The South Florida Crime Museum contains blood encrusted knives, bullet fragments, dioramas, reproduction of real crime scenes, and real crime scene photos and other pieces of once crucial evidence from some of the most exciting events in South Florida and U.S. history. We cover both the profound and the mundane -- extradition warrants signed by President Herbert Hoover, execution warrants signed by the Governors of Florida, liquor warrants for a neighbor's garage and jail sentences of two hours for playing "bolita" -- the Cuban street lottery. Lie detectors, alcohol measuring devices both real and phony along with new and old fingerprinting techniques - all of varying effectiveness. Come spin the South Florida Wheel of Misfortune! It features the mug shots of the unlucky both famous and infamous to accompany our Wall of Shame.
The history behind these true crime exhibits are explained via videos and photographs on our museum wall monitors or bus tours. The idea that a man of the cloth could be put to death without a trial by jury would outrage the public today, but that is one of the many true stories about South Florida in the 1930's. This was, after all, the era of the Ku Klux Klan, the Great Depression and Prohibition, when you could literally get away with murder, when poll taxes could buy an election and when the crimes of adultery and homosexuality could land you on a prison chain gang.
In the age of Prohibition, however, it was not illegal for a police officer to search your home without a warrant if they suspected liquor was being stored there. The museum starts with the first known act of bioterrorism - the murder of native American tribes by Spanish Conquistadors who presented them with yellow fever infected blankets as "gifts." Take a walk through the era of the Cuban bombers, the Cocaine Cowboys right up to the Ponzi schemers like Bernie Madoff and Scott Rothstein of today. When the saw grass blooms in South Florida so does racism, gambling, prostitution, public corruption and the photographs, videos and exhibits that fill our museum's walls. In the 1930's, Miami's black "Overtown" neighborhood got its name from the many whites who crossed "over" into "colored town" to listen to the music of Cab Calloway, Ella Fitzgerald, Benny Goodman, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Josephine Baker, Bessie Smith and Billie Holliday. They went to hear the bluesman sing, "Lord, I'm so low down baby, I declare I'm looking up at down," and to pretend that there would be no price to pay for the racism and corruption that was growing steadily among the orange blossoms in their backyards.
Florida is the only state in the U.S. that has no minerals but the Spanish arrived in the 1500's and tore it up looking for gold anyway and in the process destroyed the peaceful lives of the Tequesta Indians who had named Miami after their word for "big water." The modern day history of Florida began with people who did not care about the consequences of what they were doing to others and it continues to this day to be that way,
The Spanish explorers brought with them European diseases like smallpox and syphiilus. They also came looking for Indians to enslave and kidnap to work in the center of Spanish empire, the aptly named island of Hispanalo, known now as the Domican Republic and Haiti. The Spanish justified these atrocities by claiming that God was on their side. They even named the Florida Keys "The Martyrs" because they looked like the decapitated heads of Christians who had died for their faith.
This insanity went on until 1821 when Spain ceded Florida to the United States for a whopping $5 million dollars and Spain has now owned Florida longer than the US has - and that won't change until the year 2057. Given Miami's relatively late start as a civilization and its distance from other major US cities and limited law enforcement resources, it's no wonder so much crime has happened here. This has been the wild wild west with beaches and palm trees from the beginning. In the 1800's there were Pirates and ship wreckers galore, Then came the bank robbing and moonshine making Ashley Gang, then the Era of Prohibition Rum Runners, and with them came the snake in the garden of Eden, Al Capone who arrived in 1928 to be met with open arms by the city fathers.
In the 30's, Myer Lansky's gambling empire took root here and the Italian Mafia followed in the 30's, 40's, and 50's to buy up Miami Beach resorts, Marijuana smuggling in the U.S. began here in South Florida in the 70's soon to be followed by cocaine smuggling which became king in the 80's. In this decade, South Florida was the Prescription drugs and pill mills capital of the nation and now we're leading the world in Ponzi schemes and psychosis inducing synthetic drugs like Bath Salts and Flakka.. This has always been a great place to be a crook! Over the years local and federal law enforcement have stepped in to meet these successive crime waves but it somehow always gets away from them until something new comes along. We here at Crime Tours believe the place was cursed by the indifference of the Spanish, and maybe even before then and that South Florida will always bring out the deviousness in those who want to "get rich quick" by any means. We're fascinated by all with this and hope you will be fascinated by it too.
Chaining white and black prisoners together was against the law along with whites teaching blacks or blacks teaching whites or both races occupying the same room at night. Insulting a teacher in front of her students or selling sugar substitutes or margarine could land you in the county jail. This was the era when questioning a woman's chastity or questioning the solvency of a bank could do the same, when illegal steamboat racing was banned alongside horse trading gypsies and going bowling on a Sunday.
The South Florida Black History tour is the story of the famous and infamous African American South Floridians whose struggles. setbacks, defeats and accomplishments tell the story of the ultimate victory that those who have faithfully kept their "eyes on the prize" still seek.
There's so much crime and so little time in our tour of the murder, mystery mayhem and history of the Magic City of Miami.