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Two hundred years ago, on March 4, 1824, Governor William Duval announced Tallahassee as the site for Florida’s new capital city. Local lore attributes the decision to two commissioners sent on a legendary journey, however, Tallahassee’s tale begins much earlier. In this temporary exhibition, the Florida Historic Capitol Museum invites you to explore the historical actions and power struggles that defined early Tallahassee and led to the city Becoming Florida’s Capital. This exhibition and related programming complement the City of Tallahassee and Leon County bicentennial commemorations.

Featured Items

Cotton Dress

Catherine Murat’s Cotton Voile Day Dress, ca. 1850-1860

Courtesy of Tallahassee Museum

This dress is attributed to Catherine Daingerfield Willis Gray Murat, international socialite and wife of Jefferson County planter Achille Murat, who was nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte I. Murat’s dress includes several details typical of European and American fashion of the period and her status: fine cotton fabric; multiple indigo (blue) and mudder (reddish-pink) dyed patterns; open bell “Pagoda” sleeves with lace trim; and “Basque” bodice and paneling.

Collections records indicate the dress may have been passed down to one of Murat’s enslaved workers and preserved by their descendants before it was donated. In 1839, the Murat plantation, named Lipona, comprised of 1,000+ acres, equipment, livestock, and over 100 enslaved bondsmen, was used to pay their extensive debts. Following Achille’s death in 1847, Catherine managed a smaller plantation until she purchased a 500-acre holding that she named Bellevue. Explore and learn more about the Bellevue Planation at the Tallahassee Museum where the house, kitchen, and slave cabin have been preserved.

Sarsaparilla bottle

Courtesy of the Division of Historical Resources, Bureau of Archaeological Research

Sarsparilla was a tonic that was widely used for the treatment of various skin conditions in the 19th century. The drink had a flavor similar to root beer. This artifact is unusual because the stopper is still in place, indicating the medicine is contained within it.

Episopal Brick

St. John’s Episcopal Church brick, ca. 1838

Courtesy of the Division of Historical Resources, Bureau of Archaeological Research

Several Tallahassee residents raised funds to build the first St. John’s Episcopal Church. Carpenter John W. Levinus received a $10,000 contract for its construction. Contractors like Levinus depended on the labor and skills of enslaved people to complete public contracts. This brick has evidence of the maker’s fingerprints left behind while the clay was still wet.

Surveyor’s Chain

Surveyor’s Chain

Courtesy of the Museum of Florida History, Tallahassee

The surveyor’s chain was used to measure distances in land surveying from the 1600s until the late nineteenth century. One hundred iron links measured a total of 66 feet long per chain. Eighty chains equal one mile and ten square chains measure one acre. Combined with a compass, the chain helped surveyors map Middle Florida.

Beaded Bracelet

Seminole Beaded Armlet, ca. 1960s

Made by Ruby Cypress, Seminole Tribe of Florida, Panther Clan

Courtesy of the Seminole Tribe of Florida Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, Catalog number ATTK 2203.29.4

This example uses the Muskogean loose-warp, double-weft technique, which traces back to the wampum belt tradition.

Vase with Lid 1974

Chamber pot from the site of the Planters Hotel

Courtesy of the Division of Historical Resources, Bureau of Archaeological Research

Coconut Rattle

Seminole Coconut Rattle, ca. 1993

Made by Ingraham Billie, Seminole Tribe of Florida, Panther Clan

Courtesy of the Seminole Tribe of Florida Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum, Catalog number ATTK 1993.25.2

This rattle is an example of those used by a dance leader during the annual Green Corn Ceremony.

Basket Bowl

Hand Woven Sweetgrass Basket with Palmetto Fiber Center and Embroidery Thread Detail, 2024

Made by Randelle Osceola, Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida, Bird Clan

Courtesy of the artist

Exhibit Programs and Events

Special Tour of Becoming Florida's Capital
April 4, May 17, July 19, and August 16
Noon-1 PM

Join the Historic Capitol Museum staff for a tour of the temporary exhibition Becoming Florida’s Capital. This free monthly tour is available by reservation only on a first-come, first-serve basis and will last approximately one hour. Participation is capped at 10 guests.

Exhibit Partners

The Florida Historic Capitol Museum and the Historic Capitol Foundation extend their deepest appreciation to the following sponsors and partners for their generous support and efforts in making this exhibit possible.

Bureau of Archaeological Research, Florida Division of Historical Resources

Kevin Cate

Amy Cox

Marcus Curtis

Jason Daniel

Daughters of the American Revolution Museum

Florida Department of Environmental Protection

Florida State University

Harvard University

Leo Jim

Solan Jim

Library of Congress

Miccosukee Tribe of Indians of Florida

Mission San Luis

Museum of Florida History

National Archives and Records Administration

New York Public Library

Edward Ornstein

Randelle Osceola

David Scheidecker

Seminole Tribe of Florida Ah-Tah-Thi-Ki Museum

Seminole Tribe of Florida, Tribal Historic Preservation Office

State Library and Archives of Florida

Tallahassee Museum

The Grove Museum

Touchton Map Library, Tampa Bay History Center

University of Florida

Jackson Walker