Winner of the 2021 Florida Book Awards Gold Medal Prize for Florida Nonfiction
University of North Carolina Press,
"Brings to life an astonishing rogues' gallery of crooks and hustlers, each one of them a Florida Man seemingly sprung from the pages of a Carl Hiaasen thriller."
author of Oh, Florida!: How America's Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country
The Swamp Peddlers
How Lot Sellers, Land Scammers, and Retirees Built Modern Florida and Transformed the American Dream
Florida has long beckoned to retirees seeking to spend their golden years in the sun, but for many the American dream of owning a home there was financially impossible. That changed in the 1950s, when the so-called "installment land sales industry" appeared out of nowhere to hawk billions of dollars of Florida residential property, sight unseen, to retiring northerners.
For only $10 down and $10 a month, working-class pensioners could buy a piece of the Florida dream: a graded homesite that would be waiting for them in a planned community when they were ready to build. The result was Cape Coral, Port St. Lucie, Deltona, Port Charlotte, Palm Coast, and Spring Hill, among many others--sprawling exurban communities with no downtowns and little industry but millions of residential lots.
As Jason Vuic recounts in his raucous new history, these communities allowed generations of northerners to move to Florida cheaply, but at a price: high-pressure sales tactics begat fraud; poor urban planning begat sprawl; developers cleared forests, drained wetlands, and built thousands of miles of roads in grid-like subdivisions, which, fifty years later, played an inordinate role in the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis.
Presentation at Florida Lecture Series at
Florida Southern College (2021)
Praise for The Swamp Peddlers
"Vuic’s book crackles with colorful characters who bought land by the acre and sold it by the foot to Americans in search of second acts and the Florida Dream. The Swamp Peddlers provides a cautionary tale: actions have profound consequences. What will our grandchildren think of our hubris?” Gary Mormino, author of Land of Sunshine, State of Dreams: A Social History of Modern Florida
"The Swamp Peddlers is a skillful and entertaining recreation of a colorful era of unscrupulous Florida land sales. It brings to life an astonishing rogues gallery of crooks and hustlers, each one of them a Florida Man seemingly sprung from the pages of a Carl Hiaasen thriller. This book's insights into what happened back then go a long way toward explaining what has made Florida such a mess today." Craig Pittman, author of Oh, Florida!: How America's Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country
"The author’s research is unassailable. The Swamp Peddlers is an exceptional account of legal loopholes, egotistical hubris, environmental annihilation, and the mindless development of land at any cost." Mark Massaro, Los Angeles Review of Books
"I just started my annual culling of books, and Jason Vuic's The Swamp Peddlers is one of those I'm keeping: thoroughly researched, deeply engrossing, and often very, very funny." Yasmin Nair, Current Affairs