Miami streetcar system map, 1926
After World War I ended in 1918, South Florida boomed, and Miami transitioned from quiet resort town to boomtown, aided by cheap credit, loose Prohibition enforcement and aggressive marketing. During the prosperous years of the 1920s, speculative new housing developments were all the rage, and South Florida was the epicenter of this nationwide bubble. Carl Fisher, father of Miami Beach, bought a billboard in Times Square, New York City in the middle of winter, saying, “It’s June in Miami.” George Merrick, founder of Coral Gables, hired William Jennings Bryan, former secretary of state and Democratic presidential candidate, to be his pitchman. Fisher and Merrick even opened up their own streetcar companies to serve their new developments, in addition to the City of Miami's own streetcar system.
Of course, like everything in South Florida real estate, the developers oversold and underdelivered - enough land had been sold to house two million people in a county of 111,000 residents. So when the bubble began to pop in 1925, the market dropped violently - by the summer of 1926 property values had dropped by 3/4. A direct hit from a Category 4 hurricane in September finished the job, and Miami would enter into an economic depression for 15 years.
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