USF Libraries | Special & Digital Collections | Exhibits

Browse Items (42 total)

  • Tags: Sponge Industry

1546153[1].jpg
Anna Smolios Kouskoutis Ioanidis (right) worked in Sylvia Billiris’ (left) gift shop during the 1950s. With the decline of the sponge business in the late 1940s and early 1950s, tourism based on Greek culture and the sponge industry became Tarpon…

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With the spongers came many other Greeks working in related maritime businesses: ship chandlers, machine shops, boat builders, a sail loft, and sponge packing houses. Antonios Avgerinos (1860-1930) was a successful diving helmet maker from Symi who…

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Piles of all types of sponges fill the courtyard of the Sponge Exchange on an auction day in 1921. Most of the men in the courtyard appear to be Greek, except for the African American man walking towards the camera. He was one of many who worked in…

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Back in port, the crew finishes cleaning and sorting sponges for auction on October 10, 1969. Cleaning the animals entails allowing their skins to decompose, rinsing them with water and squeezing them to eliminate internal matter and bits of skin,…

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A crew member finishes the grueling job of cleaning sponges on February 11, 1975. Sponges, which are simple animal organisms, must be cleaned of their skin, internal matter, and any stones or sand that have adhered to them. Crew members repeatedly…

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Costas Tsourakis loading strings of sponges into the back of a truck during the 1940s. Tsourakis arrived from Greece in 1905. In addition to working with sponges, he made charcoal for the sponge boats at a lot on Athens and Cedar Streets.

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The crew of the tourist boat St. Nicholas III poses for a photograph. Standing on the dock are Captain Michael J. Billiris, Angelo V. Billiris, unidentified diver; on the boat are George M. Billiris, Theodore J. Billiris, unidentified, Ted M.…

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Aerial view of the demolition of the Sponge Exchange in 1981. The Sponge Exchange was sold to new private owners who wanted to create a shopping complex. Although many members of the Greek community and preservationists from the Florida Department of…

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This early image of a sponge packing house is associated with the name Trefon Constantinou. Sponge merchants are central to domestic and international distribution. Many belong to families that have worked in every aspect of the business for…

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The elevated view reveals the sponge fleet at the Sponge Docks and the Sponge Exchange and view of bridge and surrounding area in 1932. Note the boat yard to the right of the Docks, where boats were built, repaired, and their hulls cleaned.

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Outside their gift store on Pinellas Avenue in 1948 are children Costas Pappas, Fanitsa and Theodosios Frantzis, and adults Katherine Esfakis Pappas, her father-in-law Costas George Pappas, and sister-in-law Zula Pappas Frantzis. Katherine was raised…

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The family of a sponge fisherman poses for a photograph in front of their home on November 16, 1936. Although the talented Burgert Brothers photographers from Tampa found intriguing subjects in Tarpon Springs, they did not always record the names of…

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This is the identification card for sponge fisherman Paul Stavropoulos. During World War II, sponge fishermen needed identification cards issued by the captain of the port in order to journey out to the sponge beds.

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James Piccolo sizes sponges at Acme Sponge & Chamois Company, one of the largest sponge distribution businesses in Tarpon Springs. The company was established in 1938 by Michael Cantonis, who came from a family of Symian sponge merchants. Acme…

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Actor Lloyd Bridges poses with townspeople at the Sponge Docks during the filming of 16 Fathoms Deep (1948) in Tarpon Springs. During the late 1940s and early 1950s, both this film and Beneath the 12-Mile Reef (1953) created a romantic aura around…

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Men with gather around a 6-foot high pile of sponges near the Anclote River probably during the 1920s. Among the Greek boats in the background is the Ellpis [sic], or Hope.

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Four men aboard George Georgiou's sponge diving exhibition boat at the Tri-city Suncoast Festival in 1961. John Georgiou operated his first sponge boat, the Plastiras, from 1947 to 1952. He then began to charter his second boat, the Aspasia, and gave…

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Men view sponges to be auctioned in the Sponge Exchange on July 24, 1937. By 1940, there were over 1,000 men actively engaged in the sponge industry. These men and their families constituted roughly 2,500 Greeks in a town of 3,402. With the onset of…

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A merchant surveys the street from the doorway of his tourist shop stocked with shells and sponges in 1936. In decades past, tourist shops near the Sponge Docks marketed items such as sponges, shells, curios, and Greek vases.

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Mike Renios, suited up for diving on George Georgiou’s diving exhibition boat, Plastiras, on February 10, 1969. The tourist exhibition boats often provided employment for divers in the off-season or for those who were not able to spend weeks out in…
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