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Cracker Cowboys of Florida
Florida Cracker refers to original colonial era Americanmarker pioneer settlers of the state of Floridamarker, and their descendents. The first Florida Crackers arrived in 1763 when Spainmarker traded Florida to Great Britain. The British divided the territory into East Florida and West Florida, and began to aggressively recruit settlers to the area, offering free land and financial backing for export-oriented businesses. The territory passed back to the Spanish crown in 1783, and then to the US government in 1819. Spanish rule in the late 18th and early 19th centuries was only nominal and the territory was wild and lawless.Spaniards in Florida called these early English speaking settlers “Quáqueros,” a corruption of the English word “Quaker,” which the Spanish used to contemptuously refer to any Protestant.

Historical usage

The term "cracker" was in use during the Elizabethan era to describe braggarts. The original root of this is the Middle English word crack meaning "entertaining conversation" (One may be said to "crack" a joke); this term and the alternate spelling "craic" are still in use in Northern England, Irelandmarker and Scotlandmarker. It is documented in William Shakespeare's King John (1595): "What cracker is this ... that deafes our ears / With this abundance of superfluous breath?"

By the 1760s the English, both at home and in the American colonies, applied the term “Cracker” to Scots-Irish settlers of the remote southern back country, as noted in a passage from a letter to the Earl of Dartmouth: "I should explain to your Lordship what is meant by Crackers; a name they have got from being great boasters; they are a lawless set of rascalls on the frontiers of Virginia, Maryland, the Carolinas, and Georgia, who often change their places of abode." The word was later associated with the cowboys of Georgia and Florida, many of them descendants of those early frontiersmen.

Cracker Cowboys

A cracker cowboy
artist: Frederick Remington.
The Florida "cowhunter" or "cracker cowboy" of the 19th and early 20th centuries was distinct from the Spanish vaquero and the Western cowboy. Florida cowboys did not use lassos to herd or capture cattle. Their primary tools were bullwhips and dogs. Florida cattle and horses were small. The "cracker cow", also known as the "native cow", or "scrub cow" averaged about 600 pounds, had large horns and large feet.

Modern usage

The term is used as a proud or jocular self-description. Since the huge influx of new residents into Florida from the northern parts of the United Statesmarker, and Latin America, in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, "Florida Cracker" is used informally by some Floridians to indicate that their family has lived there for many generations; and/or that they were born and raised in the state of Florida. It is considered a source of pride to be descended from "frontier people who did not just live but flourished in a time before air conditioning, mosquito repellent, and screens."

Notable Florida Crackers

See also


External links

Further reading

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