Historic Markers Across Florida

Apalachicola's Sponge Industry

Marker ID:  
Location: Water St, Apalachicola, FL
County: Franklin
Coordinates: N 29° 43.707    W 084° 58.997
  29.72845    -84.98328333
Style: Interpretative Sign **
Waymark: WMXFGC


Apalachicola's Sponge Industry

From the mid-1870's to the early decades of the twentieth century, Apalachicola was part of Florida's sponge industry. The local sponge trade came to rank third in the state. By 1895, over 100 men made their living locally in the short-lived but profitable Apalachicola sponge industry. In 1879, Apalachicola had 16 sponge vessels. The larger vessels would put out to sea for four weeks or more and carried several dinghies or small rowboats. The sponges were taken by “hooking.” The hooker sat in the bow and scanned the water for sponges.

The oarsman than moved the boat into position, and the hooker used a long pole with a sharp-pronged tool on the end to bring up the sponges. Once the larger vessel had a full cargo it returned to port. The three principal buyers of sponges were M. Brash, Sr., John G. Ruge, and Joseph Messina. The buyers inspected the catch and made sealed bids. The sponges were later shipped to San Francisco, St. Louis, Baltimore, and New York.

By 1895, between 80 and 120 men were employed in it, and the city had two sponge warehouses. Later, as the major Greek sponge operations moved down the coast to Carrabelle, Cedar Key and Tarpon Springs, shrimp and sponge operations continued in Apalachicola with the Greek sailing fleet. Today, there are two original sponge warehouses remaining in Apalachicola's historic downtown district. The Sponge Exchange, built in 1840, is one of the original sponge warehouses.

Sponsored by City of Apalachicola