Finding the Fountain of Youth:
Ponce de León and Florida's Magical Waters

Rick Kilby

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"Finding the Fountain of Youth is its own Fountain of Youth. Just seeing the nostalgic advertisements, postcards, and photos is enough to make readers reclaim their own youth, no matter how far removed from it they may be."--Tim Hollis, author of Selling the Sunshine State

"Tells the story of how a myth became so pervasive in Florida culture--to the point that Fountains of Youth sprang up all over."--Lu Vickers, author of Weeki Wachee Mermaids

Juan Ponce de León reached the shores of Florida on April 2, 1513. Although the myth of the conquistador’s quest for the fountain of youth was debunked long ago, his fabled search remains inextricably tied to the image of the Sunshine State.

Featuring reproductions of hundreds of eye-catching postcards, vintage advertisements, vibrant photos, and other "Ponceabilia," Finding the Fountain Youth reveals how Florida itself has been transformed into a veritable fountain of youth, a paradisiacal playground, a utopia of rejuvenating springs and supple mermaids.

Kilby’s delightful collection of images demonstrates how "magical" waters and their restorative powers have been used to promote the state to tourists and new residents alike. Moving beyond advertising and kitsch, Kilby carries the story into the present day, addressing the very real problem of protecting Florida’s fragile springs and aquifers. Once revered by the Timucua and Calusa, then celebrated by writers such as William Bartram and Harriet Beecher Stowe, these pristine waters were rechristened Panacea Springs or Espiritu Santo Springs, new names meant to extol their sacred nature to visitors in polka-dotted bathing suits and Panama hats.

Florida, the mythical Land of Sunshine, encompasses over 700 freshwater springs--more than anywhere else in the world. Many of them, including Silver Springs, with its iconic glass-bottom boats, are now cloudy and endangered. Kilby reminds us that more than environmental damage is at stake; the search for the fountain(s) of youth defines who we are as Floridians.

Rick Kilby is a graphic designer living in Orlando, Florida, and president of Kilby Creative.

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Florida Book Award for Visual Arts, Bronze - 2013

"His book is more than a collection of nostalgic Kitsch…it's also a call to look to the state's fragile springs, our real fountains of youth, and care for them before it's too late." Orlando Sentinel Florida Flashbacks

"A compelling story about the Sunshine State and the waters that flow through and around it" Tampa Bay Magazine

"An insightful history of Florida’s natural springs and their irresistible appeal...a picture book with soul and underlying purpose, illuminating that trouble bubbles beneath the surface of the Sunshine State." Real South Magazine

"It’s all there in one slim volume: Florida’s spring-fed myths and fables, history and geology, hucksterism and development, vintage photos and posters." Florida Weekly

"If you are a nature lover, his book will take you places that perhaps you never would have considered going - past or present." Florida Environments

"An inviting and resourceful read." My Weekend (blog)

"Lots of Florida fun." Authentic Florida (blog)

“It encourages our reflection on the natural attractions of the state… a great addition to any Florida bookshelf, beach bag, or coffee table.” Florida Historical Quarterly

“Illustrate that the fictional mythology that has sustained the legend has actually transformed the historical record of our populous peninsula” Clearwater Gazette

“An enticing blend of history and insightful reflection… [a] visual extravaganza” Society for Commerical Archeology Journal

“Defines the development of the vintage St. Augustine attraction through postcards, advertisements, photos, and even a pair of Jerry Lewis comic books.” Forum Magazine

Whether or not you call Florida your home, you will find something magical about the waters rippling through these pages.-- Florida Book Review

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