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Viewed chronologically around the room, the governments and artifacts discuss the Native American, Colonial, Territorial, Statehood, Civil War and Post-Civil War periods. Please take your time to examine the artifacts in the room. In the cabinet to your left, as you entered the room are Native American arrowheads, Spanish pottery and a flintlock musket. Also included are a button and ribbon from William Henry Harrison’s successful Presidential campaign in 1840. Harrison was nicknamed the “Hero of Tippecanoe” which you can see printed on the button. On the small pin beside it is a drawing of a log cabin. They were both designed to portray Harrison more like a frontiersman than the actual son of a wealthy Virginian family.
The middle cabinet contains an item with a mysterious past. The Spanish mission bell was discovered in a lake near Madison in the 1840s. On the mission bell are the words “Santa Maria 1758,” however no records exist of a St. Mary’s Mission in or around that time, since most Spanish missions in Florida were destroyed in the early 1700s. So it’s unknown exactly where the bell came from and why it ended up in a lake near Madison. Also in this case is a military hat from the Second Seminole War era and a blue porcelain plate with a scene of an early steam train. The plate was found during the new Capitol construction where an early Tallahassee hotel used to stand. Finally, the cabinet to your right as you entered the room contains a U.S. military coat believed to be from the 1880s, two Civil War rifles with ammunition and a Civil War sword. Next to the sword is an authentic “carpetbag.” After the Civil War, manufactured goods were in short supply, so individuals from the North coming South often packed their items in bags made from carpets. The Southerners resented these “Yankees” and referred to them as “Carpetbaggers.” The book entitled Carpetbag Rule in Florida tells about this reconstruction period in Florida after the Civil War. It was written by John Wallace, one of the few African-American Democrats in the State Legislature during reconstruction.
In 1903, this room was the Office of the State Treasurer, William Valentine Knott. He served in state government for over forty years, both as Comptroller and Treasurer, but is best remembered for loosing perhaps the closet Governor’s election in Florida’s history in 1916 to Sydney Catts. To learn more about William Knott, please visit the historic Knott House, also called the “The House that Rhymes,” which has been restored to show Tallahassee life in the 1930s, and includes poems that his wife, Luella Knott, wrote about the furnishings. As you enter this room, directly to your left and behind the large exhibit case is a part of the wall that protrudes slightly, this is one of the Historic Capitols original 1845 chimneys. During the 1902 reconstruction, architect Frank Milburn filled four of these chimneys with cement in order to buttress and stabilize the copper dome that was being added to the roof of the building.