Happy 120th Birthday Miami

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Let’s go back 120 years and see what was going on the day Miami became a city.

A minute by minute recap of the entire 8-hour affair, which ran from 2 p.m. to 10 p.m. appeared in the July 31, 1896 weekly edition of The Miami Metropolis aka The Most Southern Newspaper Published on the Main Land of the United States. And while, the weekly newspaper organized news in chronological order, it’s interesting to note that the editors didn’t break the rules for the momentous occasion. It should be splashed all over the front page, no? I think readers would have forgiven them. The story simply titled “MIAMI INCORPORATED.” appears on the 5th page. Disclaimer: Phrasing has been kept intact in transcription.

Tuesday, July 28, 1896

The meeting for the purpose of incorporating the City of Miami last Tuesday was remarkable in many respects – for the large number of votes polled, for its unruffled harmony and for the expeditious manner in which all business was handled.

It’s interesting to point out that even then, Miamians were quite proud of themselves and the progress of the city.

Who would have believed when the railroad reached the town on the 15th of April last. That on the 28th of the following July, in spite of prevailing business depression, we would be a city with over 400 registered voters and a population of 2000, yet such is the case?

The day for building temporary structures or “shacks,” as they have been called, has passed. Look at the beautiful and substantial buildings in course of construction at the corner of Avenue D and Twelfth street and judge whether the owners have not faith in the future of Miami.

It is no longer the fashion or the proper thing to say that Miami will be a city one day. It is an accomplished fact. We are already a full-fledged city – one that ranks as the tenth largest in the State, and one that bids fair before the close of next to take place as the fifth city of importance in the State. Come to Miami.

What other city in the State of Florida has ever sprung into existence with a list of 400 registered voters, and at its meeting for the purpose of incorporating polled 344 votes? That is what we did at Miami last Tuesday, July 28th, and remember the site of our present city was a tract of uncleared wild land less than six months ago, that the railroad only reached here on April 15th last, less than three and a half months. Miami has made a most marvelous growth in the past few months. May she continue to grow with the same rapidity for many more to come.

Moving on to the matter of the City Seal.cityofmiamiseal

It was then moved by W.S. Graham that the vote on the territory to be incorporated, the name of the city and device for a corporate seal be by acclamation.

This was carried and the bounds as advertised were adopted as the limits or boundaries of the City of Miami and a round seal two inches in diameter with the words CITY OF MIAMI arranged in a semi-circular form, constituting the border around the top, and words Dade Co., Florida, around the base, the design of the royal palm tree in an upright position in the centre of the seal and the inscription “Incorporated 1896” inserted just below the centre of the seal. Thus far the vote was by acclamation and unanimous.

Crunching the population numbers and moving the location of the post office.

That whereas at this meeting, which was called for the purpose of incorporating the City of Miami, Dade County, Florida, it appears that over four hundred (400) registered voters reside within the boundaries which have this day been incorporated as the City of Miami and Whereas, the population of this city, at a conservative estimate is not less than fifteen hundred (1500): and

Whereas. Three hundred and forty-three registered voters participated in this meeting for the purpose of incorporating said city: and

Whereas. The Miami post office which is located within the city limits, but on the south side of the Miami river, which has not yet been bridged, and a long distance from the business centre, and is very inconvenience of access: and

Whereas, over ninety (90) percent of the population of the City of Miami reside on the north side of the river, and are put to great inconvenience in doing business with the post office as it present located: therefore be it

Resolved. That the registered voters, citizens and business men of the City of Miami, here assembled, do urge upon the Postmaster General the necessity of directing the postmaster of Miami to immediately move the post office to a convenient location on the north side of the Miami River, and provide outfit and facilities in keeping with the neccessities of a city of the size of Miami, and that we do hereby urge upon the Postmaster General the pressing neccessity of making Miami a full money order post office.

Some final housekeeping notes.

After this John B. Reilly was sworn in as mayor.

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Thus the foundation for a good city government was laid last Tuesday. It would have been difficult to have selected better men than those who were elected for the various offices. Nearly all of the aldermen have had considerable experience in the same capacity, having served as members of council at St. Augustine and Titusville. They will probably organize and begin to frame ordinances within the new few days.

Correspondence with Henry Flagler on the following day – Wednesday, July 29, 1896 – was also documented and included.

Early Wednesday morning Mr. McDonald wired Mr. Flagler the result of the meeting or election, and promptly received the following reply:

New York, 1:30 p.m., July 29th.

J.A. McDonald, Miami Fla. Telegram received. I congratulate the citizens of Miami upon the harmony which marked the election yesterday and trust that the auspicious beginning will result in future propserity which will equal the most sanguine expectation of the people of the new city.

H.M. Flagler

If you’re in the mood to delve deeper into Miami’s day to day happenings of 1896, check out Miami Diary 1896: A Day by Day Account of Events that Occurred the year Miami Became a City. Published for the City of Miami’s centennial in 1996, the book includes fascinatingly detailed historical information obtained from more than 3 dozen sources and edited for easier reading.

– Featured image caption and credit: Early street scene on North Miami Avenue – Miami, Florida. 1896. State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory.
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