Bubble in the Sun: The Florida Boom of the 1920s and How It Brought on the Great Depression

S. & S. Jan. 2020. 368p. ISBN 9781982128371. $30.
In the early 20th century, south Florida saw one of the biggest building booms in American history. Lightly populated before the construction of late 19th-century railroads, Florida became the latest “last frontier” in America, with residents and investors pouring into the state. Knowlton (Cattle Kingdom) traces the history of the developers, architects, and publicists who helped build and promote cities including Miami Beach, Palm Beach, and Coral Gables. Colorful stories of outrageous ambition and excess are tempered by brief discussions of the environmental consequences of development, especially in the Everglades. The focus, however, remains primarily on the developers and their wealthy clients. The economic argument suggested by the subtitle is saved for the end, in which Knowlton draws a convincing comparison between 1920s Florida and the early 2000s surge in real estate speculation.
VERDICT Recommended for readers interested in the history of Florida and those who enjoy stories of the rich and glamorous in the 1920s.
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