Feb 222019
 

On this date in 1819, the Adams–Onís Treaty, also known as the Transcontinental Treaty, the Florida Purchase Treaty, or the Florida Treaty, was signed. It ceded Florida to the U.S. and defined the boundary between the U.S. and New Spain. It settled a standing border dispute between the two countries and was considered a triumph of U.S. diplomacy. It came in the midst of increasing tensions related to Spain’s territorial boundaries in North America against the United States and Great Britain in the aftermath of the American Revolution. It also came during the Latin American wars of independence. The Adams-Onis Treaty was negotiated by John Quincy Adams, the Secretary of State under U.S. President James Monroe, and the Spanish “minister plenipotentiary” (diplomatic envoy) Luis de Onís y González-Vara, during the reign of Ferdinand VII.

Florida had become a burden to Spain, which could not afford to send settlers or garrisons, so the Spanish government decided to cede the territory to the United States in exchange for settling the boundary dispute along the Sabine River in Spanish Texas. The treaty established the boundary of U.S. territory and claims through the Rocky Mountains and west to the Pacific Ocean, in exchange for the U.S. paying residents’ claims against the Spanish government up to a total of $5,000,000 and relinquishing the U.S. claims on parts of Spanish Texas west of the Sabine River and other Spanish areas, under the terms of the Louisiana Purchase.

Let’s pause for a moment, to take stock of the area now covered by the 48 states of the continental United States, and I make no apology for this being a post dominated by maps. Contemporary US nationalists like to imagine that the US has always existed as it is now, and that somehow it’s always been English-speaking territory (perhaps since the dawn of time). Even leaving aside the fact that for millennia the land was occupied by indigenous peoples speaking a kaleidoscope of languages, in colonial times the territory was loosely split into three zones: an eastern section that was mostly colonized from Britain, a western section that was mostly colonized from Mexico, and a middle section that was largely unsettled by colonists in the interior but was claimed by France and Spain at different times and was of primary importance because it controlled the Mississippi delta at New Orleans. Florida and parts of Louisiana were the main territories on the eastern and Gulf seaboard in the early nineteenth century that had not been British at one time.

Spain had long rejected repeated U.S. efforts to purchase Florida. But by 1818, Spain was facing a troubling colonial situation in which the cession of Florida made sense. Spain had been exhausted by the Peninsular War (1807–1814) against Napoleon in Europe and needed to rebuild its credibility and presence in its colonies. Revolutionaries in Central and South America were beginning to demand independence. Spain was unwilling to invest further in Florida, encroached on by U.S. settlers (affectionately known as Florida Crackers), and it worried about the border between New Spain (a large area including today’s Mexico, Central America, and much of the current US Western States) and the United States. With minor military presence in Florida, Spain was not able to restrain the Seminole warriors who routinely crossed the border and raided US villages and farms, as well as protected slave refugees from slave owners and traders of the southern United States.

By 1819, Spain was forced to negotiate, as it was losing hold on its American empire, with its western territories primed to revolt. While fighting escaped African-American slaves, outlaws, and Native Americans in U.S.-controlled Georgia during the First Seminole War, U.S. General Andrew Jackson had pursued them into Spanish Florida. He built Fort Scott, at the southern border of Georgia (i.e., the U.S.), and used it to destroy the Negro Fort in northwest Florida, whose existence was perceived as an intolerable disruptive risk by Georgia plantation owners. The U.S. effectively seized control of northeastern Florida although was not interested in outright annexation of territory for Georgia; for additional US Territory; or, for the creation of another U.S. state.

Adams argued that the U.S. had to take control because Florida (along the border of Georgia & Alabama Territory) had become “a derelict open to the occupancy of every enemy, civilized or savage, of the United States, and serving no other earthly purpose than as a post of annoyance to them.” Spain asked for British intervention, but London declined to assist Spain in the negotiations. Some of president Monroe’s cabinet demanded Jackson’s immediate dismissal for invading Florida, but Adams realized that his success had given the U.S. a favorable diplomatic position. Adams was able to negotiate very favorable terms.

The treaty, consisting of 16 articles was signed in Adams’ State Department office in Washington, on February 22nd, 1819. Ratification was postponed for two years, because Spain wanted to use the treaty as an incentive to keep the United States from giving diplomatic support to the revolutionaries in South America. As soon as the treaty was signed, the U.S. Senate ratified unanimously; but because of Spain’s stalling, a new ratification was necessary and this time there were objections. Henry Clay and other Western spokesmen demanded that Spain also give up Texas. This proposal was defeated by the Senate, which ratified the treaty a second time on February 19th, 1821, following ratification by Spain on October 24th, 1820. Ratifications were exchanged three days later and the treaty was proclaimed on February 22nd, 1821, two years to the day after the signing.

The Treaty closed the first era of United States expansion by providing for the cession of East Florida under Article 2; the abandonment of the controversy over West Florida under Article 2 (a portion of which had been seized by the United States); and the definition of a boundary with the Spanish province of Mexico, that clearly made Spanish Texas a part of Mexico, under Article 3, thus ending much of the vagueness in the boundary of the Louisiana Purchase. Spain also ceded to the U.S. its claims to the Oregon Country, under Article 3.

Spain relinquished all claims in the Americas north of the 42nd parallel north. This was a historic retreat in its 327-year pursuit of lands in the Americas. The previous Anglo-American Convention of 1818 meant that both the United States and the British Empire could settle land north of the 42nd parallel and west of the Continental Divide. The United States now had a firm foothold on the Pacific Coast and could commence settlement of the jointly occupied Oregon Country (known as the Columbia District to the rival United Kingdom). The Russian Empire also claimed this entire region as part of Russian America.

For the United States, this Treaty (and the Treaty of 1818 with Britain agreeing to joint occupancy of the Pacific Northwest) meant that its claimed territory now extended far west from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean. For Spain, it meant that it kept its colony of Texas and also kept a buffer zone between its colonies in California and New Mexico and the U.S. territories. Many historians consider the Treaty to be a great achievement for the U.S., as time validated Adams’ vision that it would allow the U.S. to open trade with the Orient across the Pacific. For another 30 years North America was fairly evenly divided between the United States and Mexico (with Russian and British claims mixed in).

Since the control of Florida was a key aspect of the Treaty, a Florida recipe is called for. The main thing about Florida cuisine is that it has multiple influences. In the north of the state and the panhandle, the cooking most closely resembles Southern US cooking, and in the southern part there are strong Cuban and Caribbean influences. The old colonial Spanish era has scarcely left a trace. It’s better to think of Florida cooking in terms of ingredients such as key lime which can be found in many products apart from key lime pie. Conch is also a celebrated ingredient. However, I have given recipes for key lime and conch already, so I will turn to the Florida stone crab (Menippe mercenaria). This crab has a small body that is not usually eaten, but has large, powerful claws which are prized.

The Florida stone crab loses its limbs easily to escape from predators or tight spaces, but their limbs will grow back. When a claw is broken such that the diaphragm at the body/claw joint is left intact, the wound can quickly heal itself and very little blood is lost. If, however, the claw is broken in the wrong place, more blood is lost and the crab’s chances of survival are much lower. Each time the crab molts, the new claw grows larger. So far so good. The usual practice is to take one or two claws and toss the crabs back to regrow them. It almost seems like a green, sustainable practice. Not so fast, though. Clinical trials seem to indicate that around 25% of stone crabs that have one claw taken die, and around 50% of those with two claws taken die. The latter is hardly surprising. The crabs need their claws for survival. So, I suppose they are semi-sustainable.

Here is a video on their preparation:

Aug 132016
 

cm1

On this date, the Lutheran church celebrates Clara Louise Maass (June 28, 1876 – August 24, 1901) in its Calendar of Saints. She was a nurse from the US who died as a result of volunteering for medical experiments to study yellow fever.

Clara Maass was born in East Orange, New Jersey, to German immigrants Hedwig and Robert Maass. She was the eldest of 10 children in a devout Lutheran family. In 1895, she became one of the first graduates of Newark German Hospital’s Christina Trefz Training School for Nurses. By 1898, she had been promoted to head nurse at Newark German Hospital, where she was known for her hard work and dedication to her profession.

In April 1898, during the Spanish–American War, Maass volunteered as a contract nurse for the United States Army (the Army Nurse Corps did not yet exist). She served with the Seventh U. S. Army Corps from October 1, 1898, to February 5, 1899, in Jacksonville, Florida, Savannah, Georgia, and Santiago, Cuba. She was discharged in 1899, but volunteered again to serve with the Eighth U.S. Army Corps in the Philippines from November 1899 to mid-1900.

During her service with the military, she saw few battle injuries. Instead, most of her nursing duties involved providing medical care to soldiers suffering from infectious diseases, such as typhoid, malaria, dengue, and yellow fever. She contracted dengue in Manila, and was sent home.

Shortly after finishing her second assignment with the army, Maass returned to Cuba in October 1900 after being summoned by William Gorgas, who was working with the U.S. Army’s Yellow Fever Commission. The commission, headed by Major Walter Reed, was established during the post-war occupation of Cuba in order to investigate yellow fever, which was causing major problems in Cuba at the time. One of the commission’s goals was to determine how the disease was spread. At the time it was not known whether it was spread by mosquito bites or by contact with contaminated objects, but Reed theorized that mosquitoes were the culprits and wanted to test his belief.

cm2

The commission recruited human subjects because they did not know of any animals that could contract yellow fever (primates are the only vector). In the first recorded instance of informed consent in human experiments, volunteers were told that participation in the studies might cause their deaths. As an incentive, volunteers were paid US$100 (approximately $3,000 today), with an additional $100 if the volunteer became ill.

In March 1901, Maass volunteered to be bitten by a Culex fasciata mosquito (now called Aedes aegypti) that had been allowed to feed on yellow fever patients. She contracted a mild case of the disease from which she quickly recovered. By this time, the researchers were reasonably certain that mosquitoes were the route of transmission, but lacked convincing scientific evidence to prove it, because some volunteers who were bitten remained healthy. Maass continued to volunteer for experiments.

On August 14, 1901, Maass allowed herself to be bitten by infected mosquitoes for the second time. Researchers were hoping to show that her earlier case of yellow fever was sufficient to immunize her against the disease. Unfortunately, this was not the case. Maass once again became ill with yellow fever on August 18, and died on August 24 (aged 25). Her death roused public sentiment and put an end to yellow fever experiments on human subjects. Maass was buried in Colon Cemetery in Havana with military honors. Her body was moved to Fairmount Cemetery, Newark, New Jersey, on February 20, 1902.

cm5

In 1951, the 50th anniversary of her death, Cuba issued a postage stamp in her honor.

cm3

On June 19, 1952, Newark German Hospital (which had since moved to Belleville, New Jersey) was renamed Clara Maass Memorial Hospital, and it is now known as Clara Maass Medical Center.

cm4

In 1976, the 100th anniversary of her birth, Maass was honored with a 13¢ United States commemorative stamp.

cm6

Also in 1976, the American Nurses Association inducted her into its Nursing Hall of Fame.

I’ve chosen the Cuban sandwich as a recipe to honor Clara Maass because it has associations with both late 19th century Florida and Cuba where she worked. As with Cuban bread [below], the origin of the Cuban sandwich (sometimes called a “Cuban mix,” a “mixto,” a “Cuban pressed sandwich,” or a “Cubano”) is murky. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, travel between Cuba and Florida was easy, especially from Key West and Tampa, and Cubans frequently sailed back and forth for employment, pleasure, and family visits. Because of this constant and largely undocumented movement of people, culture and ideas, it is impossible to say exactly when or where the Cuban sandwich originated. (As a small aside, I will note that at this time no one especially cared that the Cubans in Florida were undocumented.)

cm7

It is believed by some that the sandwich was a common lunch food for workers in both the cigar factories and sugar mills of Cuba (especially in big cities such as Havana or Santiago de Cuba) and the cigar factories of Key West by the 1860s. Historian Loy Glenn Westfall suggests that the sandwich was “born in Cuba and educated in Key West.” The cigar industry in Florida shifted to Tampa in the 1880s and the sandwich quickly appeared in workers’ cafés in Ybor City and (later) West Tampa. In the 1960s the sandwich became popular in other cities in Florida because of the torrent of immigrants escaping Castro.

While there is some debate as to the contents of a “true” Cuban sandwich, most are generally agreed upon. The traditional Cuban sandwich starts with Cuban bread. The loaf is sliced into lengths of 8–12 inches (20–30 cm), lightly buttered or brushed with olive oil on the crust, and cut in half horizontally. A coat of yellow mustard is spread on the bread. Then sliced roast pork, glazed ham, Swiss cheese, and thinly sliced dill pickles are added in layers. Sometimes the pork is marinated in mojo and slow roasted.

The main regional disagreement about the sandwich’s recipe is whether or not to include salami. In Tampa, Genoa salami is traditionally layered in with the other meats, probably due to influence of Italian immigrants who lived side-by-side with Cubans and Spaniards in Ybor City. In South Florida, salami is left out. Mayonnaise, lettuce, and tomato are usually available options on Florida menus but are frowned upon by traditionalists.

Getting Cuban bread will be your main problem. The origins of “real” Cuban bread are as hotly debated as the “real” Cuban sandwich. The earliest U.S. bakery to produce Cuban bread was most likely La Joven Francesca bakery, which was established by the Sicilian-born Francisco Ferlita in 1896 in Ybor City, which was a thriving Cuban-Spanish-Italian community in Tampa at the time. The bakery originally sold bread for 3 to 5 cents per loaf, delivered every morning like milk. Houses in Ybor City often had a sturdy nail driven into the door frame on the front porch, and a bread deliveryman would impale the fresh loaf of bread on to the nail before dawn.

Ferlita’s bakery was destroyed by fire in 1922, leaving only the brick bread oven standing. He rebuilt it even larger than before and added a second oven, and it soon became a major supplier of Cuban bread for the Tampa/Ybor area. The bakery also added a dining area which became a place to congregate, drink a cup of Cuban coffee, and catch up on the local news. La Joven Francesca closed in 1973, but soon found new life when it was renovated and converted into the Ybor City State Museum, becoming the main part of the museum complex. The original ovens where the original Cuban bread was baked can still be seen.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Tampa Daily Journal, 1896, reported:

It is not amiss to say that the Latins in Ybor City make a very fine bread, equal in all respects to the French article of that kind and unexcelled by the Vienna product.

A traditional loaf of Cuban bread is approximately three feet long and somewhat rectangular crossways (as compared to the rounder shape of Italian or French bread loaves). It has a hard, thin, almost papery toasted crust and a soft flaky center. In the early days, the dough was stretched thin to make it last, creating the bread’s distinctive air pockets and long shape. As they have for decades, traditional Cuban bread makers lay a long, moist palmetto frond on top of the loaves before baking, creating a shallow trench in the upper crust, producing an effect similar to the slashing of a European-style loaf. (The frond is removed before eating.)