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  • Tags: sponges

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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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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A man stands next to the Sea Curiosities from Gulf of Mexico tourist display on January 30, 1928. Note the dinghy named for Greek Prime Minister Venizelos and the shop to the left, which is a ships’ chandlery. Mass tourism bloomed after World War I…

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The historic N. G. Arfaras Sponge Packing Plant located at 23 West Park Street is a one-story wood frame building listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1991. It was among the last of the sponge packing plants erected in Tarpon Springs…

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The Gulf of Mexico Sponge Co. warehouse was built at 122 Roosevelt Boulevard around 1930 by Drosos Alahuzos, who arrived in the U.S. in 1916. Drosos ran the family sponge business out of Philadelphia but spent some of his time in Tarpon Springs,…

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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