"St. Petersburg, Florida, rightly called the 'Sunshine City' boasts of 360 days of sunshine every year. The Million Dollar Pier and miles of white sandy beaches are top attractions."

Have you ever wondered what it was like to live in Florida back in the mid 1900s? The state has built up so much over the past 10 years, it’s hard to remember what it looked like. Thanks to the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce, we can see what St. Petersburg looked like before it turned into what it is today. Let’s take a look into the bizarre Florida tourism films from the 1900s.

The films were first uncovered by David Shedden back in the 1980s. Sheddon was attending the University of South Florida when he discovered a few tin cans of film in the library. He worked part time at the library and salvaged the films that he could while others had been burned in the heat over the years. 

Andy Huse, a Special Collections librarian at the University said, “It wasn’t just a host standing there telling you things. They would show you,” he said. “It would be a highlight reel and it could be anywhere from five minutes to half an hour. Some of them were really elaborate and had stories and everything. Some of them were much more simple.”

How did these films start?

Florida’s first batch of travelog style films were created by the Frohocks. The Frohocks were a husband and wife that made the very first promotional film for St. Petersburg. The Frohock duo tackled the assignment and would write the scripts, film, and narrate the films to show off the beautiful landscape and beaches of St. Petersburg.

Before the television was a household staple, these travelogues were shown in small theaters and private clubs such as the Kiwanis or Rotary Clubs.The Commerce would send copies of these films to stations across the United States to help promote the resort city.

By the 50s and 60s, the television had become a staple of the American household and these tourism films started airing during broadcasts throughout the country. The St. Petersburg chamber of commerce went on to film many more promotional videos to draw people in from across the country.

Let’s take a look into St. Petersburg through the eyes of 6 Florida tourism films from the 1900s.

  • "Have Circus, Won't Travel" at Weeki Wachee Springs (1960)

    This film showcases the one of a kind, underwater circus at “Florida’s underwater Grand Canyon”.  The audience sits in the underwater theater while two mermaids perform a ballet routine and acrobatics and are joined “Willie” the underwater dragon as well as the “Janitor”. Give the full film a watch here.

  • The Adventures of X-14 (1965)

    The Adventures of X-14 begins when an alien lands on St. Petersburg Beach. The alien takes the form of different animals to blend in and begins to travel across the area.  Viewers get to catch a glimpse into the world of Florida with water skiers, marinas, the aquarium, fishing piers, party boats, and more. This film produced by Bill Beckley shows off the beautiful land of St. Petersburg to the vacationers of the 60s and gives us a chance to see what St. Petersburg looked like before the 21st century. Give the full film a watch here.


  • Unusual World of Florida (1964)

    The Unusual Wolrd of Florida takes viewers along a ride across the state of Florida beginning in Ft. Lauderdale. The airboat rides of the Florida Everglades, Swamp Buggy Derby of Naples, the wildlife of the swamplands, water-skiers of Cypress Gardens, Castillo de San Marcos in St. Augustine, divers and gator wrestling in Tarpon Springs, hand catching King Cobras, and more are just some of the activities Florida used to make it one of the top destinations for vacationers in the country. Give the full film a watch here.

  • When You Need It Bad, We've Got It Good (1970)

    Easily one of the catchiest jingles of all time, “When You Need It Bad, We’ve Got it Good” showcases the need for Florida for those who live in the cold areas of the United States. The movie shows snowy footage from the North and quickly jumps to the warm, sunny beaches of Florida because when you need it bad, Florida’s got it good. Viewers saw photographs of famous people visiting Florida to persuade them to take the trip down south for the Winter. Give the full film a watch here.

  • Ski Champs in Action at Cypress Gardens (1958)

    This film was a promotional video for Cypress Gardens and their love for the sport of water-skiing to provide water safety tips. It shows the various acts you’ll see at a Cypress Gardens Ski Show including the Pyramid, disc, barefooting, jumping and more. Cypress Gardens also used the video to promote the sale of their skis. Give the full film a watch here.


  • Buccaneer Conquest (1950)

    The “Buccaneer Conquest” shows off the Gasparilla Celebration which began in 1904. Businessmen, dressed as pirates, invade the shores and then celebrate together throughout the streets of Tampa. Give the full film and celebration a watch here.

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