Florida Studies Collections

The Florida Studies collections comprise extensive holdings that promote interdisciplinary teaching and research to help the Tampa Bay Community develop a better understanding of Florida’s past, present, and future.

Collections include monographs, maps, manuscripts, photographs, printed ephemera, oral histories, and artists’ books relating to Florida’s history and culture, especially the Tampa Bay region and its relationship with the Caribbean Basin. The collections center around the themes of immigration, race, ethnicity, and gender and place them in a global context. Particular strengths include Ybor City and West Tampa’s immigrant and ethnic experience and cigar label chromolithography.


African American History Collections

Ruth Perry Papers photograph

Spanning more than 200 years of American history, Special Collections’ African American collections contain primary and secondary source materials documenting local, state, and national experiences of individuals, organizations, and institutions. Photographs, correspondence, sheet music, business and organizational records, and detailed histories comprise these expansive collections.

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Latin American, Caribbean, and Spanish Language Collections

Jose Marti posterThe Latin American, Caribbean, and Spanish Language Collections include archival records documenting the Latin American and Caribbean heritage of Tampa’s Ybor City and West Tampa communities. Primary source materials include the records of the Centro Asturiano de Tampa, the Centro Español de Tampa,  and the Sociedad la Union Martí-Maceo. Primary and secondary resources include monographic collections that focus on the literature, politics, and socio-cultural history of Latin America and the Caribbean, with particular emphasis on Bolivia, Cuba, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. These collections also include a small selection of serial and government publications, including a multi-volume set of Cuba’s Colección Legislativa, beginning in 1899; and monographs directly related to or with a strong focus on Florida, especially Tampa.


LGBTQ Collections

Eunice Fisher portraitThe USF Libraries’ Special Collections is determined to expand its collection of historically significant lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) materials in monographic, audio-visual, ephemeral, and archival formats. Our focus is on collecting materials that document LGBTQ history, culture, politics, community relations, and public health. While the Tampa Bay region remains an important focus, these collections are international in scope. LGBTQ collections provide valuable research material for scholars across disciplines—History, Law, Sociology, Political Science, American Studies, etc

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Local & Family History Collections

Photo of Tony PizzoSpecial Collections is devoted to making archival, manuscript, genealogical, and photograph collections available for scholars to explore and document the rich history of the Tampa Bay region. These materials include personal papers and organizational records from a broad mix of the public, including historically marginalized people such as women, African Americans, members of the LGBTQ community, and immigrants. Tampa’s diverse culture is represented through the papers of clubs and mutual aid societies representing Cuban, Spanish, and Italian immigrants. Of special interest to local and family history researchers are the Hillsborough County Marriage Records, Funeral Home Records, Tony Pizzo Collection, City Directories, Aerial Photographs, and extensive collections of photography from Burgert Brothers and Robertson and Fresh.

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Political Papers

Tampa Daily Times Political Ad

Special Collections maintains local, state, and national political papers that focus on people and issues relevant to Florida and its residents. Holdings include governors’ records, congressional collections, and the papers of Hillsborough County commissioners. These records not only preserve the activities of political officials but often include vital correspondence with constituents weighing in on all manner of political issues—from the personal to the global. Political advocacy groups are also represented, such as the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, Equality Florida, and more.

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State History Collections

Palm Trees

A number of archival collections and records document the state’s history. Notable collections include the Hampton Dunn Collection, the Florida Slave Narratives, and the Florida Library Association Records. Florida’s vibrant imagery is reflected through the Hampton Dunn Collection of Florida Postcards, the Florida Restaurant Menus Collection, the Florida Ephemera Collection, and more. Many of these collections are supplemented and complemented by related departmental resources, including books and periodicals.

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Cuban Wars of Liberation/Spanish American War Collections

Image of Remember the Maine posterSpecial Collections’ Spanish American War collection covers the wars for independence before U.S. intervention; Cuba and the Caribbean conflict; the Florida connection; children’s literature; the sensational volumes created before, during, and immediately after the war; and writings by and about Cuban literary figure Jose Martí. The core collection contains over 250 volumes; additional materials can be found throughout Special Collections in the Florida Studies, children’s literature, Cuban, and sheet music collections. Special Collections also has two small but important photographic collections, the Wehman Collection of Florida Spanish American War Photographs and the Ensminger Brothers Spanish American War Photographs, which give invaluable glimpses of military life in Tampa.  Two manuscript collections, Camp Cuba Libre and the Moody Family Papers, illuminate this theme further.


Tampa Cigar Industry and Art Collection

Tampanita Cigar Label

The cigar industry’s pivotal role in the development of early Tampa makes collecting and preserving cigar and cigar box realia and ephemera an important focal point for Special Collections. The Department’s near-complete run of the Tobacco Leaf industry journal, and its collection of lithographic cigar box labels, represent an important aspect of American and Florida culture.

In addition to cigar labels, the USF Libraries cigar art collection has a wide range of items, including cigar bands, cloth and paper cigar premiums, cigar advertisements, and several hundred cigar label progressive proof books.

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Ybor City & West Tampa Collections

El Modelo Coffee Mill Records imageYbor City was established in the late 1800s as a cigar manufacturing town. Once known as the “Cigar Capital of the World” Ybor drew a large number of immigrants during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, establishing a multi-ethnic enclave of Cubans, Italians, Spaniards, Germans, and Romanian Jews. As the populations grew, civic organizations, business and medical establishments, and recreational activities increasingly became available to support the needs of a diverse community. Today, Ybor City is a bustling district of both commerce and entertainment, surrounded by the large brick buildings and shotgun homes of its cigar-making past.

West Tampa was officially incorporated as a town on May 18, 1895. Although it is no longer considered a separate city, West Tampa existed as its own municipality for 29 years—during which time it evolved and prospered as a self-sufficient business and residential community for its primarily Spanish-speaking residents. Like its sister city located across the Hillsborough River, West Tampa is known for its culturally rich heritage and its historical role in the cigar industry.

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