Raymond O. Arsenault, Ph.D.
Gary R. Mormino, Ph.D.
Christopher F. Meindl, Ph.D.
University of South Florida St. Petersburg
For over a century Florida's Tampa Bay area has been extolled for its abundant seashores and moderate climate. The success of early twentieth-century St. Petersburg as a tourist destination was due to a consistent method of self-promotion highlighting the natural and physical features of peninsular Pinellas County. Warmed by balmy Tampa Bay breezes, St. Petersburg had been dubbed the “Health City.” This tiny 1890 coastal town of less than three hundred inhabitants, now blessed with a slogan, new train tracks, and a railway pier, was an ideal setting for tourism. By 1902, boosters declared St. Petersburg a city second to none. Over the next half-century – from the Building Boom to the Baby Boom –St. Petersburg exploded. Ranked twenty-seventh nationally in 1940, prewar Sunshine State was the South's leastpopulated state, but boosters like John Lodwick, “Tin-Canners,” and World War II brought many changes, few of which escaped St. Petersburg. This thesis examines elements of St. Petersburg that almost every historian has emphasized, but few have seriously analyzed: boosterism and tourism. More than almost any other Florida city, St. Petersburg relied upon an endlessly repeated message in postcards, newspapers editorials, print advertisements, and radio/television commercials. The city marketed itself as the nation's playground, a southern garden of perpetual welliii being. That St. Petersburg was the first American city to hire a public relations director and the first to initiate a successful advertising budget speaks to the magnitude of this message. In the late 1940s, while northern newspaper subscribers were teased with wintertime ads sending "Warm Wishes from Sunny St. Pete," a series of city-funded films were released. These quasi-documentaries, shown in countless lodges and auditoriums, portrayed the "Sunshine City" as the city of fun and sun. Without reserve, the films marketed St. Petersburg as the ideal destination for the nation's soon-to-be senior citizens. Through analysis of news media coupled with interviews, personal memoirs, and interdisciplinary studies, this thesis explores a recurring marketing theme and more importantly, places it within the context of Florida's tourism history and the city's goal of Selling St. Petersburg.
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Sitler, Nevin D., "Selling St. Petersburg: John Lodwick and the Promotion of a Florida Paradise" (2006). USFSP Master's Theses (Graduate). 24.