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Graham publishes biography revealing new information on Henry Flagler

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Thomas Graham’s new book, “Mr. Flagler’s St. Augustine”

Thomas Graham’s new book, “Mr. Flagler’s St. Augustine”


May 19, 2014

Flagler College Professor Emeritus Thomas Graham’s new book, “Mr. Flagler’s St. Augustine,” tells the story of how one of the wealthiest men in America spared no expense to turn the nation’s oldest city into a highly desirable vacation destination for the rich.

“It has been a quarter century since a book-length biography of Henry Flagler has appeared so I thought it was time for a fresh look at Florida's most important developer,” said Graham, who retired from teaching in 2008. “I have turned up some new information on a man who led a very private life.”

Flagler, a Gilded Age industrialist, railroad pioneer and partner with John D. Rockefeller in Standard Oil, built the Hotel Ponce de Leon, his first in a series of luxury resorts along Florida’s east coast, in 1888. The hotel, now known as Ponce de Leon Hall, is a National Historic Landmark and serves as the centerpiece for Flagler College.

Graham says the book challenges some commonly held beliefs about Flagler, such as the story that he came to St. Augustine in 1883 on a belated honeymoon, and it adds some sidelights to his life and career - including his love of automobiles and promotion of hard surface roads.

In tracing Flagler’s second career, Thomas Graham reveals much about the inner life of the former oil magnate and the demons that drove him to expand a coastal empire.

“Although the book is anchored in St. Augustine, it follows Flagler south to Palm Beach and Key West, and north to New York City and the mountains of New Hampshire,” explains Graham. “But the City of St. Augustine is his lasting monument.”

“Mr. Flagler’s St. Augustine” was published by University Press of Florida and can be purchased at Graham is the author of several books including “Flagler’s St. Augustine Hotels” and “The Awakening of St. Augustine.”