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

Rick Kilby

Details: 144 pages    10x7
Paper: $14.95   ISBN 13: 978-0-8130-4487-3   
Pubdate: 5/14/2013
Review(s): 11 available

Florida Book Award for Visual Arts, Bronze - 2013

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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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