Order of the Railway Conductor’s Commemorative Ribbon

This commemorative ribbon was given out at the Order of the Railway Conductor’s 1895 convention in Atlanta. It is adorned with a portrait of Henry Plant, whose railroads modernized Florida.

Tampa Bay History Center Collection

Florida’s first railroad, established in 1836, was initially mule-powered. It ran from Tallahassee to a wharf abutting St. Joseph’s Bay. This railroad served Florida’s cotton country, but the postwar railroads of Henry Plant, Henry Flagler, and others modernized the state, shuttling monied tourists to Florida and opening interior lands to agricultural cultivation and development. By 1912, the railroad stretched all the way down to Key West.

Three Fast Florida Facts

  1. Florida’s first railroad was operated by the Lake Wimico and St. Joseph Canal and Railroad Company and was initially only eight miles long.
  2. The Key West Extension, which took seven years and cost $30 million to build, was constructed primarily by Black American and Bahamian workers.
  3. Railroads allowed Florida farmers to grow more perishable crops for the export market. In 1910, tomatoes were Florida’s most valuable crop.