State of Florida

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   Introduction    Florida Top of Page
Archaeological finds indicate that Florida had been inhabited for thousands of years before any European settlements. Of the many indigenous people, the largest known were the Ais, the Apalachee, the Calusa, the Timucua and the Tocobago tribes. Juan Ponce de León, a Spanish conquistador, named Florida in honor of his "discovery" of the land on April 2, 1513, during Pascua Florida, a Spanish term for the Easter season. From that date forward, the land became known as "La Florida." (Juan Ponce de León may not have been the first European to reach Florida. At least one Indian that he encountered in Florida in 1513 could speak Spanish. Alternatively, the Spanish-speaking Indian could have been in contact with areas where Spanish settlements already existed, and Ponce de León was indeed the discoverer). Until the mid-twentieth century, Florida was the least populous Southern state; however, the local climate, tempered by the growing availability of air conditioning, made the state a haven, and migration from the Rust Belt and the Northeast sharply increased the population. Economic prosperity combined with Florida's sudden elevation in profile led to the Florida land boom of the 1920s, which brought a brief period of intense land development before the Great Depression brought it all to a halt. Florida's economy would not fully recover until WWII. Today, Florida is the most populous state in the South besides Texas, and the fourth most populous in the United States.
   Geography    Florida Top of Page
Geographic coordinates:
24°30'N to 31°N
79°48'W to 87°38'W
total: 65,758 sq mi
land: 53,997 sq mi
water: 11,761 sq mi
coastline: 1,350 miles
shoreline: 8,426 miles
Bordering States:
Alabama, Georgia
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: 0 ft
highest point: Britton Hill 345 ft
Florida is situated mostly on a large peninsula between the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Straits of Florida. It extends to the northwest into a panhandle, extending along the northern Gulf of Mexico. It is bordered on the north by the states of Georgia and Alabama, and on the west, at the end of the panhandle, by Alabama. It is near the countries of the Caribbean, particularly the Bahamas and Cuba. At 345 feet (105 m) above mean sea level, Britton Hill is the highest point in Florida and the lowest highpoint of any U.S. state. Contrary to popular belief, however, Florida is not entirely "flat." Some places, such as Clearwater, feature vistas that rise 50 to 100 feet (15–30 m) above the water. Much of the interior of Florida, typically 25 miles (40 km) or more away from the coastline, features rolling hills with elevations ranging from 100 to 250 feet (30–76 m) in many locations. Lake County holds the highest point of peninsular Florida, Sugarloaf Mountain, at 312 feet (95 m).
   People    Florida Top of Page
15,982,378 (2000)
Largest City:
Jacksonville: 782,623 (2005)
Age structure:
0-5 years old: 6.3%
<18 years old: 23.0%
65 years and over: 16.8%
Male: 49.0% Female: 51.0%
Population growth rate:
11.3% (2000-2005)
Population density:
301 per sq mi
Race(2000 Census):
White non-Hispanic: 65.4%
Hispanic: 16.8%
Black: 14.6%
Asian: 1.7%
Native American: 0.3%
Multi-Race: 2.4%
Christian: 82%
Other: 1%
Jewish: 4%
Non-Religious: 13%
   Government    Florida Top of Page
March 3, 1845 (27th State)
Local and County Government:
The basic structure, duties, function, and operations of the government of the State of Florida are defined and established by the Florida Constitution, which establishes the basic law of the state and guarantees various rights and freedoms of the people. The state government consists of three separate branches: judicial, executive, and legislative. The legislature enacts bills, which, if signed by the governor, become Florida Statutes. The Florida Legislature is comprised of the Florida Senate, which has 40 members, and the Florida House of Representatives, which has 120 members. The current Governor of Florida is Republican Jeb Bush, brother of U.S. President George W. Bush and son of former U.S. President George H. W. Bush. The Florida Supreme Court consists of a Chief Justice and six Justices.
State Tree:
Sabal Palm
State Bird:
State Flower:
Orange blossom
   Economy    Florida Top of Page
Economy - overview:
The gross state product of Florida in 2005 was $596 billion. Personal income was $30,098 per capita, ranking 26th in the nation. Florida's economy relies heavily on tourism. About 60 million visitors visit the state every year. Warm weather and hundreds of miles of beach attract vacationers from around the world. The Walt Disney World Resort, a mega-resort consisting of four theme parks, more than twenty hotels, water parks, shopping centers, and other attractions, is an important tourist attraction located in Lake Buena Vista. Together, Walt Disney World, and other theme park resorts such as Universal Orlando Resort and SeaWorld, are an important driver of the Central Florida economy. Other major industries include citrus fruit and juice production, banking, and phosphate mining within the Bone Valley region. With the arrival of the space program at Kennedy Space Center in the 1960s, Florida has developed a sizeable aerospace industry. The state did not have a state minimum wage law until November 2, 2004, when voters passed a constitutional amendment establishing a state minimum wage and mandating that it be adjusted for inflation every six months.