinfolks than by the people of Tampa. And we speak our true thought when we say that we do not believe that they have ever allowed politics to in the least interfere in their kindness towards us.

We have lived here through one of the hottest campaigns, perhaps, ever known to this country, and it was well known to all who knew us or knew of us, that we were a "red hot Republica,n" and we voted the ticket straight. It was well known, too, that we had served our time in the army, and that, too, in Sherman’s army during his campaign through Georgia and the Carolina’s. Still we have never been able to discover one whit abatement of their kindness towards us on that account. So far as we have been able to judge, they regard it as our right to vote as we please. And we believe that a man coming to this or any other part of Florida, can enjoy his political opinions, with as much freedom as in the North.

We have heard very much talk of people being ostracized in the South for opinions sake but have seen none of it in Florida. That the people of Florida have been misrepresented, ignorantly, perhaps, at times, but willfully, too, as well, but persons who came here with a fixed determination to keep alive the smoldering embers of discord and sectional strife, is too patent to be for a moment doubted. Sectional and party strife is the life of the political demagogue; he depends upon it to keep himself and party in power, and we believe that to-day, were it not for such, we would hardly know from what takes place around us that there had ever been such a thing as war between the two sections. Is it not then the duty of all good men, lovers of peace and order, to combine for the purpose of putting down, by all legitimate means, every attempt at stirring up sectional animosity and bitter party feeling?

The condition of our state and society demand it. Let political demagogues, both North and South, find other employment. The people either North or South are all right, and were it not for the politicians there would be no trouble between us.

H.R. Benjamin.
Tampa, Fla.

*We give the writer full scope in presenting the local advantages of the section of the state in which he is located and accord with him in ascribing to the western coast advantages peculiar to itself. But a more extended observation and experience would correct some of his misapprehensions in regard to the salubrity of the climate of the St. John's and Indian Rivers and the eastern coast generally.

Excerpt from Benjamin, H. R., "The Climate and Society of Tampa" The Semi-Tropical, July, 1877, pp. 393-396.


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