22. Miami Beach became a major tourist attraction in 1921
Miami Beach incorporated as a city in 1915, already a destination for visitors from the North during the winter months. Several enterprising citizens of the region envisioned the city as a tourist resort in the early 20th century. James Allison and Carl Fisher, magnates who made a fortune in the automobile industry through the manufacture of sealed-beam headlights, envisioned a world class aquarium in the city. First though, they addressed the scarcity of hotel rooms in the region through construction of the Flamingo Hotel, expressly designed to cater to the rich. When construction costs exceeded the budget in the first decade of the 19th century, Allison withdrew from the project and turned his attention to his aquarium.
Allison drew advisors from diverse sources, including the Smithsonian Institution, the National Geographic Society, and the United States Commissioner of Fisheries. His aquarium catered to both tourists and marine wildlife professionals. The aquarium opened on New Year’s Day, 1921; the Flamingo Hotel opened to celebrate New Year’s Eve the night before. Both were immediate successes. Miami Beach quickly developed the reputation of being a playground for the wealthy, drawing residents for the winter months which included the famous and the infamous. In April, 1921, state and federal agents raided the aquarium and found over 2,400 bottles of illicit liquor, delivered by boats which routinely arrived to deliver tropical fish and other specimens. Like most tourist meccas in 1921, the availability of imported booze added to the appeal of the destination.