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THE GREAT RINGLING : A CRITICAL HISTORICAL ARCHAEOLOGY OF CA D'ZAN IN SARASOTA, FLORIDA BY MICHAEL SANDERSON A Thesis Submitted to the Division of Social Sciences New College of Florida in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Arts Under the sponsorship of Uzi Baram Sarasota, Florida November 2010
ii PREFACE This thesis demonstrates how aspects of Sarasota that are taken for granted, considered natural, were in fact deliberately created and built into the landscape so that they became to seem natural. Sarasota as an elite winter and retirement destination for wealthy individuals who made their fortunes elsewhere, Sarasota as a place with pleasant winter weather and a desirable coastline, Sarasota as a place with deep appreciation of the arts, as well as style and taste similar to Italy, which is embodied in the robust codeword "renaissance" all of these aspects will be familiar to anyone who knows twenty first century Sarasota, and all did not just happen as a result of chance or some predestined path. Their adoption was accomplished, in part, by building those messages into the landscape so that they appeared natural and beyond challenge. The initial insight that launched this research project. It began as a final project for the course Historical Archaeology in Spring of 2001: take the John Ringling estate and apply some historical archaeology theory to it. A historical work (Weeks 1993) e stablished that Ringling was engage in a vast project to build hotels, housing developments, and a shopping district, all primarily focused on the islands which I later
iii learned, barely existed at the turn of the century. Ringling also used climate, coast line and arts for his promotion. But how was this naturalized? The insight came from Mark Leone's point (1984) to look at the placement of buildings I suddenly asked myself, why was the Ca d'Zan placed on the edge of the water? Why not in the center of t he property, or facing the road, both logical places to place a grand home on a large piece of property? What followed was the realization that the estate was being used to send messages about Sarasota and about its owner to people who experienced it (that Ringling did build a purely decorative gate by the road indicated he cared about sending messages in that direction, as well.) The title of this thesis comes from The Great Gatsby Ringling's period of activity in Sarasota was the same as F. Scott Fitz gerald period of activity for writing novels, and there are numerous parallels between Ringling and Gatsby, down to the detail that both drove a gold Rolls Royce, although consider ing this in the thesis in a systematic way if not the purpose of this thesis It informs the understanding of his goals and his society in a way that is valuable, especially because Ringling left virtually no personal writing, no personal letters or diaries. There is also strong resemblances with the estate of Charles Foster Kane of the 1941 Citizen Kane which was also set in Florida (though as a proxy for William Randolph Hearst's San Simeon in California). Artists and writers tried to grapple with the changes of an industrializing and modernizing 20 th century America, and the ir works can provide insight to the artifacts and features uncovered by archaeologists. Even more tangential, the Ca d'Zan was used as Miss Havisham's estate in the 1998 film version of Great Expectations, which is at least personally meaningful as the d epiction of Havisham and her home is considered one of the great linkages of character and scene.
iv This thesis deals with a place, Sarasota, that includes New College and was the author's home during th e time the thesis was written. A final note on the dat e. This thesis was written from 2002 2004, and although the senior baccalaureate exam was passed in 2004 the library copy was not submitted and is being submitted in 2010. A new section has been added to chapter 2 to ensure the theory is up to date for a 2 010 thesis. I must acknowledge Provost Charlene Callahan for waving the fees and tuition to allow me to do this, and Professor Uzi Baram for his work in helping to complete this last step, as well as other individuals who helped make this possible. Novembe r 2010
v TABLE OF CONTENTS Preface ii Abstract . . . vi Chapter I : Introduction 1 Chapter II : Critical Theory in Historical Archaeology 7 Chapter III : Ringlings in America 34 Chapter IV : Sarasota, Origins to 1920 . 47 Chapter V : The Ca d'Zan as Panopticon 62 Chapter VI : Conclusion . . 86 Works Cited 90
vi THE GREAT RINGLING Michael Sanderson New College of Florida 2011 ABSTRACT Beginning in the 1980s, historical archaeologists began to scrutiny the residential gard ens of the North American elite, analyzing how these deliberately created landscapes were both produced and were the product of their hierarchical, elite controlled societies. John Ringling's Sarasota estate was part of his larger social action in 1920 s America, and this thesis uses archival research and analysis of the landscape to document how Ringling used the estate to create a local identity for Sarasota based on climate, coastline, and "culture" (meaning the arts and links to Europe). The thesis a rgues this identity was only partially present before and that Ringling used extensive building activity, including the estate, to make these aspects of Sarasota seem natural. Uzi Baram Division of Social Sciences
1 CHAPTER I : INTRODUCTION Ca d'Zan, the ornate palace of "Circus King" John Ringling and his wife Mable, has fascinated generations with its presence on Sarasota Bay. In the 1990s the house underwent an extensive h istorical restoration with the aim of restoring it to its appearance during the three years the Ringlings lived there. In 2003 the estate began extensive construction of new museum spaces permanently alter ing the dynamics of the estate, especially movemen t and perception. John Ringling had a significant impact on Sarasota's history, and Ringling's material culture left some intriguing questions: Why did they build this? What did it mean to them? What did it mean then, and what does it mean now? At the height of the 1920s, when the Ca d'Zan was completed and the original museum was yet unbuilt, the estate consisted of a few exotically decorated buildings set among lush tropical foliage. The Moorish arch of the gatehouse, set along the pink stucco wall against Bayshore Road, projected a public symbolism of the exotic. The Renaissance Revival architecture appeared throughout Florida, had not yet made a major appearance
2 in Sarasota when John and Mable Ringling expanded their estate. Through the ornate threshold, a narrow half mile road led through dozens of acres of lush tropical foliage. The sable palms, banyan trees, ferns and flowers had been planted over the decades by the Ringlings, from a nursery John had set up on Longboat Key. The roads were ma de with a local concrete mixed with shell, and passing through them the visitor could get glimpses of a variety of statuary, imported from Europe en masse and scattered around with only some regard for style and placement. O n the bay, the Ca d'Zan rose up, a four story palace recognizably modeled after those sitting on the canals of Venice. Architectural ornamentation embellished almost every surface. A mix of symbolism and style selected from across centuries of European design adorned the buildin g. T his palace was created by the Ringlings with the idea of enterta ining large numbers of visitors, and the visitor would proceed around the mansion and to a wide terrace, hundreds of square feet, from which he could gaze west out at Sarasota Bay and Long boat Key. Ostentatious, grandiose, contradictory, lavish, tacky simplistic adjectives, that have all been offered in personal conversations about the building illuminate something about the people and the time they live in. Interpretations, both popular a nd scholarly, vary widely. Some presentations emphasize John's parents' European origins, or that John and Mable frequently spent time in Italy, as evidence for the argument they were people who appreciated high culture. Others have called it an expression of Midwestern rubes' idea of what it meant to posses wealth and culture. Some have found the crucial context in the palaces at Newport, Rhode Isalnd, others in John's experience of founding the circus.
3 H istorical archaeology advances the analytic concern connecting a home to its builders' worldview as part of the cultured landscape. The buildings and the grounds related to the extensive activity in developing Sarasota. John Ringling's estate builds his idea of Sarasota, and his role for himself, into th e landscape itself. Further archival research explored the relationship between the material culture of Sarasota, the conceptual idea of the place, and people's behavior in relating to their community. Furthermore, key for understanding this relationship i s to realize that no one place matches one idea or one set of behaviors, but different uses of the land compete at different sites, built and occupied by people with different goals in doing so. Critical historical archaeology is the foundation for this t hesis. This line of theoretical approach in archaeology makes it s arguments largely through the organization of the data. This thesis has five chapters, which I will situate with this introduction. Chapter 2 provides an overview of relevant theory develope d in the last twenty five years largely in Annapolis, Maryland. The archaeologists in Annapolis, led by University of Maryland Professor Mark Leone, have articulated w hat we can understand about history through studies of material culture. For example, th e redbrick, eighteenth century English colonial buildings of Annapolis today appear as models of establishment and decorum Yet Leone told his summer field school in 2002 (which I attended) that these expensive, lavish, ostentatious homes were built by "th e Donald Trumps of their time" (Leone 2002, pers onal comm unication ). Needless to say, this applies to John Ringling, though it must not be an excuse to shut down more complex lines of thinking. The term that Leone used to describe the material culture he studied is ideology The concept has been in use since before Marx's The German Ideology (1846), and with
4 20 th century social scientists the concept has gone through periods of use, disuse, celebration, and disparagement. Ideology appears in the title of Leone's groundbreaking 1984 article, discussed in the next chapter, but Leone actually dropped the word in some later work. Ideology is understood here as ideas and beliefs held by individuals of a community, developed by their experiences in their particular time and place. Ideology can be characterized as the political ideas advanced because of their usefulness f or certain social actors in the larger political economic frame (Handsman and Leone 1989: 118). John Ringling and others in 1920s Sarasota advanced a concept of place for use as a vacation and leisure resort which was useful for them In this sense Ringl ing's vision is an ideology of Sarasota's meaning: what the place is, what it means to live here or visit here, and what his role in this community is. This ideology overlaps with others in the community, and conflicts either over the details or in some ca ses over the direction of the town. Much of Ringling's vision has been re incorporated into Sarasota's identity, further mystifying the roots of the social order. These are not "natural" born from the soil or from the water, but are social constructions an d I aim to demonstrate their origins. A more complex portrayal will occur in the chapter on Sarasota's history. In this sense of ideology, it can be personal to John Ringling alone. The analytic direction is to understand the articulated worldview as part of larger process, local to the scene of Sarasota in the 1920s and broader: the lives of John and Mable Ringling, played out across America in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Therefore, Chapter 3 presents the Ringling's social history, origins in E urope, upbringing in the Midwest, the Ringling's national prominence with the circus, and
5 finally a national portrait of the Roaring '20s. As a critical historical archaeology, this thesis tries to detangle the collusion of natural and cultural factors th at influenced Sarasota's development. Various social actors, including Ringling and those with contrary ideas of the place, sometimes declared that development of Sarasota they enacted was not their original creation, but the playing out of some determinis tic agenda be it deterministic from nature, or from the historical activity of people in southwest Florida. In Chapter 4, the origins and standard periods of Sarasota historical development are presented, with a careful eye to several aspects: that nothing is inevitable, that national and international contexts excreted a powerful influence, that geography plays not determinate role, and most crucially, that the practice of past generations structures the actions of those in the future. In trying to underst and the choices of individuals in the past, it's necessary to look at the present moment they faced, their past up to that point. The result otherwise is a textbook's narrative: a simplistic progression that glosses over conflict in the past by presenting history as inevitability. In this thesis, Chapter 2 presents theory, Chapter 3 the social history of the Ringlings from their origins through the 1920s, and Chapter 4 presents Sarasota from origins through the 1920s. The three chapters converge in Chapte r 5, devoted to an extensive examination of the Estate. Without engaging these broader contexts, Ca d'Zan will forever vacillate, in the eyes of its observers, between the simplistic explanations at hand and a deep inscrutability. This narrative, for reas ons of space and cohesion, ends in 1926. While Ringling's building activity was far from over, in that year the 1920s economic boom ended for
6 Florida land speculators. However, placing Ringling in a category with these speculators fundamentally misrepresents him, however necessary it may be. First, John Ringling's activity makes little sense as with a purely economic motive; he already had an enormous fortune, which he risked, and essentially lost. Nor, however, do the various altruistic motives that have been advanced explain much of the enigma Rather, the transient and un established Ringlings were doing quite the opposite in Sarasota: building something permanent for themselves. They seized the opportunity of the speculative bubble, which was their frame of expectations. When it collapsed in stages, with 1926 and 1929 are the date markers, John Ringling devoted tremendous energy and every resource he could to finish his projects. He would not succeed before his death in 1936
7 CHAPTER II: CRITICAL THEORY IN HISTORICAL ARCHAEOLOGY Mark Leone, a historical archaeologist and anthropology professor at the University of Maryland, first visited the William Paca Garden in Annapolis in the early 1980s. While observing the garden from the top side, he realized in an instant that the garden's terracing effect prevented him from estimating the distance of the focal point, a two story gazebo against the far wall (Leone 2002 personal communication). 18th century garden books confirmed the deliberateness of the manipulation of the viewer's perception. The article exploring his argument that cultured landscaped forms deliberately manipulate perception and therefore can naturalize misrepresentations of reality "Interpreting Ideology in Histor ical Archaeology: Using the Rules of Perspective in the William Paca Garden in Annapolis, Maryland" (1984) inaugurated nearly two decades, so far, of critical interpretation of the material culture of the m odern world. Initially focused on aspects of Angl o American settlement in North America, critical historical archaeology almost immediately expanded into aspects of history, theory, and material culture on a global scale (see Paynter 1988). This thesis takes its
8 methods of analysis from several examples of that work in critical historical archaeology that are among those developed by Leone and his students and colleagues. Contemporary presentations of history, local politics of the past and present, aspects of local identity over time, and the recursive r ole of material culture in these processes, were all studied as part of "Archaeology in Annapolis" in Annapolis, Maryland. This concentration of available resources and its prominence led to a diverse yet unified body of work that has particular value for explaining the material culture of John Ringling. These articles present theories and case studies that the arguments in this thesis have been modeled on. Their choices and organization have structured the argument and provided examples of how this critic al material culture analysis can be undertaken. The presentation of this archaeological theory is effective because of the case studies they provide. THE IDEOLOGY IN THE GARDEN In the early 1980s, extensive archaeological work allowed the reconstruction of the William Paca Garden in Annapolis, Maryland. Understandings of what the garden meant to its creators, however, assumed it had the same function as a three acre garden today: a scene for weddings, parties, or quiet aesthetic enjoyment of nature (Leone pers. comm. 2002; for examples of history as falsified projection of the present, see Potter 1994 and Leone 1995 and 2005 ). At the invitation of the founder of Historic Annapolis and without a specific agenda for the garden, Leone arrived in Annapolis amid widespread intellectual changes in archaeology. First, there was the post processual turn in archaeology; not a momentary change but a diverse series of movements that were
9 begi nning to build on and depart from the scientifically oriented New Archaeology. A diachronic concern with history and change accepted narratives backed up by data. This approach was interpretive, taking an anthropological attention to meaning, and complemen ted the interpretive approach of postprocessual archaeologists generally. Theoretical interests included symbolic, structural, and critical archaeology in which Leone had been interest ed in since the 1960s, which he mentions in his Historical Archaeology article "Seeing: The Power of Town Planning in the Chesapeake" ( Leone and Hurry 1998). At that time, historical archaeology was emerging as a field that drew on analytic methods beyond archaeology, such as cultural anthropology, history, and architecture history. Before discussing aspects of critical theory in Leone's 1984 work, it's important to explain the idea that material culture is recursive. This was a underlying assumption critical for most postprocessual archaeology, as what appears in the archaeo logical record as static, which New Archaeologists studied as the product of human activity, postprocessualists treated material culture as product and precedent for what people in a society can do. Injecting history complemented the idea of the recursive nature of material culture, as it postulated humans acting in conditions they themselves created. The new dynamic, with the introduction of critical theory, adopted a paraphrase of Marx, Men make their own history, but they do not make it just how they c hoose; they do so in circumstances directly handed down from the past (Marx 1998: 1). Through its recursive nature, material culture is seen as active in social relations; not so much material culture does things, but that material can be used as a social strategy, intentionally, and material culture can communicate meanings and affect social relations.
10 James Deetz had analyzed material culture in historic settings, employing a symbolic structural (or cognitive) analysis. Deetz's book In Small Thing s Forgotten (1977) continued this line of analysis, studying the relation of people and their material culture (Deetz and Dethlefsen 1980; Deetz 1996). Historian Rhys Isaac used a line symbolic analysis following Deetz and Clifford Geertz in his work The Transformation of Virginia, 1740 1790 (1982), a work of history Leone uses as his starting point. Both Deetz and Isaac identified The Georgian Order, a concern for individuality and symmetrical order in virtually all aspects of colonial life; the Georgi an Order became increasingly evident in the material record as the 18 th century progressed. The movement towards individualism w ithin modern social structures in the 18 th century and on made concern for agency important, and this put the individual as the agent of social change. The cognitive or symbolic structural approach lacked explanatory power, however, in the question of why things changed. W hy did the Georgian Order come about, and come to dominate virtually all aspects of life? How was it brought ab out? For what purpose? Here, Leone introduces the concept of ideology, as developed by social theorists, for its explanatory power in understanding historical material culture. For his definition of ideology, Leone cites the emerging critical archaeologist Shanks and Tilley (1982), who Leone says derived it from their critique of Althusser (1971) and also from a reading of Lukacs (1971), all of who drew from Marx's The German Ide ology (1978 ). Leone's definition contains two parts: The first is that ideology, being neither worldview nor belief, worldview, is ideas about nature, cause, time, and person, or those things that are taken by society as a given. Second, these idea s serve to naturalize and thus mask inequities in the social order; ideas, such as the notion of a person, when accepted uncritically, serve to reproduce the social order. (1984: 372)
11 From this concept of ideology, Leone directs his critical attention to the concept of the Georgian order. Isaac suggests and Leone concurs that this style had a strong relationship to the shaky political, economic and social position for the planter aristocracy in the 18 th century Chesapeake, culminating in the American Revolution. When an aspect of the Georgian Order, such as its characteristic segmentation, was imposed on nature, as in gardens, vistas, systematic observations of the stars, winds, tides, and native people s, the segmentation quickly became confused with nature itself. And the system of segmentation, ordering, and even grading towards hierarchy was mistaken as itself being natural and discovered within nature. This segmentation and its confusion with nature, as in gardens and astronomical observations, had the impact of making the social world, which was similarly arrayed, appear to be unquestionable. (1984: 374). Leone situates the discussion at the level of the broad, stylistic features across the politica l, economic, and social processes affecting the entire region. Moreover, Leone argues that what can be described as stylistic or aesthetic or ceremonial objects in material culture should instead be reexamined as potentially ideological objects, used by cl asses at the top of social hierarchies to maintain their position (see also Leone 1998). Moreover, through citation and appropriation of Isaac he has already demonstrated the 18 th century planter gentry's weak position, stating, Isaac correctly sees the Georgian order as a behavioral effort to control economics and politics (1984: 375). In particular Leone's identified the weakness of incomplete institutions : a lack of precedent, resorting to expediency as a means to govern, and the emotional empt iness of Anglicanism (1984: 374). Leone's study so far has integrated the political, economic, and social status into a conceptual schema that can account for societal factors previously taken fo r granted in historical studies much as they were meant to b e taken for granted in their own time.
12 Every instance of ideological construction through the built environment, from the first noted example of the construction of St. Peter's in Rome during the Renaissance, took place as those undertaking them were tryin g to amplify or shore up their power that is, as preface or an initial stage in a broad ideological offensive (Leone, personal communication 2002). Those who engaged in these massive building projects did not do so from positions of political economic stre ngth, but to attain them. Precedent occupies Leone as it occupies the people he's studying. The past, present, and therefore future interested the ruling classes in the Chesapeake, as part of pursuits seemingly not linked their possession of power (i.e. seemingly ceremonial aspects of culture). Observations were systematized as all aspects of life in the Georgian order; the observations of the 18 th century colonial planter elite formed a basis for activity and a systematic view of society (1984: 374 76) Precedent's ideological significance also occurs in the 18 th century interest in classical history. Reading of classical texts occupied much of the elite in this time, and citations appear in their writings. Leone makes the excellent point that we canno t know what the Americans thought of the texts, but what we do know is significant. Quoting one American's notations of what he read, Leone says, All we know is that he was familiar with the texts (1984: 377). This weak (or at least uneven) knowledge of the texts supports the interpretation of classics as ideology. E soteric knowledge and f amiliarity with far off and long dead civilizations helps to lend ideological support for the class that advertises them. As Leone demonstrates, for example with statuar y, classical references were deployed as part of the broader ideological presentation. Leone then turns to his case study, the William Paca Garden in Annapolis,
13 Maryland. He addresses the fragmentary evidence we have to draw on, then integrates the aspect s of the Georgian order into his description. Leone then begins to discuss the broader thought process that went into garden construction in that time, especially appropriate given the lack of knowledge of Paca's intentions. Just as the 18 th century extend ed precise observation and measurement into the natural world, it extends it into the construction of spaces that are meant to be understood as natural. Garden books suggested precise measurements of all the elements of garden, including natural elements. Observation of the local climate (famously carried on by Thomas Jefferson) and planning accordingly was also suggested. To project some of the later discussions of ideology back to this argument, it could be said that the adjustment to local conditions wo uld suggest ideology as a mediation rather than as something used to smother actual conditions, whatever those might be. Leone's key point, however, appears when he says The tie to the garden may be as follows: just as precedent inserted into law allowed the established order to protect its own position by making that position appear historically valid, so that same social position seemed to be more fixed when it appeared to be served by optical, astronomical, and geometrical phenomena displayed in the gardens allees and vistas. (1984: 381) The discussion of perspective advances this point by demonstrating how garden books suggested creating geometric forms to manipulate p erspective, thus fooling the eye of the viewer. He further argues that the garden can be understood like a text, and therefore through critical theory. He also states there is a linkage of illusions of three dimensional perspective in space to the illusion s of the ideological construction of society. Leone argues reasonably Paca and his peers [Washington and Jefferson were just
14 noted] saw gardens as a way of thinking concretely about natural philosophy (1984: 382). Next, Leone argues that in the use of p erspective, through the manipulation of natural and cultural elements in accordance with geometry, it is possible to see garden building as naturalizing a specific attitude to the past (1984: 382). He compares it to a Renaissance painting, notes its line s of sight, its terraces, and that it aims to create a different distance from what actually exists between viewer and object (1984: 382). Examples such as the rows of evergreens along the lines of sight work to affect the perception of distance, therefo re advancing the argument the garden is an exercise in misrepresentation. The whole functions to naturalize the social hierarchy of colonial society in the natural landscape They [the planter elite] displayed their principles in the alles, vistas, and pa tterns of their gardens (1984: 384). The garden presents other ideological ideas, such as notions of time, both as measurable segments as a universal history, and seeing society as segments wholes. Leone can only touch on these. Contradictions in the lif e of William Paca occupy a significant portion of Leone's attention. Specifically, Leone calls attention to the contradiction of slavery. Isaac illustrates the impact of this growing contradiction, of a society developing notions of liberty while remaining dependent on enslaved Africans a pyramid constructed on an unstable, untenable base. These are the conditions of the time of the garden and are behind the contradictions it was very likely built although not necessarily consciously to mask. That is why t he garden, and the Georgian order in general, are ideology (1984:386). These stresses increased, and Leone cites a historian to demonstrate these contradictions are playing out over time. He continues if the hypothesis in this paper is an appropriate veh icle for organizing the data, then we might expect ideological activity to intensify throughout the 18 th
15 century. Certainly that is what happened by extending precision into all aspects of the social order, as seen above. But we would also expect to find e lements of this ideological activity in material culture. And we do. (1984: 397) Ideology masks the contradictions in the political, economic, and social order, and Leone argues the garden served as ideology to locate his [Paca's] position of power [as] placed in law and nature (1984: 387 -88). The discussion of the wilderness garden argues that it's further ideological activity, part of the intensification mentioned above. Levi Strauss's comments on curvilinear designs, although Leone only takes them as a starting point, describe curves as part of a dying social order. While this is risky speculation, it makes sense that at the boundaries or unstable points of the social order the regularized spontaneity, with illusions of movement, should appear. Where squares and rectangles project establishment, curves portray motion, but [a curve] creates the ill usion of flow and movement, but is in fact the rigid control over spontaneous movement (1984: 239). Leone's final paragraph, a forceful assertion of what he has concluded, is worth repeating in full: The formal garden was not an adornment, the product of spare time; it was not for food and still less for idle fashion. It was a place for thinking and for mak ing the observations which were essential to economic and social life. It was not passive; it was very active, for by walking in it, building it, looking at it, admiring and discussing it, and using it i n any way, its contemporaries could take themselves and their position as granted and convince others that the way things are is the way they have always been and should remain. For the order was natural and had always been so. (1984 : 389)
16 HISTORY AND LOCAL IDENTITY Leone took a broader focus on material culture about five years later in Living history and critical archaeology in the reconstruction of the past (1989), Leone and Russell Handsman use two case studies, museum exhibits on George Washingt on and Yankee docks, to show how thinking, self creating persons individuals construct and personalize history (and, by extension, archaeology) to organize their lives and to misrepresent their relations with others (1989: 117). The persons who construct and personalize history are the exhibit's creators, and most of the article deals with historical representation. While individualism is a central concern for all of these thinkers, as the concept was at a critical moment of emergence in the 18 th century, it is less of a concern for this thesis; furthermore, a critique of historical presentation far supersedes what this thesis can accommodate, although it certainly could be done. Rather, this article's attempt to sketch the conceptual outline and methods appropriate to studies in critical archaeology (1989: 118), its elaboration of the application of ideology, and its use of a great man case study, all make the argument worth scrutinizing. To begin, our concern is with the process of systematically int erpreting the human past in modern societies, whether this past represents great persons or events, social or behavioral processes, or the everyday lives of the faceless, forgotten many (1989 : 118 ). Ideology relates to worldview more explicitly in this a rticle: t he authors argue that historical studies must go beyond the discovery of ideas, worldviews, paradigms and systems of meaning that structure the lives of people in the past. The subject is not just what constitutes their vision for a place (vis ion seen through the concept of worldview) but why their visions take the forms they do. Ideology understands that articulated ideas
17 do things, and are not passive descriptions but active in affecting the world. Ideology is both domain and process as thes e are constructed and enacted by real people, living and working within, and sometimes against, specific relations of inequality (Handsman and Leone 1989: 118). The authors apply their argument both to the present and the past, with complex implications worked out, and this thesis truncates it into two main points: 1) the importance of examining the local interplay of forces in the past that produced the historical records, material culture, and other documentation, and 2) the importance of not projecting present social relations into the past through unstudied analogy. This has a different meaning for scholarship than for public presentation, but with similar implications. The interpretations, as will be seen in Chapters 3 5, are underlaid by historical s ources, literature, historical scholarship, or verified empirical observation. Handsman and Leone discuss how to use archaeology to reconstruct the pastness of the past: to restore those histories and prehistories which show what might have been possible and what happened to those other possibilities (1989: 119). This is encouraged not only for public presentation, but also for historical scholarship. They argue that local identities (and other identities) are constructed through material culture throug h representations of history and of nature are points of analysis that lend insight to the issue of John Ringling. Connected to that, Handsman and Leone argue, following Althusser, that the real relations of people can be obscured through ideological misre presentations of material culture to present false images of history or nature (1989: 118 125; Althusser 1971: 165). Exposing how this takes place, through engagement with past dynamics of
18 politics, economics, and simply power, is the work of the critical archaeologist. By way of example, Handsman and Leone include the information that local leaders in Annapolis faced an expansion of the Naval Academy that threatened their town's independent existence. Without positing a causal relationship between the Naval Academy's expansion and historical prese ntation in Annapolis, the authors note that Annapolis's local leaders constructed a symbolic presentation of the city independent of the Academy these interests rediscovered the central symbols of their power and past. They used George Washington, the Tre aty of Paris, and the Old Senate Chamber to oppose a powerful claim to space, vistas, and history (1989: 125). While Handsman and Leone make more subtle symbolic connections, suffice here to note that the symbols used by Annapolis to compete with the Acad emy are consistent with the argument that symbol systems emerge from and are part local arguments about interests and power. Potter (1994) followed the analysis of a specific ideology that links a person and his site with several new avenues for explorati on. First, Leone had argued for need to systematically explore how wider social contexts most critically the socio politics in the past structure social action and the creation of material culture whether this past represents great persons and events, soc ial and behavioral processes, or the everyday lives of the faceless, forgotten many (Handsman and Leone 1989: 118). They continue, citing cultural anthropology approaches, Critical archaeology does share with such approaches the assumption that pure mean ingless action does not exist and that everyday life cannot be understood independent of its societal context (1989: 118). Parker Potter's history of history in Annapolis and his analysis of Annapolis' use of the past provide m odels of diachronic integra tion. His Annapolis story describes
19 generations, from the later 19 th century to the present, manipulating the past for their goals. His actors are successive arrivals to Annapolis who ground their ideology in history; successive arrivals to Sarasota ground their fantasies in nature. Nevertheless, there are several striking points of departure, and Chapter 4 aims to show that each period of activity set the conditions for the action, which departs from it, of the next scene. Each new generation up to Ringli ngs (and later beyond) ignored past activity while taking it for granted, depicted current activity as resident in nature, and took for granted how nature had already been structured for cultural goals. The result is a transition, in stages, from a produc tive to an aesthetic relationship to the land in Sarasota. The productive use of land has been deemphasized if not silenced in history since. A rough exploration of material forms up to about 1920 should satisfy, through demonstration, this alternate histo ry exploration aspect of a critical history of Sarasota. The theory of the second half of the chapter builds on this by organizing the data to explore key relationships of material culture during the Florida land boom, roughly 1918 1926. Ringling undertoo k the most significant activity, but to take a useful concept of urban development from the sociologists John Logan and Harvey Molotch, he acted as part of a growth coalition of place entrepreneurs (Logan and Moltoch 1987). Leone (1995) explored the how periods of political, economic and social changes are accompanied by ideological shifts in architecture, building design, and landscape forms. However, for late 18 th century America, Leone's scale of analysis was, following Foucault's work, the relatio n of the individual to society as citizen. Even with the meaning of national identity as the object of concern, Leone's historical archaeology still
20 scrutinized how these dynamics play out in local contexts, through the built environment. National dynamics do play out in Sarasota, including the continued nationalization of the country and the 1920s development of a national culture focused on entertainment. As mentioned in Chapter 4, these national issues will be mentioned as they are relevant, but the focu s here will follow Potter (1994) in examining the development of local identity: The conception of place, how that gives meaning to categories such as resident or visitor, and how this idea of place urban identity is formed Potter's Annapolis has mul tiple, overlapping aspects of local identity that productively match those in Sarasota. Productive both in the sense of useful for analysis, and productive in the sense that Potter's critical history argues that the basis for local identity is economic pro ductivity. As a place dependent on transient individuals, a tourist town, a yachting center, and a historic place, Annapolis developed its political, economic, and social institutions to advance the idea of place that serves local interests. This alignment is not static or uniform, as these ideas change over time and different interests in the city compete to have their ideas enacted. The key relationship is that the evolution of these ideas their change over time are worked out in material culture. Archaeo logical engagement with the material culture of the past advances an understanding of past peoples' meaning of place, and what social actors did when they engaged in large scale building projects. An idea of Sarasota as a basis for local identity can fall under the study of ideology (literally, idea ology; see Althusser 1971) but really in this analysis it differs little from historians' descriptions of the developers' vision (Weeks 1993; Matthe ws 1989).
21 PANOPTICON FOUND Leone's A Historical Archaeology of Capitalism (1995) presents diverse aspects of work done in Annapolis for more than a decade. The article lays out a more explicit research agenda for historical archaeology, critical histor y, and public engagement; Leone argues for deconstruction of local history, because if a locally based but nationally directed presentations of American history is subjected to the kinds of questions historical materialists ask about capitalism, the outco me of the history it presents no longer appears inevitable (1995: 254). The most prominent departure for the article is the expansion of the principles of the 1984 article to incorporate historical archaeology into analysis of entire cityscapes of the pa st. In the section Baroque and Panoptic Planning, Leone relates basic historical information about the motivations of Englishmen in the Chesapeake the historic, explicit political and social agenda who employed baroque planning in urban plans. First, ba roque town plans were explicit attempts to create illusions designed to enhance centers of power ... Second, even at the time of their first settlements, Europeans in the Chesapeake area were shaping landscapes, both urban and rural, into illusions intende d to establish their power (1995: 255). This departs from the 1984 argument by extending it, placing Paca's three acre backyard in relation to local and national material culture. Leone for the study of the complex interplay of power and large scale mate rial culture from seeing the area's landscapes as efforts at three dimensional control, not merely as two dimensional plans for traffic, trade, and efficiency (1995: 255). Foremost Leone's presents, following Foucault's work in Discipline and Punish (1979), an interpretation of the expanded Maryland State House as a Panopticon. Leone argued that
22 Annapolis's 1688 town plan employed baroque principles of street layout; what has gone unexplained is the addition, in the 1780s, of a dome or cupola on the M aryland State House. In t w o dimensions the state house already commanded the most prominent location in the city, with the largest encircling road (State Circle) and baroque avenues radiating outward. Furthermore, it was already situated on the highest hil l in the town. Leone wrote, An eight sided, multistory architectural oddity, which has never been successfully described ... Attempts at classification have been mired in descriptions of style: the cupola has been called, among other things, Chinese Chipp endale, an awkwardly articulated Federal period architectural device ... [etc.] The windows look out, down, and along the eight radiating streets and paths that approach the capital building ... My notion is that the tower is, in effect, the cent erpiece of a panopticon, built on a grand scale. (Leone 1995: 256) Leone's elaboration of Foucault's ideas, specifically regarding the creation of individuality, is not the concern for this thesis. It is worth noting that Althusser also placed importance on the role that the creation of individuals played in the maintenance of ideology. What does concern Ringling's project is how individual citizens were motivated to think of themselves as having a particular relationship to the state through the physical relation to the place. The specifics of this relationship between material culture (town plans, architecture, lines of sight) and power structures not the existence of a relationship itself is the direction that this line of analysis is going. That is expa nded on in the next article, a comparative study of Annapolis, Baltimore, and St. Mary's City. Leone and Hurry state in conclusion that their approach, whereby the design of the city is linked to concepts of power, is just one way to look at cities. The reiterated point, however, successfully argues that The sense of sight is a key element in this
23 shaping of urban space and it is a tool in the establishment and maintenance of power (1998: 59). Leone and Hurry (1998) provide a theoretical model expanding on Leone 1995, to discuss the deliberate sculpting of landscape to enact a political and social agenda. This will integrate Ringling's largest, most dramatic landscape modification into the analysis, the creation of the Sarasota keys. Leone and Hurry dec lare, at the opening of their 1998 article, Our intent is to use material from historical archaeology, as well as from maps, photographs, and documents to compare and analyze the urban designs of three Maryland Cities ... [they] provide a valuable case st udy of change and continuity in the use of design and an opportunity to explore some of the meanings behind urban plans in America (1998: 34 35). With cities and power as the focus of analysis, the 1886 Sarasota Town Plot can fruitfully be analyzed with the the goal [being] to demonstrate how each of these cities reflects the status of local and regional governmental authority (1998: 34). Keeping with the notion that each of these cities reflects the status of local and regional governments, the economic goals of the c ompany that brought the Scottish settlers to Sarasota (described in Chapter 4) play out in the landscape. The north south east west axis of the street grid, naturalized through mathematics, measurement, perfection of right angle s, and alignment with the points of the compass. Leone and Hurry (1998) put forward the need to look for European importation of Baroque town planning in American towns, but we know the man primarily responsible, J. Hamilton Gillespie, came from Europe as directly as anyone in 17th or 18th century Maryland, and so understanding Sarasota's development in the 1880s as a European colony makes as much sense as an American possession.
24 The Ringlings also transformed their relationship to Sarasota with their expan sion. Leone (1998) suggests that the use of Baroque principles to design garden spaces coincides with attempts to establish hierarchical authority in the face of opposition (Leone and Hurry 1998: 44). The appearance of Baroque garden design usually accompanies efforts to regain or to maintain political or social power. The 1998 article continues, This 18 th century us of baroque principles in gardens to affect and impress ot hers may be seen as a personalization of the power of members of the colonial elite as individuals. These gardens were private constructs which manipulated the landscape to affect the way people saw the seeker of status (1998: 44). HISTORICAL ARCHAEO LOGY TO 2010 Since Deetz (1977), Historical Archaeology has expanded exponentially ( O rs er 2010: 111). Historical archaeologists have continued to dig deeper into the subjects that have long occupied them as well as into new areas, but there have not been any theoretical revolutions. R ather, the field has sharpened its tools. This section will look at how this thesis fits into the concerns of H istorical A rchaeology of the first decade of the 21 st century, when of course it was written. Powered cultural landscapes have been continuing to develop as an area of research. The International Journal of Historical Archaeology devoted an issue in 2010 to their analysis, for which Suzanne Spencer Wood and Sherene Baugher gave an introduction and historical summe ry. Their area and framework of analysis is directly
25 what this thesis is about: social power dynamics that have altered historical cultural landscapes (2010: 8). In the historical discussion of the concept, Spencer Wood and Baugher note that the concept of landscapes, cultural landscapes, and powered cultural landscapes are not particularly new even if they have only been the subject of analysis by historical archaeologists for a few decades. They note, In 1908, the German cultural geographer Otto Schlu ter first used the term kulturlandschaft, which means land shaped by human culture (2010: 2). During the 20 th century development of archaeology, the study of the layout and distribution of buildings would fall under the framework of settlement patterns. As is relevant for this thesis, a analytic usefulness is gained through the historical archaeology of powered cultural landscapes when they are conceptualized as designed to act on those who observe and experience them. Leone is credited with helping to break ground on some of the earliest attempts to study power in the landscape. Spencer Wood and Bragher summarize Leone's 1984 article with Leone s analyses revealed how nouveau riche men in pre revolutionary Annapolis symbolically tried to leg itimate their social domination as part of the natural order through the construction of decorative gardens that displayed their ability to control, manipulate, and dominate nature. This summery emphasizes that the creation of these gardens was something they did as part of a larger social goal. Leone came under criticism for neglecting to consider the laborers who built these gardens Laborers disappear from the analysis is O rs er's criticism, as is the contention that the dominant ideology thesis can over emphasize the material domination ; the Marxian Paynter and McGuire and others advocate that historical archaeologists create dialectical domination
26 and resistance frameworks to research class and racial power dynamics and the dominant ideology thesis ca n fail to do this ( Spenser Wood 2010: 6) Since this thesis uses the dominant ideology thesis, it is necessary to look for resistance to it. However, the complicated, and while multi variant project advocated by Paynter and McGuire is beyond the scope of any small project, the t wo examples below immediately come to mind B oth fit the framework of resistance to the dominate ideology, it is competition among elites, a reminder that the dominant ideology is not monolithic. The first is the hidden room. Alth ough the layout and stylistic choices inside the house are outside the scope of this project, as this element is hidden by the landscape view it is worth considering. The room is hidden by the facade of the house. Seen from the approach by land, Ca d'Zan a ppears to be basically a two story house, with an clear line below the balconies dividing the first and second floors on the outside (see image below) Each floor has windows that are three to four feet high about the same amount of space above and below e ach window, on both the first and second floor. There is also a high roof element, extending several feet above the top of the second floor. Inside, o n the first floor of the house the ceilings of the rooms in front are about 10 feet high; in John's bedro om on the second floor the ceiling is even higher.
27 (image from http://www.ringling.org/cadmansion.aspx) However, in Mable's bedroom and other rooms to the north side of the house (the right side seen from this angle) inside those rooms the low ceilings do not extend above the windows. Combined with the space made by the decorative roof element, space is created for a hidden, win dowless room on the third floor Historical archaeologists routinely dig for things meant to be kept hidden, specifically looki ng for examples of resistance. This is clearly resistance, albeit to a governmental policy that never gained total acceptance at any level: prohibition. The first thing inside the hidden area is a wine vault. Second, however, is that the inside of the room 's sloping ceiling is painted like the inside of a circus tent, and the support columns are painted with colorful faces, perhaps masks. Some have argued that Ringling tried to disassociate himself from his reputation as "circus king" (Weeks 1993) but here in this private, hidden space he clearly celebrated it.
28 The second example of resistance was found on another site in Sarasota, by chance, through a personal communication : the Selby Gardens, the former estate of another elite resident of Sarasota It wil l be dealt with in Chapter 5 but illustrates the difficulty of looking for things that were meant to be kept hidden, or suppressed. In an additional point, Spencer Wood and Baugher note that one of the most productive areas of ongoing historical archaeol ogy of powered cultural landscapes regards gender. This is another tricky area regarding the Ringling Estate. The museum was named after Mable as well as John, suggesting a partnership if not equality, though of course this would require its own dedicated analysis to explore. Another case study that can inform some areas of analysis of this project was published in 2000, chapter 1 in The Archaeology of Southern Urban Landscapes, Lindy Derry's Southern Town Plans, Storytelling, and Historical Archaeology. In particular, she makes important points about how a town's landscape is shaped to tell a story its creators want to tell about themselves, and also more basic points about the political and economic dynamics worked in the creation and planning of 19 th c entury American southern towns, a category of town that includes Sarasota. First, Derry makes the argument that town plans are a form of storytelling. In this chapter, landscape is viewed as self narrative (2000: 14). Landscapes tell morally charged st ories about themselves, the social relations within their community, and their relations to a divine order (James Duncan 1990: 17 20 in Derry 2000: 15). This is a continuation of the landscape as text dynamic that enabled the productive use of Foucault in historical archaeology. Derry also demonstrates with historical and archaeological
29 documentation that the story local elites changes over time, along with their goals. This will become important (and obvious) in the chapter on Sarasota's history. Second, Derry provides important context for the founding of southern frontier towns. Land was usually managed by distant land bureaus, and equally distant land speculators were buying undeveloped plots, with the hope that the arrival of settlers later wou ld increase their value (or at least, later land speculators). When town plan is commissioned to be as dashing as possible, she notes dryly, historical archaeologists will benefit little from a strictly functional approach when studying these landscapes (Derry 2000: 16 17). Finally, Mark Leone brought his decades of work in the historical archaeology of the Mid Atlantic region of the United States to a new level of development with the 2005 publication of The Archaeology of Liberty in an American Capi tal It summarizes and encapsulates past breakthroughs, adding the perspective that comes from a career's worth of development. The most relevant sec tions concern his reasons that Annapolis is an excellent site for study, and of course his ongoing discussi on of garden design as a social process communicating and naturalizing ideology, as well as city planning and lines of sight, and his discussion of the unresolved and still relevant insights of social theorists who have informed his work, including Foucaul t, Lukacs, and primarily Althusser. Before he gets to these weighty theorists, Leone takes his opening chapter, The Importance of Knowing Annapolis, to discuss why he believes Annapolis is not just a suitable place to explore these theoretical concerns but an exemplary one. Many of these justifications also apply to Sarasota, sometimes by analogy, but sometimes directly. On page 2 Leone states, Annapolis and its way of life were planned, thought out and then
30 created. It is of great importance because it was not spontaneous, opportunistic, or dependent on the success of capital or entrepreneurial activity. The key is not spontaneous" or "opportunistic" the last criteria does not apply to Sarasota as the place has been quite dependent on larger flows o f capital and I characteriz e John Ringling as a place entrepreneur follow ing Logan and Moltoch (1987) It is still imperative to remember, particularly writing from Sarasota in the early 21 st centurty, that Sarasota's way of life was planed and created. As Leone states, What planning actually means, which is social control. Leone adds, The work I report here is a deliberate effort to make the control visible and conscious (2005: 7). This thesis has the same aim. That Annapolis's style and planning were Baroque is another direct link to Sarasota; Sarasota uses an ideology of Renaissance style, which is partially introduced during John Ringling s activity but is actually quite flexible, incorporating elements from any time and place in Italy and a cross the Mediterranean. But the large scale building projects and use of art and statuary to establish authority is the same dynamic that drove Baroque builders: The Rome we see today is a product of the use of baroque built forms and their intent to e stablish the authority of those at the top of the social pyramid and the hoped for subordination of those not so placed (2005: 8). That much of the art purchased for the museum is Baroque is sometimes explained in that at that time Baroque art was out of style, and so it was possible for Ringling to buy large quantities very cheaply but there may be more than financial reasons of coincidence. Leone writes, Baroque was not merely a style. Baroque style is a result of a theory of power. Leone then turns to Braudel: Baroque acts of show, often quite expensive, were
31 used to demonstrate power and position when these were desired rather than achieved (Leone 2005: 80, citing Braudel 1979: 488 93). Leone continues, in an analysis that is prescient when applied to the circus magnet: extraordinary and even unnatural feats, where nature was supposed to be so well understood that it was brought under control and exhibited to show off the majestic abilities of the owner and patron. He continues: The show was desi gned to impress and was used at the ebb of power, not when the power was achieved. Baroque style embodied a theory of power when there was not enough of it (2005: 80). For this analysis p ower should be replaced with position or status, but that Ringling was aware of this showmanship is beyond obvious: he and his family owed their entire fortune and fame to their ability to achieve this effect. However, they had done it in a tent, which was folded up and packed onto a train. Ringling was building a permanent home in Sarasota. Leone draw s on Fernand Braudel to try to draw in elements of performance to strengthen his argument that the building projects were acts of show meant to act on those who saw them; i ronically, with Ringling the analy sis must push that element of building as performance away, lest his baroque style be subsumed into his career, totally explained away as the project of the circus king. Regardless of the implications of the proximity of Leone and Braduel's analysis to Rin gling's work and style, although Ringling did many performances during his years of trying to build up Sarasota, it is his building projects on which this analysis will stay focused. In addition to the large scale building throughout the towns, the plannin g and construction of a way of life for Annapolis and Sarasota was accomplished through the creation of elite houses and gardens: in another direct parallel, both were the site of the
32 construction of several very large elite houses in a short period of tim e Built by the nouveau riche of their time a fact that it is too easy to overlook, especially in Annapolis these elite residences all had a garden that was not incidental to the life of Annapolis in the eighteenth century and is not today. It is not the product of leisure, money, or taste, although all three are related or even central to it. It is a function of power, particularly its absence. That is how it worked and how, in its authentically recreated state, it still works (2005:63). In the end, this is a dynamic that can be seen again and again throughout European and American history: the garden too was an untrue claim. It was a wish. It was to produce an ostentatious display built to convince viewer with vistas of power that did not yet exist. Thi s is what Louis XIV had done with Versailles 130 years earlier and what the popes did when they began a new, and eventually baroque, St. Peters i n the 1450s and redesigned Rome (2005:63) Ringling in Sarasota fits neatly into this tradition. All of this relates directly to Leone's theoretical concerns, and the discussion of the social theory that led to these groundbreaking insights still has many smoldering questions. The discussion is now (of course not for the first time) informed by Foucault and blend ed with Althusser (Leone 2005: 144) : Once the rules were placed in nature, or as Foucault shows, within what appeared to be the natural structure of language, which was within the domain thought to be beyond human motivation, or control, they tended not s o much to be invisible as to be beyond human action to challenge or control. This is the hallmark of ideology according to Althusser Leone adds shortly after: Althusser points out that ideology and ideological propositions like individualism presented
33 t hemselves as though they had no history, that is, no origin in a context that would explain their economic, political, or psychological function. This is a way for an ideological proposition to appear to have been always with us, or inevitable (Leone 2005 : 144). For as been repeated throughout this theoretical chapter, Ideologies gave themselves the aura of being timeless and eternal, or of deriving from God or being natural forms (2005: 181). The unresolved issue of if and how the dominant ideology can be penetrated intellectually must be elided here, in favor of following Leone's comment, Lukacs argued that a historian's job was to trace how an ideology came to be (2005: 181). That is a goal of this entire thesis. CONCLUSION The extensive building projects that Ringling and others undertook projected their idea of Sarasota's identity into the landscape of the place. The understanding from Maryland indicates that large scale construction of altered patterns of land use, traffic sight, and perception have meaning as part of the larger social goals of individuals who undertake them. Within an individual's house and garden, alterations are built with an understanding of the owner and his role in his society. Across cityscapes, soc ial action in the past can be analyzed by scrutinizing architectural styles, patterns of land use, and management of sight. In Sarasota, the creation of prominent new buildings in the landscape, constructed with towers advertising their stylistic assertion and placed at strategic locations for their visibility, advanced the large scale social goals in Sarasota.
34 CHAPTER III: THE RINGLINGS IN AMERICA John Ringling arrived in Florida in 1911 at the age of 45. He and Mable had grown up in humble conditions that they were later reluctant to describe, and with the sizable amount of money Ringling had made through the circus they set out in the first decades of the 20th century on a quest to gain status Like innumerable others that ma ke up this common aspect of American lore, they took their disreputable money and their lower class birth and attempted to reach the status they thought they deserved, and when they found that wasn't possible, they attempted to create it. In this effort John brought his lifeways, social position, and business style, all of which were integrated under the Ringling title of showman. Weeks (1993: xii) characterized him, This man could name a thousand acquaintances but no close friend. This chapter begin s with John Ringling's origins, the child of European immigrants in the upper Midwest. (There is scant information on Mable's life prior to her marriage.) From there it proceeds through successive stages of the Ringlings' life. The final section deals less with John and Mable's specific activity, which will be discussed in greater depth in the next three chapters. It can be helpful to think of "Mark Twain's
35 America" transitioning into F. Scott Fitzgerald's America. The literary references can provide cont ext and addresses Leone's call, following his work in the Chesapeake, to create national i nterpretations of local history RINGLING ORIGINS : EUROPEAN REFUGEES IN MARK TWAIN'S AMERICA From the beginning, the Ringling Brothers associated themselves publi cly with the circus they created and throughout their careers they built up a series of legends and mythologies about themselves, which makes their actual origins difficult to discern. We know that the children (five of six brothers formed the circus toget her) were children of European immigrants, August Ringling and Salome Juliar, who immigrated from Hanover and Alsace, respectively. August, an artisan, fled amid the political and economic tensions in Europe before the revolutions of 1848. The couple marri ed in 1852 in Milwaukee (Harlow 1951: 13; Weeks 1993: 5). In Hanover the family name had been R[u]ngeling, which August Americanized after immigrating. Before that, the name had been the French Richelin, which had been changed when the family, who were Hug uenots, emigrated also from Alsace, to Germany, following the 1685 Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (Weeks 1993: 5). In their later life, Charles Ringling would research the family genealogy and ruefully report to John that they were descendents of no ki ngs, princes, barons, or dukes One ancestor had been a secretary to Napoleons Charles wrote and That is the very best I can do (quoted in Weeb 1993, 5). Understandings of Ca d'Zan should begin at the wooden Iowa shack in which, on
36 May 31, 1866, John Ringling was born. August Ringling, a craftsman, built harnesses for horses in shops he ran himself, and business was never successful, and it only declined as the United States industrialized throughout the 19 th century. The family moved continually throughout the Midwest, as the father persisted in trying to make his business work (Harlow 1951: 12 17; Plowden 1968: 14 20). Later in life the Ringlings were reluctant to discuss the family's privations (Weeks 1993: 6). In 1868, when the family lived in a small Mississippi River town in Iowa where their father was again struggling to operate a harness shop, the older brothers began the circus that would make the family rich and famous. Probably the best depiction of the family's early life comes from the quintessential novel of 19 th century Midwestern small town life, if not of America itself, Huckleberry Finn (1884), and in The Circus Kings : Our Ringling Family Story, Henry Ringling North, a son of the Ringling broth ers' only sister, stated, there [in McGregor] the Ringling boys grew up in an environment almost identical to that of the most famous of all American boys, who lived in a similar river town, called Hannibal, Missouri (North and Hatch 1960:51). This is cu rious, because for example, Twain's determination to carve out an American identity free of European cultural dependence was not something the Ringlings experienced at home, as their Franco German parents taught them to appreciate high culture, especially music, which the brothers (especially Charles) would make central to their identity. Nevertheless, moving from speculative connections to fiction back to the actual kinship, North continued, Incidentally, Grandfather Ringling's sister [Grandfather Ringlin g was August] was married to Samuel Clemens' first cousin and my mother often visited the Clemens family in Hannibal (1960: 51).
37 That John Ringling grew up in Mark Twain's America explains much of his subsequent action. Twain coined the phrase The Gilde d Age ; John gilded everything he did, from the circus wagons to the Ca d Zan. His story fits a cultural narrative, one persistent in American cultural life and that had particular prominence in the Gilded Age: the rags to riches story. Specifically, Ringl ing matches the description of the freebooting entreasures conducting described by Marxist journalist Matthew Josephson in The Robber Barons (1934) and historians Charles and Mary Beard, in The Rise of American Civilization. Josephson popularized the stories of "empire builders," conducting themselves as robber barons of the middle ages (Josephson 1934). The Ringlings together or John's solo activity fit this narrative. Charles and Mary Beard, in The Rise of American Civilizat ion, wrote that a vulgar plutocracy ruled America in the Gilded Age, as in Rome in Cicero's day, and furthermore, they noted, this vulgar elite ransacked the palaces of Europe for art. This nouveau riche behavior is mocked by Twain as it happened in fin d e sicle America, and Huckleberry Finn also contains a powerful depiction of the environment in which the Ringlings began their family concern. The brief show put on by the duke and the king are parodies (to some degree some aspects were probably true to life) of the traveling performances that were the major form of mass entertainment in the United States before the development of cinema, radio and television. Five Ringlings made this disreputable business their own, beginning first with carnivals or s trange performances. Outside their small town of Baraboo they cut tent poles in the Wisconsin woods, and then they led their homemade wagons on the muddy roads from town to town.
38 MASS ENTERTAINMENT : THE RINGLINGS' CIRCUS AND AMERICAN LIFE Knowledge of the bulk of the Ringlings' lives, their time spent with the circus, comes mostly from memoirs and recollections. In their conduct of the circus the Ringlings left little in the way of historical documentation other than collected recollections interviews, and memoirs (see Harlow 1951; North and Hatch 1960; Plowden 1968). The circus grew to among the largest and most famous in America. Several points illuminate later aspects of John Ringling's material culture endeavors in Sarasota, and so this section will draw from throughout many decades of John's early life and the Ringlings' circuses without attempting to adhere to a chronology. The Ringlings' production began as a simple traveling show, advertised with fliers that resemble those parodied in Huck Finn (several are provided in Harlow 1951: 81 83) According to accounts, John quit school at age nine and first ran away from home at twelve. My mother used to say that the only way they could keep John in school was to tie him to his desk, his nephew Henry Ringling North recounted, adding Uncle John was never amused by this remark (North and Hatch 1960: 61). Henry Ringling North is the nephew who John paid to send to Yale in the 1920s, and his book overruns with literary allusions, a disp lay of erudition and education appropriate for a family sensitive to it. According to these stories, John ran away from home at twelve and was found in Milwaukee, living in an empty warehouse, from which he was selling something called Ringling Cleanser (North and Hatch 1960: 62). John ran away three more times in next two years, the last to a traveling small hall show, and North notes, Uncle John enjoyed
39 the gypsy life immensely, as he ever after did (North and Hatch 1960: 62). John briefly worked a t a hardware store. It was galling drudgery for the restless, ambitious boy of seventeen ... Even at that age, John could not abide confinement, dullness, monotony. He was anxious to be out where things were going on, not cooped up and taking orders from someone else (Plowden 1968: 37). One day John brought back a flyer from a traveling circus, and never let [the other brothers] forget the money to be made in a circus and he insisted they have one of their own (Plowden 1968: 42). The older brothers had been producing small scale shows for over a decade, and in one of the first, approximately five year old Little Johnny Ringling sang a clown song, Root Hog or Die (North and Hatch 1960: 57). Whether or not John actually deserves all the credit for the idea of the circus taking the brothers from a transient artisan's near poverty to circus wealth and fame, he clearly took it in stories he told to the family. John Ringling switched from performances to advance work in 1885. Alf T. Ringling, who recorded the early history of the brothers' shows, said the focus on advance work was John's innovation. Alf T. gave an account of John's pitch, which after arguing for better advanced scouting for the best towns and best sites within them, John continued: I could work the town officials, too, and maybe do something about these high licenses they're votin' against us. We've got to fight 'em. The brothers gave it a thought. They realized John was an extrovert; that he knew when to act the smart buffoon, or the simpleton. He continued to propound his theory while they listened. ''I'm the youngest one and they'll have a softer feel in' for me. It'll be a lot easier to get the show in a town after I've been there and done some sweetenin' than to pull i n and set up cold, like we've been doin' They'll have some sympathy for a young fellow tryin' to match these big outfits. They can be lenient as the devil collectin' these taxes and license fees, if we do a little talkin' and sweetenin' up. I c an tell them how little the show is; how we're just a bunch of kids, and
40 get licenses and lots cheaper. Then we can advertise the show as big as we please. They'll understand. We've got to work them from all angles, don't you see? (Plowden 1968: 58 59) W hile this dialogue is of questionable veracity, John did switch from the stage to advance work. Furthermore, this passage offers a way to see the Ca d'Zan in John Ringling's own words. He understood the relationship between personal performance and persuas ion, the social dynamic integral to relationships in politics and business. This explicit understanding on John's part helps to reconcile the ostentatious, overwhelming imagery of Ca d'Zan with the respectable image John was trying to cultivate in Sarasota It was a palace of the self, calculated to effect people to an understanding of him and of his project that would motivate them to give him what he wanted. John's childhood role in these early family shows does, as his role throughout the circus general ly does, provide valuable context for his later action. Striking early parallels of imagery and social techniques show a continuity, both within John's life and within American culture, of activity later in life that interpretations from John's contemporar ies to the present have too easily explained as simply the activity of a wild, grandiose dreamer with strange gifts and exuberant imagination. THE TWENTIETH CENTURY : JOHN RINGLING'S MATURITY: FAME, FORTUNE, AND MARRIAGE While the personal association of the five brothers with their circus continued to remain most prominent as the circus matured, indicating an awareness of the relationship between personal and professional image, John's role continued to grow. The advance
41 work's consequence was that Joh n Ringling became the man who personified the circus to the places it visited, as the brother who represented the circus singularly, absent the others and the circus itself (Plowden 1968; North and Hutch 1960). Advance work involved entering a town, which he and the brothers' circus may never have visited before, and making the financial, logistical, business, physical and promotional preparations. It required John to anticipate and arrange from scratch virtually everything that would be necessary for a suc cessful performance. Moreover, his logistical task required him to be independently acting, determined and intractable, yet flexible and creative in securing what the circus required. Nationalization of the country led to and was furthered by the developm ent of a national rail network following the Civil War, and in 1890, the Ringlings' circus used rail cars to replace the circus wagon for transportation, adding economy of scale, greater size and reach, and a surge in logistical responsibilities for John. He represented the circus in the increasingly wide circles it traveled, fro m medium sized Midwestern towns through the national presence in New York. He became adept at wheeling dealing, socializing, and entertaining. According to accounts and evidenced by their circus' success, John excelled This attitude, an innate character trait or learned behavior, provides a characterization that explained his behavior innumerable times before he came to Sarasota: from a scraggly field in a small town to a successful circus performance, regardless of obstacles. Advance responsibilities also gave John responsibility for creating the promotional posters (Weeks 1993: 239). From the crude advertising used for the Ringling Brothers' Carnival of Fun, seen in a poster from the 1883 84 season, as the circus
42 matured John progressed to increasingly sophisticated imagery. In 1931, in interviews given between the completion of the Museum and its opening, John told the Sarasota Herald he was attracted to art in search for circus advertising (Herald June 1931: 1). While the origin of the stylized R used in John and Charles' Sarasota Estates is unknown, the R appears in a poster from the 1898 season, as well as the imagery of lions, including the use of lion's paws at the base of columns, first appears here (Degroft and Weeks 2003: 5). The lion's paw at the base or on the legs of furniture can still be seen in original furniture of Charles' still present in what is now College Hall. This creation of a family iconography continued through The John Ringling Estates, and doubtless ego played a role, the tight personal professional nexus developed and continued by John indicated a desire which he articulated to see his personal identity and the family name become something prominent in the status conscious times in which they lived. The element of John's identity putting himself above the others was always present, however; Charles, decades later, remembered an early circus ledger that listed the brothers' names, and next to John's n ame, Charles wrote, (ME, ME, ME) (Weeks 1993: 255). John's determination and ambition continued as he focused almost exclusively on advance work until the brothers acquired several circuses after the turn of the century. Another responsibility in cl uded auditioning new circus acts, which included travel to Europe, where many of the performers were trained; while later John would travel to the continent to the exclusion of the circus and even family, this role was how his European travel began. In 1906, t he Ringlings' purchased Barnum and Bail e y following the death of co
43 founder James Bailey. It had been the dominate national circus when the Ringlings came onto the scene and then their principle rival (Weeks 1993: 13). The Ringling name, their increasing c elebrity, and the circus's resources were deployed to advance their interests. Finally, the railroads factor as a key nexus for John's life. The national importance of rail service unifies both the circus's expansion and Sarasota's and John Ringling knew his intimate familiarity with the rails was crucial for his success (North and Hutch: 138). Furthermore, he went from scrutinizing trunk line schedules to meeting with railroad executives, and here he interacted with men whose activity in more respectable fields lent status to accompany their wealth (Weeks 1993). John's ambition led him, alone among the brothers, to invest his share of the fortune into a myriad of other business and social enterprises. CIRCUS IMAGERY AND THE OTHER' Historian of Anthrop ology Lee Baker, in his work From Savage to Negro (1998), devotes a chapter dealing with the turn of the 20 th century to Anthropology in American Popular Culture (1998: 54 -80). He does not mention the Ringlings or circuses, but Baker does center his analysis on the 1890s and 1900s, a time when the Ringlings' circus was among the top popular entertainments in the United States. From what is known, the examination does n ot simply reveal that the Ringli ngs' participated in the racist depictions of the era although there are horror stories, including one involving Ubangis brought to America John Ringling was personally responsible for but rather, the analysis provides context and complicates the Ringlings' use of racial and ethnic i magery. In the earliest traveling shows, ethnic humor was wildly employed, and the young
44 performer John was their ethnic comedian par excellence. An early flier advertised Then we will hav e 15 minutes in Ireland. Songs, Dances, Funny Sayings, Irish Witticisms, etc., by John Ringling, the funny Irish Comedian of the period. Everyone prepare to laugh. He will introduce his original Parody Version of Over the Garden Wall '" (Harlow 1951: 82). John did both Irish and German character sketches, and he took part in playlets with an assurance and pertness which were highly amusing to audiences (Harlow 1951: 63). John performed, sometimes, as the Emperor of Dutch Comedians and did a wooden shoe dance. With his round Face and a false bulging stomach he was very funny (North and Hatch 1960: 68). Decades later, images of ethnic dancers would adorn the Dance of Nations painted by William Pogany on the ballroom ceiling in Ca d'Zan The circus, like the World Columbian Exposition and the Crystal Palace before it, drew on imagery of the strange and the exotic for its sensationalistic appeal. In the 19 th century Americans overwhelmingly learned about non Western cultures foreign, his torical or Native American from popular commercial expositions intended to shock and titillate. In a recent article about Franz Boas in The New Yorker came the historical summation, As it turned out, the Chicago fair was a colossal freak show a racist pha ntasmagoria, with commercial interests under the guise of anthropology catering to every cheap and lurid prejudice (Pierpont 2004: 51). This seemingly contrasts to what was going on in the cities in the late 19 t h and early 20th centuries. Thomas Patter son devoted a section of his Towards a Social History of Archaeology to the role of natural history and art museums in the cultural shifts of the period. High culture certain forms of art, music, theater, and literature was appropriated by the ruling clas s, which claimed to be the custodian of culture. J.P. Morgan and other
45 architects of their own fortunes (Patterson 1998: 44 ) established the Museum of Natural History and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in the 1860s to possess, exhibit, and lock up scie ntific facts and fine art that caught their fancy (Patterson 1998: 44). Patterson puts stress on the relationship of economic domination in the acquisitions of museum collections applies to the purchase of art from Europe following WWI, which took advanta ge of European postwar economic malaise, which included currency discrepancies. But Patterson also notes that the circus regularly drew larger crowds than the edif y ing institutions created for the masses (Patterson 1998: 43). The Ringlings had lived an itinerant lifestyle; the Ringlings' went from homemade horse drawn carriages to the circus wagon train to gilded train cars without altering the basic mobility of their pattern of life. With John and Mable's acquisition of homes in Chicago, New York, New Jersey and initially in Sarasota, they bought existing places and modified them to fit their needs; Ca d'Zan would be their first and only original construction. Furthermore, their selection of' Sarasota as home acquired a special resonance with their decision, reache d during the '20s to be buried in Sarasota, on the estate. Buried not in the simple graves selected in 1991 by John Ringling North, but in their style, interred in a crypt beneath the museum, behind gold doors in hand carved sarcophaguses. CONCLUSION
46 John Ringling's story, for all its unique aspects, played out over the late 19th and early 20th centuries along the lines of a familiar American cultural narrative. The son of European immigrants, his childhood was nonetheless distinctly American. When the family earned tremendous wealth and John married Mable, a similarly ambitious child of rural A merica, they had an idea of how they would live an idea based on the extensive political, economic, and social activity that was the model in the Gilded Age. Their means were those of the time, money, and they needed a scene to display their wealth. This i s how they would first come to Sarasota, in the opening decades of the 20th century.
47 CHAPTER IV: SARASOTA ORIGINS TO 1920 Sarasota, the Ringlings' scene of activity, had a history and an existing practice when the Ringlings arrived, and th e Ringlings chose Sarasota because it suited their ambitions. This chapter has two goals: First, it provides the geographical and historical background of Sarasota up to John and Mable Ringling's arrival in 1910. Second, it describes the activity that John Ringling and others undertook from 1920 to 1926, during the Florida Land Boom, to further Sarasota's development. These developers did not find a blank slate of nature on which to enact their social goals, but ra ther a particular geographical place, shaped by seventy five years of American settlement. That historical activity was responsible for their very presence in Sarasota, and for about ten years John and Mable lived quietly without trying to have an impact o n the community. The 1920s were a period of substantial social and material change in Sarasota as throughout Florida; Ringling acted as an agent of these developments, repositioning himself socially by advancing Sarasota's economic expansion and directing it on a
48 trajector y advantageous to himself. This chapter strives to avoid creating false representations based on the socio politics of the present, and to identity (as Potter 1994 did) key aspects of history that can illuminate the material culture of a place. It mimics P otter's organization by first discussing the historic aspects to 1910, then discussing the critical, dynamic aspects of material culture over that time. GEOGRAPHY AND HISTORY The origin of the name Sarasota is unknown. It first appears in the historica l record on a Spanish map acquired by England after the Seven Years' War in 1763. As the conquistador Hernando de Soto began his 1538 expedition into Tampa Bay by sailing through this area, later residents speculated the existence of a woman "Sara de Sota" that it was named after. Anglo American settlers would use de Soto and the Spanish connection as symbols for "a m y thical Spanish history for Sarasota" present in architecture (McDonough 1999: iv) and the ritualistic "Sara de Sota pageant," invented by ear ly settlers and which John Ringling would at one point preside over. Through the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, southwest Florida was occupied by Spanish ranchos, seasonal fisherman from Cuba. They fished for mullet, which they salted, sm oke cured, and took to market at Havana. In Florida, the rancho s set up temporary camps for salting and smoke curing, built homes, married Seminole women, and formed settlements with names such as Oyster Bay (Matthews 1989: 33). Under British control, surv eyors designated Palm Island (Longboat Key) and Clam Island (Siesta) and the pass betw een them Zarasota (Matthews 1989, 32).
49 The first century of Anglo American settlement in Sarasota can be divided into historical periods, usually marked by new arr ivals: 1842 1862 The Whitaker family lives on a subsistence settlement, in the Seminole frontier area. 1862 1885 Between present day Hudson Bayou and Philippi Creek, settlers motivated by the Homestead Act form a community. 1885 1910 A proprietor and the only permanent settler of the Scottish Ormiston Colony, Hamilton Gillespie, establishes a town street grid, opens a store and hotel, and with others promotes Sarasota as an agricultural and leisure destination. Development remained s low for 25 years. 1910 1919 Bertha Palmer arrives, buying tens of thousands of acres, planning the development of Venice, and building hotels and several estates. A new cadre of entrepreneurs would follow her to Sarasota. They can be divided into two gro ups, that were not fixed but evolved: those who moved to Sarasota simply to live, and those who got involved in efforts to further advance the town while living its lifestyle. These periods and events are structured by global historical conditions of poli t ics, economics, and technology nineteenth century economic consolidation and a worldwide depression beginning in 187 1 for example, led both to the Ringling brothers' founding of the family circus and to the Scot's emigration. August Rungling crossed the Atlantic in 1847 to pursue a better scene to make his life, and five years before a settler named William Whitaker had sailed into a small inlet with his family. On the north bank of that inlet lay the material record of centuries of human settlement: Nati ve American mounds, deserted settlements of the Spanish fishermen and their Seminole wives and children, and remnants of a military encampment named for its commanding general, Fort Armistead. Whitaker had camped there during the Second Seminole War, which had removed virtually all Native Americans from the immediate area, friendly or unfriendly, and invalidated the land claims of the Spanish fishermen who had lived there for generations. The Congressional Armed Occupation Act of 1842, land grants were
50 avai lable for settlers who would defend the newly cleared land, and Whitaker and other veterans of the war moved in (Matthews 1989: 35 39). Whitaker set up his homestead on the shore of the inlet he renamed Whitaker Bayou, inaugurating both Anglo American sett lement in Sarasota and the tradition of Sarasota people naming things for themselves. In less than a century the pioneering, subsistence settlement would be transformed into valuable waterfront real estate in the City of Sarasota, a resort destination for a burgeoning class of wealthy Americans, not incidentally because John Ringling would construct the centerpiece of his grand development plans, his own thirty seven acre estate (Monroe et al 1982: 23). As part of the competition for resources and strugg les of use of the land, control would pass from the initial homesteaders to land speculators and local elites, structuring the later development. In what would become Sarasota, this began approximately with the arrival in 1876 of Charles S. Abbe, a native of Illinois. Significantly, he was a Republican, aligning him politically with national political control and against the Democratically dominated local and Southern power structure. Abbe's political affiliation brought himself government appointments, suc h as commissioner for the U.S. Circuit Court and as the first postmaster in the immediate area ; this allowed him to name the town, and he considered renaming the town Helena (Matthews 1979: 910). This is the beginning of Classical allusions, and the artic ulation of a Mediterranean aesthetic for the place. Abbe began to promote Sarasota as a place of settlement for Northerners. He planted fruit trees, citrus and crops; opened a general store; subcontracted clearing, fencing, and ditching; boarded visitors i n his home a planned to open a hotel. Notably, he promoted Sarasota everywhere he could, including northern fairs.
51 Abbe also steadily added to his land holdings, buying from the Internal Improvement Fund. By 1881 he was the largest landowner in the area, with 628 acres (1979: 11). Their location was not incidental: Abbe, like other out of state purchasers, had secured land in the area along the mangrove shore and the waters of Sarasota Bay. By 1881 the Internal Improvement Fund, which held the title to mos t of the area, had mismanaged its affairs by granting land to fictitious railroad companies, and needing a sudden influx of cash to pay off bondholders, discovered a loophole in the Homestead Act: In 1850 Congress had granted swamp and overflow lands to the states, and the Florida Legislature designated over 20 million acres to be such, including most of Manatee County (when then included Sarasota county). As B.H. Hibbard put it in History of the Public Land Policies: Great frauds were committed by the s tate representatives in selecting the lands, and the record of the states in disposing of them is equally bad .... Florida granted large tracts to railroads. Most of the states disposed of their swamp lands in unlimited amounts to capitalist groups and the reby furthered the land monopolization to which federal policy was effectively contributing. (1976) Historian David Brion Davis wrote, The great theme of American settlement was the continuing contest of will between absentee owners and the squatters who first developed the land and who often had some partial claim of title (1977: 445). That it erupted into armed conflict in Sarasota indic ates the extent of the contest; settlers outraged their Homestead Act claims had been invalidated turned on Abbe, a northerner who already had legal title to his lands, and murdered him. That act of violence did not forestall development. Fifty thousand acres were sold to the Florida Mortgage & Investment Company; a British company that operated a land scheme that sold plots of land in Florida to members of the Scottish middle class. Great
52 Britain since 1872 was in an economic slump of falling agricultural prices and massive unemployment (Thomas 1986: 190 196). Although virtually all the Scots would leave Sarasota short ly after arriving, the change brought by the expedition would alter the trajectory of the community. Despite this burst of growth, Sarasota stagnated for the remainder of the nineteenth century. In 1888 an outbreak of yellow fever quarantined the coasts o f Florida and ended commerce, and the panic of 1893 shut down capital markets. Through the end of the nineteenth century agriculture continued to be the use value promoted most heavily, even in the context of real estate speculation. The 1897 Manatee Count y Directory, credited to Gillespie and Whitaker (a descendent of the original settler) said in large type, Sarasota Real Estate Agency, Sarasota, Florida, Has for sale, Orange Groves, Grape Fruit Groves, Vegetable Lands, Saw Grasses, Hammocks, Phosphate a nd Pine Lands, also Town Lots, Bay Fronts, Hotels and Lands on the Keys, with Deep Water Fronts and Protection from Frosts (1897: 84). Tourism is listed first in the promotional text, but it spends as much space discussing agriculture: Quite a number of handsome cottages have been lately built in the vicinity of Sara Sota by men of means from the North and West, and everything points to considerable development and increase of population in the near future. The vegetable lands rival thos e of the Manatee River district, and are much cheaper. They only await cultivation at the hands of the experienced market gardener to return enormous profits (1897: 86). Weeks argued, The land was less fertile than what was found north of the Manatee Riv er, much of it soft sand; some proved to be hardpan below the surface (Weeks 1993,34). As some Scots had discovered, before they left, some Sarasota plots promoted
53 for agriculture were suitable only for cattle grazing (Matthews 1989: 63). Small scale com mercial fishing remained a principle occupation, and tarpon fishing, popular among wealthy northerners who visited the Florida gulf coast, was established as a tourist activity (Weeks 1993: 32 36). Transport remained an issue hampering development. With r ough trails and irregular boat service the only routes, the growth coalition (Logan and Molotch 1987) realized that Sarasota needed access to transportation networks. In April of 1890, Gillespie and four others formed the Sarasota Drainage and Railway Co mpany, planning a rail link from Lakeland to south of Sarasota, but that the venture failed In 1892 nine miles of track were laid from Sarasota to Bradenton, where the train connected to nothing; service began with two passenger cars, one with a canvas to p and the other open, and continued irregularly until 1895. The Slow and Wobbly, as it was dubbed, was beset by financing problems, never made money, and had no viability as a railroad its purpose was to spur development. Fortunately for Sarasota develop ers, a steamer began service to Bradenton and Tampa in 1895 (apparently not affiliated with the Sarasota leadership) and the Spanish American War of 1898 led to increased activity in Florida. These developers were laying the groundwork for later developme nt if not in substance, then in organization. The Slow and Wobbly, for example, recognized that f act that Sarasota needed rail links the dominant form of transportation at the time in order to achieve the goals of growth. However, the weakness of that o peration neatly symbolizes the inability of these early boosters to achieve their goals. In 1903 an organized and well financed outside railroad company brought a rail link to Sarasota to transport fish and citrus to northern markets. The impact was
54 immediate; the economy grew stronger and the population increased (Weeks 1993: 36). This railroad would allow the winter residents to return, and by 1913 there were four or five private railroad cars in Sarasota in the winter (Weeks 1993: 38). Sarasota i ncorporated as a town in 1902, to better control the town's financial and administrative resources, solidifying through political boundaries the early us urpation of place of the 1880s the town's original post office, on the former Abbe holdings, were not i n the Town of Sarasota. The town's seal continued to indicate an orientation towards a productive relationship to the water: It prominently displayed a mullet. Hamilton Gillespie was elected the first mayor. The new town's laws indicated it would control b ehavior, historian Janet Matthews wrote: Persons could be fined or imprisoned at hard labor for violations of ordinances relating to profanity, fighting, blocking the sidewalk. While tourists and investors were most welcome, Sarasota's council turned a ja undiced eye upon unemployed visitors persons having no visible means of support and categorized those as vagrants. An ordinance prohibited their sleeping in citizen's privies, unfinished buildings, and other outhouses (1989: 82) Development accelerate d in the first decade of the twentieth century. The Sarasota leadership pushed forward a number of bond issues to finance large scale projects needed for growth, mainly roads and schools. In 1910 the Board of Trade, an organization for the local business community, was formed, chaired by Hamilton Gillespie. They brought the organization necessary to demand large scale projects: 1) better roads, and 2) a bay channel five or six feet deep from Tampa Bay to Venice. That year the U.S. Congress authorized $30,000 for the project ( Weeks 1993: 41 42). Fortunately for a project trying to detangle Ringling's activity from the actions of a broader coalition, the terms developers, the local elite, place entrepreneurs and
55 growth coalition indicate action for Sarasota that was complementary to Ringling's, but that he may not have initiated or directly been involved with. There is no good example of Ringling being opposed by a growth coalition, but individuals did oppose him and so metimes forced alterations to his plans. Around the turn of the century, investors such as Henry Flagler had developed the east coast of Florida, giving places themes: Palm Beach was a playground for the wealthy; Miami was a site for trade with Latin Amer ica, legitimate and n ot (bootlegging would later flourish there). There were the newly rich who wanted to share in Florida's glamour. The shrewd developers gave their clients hotels catering to specific classes of travelers. At the best hotels, houseboats golf courses, and elegant shops charmed the guests, bringing more money and more people into Florida each season (Weeks 1993: 29). Flagler's success told developers hotel and rail in combination with warm Florida winters meant economic success (1993: 29). Most land was bought and sold on a large scale from afar, and this is how Sarasota developed. Bertha Palmer's arrival is credited with changing the dynamic of Sarasota and allowing successful, large scale development to move forward. She was a Chicag o socialite and widow of a hotel magnet; her links to the metropolis of Chicago included both financial capital and symbolic capital. She had climbed to the top of the social world in Chicago, and her every activity was news. Her reasons for selecting Sara sota as her winter home remain unclear, but it involved her purchase of eventually 100,000 acres in the area. However, she not only purchased land in town but also agricultural land throughout Sarasota County. By taking up winter residence, her presence pu t Sarasota on the national map as a suitab le resort destination (1993: 39 40).
56 Owen Burns arrived the same year in 1910 and involved himself in real estate, banking, construction, cast stone, paving, and dredging. He immediately purchased all the town pro perty then held by Hamilton Gillespie, about 75 percent, for $30,000 ( still organized in the lots intended for purchase by the Scots ) Burns would become a business partner with John Ringling, who did not get involved in Sarasota until almost ten years lat er, and the partnership paired Ringling's promotional ability with careful business skill (1993: 41). With the involvement of Palmer, a new opportunity opened up and the local elites moved to take advantage of it. They had obstacles to overcome. The devel opment of Florida thus far had bypassed Sarasota, which remained a backwater, unconnected by major routes of transportation, whether road, rail or sea. Indeed, this lack of development contributed to these individuals' interest if not a necessary motivatin g factor for these entrepreneurs. The built environment remained undeveloped, with few hotels, buildings, or other amenities. The governmental structures were either o ut of the control of Sarasota people or badly mismanaged. Moreover, the maj ority o f the p opulation remained desc endents of the initial settlers, and these individuals did not fit into the same identity as the new Sarasota elite. In the political economic calculation, however, they and many newcomers were necessary as labor. Furthermore, the ve ry existence of an older, stalled town needed to be overcome. There were governmental issues before development could accelerate further. In 1913, the Town of Sarasota was $15,000 in debt; it was dissolved and the City of Sarasota recognized by the legisl ature, and the new city issued bonds cover the debt and then to finance projects to facilitate expansion, such as a high school, water works, and
57 electric company, and more roads, including present day Fruitville and Bee Ridge, where at the time there were small communities by those names to the east of Sarasota. Another developer, Henry Higel, had become mayor, and government continued promotion based on tourism (Matthews 1989: 90 91) A CITY ON PAPER : LAND USE, TOWN GRIDS, AND SOCIAL STRUCTURE Prior to the arrival of the Scots, most Sarasota residents lived on the plots of land they settled, claimed, and farmed themselves. The plan of the Florida Mortgage & Investment Company contained several new deve lopments crucial to its goals both in the go als of the company and preconceptions of the Scots. Matthews titles her first section on the Scots A City on Paper, First, since a variation of the American dream colored by preconceptions motivated the prospective Scottish settlers, they needed to see something desirable within their cultural frame of reference. The advertisements promoted climate and coastline aspects of Sarasota's ideology of place that continued through th e historic period. In addition to climate and coastline, the c ompany structured the land distribution to promise each settler a town plot and 40 acre agricultural field (Matthews 1989: 54 59). This the second ideological aspect of the town planning, in tha t the subdivisions of the Company's land allowed it to be sold individually, to middle class households hoping for improvement in their fortunes through their own
58 cultivation of their own plots of land. The 1886 street plan can be deconstructed as Leone ( 1995 and 1998) did for Annapolis. In raw description, it consists of a rectangle aligned to the compass. In the southwest corner, the curve of the bay cuts leads to three diagonal avenues running parallel to the coast, Gulf Stream Avenue, Palm Avenue, and Pineapple Avenue. The last connects to the street grid, at which point there are north south avenues named after fruits and numbered east west streets. The grid represents the egalitarian social rationality of the Scottish middleclass, the gentle belief t hat most households will receive shares divided with equality. The image informing this plan is of development filling in with relative evenness among town residents but out from central axes. The one dynamic element of the plan, the diagonal streets meeti ng at, where Main Street turns at the intersection of Pineapple and M ango Avenues, Five Points, creates a clearly defined axis from the c ompany dock into the town. These are middle class ideas of town planning, made to naturalize land as a commodity, and t aken for granted by this point in w estern development (there are other models, for example the Chinese "ring road" town planning that places some major streets in a circular arrangement around a city center) Subdivision imposes rationality on land geometr ic lines and shapes that can be measured and sold. At the center of town, Five Points is the intersection of the street grid aligned with the compass and the avenues aligned with the bay. The axis from the company dock to Five Points, which is Main Street, then divides out through the town, with convenient access to any street and any location. This parallels the contention of Leone and Hurry, citing Henry Miller regarding St. Mary's City: The placement of buildings around the town center created a arrangme nt
59 of urban space with axes of the main thoroughfares through town (Leone and Hurley 1998) The 1886 Sarasota town plot is an order for development, a plan for a frontier town laid out by rational Victorian company executives, simple, straightforward, and with relatively equality befitting their project. This segmentation and any subdivision throughout Sarasota's history can be understood through Foucault's interpretation of Bentham's panopticon. Leone's work (1995, 1998) with Foucault suggests this analys is could work anywhere in the world penetrated by capitalism. The structures built by the c ompany centered around this urban axis and provided views of the public spaces, the streets stretching into the distance, and of the water. However, this was not a strictly hierarchical relation, but more an imposition of an idea. These structures, built to send messages about the state of development in Sarasota, can be understood as both gazing out and being gazed at the company is doing things visually, building b oth its taken for granted cultural notions and its political economic goals. By monopolizing the central locations, the Company keeps the focus of Sarasota political economic and ideological on itself. As noted before the site of downtown ha d shifted to north of Hudson Bayou, meaning this usurpation is being built into the landscape which will continue through Ringlin g. Leone and Hurry wrote All of these arguments rest on the contention that design is used to affect people by manipulating sig ht so that people see what they are supposed to see (1998: 34) and the grid of Sarasota places each citizens home or business within a close walking distance of the center of town. In analysis of the Scottish street plan, every house, every plot is
60 direct ly open to a public street there is access accessibly, and openness. The further ideological nature of the plan anticipates future use values according to a business plan and designates private land ownership accordingly. When these streets were laid out and named, they didn't exist. In the year and a half after the Scots' arrival, Men painstakingly grubbed trees to clear for narrow, sandy roads, Matthews wrote. The town plot did not exist until 1886 because surveying had to be done, and so the remarkab le fact of it is its insistence of superimposing rationality on untamed land (Matthews 1989: 54 65). The names provided reflect other ideological aspects of the Scottish plan. The numbered streets reflect simple rationality, numbered from the bottom of th e map to the top. The avenues were to be named for fruits that appealed to the European investor (Matthews 1989: 62). It should be noted, as I will present more evidence later that while directed at outsiders, these messages shifted from being primarily agricultural to primarily commercial based on tourism. My contention is that a new ideology emerged, a new identity for Sarasota, and that it played itself out through material culture. John Ringling used the idea of Sarasota as a leisure destination to a rticulate his vision. Palmer, through her construction of estates named The Oaks, The Acacias, and Immokalee, began to invoke this imagery, and initiated the use of the land for residences on a scale not seen before. Charles S. Thompson laid out his Shell Beach subdivision with lots of dozens of acres each, suitable for estates. These new estates built a new model of residency in Sarasota. Previously, there were status differentiations and these were expressed through architecture. However, the mode l of the estate with a grand house, gardens, and
61 considerable land began with Palmer. These estates postulated the individuals who occupied them as part of an elite community in Sarasota. They used their wealth to occupy large expanses of land and thus po sitioned themselves as being of greater worth. Moreover, they did not leave their land unoccupied, or plan to relinquish it later: but they occupied it with material culture fitting to themselves. CONCLUSION By 1920, eighty years of Anglo American sett lement had laid the groundwork not just for the extensive development of Ringling and others, but also for its particular character as well. Sarasota had basic infrastructure, an established social hierarchy with fluidity, and large amounts of undeveloped land. Moreover, it had a theme: a basis for Sarasota's identity had been found in the large bay front estates pioneered by Palmer. These large properties for the rich had proliferated, and would become the model for local land use in the development to com e.
62 CHAPTER V: THE CA D'ZAN AS PANOPTICON John and Mable Ringling dramatically expand their engagement with Sarasota in the 1920 s The social aspects of their lives, the community they strived to join if not create, and their larger thoughts about the meaning of their lives converged in their estate. A study of the material culture of the Ca d Zan illuminates the basic relationship between these two people, their community, and their worldview. This chapter begins with the establishment of the property prior to the Ringlings purchase in 1911 and their initial activity to the house and grounds. In addition to establishing features already in the landscape, the modifications illuminate what they altere d and what they originated in their expansion ten years later. This chapter then outlines that expansion s context, and the specific theory relating a place to its larger scene, theory that I argue provides a three dimensional interpretation of the Ringlin g s home. Finally, attention will be paid to specific aspects of the Ca d Zan itself. Through this study, informed by the critical theory for historical archaeology, the Ringling s material culture, can be seen as not idiosyncratic but part of a broader so cial program
63 they had to give their lives meaning. The name of the Shell Beach subdivision, as Charles Thomson named his properties north of Sarasota, illustrates what the shoreline looked like at the turn of the 20 th century. An account printed on Page 1 of the Feb 20, 1913 Sarasota Times described the area as possessing cabbage palmetto, moss garmented oak, wild pawpaw and spreading magnolias. Thomson arranged the lots in 1895, when he built his house on one of them He sold the adjacent southern lot t o Ralph Caples, who became alarmed when Thomson moved out and reportedly a boardinghouse might occupy the building Caples b ought the Shell Beach subdivision, and soon brought John Ringling to Sarasota. John and Charles both bought properties in 1911, with John and Mable Ringling taking the former Thomson home The property was a Sarasota estate of the type described in Chapter 4. But to these elemental structures, the Ringlings constructed elaborate additions. The former Thompson home had been named Palms Elysian for its tranquil setting, and the estate sized property had a decorative gateway facing the road. The Sarasota Times reported: All outbuildings are moved back to give more space for beautifying the grounds, for which the services of a landscape gardener has been employed who is now setting out plants and shrubbery.... One of the greatest improvements to the Beach is the new shell road, lined with palms on either side, built to connect with the Sarasota Bradenton hard road.... The shell road le d directly to the white house on the bay. The house was two stories, with frame construction, a gabled roof and wide porches. Situated back from the shore, it was separated by a stone terrace interspersed with sable palms which substantially blocked the vi ew of the bay and had wide stone steps leading down to the beach (Buck 1995: 11). That same season John and Mable began to shape the landscape
64 to make improvements. These changes were distinct but evolutionary. Quickly undertaken and of a large scale, the Ringlings activity was consistent with patterns of Sarasota at the time and of the property as developed by Thompson. Work on the house, reported in the Sarasota Times, included adding new bathrooms, installing cement columns and seats in front, of the house, screening the front porch and sun parlor, and repainting the house. Cement walks were laid throughout the grounds, and 2,000 feet of curbing enclosed the rose garden With curbing that sunk into the ground, it both naturalized the presence of the walks through integration with the earth and set the Ringlings as arbiters of passage through the grounds. Like the paths that Leone (1984) analyzed on the Paca estate, the g arden pathways directed its users movements and set those who controlled it as directors of man and nature. The roads or pathways divided the estate into sections analogous to the division of Sarasota into parcels that occurred throughout this period and that John Ringling himself would undertake in the coming years. The network of roads winds through the estate grounds in a mesh of lines, curves, divisions, convergences, and intersections. The pathways wrap across most of what was then the estate and cre ates guided social action for experiencing all of it. The parcel of land that became the estate was subdivided in rational, geometric straight lines at right angles; the paths suggest a less rigid association with the land. Yet all of this was created in l ess than two years. The meandering paths meant to suggest a more experiential, natural association with the land they were not the natural result of it. The estate had two entrances: one for personal vehicles and one for service vehicles From the persona l entrance roads diverged, either leading into the mazelike
65 chaos across the width of the property or through a more direct route to the house. The divergent paths began to coincide at the rose garden, placed near the center and terminated, again, at the R inglings house on the bay. John and Mable s estate was fundamentally about pleasure, consumption, and leisure. The Ringlings imported plants and trees for their contribution to the landscape they were creating as a place to live and enjoy themselves. The landscape work suggested control over nature and simultaneously integrated that control into nature. The adjustments to the natural properties of the estate inscribed the Ringling s presence into the landscape. The rose garden was among the first and most complex landscape form the Ringlings attempted; notably, Mable engaged in much of the planning and actually participated in its construction (Week s 1993). The rose garden is a useful symbol of continuity in the Ringling s acting through material culture for broader social goals, inscribing their identity into the landscape. Located near the center of the property, where the paths began to converge at the house, the garden provided a symbol of accomplishment in the landscape, permanence, and symbolized the pleasure garden theme that the Ringlings enacted throughout their building projects. With its geometric forms, the circles, lines and framing square, the rose garden creates a setting that articulates through landscape the connection between the Ringling s and their land. Roses are among the most difficult of flowers to cultivate, requiring considerable investment of attention to survive (Virginia Small, Senior Editor Fine Gardening Magazine, personal communication 2003). More abstractly, the rose garden creates a circular hierarchy and a focal point at the center of the garden. The Ringlings created the garden for their own use and to
66 display to others, and it articulates the Ringlings personal relationship to the place: T he land belonged to them, was defined by the fact that it was theirs, and they could use it for social events. The neatly ordered planting beds do not occur in isolation, but as part of the larger dramatic presentation of the estate through guided movement lines of sight, focal points and terminuses. Finally, seen from above the rose garden strikingly resembles the street layout for John Ringling s development on St. Armand s Key more than ten years later. These modifications demonstrate the Ringling s am bitions, yet for the first decade of John and Mable Ringlings presence they engaged in little social activity, especially relative to what would come later. However, many who had arrived just after Palmer before the 1920s would become active or even more active. This can be seen in the abandonment and destruction of houses. John and Mable Ringling Charles Ringling Ralph Cap les, Owen Burns and others would abandon the houses they had already constructed for new, extravagant replacements. The investment th ey made in their first homes had been significant and they were often already among the largest in Sarasota. The Ringlings enlargement of their personal space was not a purely personal movement, but in virtually every case, especially the that of the Ring lings, the personal expansion was interrelated with a broader plan for Sarasota s expansion.
67 THE BOOM YEARS, 1918 1926 : JOHN RINGLING'S WINTER DREAMS Winter residents and tourists had been of interest to the local elite since the attempts of Gillespie to salvage the company s investment in Florida land Yet following the arrival of Bertha Palmer, leisure and tourism became the successful definition of the meaning of place in Sarasota. Palmer s use of Sarasota for leisure, irrespective of her i nvestments in agriculture, put Sarasota on the map as a destination. Several other factors contributed, such as the new interest in Florida vacations for the upper classes, when World War I sharply limited access to Europe, and that interest lingered when resources became available for consumption at the war s conclusion. Increasing economic disparities in the 1910s and 1920s created a new upper middle class sizable enough to justify a mass market and with enough wealth to afford luxuries, such as vacations and winter homes and new money s desire to procure them. To this market a frenzy of investment poured in throughout Florida, in the gap in time, as We eks characterized Ringling, too late to emulate the early moguls such as Henry Flagler and Henry Plant, and too early to join the corporate builders of the post World War II era (1993: xii). As mentioned earlier in the chapter, the concept of place entrepreneurs from Logan and Moltoch (1987) guides the conceptualization of what Ringling was doing followi ng the war. While many in Sarasota and throughout Florida sought to benefit from but not to influence the larger economic currents, falling under the definition of serendipitous or active entrepreneurs, Ringling fit the description of entrepreneurs [wh o] speculate on their ability to change the relationships of a given place to other places that is, they attempt to determine the patterns through which others will seek to
68 use values from place (1987: 30). An example of action like this is provided later, that in 1918 St. Petersburg became the first city to hire a press agent; 1987: 61 Innumerable agents in Sarasota acted on the potential profit of the boom by rapidly constructing what they thought would s ell. This continued Sarasota s characteristic that anyone could simply buy into the community, consistent from 1885. An illuminating anecdote is provided by Weeks, who wrote that before coming to Sarasota John and Mable vacationed in Tarpon Springs, where they found a small, cl osed community ... cool to new money '" (1993: 46). In 1911, their old friend and John s business associate Ralph Caples invited them to Sarasota, selling them the property next to his home north of town (1993: 46 47). Understanding this experience is crucial for understanding why Ringling took the action he did: the status seeking couple did not just seek a community they could buy into they actively worked to create a new community, a place built on the foundation of Sarasota, and a scene where they wo uld be positioned at the top of the social hierarchy. The new, aggressive push for development in Sarasota resulted in a new conceptualization of place, and the acceleration of new building activity during the boom took on new stylisti c forms. This is the pattern of change identified especially by Leone (1995), which analyzes the spread of neoclassical architecture in Baltimore; in Sarasota, the architectural style that was rapidly and prominently built into the landscape was Renaissanc e revival. First, it is necessary to discuss what the new urban identity consisted of, an emphasis of Sarasota s worth as resulting from factors of climate, coastline, and high culture and the arts. The aspects of the ideology drawn from nature included t he
69 promotion of aesthetic beauty, in sunsets, vegetation, and water; of coastlines, for beaches, boating access, and locations for aesthetic contemplation; and climate, consisting of favorable temperatures, but in the winter months, and especially relative to the north. The cultural side, which had no real precedent before Ringling, emphasized an idea that Sarasota had disproportionate presence of the visual and performing arts, and that this indicated some aspect about the town and therefore the people who lived there. Both the natural and cultural aspects appeared in the association with the Mediterranean, especially Italy. The Italianate style has been thoroughly treated by Michael McDonough in a Ph.D. dissertation in architectural history for the Univer sity of Virginia (1999). McDonough argues the architecture and plans had a pseudo historical architectural theme, they conferred a status of legitimacy on the plans of developers, they were used to promote a mythical Spanish history for Sarasota, and were manifestations of a Yankee vision of paradise. In a parallel to Potter s work, McDonough emphasizes the role of outsiders yet as he describes ideas and practices being brought from the outside, it consists of a classic diffusionist explanation. The role of outsiders in building a mythical history for a place differs from Annapolis to Sarasota only in the degree that history was mythical ; Spanish Florida existed, but no historic buildings existed anywhere near Sarasota and those constructed in the 1920s did not resemble anything that could have existed in Spanish Florida (McDonough 1999). McDonough identifies key individuals who most shaped the stylistic presentation of Sarasota: John Ringling, Owen Burns, and architect Dwight James Baum. Burns was one of the first to employ the Italian style, which had been used in earlier successful developments in Florida.
70 Baum was a professional New York architect who had trained in the Beaux Arts style, a late nineteenth to early twentieth century style found in France and the United States. The style drew on classical architecture but legitimized the mixing of different periods, consisted of formal planning and rich decoration, and often displayed an overscaling typical of Baroque architecture ( Aaron DeCroft 2004, pers onal comm unication ; Cournay 1996). This was the characteristic style of the Gilded Age, and before Sarasota Baum designed other Gilded Age palaces in the United States. While its unclear if Baum was brought to Sarasota by Burns or Ringling, in 1 923 he opened an office of his architecture practice in Sarasota and built many of Sarasota s signature structures: the Courthouse complex, commissioned by Charles Ringling; the Hotel EI Verona, built by Burns; Ringling s unfinished Ritz Carlton on Longboa t Key; and the Ca d Zan (Puig 2002: 1 14). In Sarasota, several occurrences in the early 1920s gave an edge to the growth coalition to which Ringling belonged an aesthetic over productive use of the land. First, commercial fishing activity took up the wat erline downtown, and by 1916 the wharf at the end of lower Main Street took on the appearance of an early day industrial park (Marth 1973: 72). A hurricane in 1921 demolished the watermen s structures, smashing the waterfront piers and facilities but lea ving dry land. A developer with resources stepped forward to build new facilities north of the center of town, at the area known as Hog Creek (Marth 1973: 91) The symbolic center of Sarasota had shifted from F ive P oints, the Victorian town center, to the waterline, and the ideological conflict continued to play out in material culture and the cultural landscape of Sarasota. Sarasota s largest buildings were
71 downtown hotels, which appeared over the town from the bay. Gulf Stream Avenue was already the most prominent address (1973: 90). Developers in 1916 built a pier and archway for use as a City Hall, but they wanted a token payment and the city did not buy it until 1920. The City Council in 1921 voted to rebuild the city pier, replacing it with a 700 foot concrete pier stipulated for recreation purposes only. Additional developments in 1921 included action by the Florida legislature, which during its session that year created thirteen new Florida counties, including Sarasota (Matthews 1989: 119). Since 188 5 the local place entrepreneurs had struggled with the Manatee County government, which was dominated by the interests of the cattle ranchers, over the resources for civic improvements their plans needed this included the numerous bond issues undertaken by the town or privately to build roads (Weeks 1993: 69). With a new political center, the growth coalition that dominated Sarasota controlled development on the local level. While the monumental symbols took until the mid 1920s to be completed, they were u ndertaken early in the boom as the place entrepreneurs were purchasing and developing aggressively. John Ringling himself bought large tracts of land throughout Sarasota county, part of his expanding business activity discussed in Chapter 3. It is not clea r at what point he decided to make Sarasota the focus of his professional activity and of his life. However, the Hurricane of 1921 also had the effect of saturating the small homesteader farms on Longboat Key with salt water, ruining their agricultural val ue and prompting most to sell out to Ringling, who thus acquired the land cheaply. By 1923 the plan for the island development was announced, and John and Mabel s plans for a new mansion on their Shell Beach property were underway. At whatever point his in tentions
72 accelerated, his intentions varied as he put out, in pieces, his grand outline for his new community. The land was carved into subdivisions, a term for tracts of development. Literally, subdivision refers to the legal division of land into smal ler parcels that can be individually owned. Subdivision imposes rationality on land, through surveyed and measured geometric lines and shapes that, with improvements, create the properties to be sold. This is land the commodity, a classic capitalist proces s to make money through differential rents, to return to the terminology applied by Logan and Moltoch (1987). Furthermore, all land was sub divided at one point from the undifferentiated mass of the territory, then the state, and more poetically, from th e undivided land of the world at creation. More concretely, the new parcels of land created have new land uses and new ideological labels for their use, labels that in Sarasota are developed through the wider action of the place entrepreneurs. This was a symbolic transformation of the city occurring from the monumental level to the micro level of symbolic interactions. In this symbolic economy, as sociologists have analyzed it (Logan and Moltoch 1987), various economic interests compete for the distributi on of value, much as they had completed for political control the new courthouse neatly illustrates this merging of symbolic and material interests. Charles Ringling commissioned the courthouse; he funded the project and selected the location, across the street (later renamed Ringling Boulevard for him) from his Terrace Hote l. Notably, Ringling and the c ounty built the Courthouse relatively far to the east of the previous concentration, downtown along the bay, thus building the idea of
73 a much larger town into the downtown symbolic landscape. Designs by Baum s firm included numerous ordinary structures that were simply embellished with Mediterranean decoration. The monumental structures, however, demonstrated a more integral style of architecture, as they were intended for mass consumption and to serve as public symbols. Passing judgment on the commitment to the architecture or its relative taste, explicitly or implicitly, is not necessary argue that this style dominated during this period of extensive con struction. After the Courthouse, the largest mainland structure was the hotel E l Verona (just a few years later John Ringling would purchase it and rename it for himself). Constructed by Burns on the bay at the east of downtown and opened in 1925, the E l V erona synthesized the meanings of the period: Grandiose, with ostentatious Italianate decor, the hotel was a pleasure place to separate out of towers from their money by providing an overwhelmingly luxurious setting. While the largest project Burns under took on his own, he was already involved as a joint partner for virtually all of John Ringling s grand ideas, which were getting underway in the mid 20s. In all the projects, it was the John Ringling hotel, the John Ringling causeway, the John Ringling Estates. Competition with his brother clearly played a role (North and Hutch 1951) and he apparently the need to differentiate himself from the brothers circus, identified with them collectively. Ringling brought cash and celebrity, and Burns took the ro le of the serious partner who made the arrangements; Ringling also brought an erratic style and ambitious that proved overscaled for their time. The two later had a falling out over the name of the EI Verona Hotel: Burns had named it for his w ife, but when John bought it as the boom began to fade, he promptly renamed it for himself: The John Ringling Hotel.
74 THE CREATION OF THE SARASOTA KEYS Owen Burns undertook his business activity, such as his real estate companies and a dredge and fill engineering operation, for the purpose of making money (as opposed to Ringling s motivational factor, status). As this thesis has argued, Ringling considered his business activity a means to an end. Ringling would mobilize the means of 1920s Sarasota development to un dertake his grand design for himself and Sarasota simultaneously. This section will describe the practical activity The manipulation of nature earth, water, coastline and vegetation to inscribe meaning into the landscape. What got done in the creation o f the keys will fit into the context of meaning created by the thesis. The keys were, from the earliest records, observed to be shifting landforms. Wind and wave action combine with tidal fluctuations to cause the barrier islands to be the most dynamic o f Sarasota s landforms (Wilkinson 1977: 23). According to Whitaker, a hurricane in the mid 19th century separated Longboat Key from land to the south; Whitaker gave the separation the name New Pass. Furthermore, surveys and observation indicate these fl uctuating landforms were not much more substantial than mangrove islands. Ringling s creations in the bay had precedent in the dredge and fill operations he and Burns undertook along the shore. At Cedar Point, the land east the present day intersection of U.S. 41 and the Ringling Causeway, the two partners purchased the land and solidified it for development. Yet the causeway itself was not foreordained to take this route; Mable Ringling participated in proposing a site that would extend a railroad bridge from further south, along the shoals that would become Bird Key. As the
75 landforms in the bay were highly manipulatable, the developers had choices. However, here the Ringlings and Burns encountered local resistance, in this case from the Selbys, a rich an d prominent couple that lived along the bay to the south (now the Selby Gardens). They objected to a bridge that would cross the bay almost directly in front of their property, and so Ringling and Burns went with the present site (Weeks 1993). Other evide nce suggests the Selbys motivations came from general opposition to development and not narrow self interest. They did not invest in real estate and argued, unsuccessfully, that development was harming the place they enjoyed. The Selbys planned to replace their modest house, still standing, with something grander, but abandoned those plans. According to sources at the Gardens today, this provides the explanation for the thick stands of bamboo, not just an unstylish plant in their well kept garden, planted between the house and the bay. According to this interpretation, Marie Selby planted it so she wouldn t have to look at John Ringling s causeway and development to the north (Pamela Elsie 2001 pers onal comm unication ). This is consistent with the evidence, but this general opposition is not represented in contemporary accounts of Ringling. The causeway, begun in 1924 cost ing $1 million (in 1924 dollars) to complete, was paid for by Ringling personally In 1926 he dra matically drove his Rolls Royce across it as its first traveler, in a dramatic ceremony that would permanently alter the conceptualization of land in Sarasota. Simultaneous with its construction, Ringling and Burns had been planning and constructing a mass ive development on the keys. Named The John Ringling Estates, the development focused on a circle, named Harding Place
76 for the president who had not yet been disgraced when it had been named. In that time Ringling determinedly sought to bring President H arding to Sarasota, envisioning the mansion he had purchased on Bird Key as a Winter White House It did not then have causeway access, which would help security. Ringling ended up giving it to his sister, Ida, who lived there until her death in 1950. H arding Circle, the center of these developments, was designed as an upscale assortment of smart shops for affluent travelers (Weeks 1993). Two boulevards were set wide enough and with a scale for vehicular and pedestrian traffic, which would converge at the circle before radiating off. The route from the Causeway across was John Ringling Boulevard ; the cross street was the Boulevard of the Presidents Streets named for Washington, Adams, Monroe, and Jackson ringed Harding Circle; all of these streets were cleared, laid out, and curbed. It s unclear if the names have specific significance, but clearly the entire development inscribes John Ringling s idea of himself into its physical layout. Most of this land was converted from marshy wetland, mangroves or even water to create dry land and navigable water ( f or a y acht b asin separating the k eys). Furthermore, John s extensive purchase of European artifacts at this time included many tons of statuary, which he placed around the key along its pedestrian wa lkways, where it remains today. The John Ringling Estates opened a real estate office on the key, which Mable Ringling decorated with paintings. The architect Baum designed many of the early houses for the key, built or unbuilt. John s planned development extended further. In contrast to the route today, in the plan it was John Ringling Boulevard that would carry traffic across Sarasota Key and
77 across a bridge to Longboat Key. There, Ringling had begun development on the Ritz Carlton H otel, a prominent symbol of wealth in the 1920s. Beyond it, John planted rows of fast growing Australian pines running the length of the key, along John Ringling Boulevard. THE HOUSE OF JOHN: CA D'ZAN AS PANOPTICON The economic expansion of the Flori da land boom motivated the Ringlings to expand their house, as it motivated the massive expansion of building activity in Sarasota during the 1920s. The town s promoters used the Italianate style in their civic buildings, their business projects, and their homes. The Ringlings decision to draw on Venetian architecture has significance both in defining the overall practice the term I talianate encompasses the diversity of historical style while expressing a personal connection with Venice, a place they h ad visited and had affection for. As with John Ringling s engagement in large scale development, the moment of the Ringlings decision to dramatically expand their home came after they were settled in Sarasota. Mentions of a new house occur as early as 19 15, mentioned along with information that plans and specifications have been developed for Mable Ringling ( Sarasota Times July and September 1915). The plans proceeded erratically, first definitively announced in 1923, but with a cost figure that escalated in every new announcement. In 1923 Ringling also purchased a major portion of Longboat Key ( Sarasota Times April 1923), adding to his ownership much of St. Armands Key. The Ca d Zan, painstakingly restored in the late 1990s by a team of historical
78 prese rvationists, stands enigmatically with its contradictions and inconsistencies of John and Mable s design. The Museum s research has established that as their ideas evolved over a period of over ten years, the project went through at least one other archite ct before settling on Baum, and that Mable handled most of the communication with the architects (Weeks 1993; DeGroft 2004). Ringling Museum Curator Aaron DeGroft (personal communication, 2004 ) notes that Ca d Zan may be built to look like a Venetian palace, but the floor plan is of an English country house, with dozens of rooms, extensive guest quarters, and large spaces for country entertaining. In a distinction that can be taken from literary criticism, at least seemingly superficially, there is the structure of an English c ountry h ouse with the texture of a Venetian palace. Most strikingly, virtually all of the space in the house is for public presentation, even if at increasingly levels of distance through the house. The estate and the larger development work together, working to inscribe John Ringling s ideas about Sarasota s future into the landscape, and John Ringling s position in with it. The cultural aspects of the plan built on parts of the existing soci al, political, and economic foundations of Sarasota: a winter resort that drew the wealthy based on its climate, gulf and beaches, and fine shops. The placement of buildings affects the interpretation of everything. While the previous house stood back fro m the water, the Ca d Zan projects out from seawall, with a flat terrace providing extensive visibility of public spaces and across to the keys. At the ground entrance, a matching gatehouse was built on the public street. Curved paths throughout the estate and intensively landscaped grounds add to the exotic effect. By placing the grounds between his house and the entrance, he sheltered his estate behind a
79 wall of vegetation, emphasized the importance of the water, and caused all visitors to pass through th e grounds on their trip to the house. The first building for a visitor and the only building for the uninvited was the gatehouse. A large and highly decorative archway, complete with an elaborate gate, transmits Ringling s style and displays his wealth, g iving a sample of his estate both for those who know they will soon reach the house, those who know they never will, and those who could and are just passing by. The passage through the arch set the course into the estate. An aerial photo from 1948 indicat es that a line of site (which may or may not be a road) was constructed from the gatehouse to the Tamiami Trail, the major line for road traffic both locally and for all of south west Florida; presumably he constructed it to make his gatehouse visible, befo re or after the art museum opened up a new, major line of sight to his estate. The gatehouse is by nature a symbol to the outside; he uses it to show that the Ringlings are people of wealth, power, and exotic nature.
80 Above: The Ca d Zan tower. Below: Detail of panopticonic symbol Moreover, the gatehouse and tower possess an interesting feature that relates to his attempts to integrate himself into the social networks of the very rich: the inside edge of the arch possess a column of Masonic symbols. Whether or not he was a Freemason, the subtle placement of the symbols they can easily be mistaken for ornamentation and their location, on the inside, signaled to others who passed through that he was a member.
81 Lion of St. Marks distin guished by star and book, an Architectural detail throughout Ca d Zan. On the exterior of the house appears prominent imagery of lions; it has been identified as the symbol of St. Mark, patron saint of Venice, Italy (lions also appear i n statues and in Rub ens tapestries in Museum). The lions in Ca d Zan always appear with the book and the star, deliberately distinguishing it as the symbol of St. Mark. The role St. Mark and his gospel played in Ringling s idea of himself and of Sarasot a is unclear; certainly, he never hinted of any ambitions to religion or to writing. On one level, the omnipresent book and star clearly distinguishes the symbol from a generic lion and makes clear the association is meant to be with Venice, Italy. Yet Ring ling remained indelibly associated with lions through the circus the circus tent painting in the hidden room makes it clear he privately never tried to separate himself from this identity and suggest that just as he did not try to simply mask his old ident ity with a new image as a cultured capitalist, the lion invoked the circus but simultaneously told the viewer that the lion does not symbolize the circus, but rather a deeper, historical and European meaning. John Ringling also used the faunal landscape t o transmit messages, and here his larger plans play out on his estate. In preparation for his plans, he built a nursery on Longboat Key. It would grow the plants for the lush landscaping he planned for the Ringling Isles, landscaping which would provide pa rt of their appeal with the climate as
82 a major part of the appeal, marketing the location as nearly tropical was critical. Native plants were not exotic or pretty enough, and so Ringling turned to foreign species. The Banyan trees were gifts from the Tho mas Edison estate, located further south along the coast, which indicates connections between elites in Southwest Florida. Leone s (1984) analysis of the wilderness section of the Paca garden best describes the grounds of the Ringling estate: in that the curves of the wilderness garden order society in a different way than straight lines of sight. Most of Ringling s roads curve but have palms paired alongside it evenly, while odd foliage grows around it. If Leone s theories about the wilderness garden are applied, the mixture of motion and continuity represents that the naturalized social order could bend to accommodate new figures (Leone 1984: 385 86). The sense of mystery and drama was accentuated by the use of statues, as in the Paca garden. Small statu es of cherubs line the main road at regular intervals, creating a rhythm leading towards the house. However, statues are everywhere, often situated under Banyan trees, though the trees could have grown further around them. In the rose garden and elsewhere, there are statures of peasants based on 18 th century models. At the water, there is a heroic Julius Cesar, and two statues of Pan. They were not placed in accordance with any principles, but simply for general effect. In this way, Ringling used the class ical statues in a manner similar to the use of the Classical texts by the 18 t h century gentry not with any evidence of comprehension, but simply as citation, indicating connection with the ancients. His collection of replicas for the art museum garden also only reference s the past. Moreover, the connection with classical Rome and renaissance Italy were part of
83 a broader program to connect Sarasota to the Mediterranean. The geographic names of places, such as Lido and Venice, suggest a connection to Italy i n particular. Italy corresponds to the climate Sarasota developers were selling, and Italian travel signaled affluence. Mable Ringling picked out the Venetian Gothic style of Ca d Zan from their travels, and Ca d Zan meant H ouse of John in the Venetian d ialect of Italian. Moreover, when Sarasota ideology began to use the arts extensively, the associations with Italy and the classical world would provide far off precedent. The Ca d Zan would reveal itself when the visitor reached the end of the road, its facade broken into six planes. Arial photographs from the late 1920s indicate that there was a line of trees along the bay, meaning that there were no clear lines of sight to the bay except on the terrace. However, there was the seawall, which solidified t he landscape, creating a clear end to the grounds and firm, geometric end of the estate. Here, at the water s edge, the control of the landscape was crucial for maintaining control over nature. The seawall put the estate and the observer above the water an d brought the water to edge of the lawn. Moreover, both John and Charles Ringling positioned their main road almost exactly perpendicular to the seawall they had constructed. Moreover, the terrace for Ca d Zan extended past the seawall. This exemplified t he importance of the water by placing the space for entertaining, on which many of his promotional parties were held, out into the bay. Steps descended from the terrace to a dock, made to appear seamless with the larger structure, and creating from the per spective of the water an ascendance upwards into the building. The Venetian Gothic front faces these stairs and out into the bay. The use of the facing planes of the seawall, the wall of trees, the upwardly moving plane from the water to dock to terrace, a nd the
84 imposing front and tower indicate the messages that Ringling sent through his water front presentation. The presentation to the water indicates not only how he wanted to appear, but also to whom he was presenting. The only people arriving by boat wo uld be himself and guests, or just guests, after a cruise in his yacht, or others arriving by or passing by on boats. The importance of the bay is again emphasized, as a place for pleasure cruises and pleasant transportation. Finally, the tower of Ca d Za n projects messages about his role in these political, economic, and social networks. A copy of the old Madison Square Garden tower and as a necessary addition to an Italian villa, two explanations put forward, are both valid. But as Leone (1995) points ou t in his discussion of the Ma ryland State House panopticon, towers are symbols of power, and in Baroque town planning they are used to enhance centers of power, assisted by sight lines. Ringling did not simply seek hierarchical, centralized power; he wante d prominence from the Sarasota elites for his efforts to develop the town. Therefore, he built his tower on the bay, with sight lines extending outward across it to Longboat Key the foremost location of his developments. From his tower, he could gaze out a cross at all he had accomplished. When he and Mable were in residence, he had the tower lit, telling the residents of the John Ringling Estates across the bay that his very presence was worth knowing, and reminding them of him and his lavish house. The rec ursive nature of his estate inscribes the social relations with the alterations Ringling acted for acted both in development of Sarasota property and in the bay front construction of the house.
85 CONCLUSION The Ringlings embarked on a massive series of co nstruction projects in the 1920s, not as an isolated series of structures but as an integrated project for Sarasota. They invested in Sarasota not because the place simply prompted it, but because they wanted to reshape the community to find a place for th emselves not just a place in Sarasota, but in American society. The estate is the site where the Ringlings built their vision of Sarasota and themselves. The meaning of the features, the house and outbuildings, the landscaping, paths, and stylistic forms a ll had their individual uses. In the broader context of Sarasota and the Ringlings lives, the material culture is part of a broad social strategy, one with meaning that transcends their particular circumstances.
86 CHAPTER VI: CONCLUSION John Ringling died in 1936 at the age of 70, less than two weeks before the Ca d Zan was scheduled to go to public auction to settle his outstanding debts. Ten years after its completion, the Ca d Zan and the John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art w ere not abandoned, but virtually empty. John Ringling continued his frantic pace of activity, attempting to defends against the collapsed economic situation through numerous activities : opening of the museum, relocating the circus winter quarters, and refi nancing the Ritz Carlton, but by 1932 he had lost control of his finances. He spent the last years of his life in spirited defiance of the circumstances in which he found himself destroyed by the great depression and reliant on the local authorities to fe nd off creditors from seizing the art collection For John Ringling's death David Weeks depicts a ceremonious farewell scene. Weeks wrote, His great gold bed was surrounded. Fittingly the bed that is surrounded is gold. People around him included, t he North family, his servants, Nurse Sanders, his physician, and one friend, Frank Hennessy (1993: 254). The next sentence, In his last moments, he called repeatedly for his sister Ida, seems puzzling as she, now Ida
87 Ringling North, was there His last lamenting request is a striking parallel to Kane: a cry back to his childhood on the Mississippi, surrounded by family, of siblings who stuck together and helped each other, and of which she was now the only survivor. Ringling could not have known on his deathbed that in the second half of the 20 th century Sarasota would revive, largely along the lines he envisioned it. He faced an impending federal court order allowing creditors to strip the grounds for items of value. Another ending could have le ft nothing but images, history, and for his material record in Sarasota, two building shells. The former museum, the former house of John Ringling and the ghostly outline of a museum building, John's museum without a collection. In a worst case scenario th ere could be nothing above the earth's surface, as with the Longboat Key Ritz Carton's demolition in the early '60s, following John Ringling North's sale of the keys real estate to the Arvada Corporation to develop. A similar if belated fate fell the John Ringling Towers, the hotel he purchased in 1925 and named for himself. There is considerable irony in the battle of the late 1990s to save the building, which placed historical preservations invoking the legacy of John Ringling against the Sarasota develo pers who'd followed in his path to license the name Ritz Carlton Sarasota. The Ritz Carlton Sarasota has unsurprisingly become a success, because if there was a legacy John Ringling left, it was imprinting the historical moment of Fitzgerald's 1920s onto the place of Sarasota. When Fitzgerald wrote A Diamond as Big as the Ritz for the Saturday Evening Post he was scribbling out popular short stories to sell for large sums per word ; he and Zelda spent that money faster than even his talent could produc e it. Like other Romantic figures, most prominently the poets Byron and Shelly, pursuit of expansive, intensely
88 lived life led to unsustainable practices, ending early in defeat and death, but living on in memory, like a preserved image of a rosebud. The f lower has symbolic power, as Michael Pollan describes in The Botany of Desire: Maybe there's a good reason we find their fleetingness so piercing, can scarcely look at a flower in bloom without thinking ahead, w he ther in h ope or regret (Pollan 2002: 68). F. Scott Fitzgerald died of a heart attack 1940, four years after Ringling, in a similar washed up obscurity, a drunk, self declared failure at the age of 44. If he lived ten years longer he would have lived to see his revival, hailed as the writer of t he g reat American novel. H is success came from capturing, in words, the intangible emotions associated with multicolored light signaling unsustainable moments of pleasure, and how the pursuit of those moments as a goal of life leads first to hedonism, then despair and death. Yet that motivation arises anew again in each generation, like a new season of flowers, or the new plants produced by them. John was a Romantic living in the 1920s. He had interest in European things and he traveled there frequently. R ingling appealed to emotion, to sensational displays, to a show and a party that was fun without requiring intellectual energy, invoking the Venetian Carnival, the circus and Dionysus. The striking parallels between the story of John Ringling and that of the title character of the archetypal story of 1920s America, The Great Gatsby provide a powerful window not only into the context of the time, and how John Ringling could have been understood, but Fitzgerald's rich character suggests an understand of John Ringling's understanding of himself. The parallels begin with the meaning of the title, which the 1995 preface notes in a description that applies to Ringling The application great as
89 applied to Gatsby reverberates with irony. He is truly great by virtue of his capacity to commit himself to his aspirations. Yet at the same time the adjective indicates the tawdry and exaggerated aspects of his life: Hurry, hurry, hurry! Step right up to see the Great Gatsby! (Tom Buchanan describes Gatsby's car as a 'circus wagon') (Bruccoli 1995: xi). John Ringling also drove a gold Rolls Royce, indisputably gaudy, excessive, showy and ostentatious symbol of the times and of these two men, Gatsby and Ringling.
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