USF Libraries | Special & Digital Collections | Exhibits

Gasparilla pirate treasure


Along with the dangers of the elements, the water frontier was also home to pirates who raided the shipping lanes of the world’s empires.  In what amounted to sanctioned piracy, the British Empire would allow privateers to operate under the auspices of the British Navy during wartime and raid enemies’ shipping.  It could be understandably difficult to reign in privateers once hostilities ceased.  Relatively lawless ports such as Nassau allowed piracy to flourish during the 1600s and 1700s.  Although the so-called “Golden Age” of piracy tapered off after 1720, rumors of buried treasure persist to this day.  The mythical pirate Jose Gaspar, or "Gasparilla," was created early in the Twentieth Century to promote tourism and festivities.  Many people assumed that Gaspar actually existed, but his story is a mere flight of fancy; yet that fact did not prevent people from dreaming of his treasures, too.