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  • Tags: sponges

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Mass tourism bloomed after World War I as the middle class expanded. As a result, tourism based on the sponge industry and Greek culture developed early in Tarpon Springs. This image shows a store selling sponges at 629 Dodecanese Boulevard in 1921.

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On October 2, 1970, the crew of the sponge boat Eleni hauls strings of sponges off the boat to store in the Sponge Exchange until they are auctioned later in the day.

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The men gathered in front of the Sponge Docks with strings of large harvested sponges reflect a variety of levels within the sponge industry. No doubt those wearing everyday work apparel are sponge boat crews, while those with white shirts and ties…

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A Greek diver returns to the surface holding a net bag of sponges that he harvested and the sponge hook that he used, 1936. There are dozens of types of sponges in the Gulf, but only a few are commercially viable. Divers must be able to identify and…

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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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Gus Tsourakis and a crew member unload strings of cleaned sponges on June 27, 1969. Tsourakis owned a hooking boat, which was smaller than the larger diving boats. On this trip they harvested more than 5000 sponges, primarily wool.

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The crew of the St. Michael crew clean the sponges harvested during a recent trip on October 4, 1973. After returning to port with sponges, the crew members count them, put them into net bags, and the captain keeps an account of the number, type, and…

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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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George Danapas demonstrates trimming a sponge at a festival on the Sponge Docks on March 6, 1987. Danapas was long involved in the sponge industry, and had his own hook boat.

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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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Men gather to survey heaps of large sponges in the yard of the Sponge Exchange. The early wooden buildings indicate that this might be in the 1910s, before the sturdier brick buildings were constructed.

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The Sponge Exchange bustles with activity with activity. The Sponge Exchange was an organized cooperative warehouse and distribution system established around 1908. At the time of this image, iron-grilled klouves (storage cells) separated the catches…

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The Sponge Exchange on Dodecanese Boulevard across from the Sponge Docks was one of the most important places in Greektown. It consisted of a large courtyard for cleaning, processing, sorting, and selling sponges, surrounded by klouves, or cells in…

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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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Hook and dive boats can be seen outside the Sponge Exchange at the Sponge Docks in 1930. In addition to being the primary locus of buy and selling sponges, the Sponge Exchange functioned as a community gathering place for special occasions. For many…

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Sponge brokers examine the piles of sponges for sale in the Sponge Exchange courtyard on November 6, 1936. Many of the men are taking notes in preparation for the silent auction.

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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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Buyers examine sponge lots during a large sale at the Sponge Exchange on June 19, 1978. Unlike sponge sales in Greece, sales at the Sponge Exchange were generally conducted through silent auctions. Each potential buyer submitted his bid on a piece of…

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Auctioneer and former diver Costas Klimantos accepts a bid from potential buyer George Smitzes at the Sponge Exchange on June 19, 1978. After a sale, the captain or owner is reimbursed for food and boat expenses, then each member of the team receives…
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