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The Bramson Archive: A Look at Some of the Gems


By Seth H. Bramson

It was either last year (2018) or earlier this year that this column focused on the beginnings of what today is The Bramson Archive, the largest collection of Florida East Coast Railway and Florida transportation memorabilia in the world (it is larger than the state museum’s collection [of like items, of course, not their entire collection!] and larger than the Flagler Museum’s collection, again, of like items, not the entire collection. However, and in addition, it is the largest private collection (private as opposed to the museums) of Miami memorabilia and Floridiana in the country and there is nothing like it—nothing that even comes close—in private hands in America.

That being said (written) and noted it also has to rate and rank as the least appreciated collection of its kind in the state, particularly in regard to the putzenyonkles and like paskunyaks at such as HistoryMiami, said Flagler Museum, the totally DISinterested in facts or documentation regarding local history Miami Herald and Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel newspapers and/or the Fort Lauderdale Historical Society.

Their collective lack of appreciation for what one person has done over 61 years of collecting to save and preserve (and write about) our history and heritage is absolutely and utterly shameful. But that, dear friends and readers is and will be another story for another time because what we want to do—beginning with this column—is to let you, our readers, know about some of the incredible and, yes, even unbelievable items that reside herein.

On that note it is probably best to “begin at the beginning” and for all intents and purposes we should note that in terms of actual age of items in The Bramson Archive two in particular must be the first to be noted and described.

In writing of Miami memorabilia and Floridiana there are two pieces that are of such note and importance that their value (to those who care about and/or who are interested in such things) is close to inestimable. (Yes, I know, everything has its price, but try—just try—to estimate what these first two pieces might, could or should be worth)

Before I continue, however, I do want to clearly state that—as I have verbalized and written for many years—“nothing is worth what we want it to be worth. It is only worth what the top bidder is willing to pay” and with that I must remark that I am certain that, to a large number of you, historic Miami memorabilia (when used in this context the term “Miami memorabilia” refers to all of Dade County, not just the county seat) has no meaning, use or value while to others comic books, baseball cards, marbles, old stamps and other such items have little or no value, and so it is with all and anything that most people collect.

I sit at Bagel Bar East or Bagels & Co. (closing July 14th to supposedly become a barbecue place) or Three Palms on Biscayne Boulevard with Mike Pearl (Beach High ’65, ’66 or ’67, I believe) and the great Ted Grossman (“Night Train with Ted Grossman,” on WLRN Radio, 91.3 FM, the longest running radio program—42 ½ years—on the same station in the history of Florida, longer than Rick Shaw, longer than NEILGOD, longer than Jerry Wichner, all of blessed memory) as they rattle off facts and figures regarding baseball cards, uniforms, bats and other memorabilia which, admittedly, means nothing to me, but keep in mind that we all have our particular and unique interests, sports happening not to be one of mine.

In any case and event, the two items which are the reason and purpose for this column have been verified as absolutely the oldest in their realms, as nothing older has ever been discovered, found or located, said verification(s) coming from both HistoryMiami (archivist Dawn Hughes, now retired) and the Miami-Dade Public Library Florida Collection, my good, close, personal friend whatzhisname (as Neil used to say) John (but I can’t remember his last name, he also now retired) stating conclusively that the two pieces are absolutely the oldest known to exist in regard to the history of Miami and Dade County and they they—the two organizations—have nothing even coming close to the age(s) of the two pieces.

By now I realize that you are breathlessly awaiting the naming of those items and your patience has not been and is not in vain, for they are identified in the paragraph immediately following this one.

The first, the 1823 hand-written abstract of the 94,100 acres of Miami (not Ohio, not the Miami Valley in that state, but what, 73 years later, would be incorporated as a city in Dade County) is positively and with absolute certainty the oldest piece known to exist with the name “Miami” on it. While the next item is 55 years younger than the abstract, it too is the oldest, but, in this case, it is the oldest Dade County-named piece known to exist and “what it is is” the 1878 Dade County Revenue Collectors book, listing each person residing in Dade County of the time (the county was huge, from where it begins today, two miles north of Jewfish Creek all the way north to what is now Stuart, in Martin County) recording approximately 36 names including such as the Sturtevants (Julia Tuttle’s parents, she not coming to Miami until 1886 or ’88 or thereabouts) and Mary and William Brickell as well as what they paid in taxes that year, the total tax collection being something in the vicinity of $3200.00!

That book is a story in itself and now that I have revealed the first two items I will, in our next episode, not only tell you how I came to ownership of both, but, also, how it happens that we have, here in the collection, the oldest known piece of marked American railroad memorabilia, the ribbon worn by the participants at the breaking of ground for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (arguably the first railroad in America) in 1828. Till then stay well and don’t disappoint me: sell me some Miami memorabilia!

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