25 Things You Should Know About Jacksonville, Florida

Benedek/iStock
Benedek/iStock

Nicknamed the First Coast by some and Jax by others, Jacksonville is Florida’s largest city—and, at 875 square miles, the largest city by area in the continental United States. With its entrepreneurial spirit, this sunny, historical community in northeastern Florida has left a sizable mark on multiple industries, from fast food to the motion picture business. It’s also the home of a giant owl, a misleadingly named tree, and the world’s foremost dinosaur poop collector.

1) Friendship Fountain on the Southbank Riverwalk is one of the city's most recognizable landmarks. The massive self-contained fountain can blast 3500 to 6500 gallons of water 100 feet in the air every minute, while 265 multicolored lights turn the mist into a rainbow-hued spectacle. Completed in 1965, the magnificent water feature is considered one of the largest on earth.

2) Civil rights leader A. Philip Randolph grew up in Jacksonville. Randolph created the first African-American labor union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, in 1925. He also pushed President Franklin D. Roosevelt to end discrimination in hiring practices on the basis of race, color, creed, or national origin in the federal government and defense industries. Randolph was among the key organizers of the March on Washington in 1963, where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his iconic “I have a dream” speech.

3) Merian C. Cooper, a screenwriter, film producer, and director best known for creating King Kong, was born here on October 23, 1893.

4) The southernmost battle of the Revolutionary War took place within Jacksonville’s current boundary. Forces from British-held Florida surprised a group of about 100 American troops on May 17, 1777, killing or capturing 47. Another 24 American militiamen were killed by Creek Indians allied with the British. The fight known today as the Battle of Thomas Creek took place three miles north of where the Jacksonville International Airport now stands.

5) The Jacksonville farmers market, founded in 1938, is Florida’s oldest. More than 20,000 people visit the daily market each week.

6) It probably won’t surprise you to learn that this city was named in honor of our seventh U.S. president—before he assumed that office. Jacksonville started out as an intersection between the St. Johns River and a British road that extended from St. Augustine to Georgia. Known originally as Cow Ford, the crossing was renamed Jacksonville in 1822, after General Andrew Jackson had served as Florida's military commissioner the previous year.

7) During World War II, the now-defunct Jax Brewing Company might have invented the six-pack. Because it couldn't afford to keep selling beer in expensive aluminum cans (steel had been requisitioned for the war effort), it began bottling its brews in glass longnecks and selling them in sacks of six.

8) Perched outside the main branch of the Jacksonville Public Library is a 25-foot-tall bronze owl. It was cast by sculptor Larry Kirkland as an homage to Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom, knowledge, and reason, whose symbol is an owl.

9) The Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) Tour has been headquartered in Ponte Vedra Beach, a suburb of Jacksonville, since 1979. Every May, the Players Championship tournament takes place at TPC at Sawgrass, a nearby golf course.

10) On May 3, 1901, the third-largest urban fire in U.S. history struck Jacksonville. At 12:30 a.m., some chimney embers were blown onto flammable stuffing material at a local mattress factory, igniting an inferno that raged on for eight hours and destroyed 2368 buildings. After the smoke finally cleared, nearly 10,000 people were homeless.

11) In 1953, a restaurant called Insta-Burger opened at 7146 Beach Boulevard. Inside, a special oven called the Insta-Broiler could cook 400 patties an hour. Despite its supercharged output, business dwindled until new owners brought the restaurant and renamed it Burger King.

12) Jacksonville covers an incredible amount of real estate. How did this place get to be so expansive? In 1967, voters decided to consolidate Jacksonville with the rest of its surrounding county to increase its tax base. The resulting footprint was 20 times larger than the city's original size.

13) According to a report published by the U.S. Census Bureau in May 2016, Jacksonville is the 12th fastest-growing city in America.

14) The longest-serving mayor in Jacksonville’s history was one of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. Democrat John T. Alsop Jr. held the city’s highest office from 1923 to 1937 and from 1941 to 1945.

15) The Jacksonville Jaguars joined the National Football League as an expansion team in the 1995 season. Since then, the team has won only five postseason games, but hope springs eternal. Their home stadium, EverBank Field, is located on the St. Johns River in downtown Jacksonville.

16) Completed in 1953, the distinctive Mathews Bridge was originally painted silver. Then, in 1983, it was repainted maroon to match the primary jersey color of the Jacksonville Bulls, a United States Football League club. The Bulls folded in 1985, but the bridge is still maroon.

17) Every Thanksgiving weekend, thousands of people watch the festive Jacksonville Light Boat Parade. For this holiday spectacle, a procession of boats covered in Christmas lights makes its way through the downtown area on the St. Johns River. A huge display of fireworks follows the parade.

18) New York City was the nexus of the film industry in the early 20th century, but snowy winters forced some movie studios to open outposts in Florida so they could keep shooting year-round. From 1908 to 1918, more than 30 film studios popped up in Jacksonville, earning it the nickname “The World’s Winter Film Capital.” Most had closed or relocated to California by 1920, but Jacksonville remained a popular filming location. Scenes from Cool Hand Luke (1967) and G.I. Jane (1997) were shot here.

19) You could go to EverBank Field and watch the NFL Jaguars play, or you could check out some real ones at the Jacksonville Zoo & Botanical Gardens. The most famous among the zoo's collection was a black male named Zorro. Brought to the zoo in 1967, he fathered 12 cubs, and almost all of the captive black jaguars in North America are Zorro's descendants.

20) Engraved onto the Veterans Memorial Wall in downtown Jacksonville are the names of more than 1500 veterans from all six service branches (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and Merchant Marine) who lost their lives in the line of duty. Sixty-five feet long, the wall commemorates veterans from every American war since WWI.

21) In 1986, Floridians Will Fadeley Jr. and Eugene Hajtovik traveled all the way from Jacksonville to New York City on an airboat. Their 13-day, 1100-mile trip is the longest recorded voyage to be completed by such a vessel. The duo arrived in New York harbor on July 3, just in time to attend the Statue of Liberty’s centennial celebration.

22) In 1979, Dr. Frances Barnett Kinne became the first woman to serve as president of a Floridian university. She led Jacksonville University as president for 10 years and then served as its chancellor from 1989 to 1994. In 2017, she celebrated her 100th birthday.

23) Credited with pioneering the southern rock genre, the Allman Brothers Band was formed in this city in 1969. The hugely influential group put on its first live performance at the Jacksonville Armory on March 30 of that year.

24) Bad journalism rescued Jacksonville’s favorite tree, a sprawling live oak in Jessie Ball DuPont Park. Roughly 250 years old, it stands more than 60 feet tall with a trunk measuring 25 feet in circumference. In the 1930s, when developers hinted at chopping it down, local reporter Pat Moran fabricated a story about an important peace treaty between Native Americans and European settlers being signed under its branches. The story had the desired effect, and the tree, now (erroneously) called the Treaty Oak, was spared.

25) Jacksonville resident George Frandsen owns the world’s largest collection of fossilized poop. A committed coprolite enthusiast, Frandsen spent 18 years gathering 1,277 prehistoric stool samples from 15 states and eight countries. Information about the collection appears on his online museum, the Poozeum.

Wayfair’s Fourth of July Clearance Sale Takes Up to 60 Percent Off Grills and Outdoor Furniture

Wayfair/Weber
Wayfair/Weber

This Fourth of July, Wayfair is making sure you can turn your backyard into an oasis while keeping your bank account intact with a clearance sale that features savings of up to 60 percent on essentials like chairs, hammocks, games, and grills. Take a look at some of the highlights below.

Outdoor Furniture

Brisbane bench from Wayfair
Brisbane/Wayfair

- Jericho 9-Foot Market Umbrella $92 (Save 15 percent)
- Woodstock Patio Chairs (Set of Two) $310 (Save 54 percent)
- Brisbane Wooden Storage Bench $243 (Save 62 percent)
- Kordell Nine-Piece Rattan Sectional Seating Group with Cushions $1800 (Save 27 percent)
- Nelsonville 12-Piece Multiple Chairs Seating Group $1860 (Save 56 percent)
- Collingswood Three-Piece Seating Group with Cushions $410 (Save 33 percent)

Grills and Accessories

Dyna-Glo electric smoker.
Dyna-Glo/Wayfair

- Spirit® II E-310 Gas Grill $479 (Save 17 percent)
- Portable Three-Burner Propane Gas Grill $104 (Save 20 percent)
- Digital Bluetooth Electric Smoker $224 (Save 25 percent)
- Cuisinart Grilling Tool Set $38 (Save 5 percent)

Outdoor games

American flag cornhole game.
GoSports

- American Flag Cornhole Board $57 (Save 19 percent)
- Giant Four in a Row Game $30 (Save 6 percent)
- Giant Jenga Game $119 (Save 30 percent)

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

50 Surprising Facts About America's Founding Fathers

Hulton Archive/National Archive/Getty Images
Hulton Archive/National Archive/Getty Images

George Washington. Alexander Hamilton. Benjamin Franklin. John Adams. These men and several more continue to stand as some of the most influential figures of the United States of America, drafting the Declaration of Independence and helping to define the ideology and ambition of the free world.

More than 200 years later, their philosophies continue to inform, educate, and inspire. If you're aware of their significance but might be a little short on details, we've assembled a laundry list of facts, trivia, and lesser-known information about this formidable group.

1. The Founding Fathers probably never heard the phrase "Founding Fathers."

Tight shot of the famous signature of John Hancock on the Declaration of Independence that was signed on July 4th, 1776.
smartstock/iStock via Getty Images

The term wasn't coined until 1916, when then-Senator Warren G. Harding was giving a speech at the Republican National Convention. Harding's phrase included men who fought in the American Revolution and drafted the Constitution as well as the Declaration of Independence.

2. John Hancock has become synonymous with personal signatures.

The most likely reason: His name takes up six square inches on the Declaration of Independence, a massive piece of real estate compared to the rest of the signees. Sam Adams, for example, needed just 0.6 square inches. No one knows for sure why Hancock used such broad strokes, although it's possible he didn't realize the document would eventually need 56 signatures.

3. The signatures on the Declaration of Independence were kept secret.

Not too many people could crack jokes at Hancock's expense over it because the signatures were kept secret for some time owing to the fact that there was fear of reprisal from the British. At the time the Declaration was signed, British armies were stationed nearby, and the potential to be hung for treason was large enough to keep quiet about it.

4. John Hancock was more famous for being a smuggler.

John Hancock
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Hancock often brought over goods like glass, paper, and tea in secret to avoid excessive British taxation.

5. The British had a price on John Hancock's head.

Hancock's smuggling practices led to the British wishing to see his head mounted on the proverbial stake. Hancock was actually said to be a little irate about that British resentment. He thought the 500 British pound price on his head was insultingly low.

6. Thomas Jefferson was given the job of writing a rough draft of the DECLARATION Of Independence.

Washington D.C. The Jefferson Memorial, a presidential memorial dedicated to Thomas Jefferson, 3rd President of the United States and one of the most important of the American Founding Fathers
Joaquin Ossorio-Castillo iStock via Getty Images

Such semantics probably weren’t on Thomas Jefferson’s mind when he prepared the Declaration. Considered the best writer of the group, it was Jefferson who was charged with writing a rough draft of the document.

7. Thomas Jefferson's initial draft of the Declaration of Independence called for an end to slavery.

Jefferson later took this part out because he felt the document wouldn’t be approved by delegates in states like Virginia and South Carolina.

8. Thomas Jefferson kept bears as pets (for a short time).

A pair of grizzly bears
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER, AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Jefferson can also lay claim to having the most unusual "pets" of any president on White House grounds. A military captain gifted Jefferson with two grizzly bears in 1807. Jefferson knew the animals were too ferocious to be kept, but until he could pass them over to a handler in Philadelphia, they remained on the grounds for two months. Jefferson kept them caged on the front lawn.

9. Thomas Jefferson also had mastodon bones.

Those bears weren't Jefferson's only experiment with imposing creatures. He once had the bones of a mastodon sent to him in the White House and devoted time to an attempt to reconstruct it. He was actually a bit obsessed with mastodons.

10. Thomas Jefferson told a slave he would free him if he learned French cooking.

Just before Jefferson was appointed minister to France in 1785, he took a trip to the country and quickly fell in love with its cuisine. In a rather cringe-inducing deal, he told his slave, James Hemings, that he would free him if Hemings would learn the art of French cooking and then pass it on to a Jefferson employee. Jefferson kept his word, although Hemings stayed in France for several years and didn't become a free man in the U.S. until 1796.

11. Thomas Jefferson was a prolific writer.

Jefferson liked to write nearly as much as he liked to eat. The third president wrote an estimated 19,000 letters in his lifetime, keeping a copy of each correspondence for himself. Oddly, he never wrote to his wife.

12. Thomas Jefferson frequently wrote to Abigail Adams.


Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

After Jefferson became minister to France, he maintained a close relationship with both John Adams and John's wife, Abigail. Despite gender equality being a rare concept at the time, Jefferson thought Abigail to be every bit as insightful as anyone and kept a lengthy mail correspondence with her.

13. John Adams wasn't a fan of the vice presidency.

John Adams became vice president in 1789 with Washington's appointment as commander-in-chief, but the role seemed to insult him. Adams called it the "most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived."

14. John Adams was a fan of William Shakespeare.

An illustration of John Adams at a writing desk
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

When he wasn't condemning his own job, Adams was an ardent admirer of William Shakespeare. With Thomas Jefferson, Adams even visited Shakespeare's home in Stratford-upon-Avon in 1786. Adams liked it; Jefferson thought they were overcharged for the tour.

15. John Adams brought Satan to the White House.

When Adams took the presidential office in 1797, he brought with him two dogs: One was Juno, and the other was named Satan.

16. John Adams was the first president to live in the White House.

The White House in Washington DC - official residence of the President of the United States of America.
lucky-photographer iStock via Getty Images

Adams was the first president to take up occupancy in the White House, but construction delays kept him off-premises until 1800; he was in office only five more months after moving in. That also means Juno and Satan were the first dogs to live in the White House.

17. John Adams wanted the presidency to keep some of the splendor of royalty.

Adams's lost bid for reelection may have had something to do with his somewhat pompous view of the office. He often lobbied for the president to be referred to as "his highness."

18. John Adams created the United States Marine Band.

Adams couldn't have been too much of a miser, though. In 1798, he formed the United States Marine Band, the oldest active professional music group in the country.

19. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died on the same day. And it gets weirder.

sparklers in front of an American flag
nu1983/iStock via Getty Images Plus

In a strange bit of coincidence, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson died the same day: July 4, 1826. It was also the 50th anniversary of American independence.

20. Benjamin Franklin didn't believe in free will.

While all of the Founding Fathers are renowned for pushing the idea of liberty and independent choice, Benjamin Franklin apparently came to the idea a little late. In 1725, when he was just 19 years old, Franklin self-published a pamphlet titled A Dissertation Upon Liberty and Necessity, Pleasure and Pain, which argued that humans didn't actually have free will and weren’t responsible for their behavior. Maturity prevailed, however, and Franklin later burned almost every copy of the booklet he could find.

21. Benjamin Franklin wanted to rearrange the alphabet.

Ben Franklin's eccentricity wasn't limited to that strange philosophy. He once had a plan to rearrange the English alphabet by eliminating the letters C, J, Q, W, X, and Y, declaring them redundant. It didn't katch on.

22. If you're reading this while watching a sunrise, you might have Ben Franklin to thank.

A more reasonable Franklin contribution: bifocals, which he invented in order to both see from a distance and read text up close without having to switch lenses.

23. Ben Franklin didn't think very highly of the bald eagle.

A close-up of a bald eagle's head.
photosvit/iStock via Getty Images

Continuing his role as America’s most eccentric Father, Franklin also advocated for the turkey to be the nation's official bird. He once dissed the bald eagle, calling it a bird "of bad moral character."

24. Ben Franklin (sarcastically) thought highly of flatulence.

Franklin also authored a text titled "Fart Proudly," a mocking essay intended to irritate the Royal Academy of Brussels, an institution he felt was too focused on impractical science. In it, he advocated for a breakthrough in making toots more pleasant-smelling. (He never sent it.)

25. Ben Franklin bathed without water.

Franklin's unique perspective extended to personal hygiene. He often opted for what he dubbed an "air bath" over a cold water bath, wandering around nude in his quarters for a half-hour each morning while reading or writing.

26. John Adams and Ben Franklin once argued about a window.

Liberty Bell and Independence Hall in Philadelphia
rabbit75_ist iStock via Getty Images

Franklin and John Adams made for a bit of an odd couple. Forced to spend the night together in a hotel while traveling in 1776, the two argued over whether the window should be open or closed. Adams believed night air could lead to colds; Franklin, obviously fond of a little breeze, dismissed the notion as nonsense and advocated for fresh air. (Franklin won: The window stayed open.)

27. Most of Philadelphia came to Ben Franklin's funeral.

When Franklin died in 1790, roughly 20,000 people attended his funeral—two-thirds of Philadelphia’s population at the time.

28. Ben Franklin and George Washington both had big egos.

Franklin was told by friends early in his life that he should start to consider humility a virtue, while Washington reportedly had to corral his predilection for arrogance.

29. George Washington's famous hairdo wasn't a wig.

George Washington and his generals
kreicher/iStock via Getty Images

While Washington may have curbed his ego, he still made time to look good. His famous white 'do was not a wig, but his actual hair, powdered white and carefully styled each morning.

30. George Washington had a tree-shaking temper.

While he looks out at you from the $1 bill with total calm, Washington could unleash a hellacious temper if you caught him on the wrong day. Leading the Battle of Monmouth in 1778, Washington used so much profanity that General Charles Scott, who witnessed the event, said he cussed "until leaves shook on the trees … never have I enjoyed such swearing before or since."

31. George Washington helped ensure the presidency would be a short-term gig.

Later in life, Washington's newfound modesty helped usher in a significant principle of the U.S. presidency. Despite the public's desire for him to run for a third presidential term—which he would've won with ease—Washington elected to leave after two terms so he could resume being a regular citizen, avoiding the kind of long-term rule associated with monarchs.

32. George Washington gave up the presidency to make whiskey.

Once he returned to private life in 1797, Washington opened a whiskey distillery at Mount Vernon, which quickly became the largest whiskey distillery in America.

33. George Washington wasn't optimistic the Constitution would last.

Close-up of the Constitution.
jaflippo/iStock via Getty Images

Before taking on the presidency, Washington was wrapped up in the Constitutional Convention, a gathering of minds intended to elaborate on the famous document that would provide concise guidelines for future lawmakers. But Washington was unsure whether it would have any lasting impact. Walking with a friend just before the convention came to a close in 1787, he said, "I do not expect the Constitution to last for more than 20 years."

34. George Washington suffered from a host of medical problems.

In fact, it was Washington himself who didn't last that long. Plagued by a series of ailments including malaria, smallpox, tuberculosis, and diphtheria, the Founding Father died in 1799 at age 67. Suffering from a severe sore throat, he asked doctors to bleed him. They did, with five pints being removed from his body in a single day.

35. Alexander Hamilton begged George Washington to let him fight.

Ink drawings of Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson on either side of George Washington.
Campwillowlake iStock via Getty Images

Washington's onetime assistant, Alexander Hamilton, had a heartier constitution. Relegated to writing Washington’s letters, Hamilton pleaded with the then-general to let him see some action on the battlefield. Hamilton faced the British in the Battle of Yorktown in 1781 and came away with a victory.

36. Alexander Hamilton was the subject of the country's first political sex scandal.

Alexander Hamilton’s health was also robust enough to carry on an affair with a married woman, Maria Reynolds, while serving as U.S. treasury secretary in 1791. When her husband threatened to go public with the scandal, Hamilton wrote and circulated a pamphlet detailing his side of the story. The Reynolds Affair became the country's first major political sex scandal.

37. The Reynolds Affair was wrapped up by Alexander Hamilton's nemesis.

In an odd footnote, when Maria Reynolds later sued her husband for divorce, her lawyer was Aaron Burr.

38. Alexander Hamilton launched the Coast Guard.

Portrait of Alexander Hamilton on the $10 bill
Professor25/iStock via Getty Images

Beyond setting up the country's banking and financial systems, Alexander Hamilton was also concerned with protecting America’s coastlines. To help suffocate smuggling and enforce tariff laws, Hamilton organized a marine service; it later became known as the United States Coast Guard.

39. Alexander Hamilton's son died in a duel defending his father's good name.

Dueling was part of the Hamilton family long before Alexander's fateful encounter with Aaron Burr. Three years prior, Hamilton's son Philip challenged a lawyer named George Eacker to a pistol fight after Eacker was overheard criticizing his father. Eacker shot Philip, who died the next day.

40. Alexander Hamilton probably acted as a lawyer in the country's first murder trial.

In 1799, Hamilton's life gained one of its most interesting footnotes. As a practicing lawyer in New York, Hamilton teamed with future dueling foe Aaron Burr in what is believed to be the United States' first murder trial on record. After the body of Elma Sands was discovered, a grand jury indicted her boyfriend, Levi Weeks, for the crime. The wealthy Weeks enlisted Hamilton, Burr, and Henry Livingston for his defense. He was acquitted, though public opinion largely declared him guilty.

41. Alexander Hamilton also founded a newspaper.

Hamilton founded another cultural touchstone—the New York Post—in 1801. Then titled the New York Evening Post, it’s one of the longest continually published newspapers in the U.S. When he felt like opining, Hamilton would dictate articles to editor William Coleman.

42. The Federalist Papers went a long way in shifting public opinion on independence.

Hamilton, however, had used his own hand to author the Federalist Papers, a series of essays sent to newspapers in the 1780s to rally support for ratifying the Constitution. Hamilton used the pseudonym Publius, collaborating with James Madison and John Jay.

43. James Madison and Alexander Hamilton hated each other.

There was little love lost between treasury secretary Hamilton and fourth president James Madison, who frequently sparred with over economic strategy. Onetime friends, their acrimony set the tone for Madison’s tenure in office.

44. James Madison's wife was a celebrated hostess.

Said to be shy and reserved, Madison apparently had a counterbalance in wife Dolley, who entertained the whole of Washington. At the time, the city was not exactly a hotbed of partying, and her lavish affairs helped endear congressional members to the idea of Madison as president.

45. James Madison is our tiniest president.

To date, Madison remains our smallest president at 5 feet, 4 inches and 100 pounds.

46. There's a $5000 bill with James Madison's face on it.

James Madison's portrait on US money.
johan10/iStock via Getty Images

Madison is also the president to grace the little-known $5000 bill, part of a series of high-value denominations printed between 1928 and 1945. The bills were mainly used to settle large transactions between banks.

47. Another vice president's wife wrote a book on James Madison.

Although Madison had two vice presidents die in office, he had better luck with future VP Dick Cheney: The former vice president’s wife, Lynne, wrote a well-received biography of Madison in 2014.

48. Sam Adams was a child prodigy.

An illustration of Sam Adams
stocksnapper/iStock via Getty Images

While all of the Fathers had formidable intellects, Sam Adams had quite an early start. He was admitted into Harvard College at age 14 and earned a bachelor’s degree in 1740.

49. Sam Adams wasn't exactly a brewer.

In terms of Founding Father extracurricular activities, Sam Adams is frequently credited with being a beer brewer. That's not really true, though. Adams' father did make malted barley that was sold to breweries, and his son inherited the business and became known as a "maltster." But politics soon dominated Adams' time, and the business fell by the wayside.

50. You can drink at a pub where the Founding Fathers hung out.

Adams may not have been a brewmaster, but like a lot of Founding Fathers, he didn't mind pulling up a chair at a pub. You can enjoy a beer at the same location as Founding Fathers Paul Revere, John Hancock, and Adams. The Green Dragon Tavern in Boston is said to have been the preferred watering hole of the men—a place where politics could be discussed without the hassle of sobriety.