John B. Stetson (1884-1952), son of the famous hat manufacturer, was an aviator, ambassador, and philanthropist with interests in archaeology and exploration. A native of Pennsylvania, he also kept a residence in Florida, was a member of the Florida Historical Society, and also founded the Florida State Historical Society with Jeannette Thurber Connor in 1921. He commissioned researchers to assemble a photostatic collection of documents from Spain that covered essential matters in Florida's Spanish colonial history. The resulting assemblage, now known as the Stetson Collection, drew on a wide variety of official documents: royal cedulas, governors' letters, juntas de guerra, residencias, ecclesiastical reports, visitas, and reports on situado supplies. Selection of documents reflected Stetson's particular interests in the rise and fall of the mission system, military engagements and contests with French and English colonies, colonial administration, and the arrival of the situado.
This collection, while not comprehensive, is a good starting point for researchers beginning to explore the colonial papers. It is well indexed with English language abstracts and is organized chronologically, so that major events can be quickly found by year.. Besides being a valuable source of information in its own right, it frequently provides leads for finding additional documentation at the Archivo General de Indias and other repositories.the rise and fall of the mission system, military engagements and contests with French and English colonies, colonial administration, wrecks, and trade.
There are two calendared indexes to the John Batterson Stetson Collection. The first, compiled by the St. Augustine Historical Society between 1957 and 1959, is a card index of the 78,223 photostatic pages that make up the documents about the First Spansh Period in Florida (1512, the earliest document in the collection, to 1763). The second calendar index, made at the University of Florida in the 1970s, consists of 14,000 cards covering the 7,000 bundles of material in the collection and goes to 1783.
Both calendars were made from the photostatic collection of documents and were meant to be used with it. Most researchers now use the microfilm of the photostats. The photostats themselves are in storage at the St. Augustine Historical Society. The card calendars, like the collection, are in chronological order. Some documents indexed from the photostats do not appear to be included in the microfilm set, possibly because they had become illegible over time. The University of Florida calendar was set up so that items could be pulled by their bundle number. On the microfilm, the bundle number is useful, but the principal way to navigate documents is by date. Each set of documents is prefaced by an identification sheet that gives its title and date.
The microfilm set of the collection is available at the P.K. Yonge Library of Florida History (University of Florida), at the St. Augustine Historical Society Research Library, at the Pace Library (University of West Florida) and numerous other institutions.
The University of Florida's version of the calendar index is now online