Gasparilla’s Treasure on Display in Store
Drop into our store to see our new display of Gasparilla’s Treasure with coins and jewelry available for purchase.
If you are unable to visit our store you can still buy jewelry made from these coins on our on-line store by clicking here.
If you have questions you can click here to inquire.
Most, if not all, historians agree the pirate named Jose Gaspar never existed. But treasure hunters believe there is truth in his tall tale, and buried treasure is out there. Before we get to the treasure hunt, let’s touch on the historical background of Jose Gaspar and how a now infamous fictitious pirate became a Tampa legend. Since 1904, pirates have invaded the City of Tampa to kick off the Gasparilla Pirate Festival. The parade that follows is one of the largest in the country, drawing hundreds of thousands of people to Tampa Bay. All of it is built around the story of Gaspar. The pirate is one of the most notorious in the history of pirates.
ABC Action News on WFTS Tampa Bay in January 2020 aired the following:
According to Rodney Kite-Powell, Director of the Touchton Map Library at the Tampa Bay History Center, the legend of Jose Gaspar goes like this: Gaspar attended the Spanish naval academy and became an officer. But, he joined the navy during a rough time in Spanish history. So he, along with fellow lieutenants, mutinied and became pirates.
“He sailed across the Atlantic to Florida and began a very long life of piracy,” said Kite-Powell.
Gaspar was a pirate from the 1780s until 1821. While contemplating retirement, Gaspar decided to go on one last adventure. But, he attacked a pirate-seeking US Navy ship. Rather than being captured and defeated, Gaspar wrapped an anchor chain around his body and threw himself into the Gulf of Mexico.
But, it’s all just a myth.
“The problem is, of course, Jose Gaspar never existed,” said Kite-Powell. “There’s no record of him in any archive, anywhere. The Spanish were very good at keeping records. He probably just is a conglomeration of true pirates who really were in Florida and the Caribbean at the time and they’ve created this myth around him in the late 19th century.”
Kite-Powell says the legend of Gaspar started circulating in the early-1900s south of Tampa, in the Charlotte Harbor area. George Hardee, a customs agent for Florida who traveled between Charlotte Harbor and Tampa, played a role in bringing the story to the bay area.
So, in 1904, the young men invaded the May Day Parade on horseback and then disappeared. That night, there was a coronation ball to crown the first king and queen of Gasparilla.
Gasparilla played an important role in Tampa’s culture in the decades that followed. It continues to do so today.
“I think that it is certainly part of our identity, hopefully as a positive part of identity,” said Kite-Powell. “It is certainly something, at its core, an effort to showcase Tampa, as both a business city, but also as a tourist destination.”