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Florida, which joined the union as the 27th state in 1845, is nicknamed the Sunshine State and known for its balmy climate and natural beauty. Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon, who led the first European expedition to Florida in 1513, named the state in tribute to Spain’s Easter celebration known as “Pascua Florida,” or Feast of Flowers. During the first half of the 1800s, U.S. troops waged war with the region’s Native American population. During the Civil War, Florida was the third state to secede from the Union. Beginning in the late 19th century, residents of Northern states flocked to Florida to escape harsh winters. In the 20th century, tourism became Florida’s leading industry and remains so today, attracting millions of visitors annually. Florida is also known for its oranges and grapefruit, and some 80 percent of America’s citrus is grown there.

Date of Statehood: March 3, 1845

Did you know? Walt Disney World Resort, which opened near Orlando in 1971, is the planet’s biggest and most visited recreational resort. Spread over some 30,500 acres (about the same size as San Francisco, California), Disney World attracts approximately 46 million annual visitors.

Capital: Tallahassee

Population: 18,801,310 (2010)

Size: 65,758 square miles

Nickname(s): Sunshine State

Motto: In God We Trust

Tree: Sabal Palm

Flower: Orange Blossom

Bird: Mockingbird

Interesting Facts

  • Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés established the first permanent European settlement in the United States at St. Augustine in 1565.
  • Before he was president of the United States, General Andrew Jackson led an invasion of Seminole Indians in Spanish-controlled Florida in 1817. After Florida became a U.S. Territory in 1821, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams appointed Jackson its military governor.
  • Constructed over a 21-year period from 1845 to 1866, Fort Zachary Taylor in Key West was controlled by Federal forces during the Civil War and used to deter supply ships from provisioning Confederate ports in the Gulf of Mexico. The fort was also used during the Spanish-American War.
  • In 1944, airman and pharmacist Benjamin Green from Miami developed the first widely used sunscreen to protect himself and other soldiers during World War II. He later founded the Coppertone Corporation.
  • John Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth when he blasted off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral on February 20, 1962. Seven years later, Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon after Apollo 11 was launched from the nearby Kennedy Space Center on July 16, 1969.

PHOTO GALLERIES

The Florida Keys are a cluster of about 1700 islands in the southeast United States.

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Palm trees leans out over the water on the shores of Bahia Honda State Park. Florida Keys, Florida.

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The Florida State Capitol, in Tallahassee, Florida, USA, is the state capitol of the U.S. state of Florida. The building is an architecturally and historically significant building, having been listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Florida designated the sabal palm (Sabal palmetto) as the official state tree in 1953. The sabal palm (also known as cabbage palm, palmetto, or cabbage palmetto) is the most widely distributed palm tree in Florida. It grows in almost any soil and has many uses, including food, medicine, and landscap

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The Mockingbird is a common songbird that is found across North America. It is the state bird of Florida. It lives in a variety of habitats, including farmlands, roadsides, thickets, and towns.

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On a white field emblazoned with a red X and the state seal, Florida’s flag represents the land of sunshine, flowers, palm trees, rivers and lakes. The seal features a brilliant sun, a cabbage palmetto tree, a steamboat sailing and a Native American Seminole woman scattering flowers.

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Built around 1672, Castillo De San Marcos is the oldest masonry fort in the United States. This Spanish fortress was the northern most outpost of Spain’s New World Empire, on the Matanzas River-Bay.

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Fort Jefferson is a massive but unfinished coastal fortress. It is the largest masonry structure in the Western Hemisphere, and is composed of over 16 million bricks.

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Overview of Miami Beach flanked by the Atlantic Ocean (left) and Biscayne Bay (right). Florida.

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The red brick tower of the Cape Florida Lighthouse stands next to a small cottage on the shore of Biscayne Bay.

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The space shuttle Discovery rises from the pad on September 29, 1988. White smoke from the main engine’s exhaust blows away from the shuttle and its launch tower, while brown smoke and flames from the booster are visible below the shuttle. The engines’ flames are reflected in the water. Birds distur

Florida, which joined the union as the 27th state in 1845, is nicknamed the Sunshine State and known for its balmy climate and natural beauty. Spanish explorer