America's Swamp: Governor William Sherman Jennings

Interest in draining and “reclaiming” land in the Everglades began as early as the 1880s, but major drainage activities were not undertaken until the first two decades of the 20th century. Two Florida Governors, William Sherman Jennings and Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, would serve as the primary designers and spokespersons for the draining of the Everglades. In 1904 Governor Broward famously promised to create an "Empire of the Everglades." Of course, in fulfilling this promise the state would have to destroy the ecological systems by dredging, creating canals, and altering the flow of water in the world’s most famed wetlands.

The papers of Governor Broward and Governor Jennings form the nucleus of the project as they were the primary architects for the drainage and reclamation project. Jennings started the project rolling during his term, drumming up widespread support and resolving a myriad of legal issues, primarily pertaining to land claims made by the Flagler and Plant railroads. The May Mann Jennings Papers complement those of the two Governors because of her advocacy of the drainage project, and also because of her marriage to Gov. Jennings. However, the real strength of the collection is that it documents the conservation movement that developed at the start of the 20th century and the role of disenfranchised women in lobbying for legislation to protect the environment.