USF Libraries | Special & Digital Collections | Exhibits

Browse Items (42 total)

  • Tags: sponge industry

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During the filming of Beneath the 12-Mile Reef (1953), the sponge boat Eleni was painted to look as though it had been burned by the rival Key West Conch sponge fishermen. After the filming ended, the boat was restored to its original condition.…

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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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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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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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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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While in Tarpon Springs to film Beneath the 12-Mile Reef (1953), Terry Moore and Robert Wagner talk with John Gonatos in his family’s Olympic tourist shop. Gonatos played a Conch sponger in Beneath the 12-Mile Reef, did diving scenes for 16 Fathoms…

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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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In 1924 the Billiris family created one of the early sponge industry attractions. St. Nicholas Boat Line Sponge Diving Exhibition still functions as a cruise from the Sponge Docks up the Anclote River that incorporates an exhibition of hard-hat…

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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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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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A Greek saleswoman explains the properties of a vase sponge inside a tourist store near the Sponge Docks, 1936. Shops very similar to this one remain today, together with specialized and general tourist shops.

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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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The Samarkos Sponge Warehouse on Pinellas Avenue was owned and operated by the Samarkos family, many of whose members were active as captains, divers, and merchants in the sponge industry. Signs in this image from November 26, 1972 indicate that it…

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Sponge warehouses of the Greek-American Sponge Company of Chicago and the American Sponge & Chamois Company of New York, October 1932. In the past, there were many independent local sponge buyers, as well as agents of larger international merchant…
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