Three Friends

This nameplate is from Napoleon B. Broward’s 137-foot long Three Friends steam ship. The Three Friends was famous, or infamous in the eyes of Spanish military officers, for smuggling weapons and revolutionaries into Cuba in the 1890s.

Hillsborough County Historical Commission

N.B. Broward, a one-time Florida sheriff and governor, and a group of investors commissioned the construction of the Three Friends. Investors planned to use the vessel to salvage wrecks and tow vessels in the Florida Keys. But between 1895 and 1897, the ship was used to run weapons and anti-Spanish revolutionary plotters to Cuba. In one trip alone, the Three Friends transported two rapid-fire field cannons, 500 rifles, 500 machetes, 300,000 rounds of ammunition, and 500 lbs. of dynamite to Cubans fighting to overthrow Spanish imperial rule. The ship, which traveled upwards of 17 knots, likely completed at least 10 smuggling trips from Florida to Cuba before the United States declared war against Spain in 1898.

Three Fast Florida Facts

  1. Pro-independence Cubans, many of whom worked in Florida cigar factories, established 76 pro-revolutionary clubs in Florida by the 1890s.
  2. Spanish General Arsenio Martínez-Campos y Antón complained that Tampa was “the very heart of the American conspiracy,” before the United States declared war on Spain.
  3. Nearly all U.S. soldiers who fought in Cuba after the United States declaration of war against Spain camped in Florida before being transported to the island.