Last weekend I spent some time with Ray Hunt, a collector of Florida maps and postcards to learn more about his collection and what led him to collecting. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Ray, his wife Linda, and their sons, Brad and Bryan for over two decades now. I was in school and Boy Scouts with Bryan but it was only later in life when Ray hired me to work for him that I learned about Ray’s collection of historic maps and postcards of Florida. Since Will and I started a company offering software for collectors, it was only fitting I spend some time with Ray learning more about what he collects.
Ray was working as a real estate appraiser in Ohio when he decided to pick up and move to Florida in 1966. Ray settled down in Miami, Florida where he was hired to continue his work as a real estate appraiser. While in Miami, he worked on projects such as extending Interstate 95 and an airport in the Everglades. It was while Ray was working as an appraiser that he became interested in Florida and how its counties were formed.
Historic Maps of Florida
During his research for his appraisal work in Miami, Ray was constantly being referred back to Dade county when researching property boundaries. After a while, he began to wonder just how big Dade county was historically and he picked up an old map to find out. This curiosity got him started down the road of collecting historic maps of Florida. Over time, Ray began collecting maps of Florida representing each time there was a change in county boundaries. If the map shows either a brand new county or when a county was absorbed/dissolved and no longer in existence, then you can be sure it is in Ray’s collection.
The first historic Florida map Ray shared with me was produced around 1821 and consisted of only two counties, St. Johns and Escambia. When Spain controlled Florida, they had split Florida into East Florida and West Florida. Andrew Jackson, who was the territorial governor of Florida at the time, created the two counties of St. Johns and Escambia as seen on the map below.
Over the years, Ray has added to his collection (and knowledge) by visiting antique stores, stores dedicated to maps, county offices and even through trips to the Library of Congress to research maps. These days, original maps are becoming harder and harder to find “out in the wild”. The Internet and websites such as eBay and online shops are where those hard to find maps can usually located today.
Ray has continued to compile a large collection of maps over the years towards his ultimate goal of having an original Florida map printing of each time a county was introduced. To date, he is only missing 7 Florida maps showing the first time a particular county was created. So if you know of anyone who has an original map showing the first time Gadsden, Monroe, Leon, Walton, Alachua, Nassau, or Mosquito county is shown, let me know. And yes, there was indeed a Mosquito County Florida (1824-1845) which the Spanish had originally called the entire coast. Fitting, I know.
Like most collectors, maps aren’t the only thing Ray has in his collection. In addition to the historic maps of Florida, Ray also collects postcards of historic courthouses throughout Florida. Anyone who has spent time sifting through bins in antique stores have probably come across some of these postcards with the “linen” feel and rich colors. Similar to his map collection, Ray’s goal with these historic postcards is to find ones representing the courthouse for each county seat in Florida through the years.
Having lived in Miami, Florida for so long, one of the prize pieces in Ray’s collection of postcards is one showing the court house in Miami surrounded by alligators. In 1984, Ray and his wife Linda opened up their own real estate research company called Florida Real Estate Decisions, Inc. (or F.R.E.D.I.) which has a “mascot” of an alligator. It is only fitting that a postcard with alligators be one of Ray’s favorites!
While most collectors might be perfectly content simply building their collection, Ray has loftier goals in mind. As he has been compiling and organizing his Florida maps and postcards, he has also been researching the history in order to put together a book. The book will feature the items in his collection and be a soft of history book of Florida through maps and postcards. Each unique map of Florida would be included along with the history behind why the map was produced. After a short while of speaking with Ray about the history of Florida’s counties, you realize how extensive his knowledge is on the subject. Be on the lookout for this book! In the meantime, if you want to learn more about Florida maps or postcards, drop us a line and we can put you in touch with Ray.