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The Founding of Miami

January 22, 2015 by · Leave a Comment 

By Samuel Phineas Upham

Miami has the distinction of being the only American city to be conceived by a female. Her name was Julia Tuttle, and she was a citrus grower of some wealth who hailed from Cleveland. She’d gone to Miami, which was then known as “Biscayne Bay County,” in search of land for growing. Speculative reports described a rich and fertile area.

This was around the time that a severe winter was hitting Florida, and Miami was one of the only places where crops could grow. Tuttle reached out to a friend in the railroad business, Henry Flagler, and the city had a reason to grow. She formally incorporated the city in in July of 1896 and named it after Lake Okeechobee, which was historically called “Mayaimi.”

The 1920s seemed like they would shape up well for Miami. Speculative land purchases were increasing property values and some developments in new areas like the Everglades helped the county expand. Unfortunately, much of that land was bought on the hope that others would settle on it. Property values dwindled as the Great Depression hit. A series of tragedies hit the area, shattering the idyllic paradise the county had tried hard to maintain as a selling point.

The economy recovered during World War II, but the influx of Cubans during the late 1950s kick started city life. Although the area suffered some violence from gangs, population grew to 5.5 million within 100 years. Miami was once known as the Magic City. It was said that winter tourists could actually witness the growth from one year to the next, like magic.


About the Author: Samuel Phineas Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Samuel Phineas Upham website or LinkedIn.