Letter from Myrtle Colson to John M. May (March 28, 1956)



Dublin Core


Letter from Myrtle Colson to John M. May (March 28, 1956)

Alternative Title

Letter from Colson to May (March 28, 1956)


Weeki Wachee Springs (Fla.)


A letter from Myrtle Colson, manager of the May Museum of the Tropics, to the owner of the museum, John M. May, dated March 28, 1956. Myrtle writes that earlier in the day, she allowed an African-American couple to enter the museum, as he had instructed employees to do. Later in the day, after news spread to Joe Seltzer, manager of Weeki Wachee Springs, he reprimanded her and instructed her not to let any other African-Americans in the museum. He also told her to put up a sign that read, "We reserve the right to refuse admission to anyone". Myrtle writes that she tried to defend her decision, citing a Supreme Court decision, to which Seltzer replied that the decision did not apply to the Springs.

The May Natural History Museum of the Tropics is a non-profit organization that displays the world’s largest private insect collection. James May acquired the thousands of insects and arthropods that make up the collection from the late 1800s until his death in 1956. John May continued his father’s legacy, building a museum in Weeki Wachee, Florida, that lasted from 1954-1964, and a museum in Colorado that opened in the 1950s and is still open today. John May also took parts of the collection across the United States and Canada to display at fairs and exhibitions.

Along with a group of investors, Newton Perry opened Weeki Wachee Springs to the public in October of 1947. At the time, roadside attractions were becoming popular stops along Florida roadways. The attraction consisted of an amalgamation of vendors, an orchid garden, a river boat tour, as well as the star attraction: a mermaid show that took place in an underwater theater. Eventually, the May Museum of the Tropics, an "abandoned Seminole village", a show called “Birds of Prey”, and a petting zoo were added. After peaking in the 1950s and 1960s, attendance began to decline as theme parks and highways changed the dynamics of Florida's tourism. The State of Florida took over the attraction as a state park in 2008. Since then, the park has focused on appealing to a modern audience while preserving its history.


Colson, Myrtle


Original 2-page typewritten letter from Myrtle Colson to John M. May, March 28, 1956: May Natural History Museum Colorado Springs, Colorado.


Date Created


Has Format

Digital reproduction of original 2-page typewritten letter from Myrtle Colson to John M. May, March 28, 1956.

Is Part Of

Weeki Wachee Collection, Hernando County Collection, RICHES.




7.85 MB


2-page typewritten letter






May Museum of the Tropics, Weeki Wachee Springs State Park, Weeki Wachee, Florida

Accrual Method



History Teacher


Originally created by Myrtle Colson and published by RICHES.

Rights Holder

Copyright to this resource is held by May Natural History Museum and is provided here by RICHES for educational purposes only.

Contributing Project

Rebecca Schwandt's Thesis Project


Schwandt, Rebecca

Digital Collection

Source Repository

External Reference

Allman, T.D. Finding Florida: The True History of the Sunshine State. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2013.
Ammidown, Margot. "Edens, Underworlds, and Shrines: Florida’s Small Tourist Attractions." The Journal of Decorative and Propaganda Arts 23, 1998, 238-259. Accessed November 9, 2018. https://www.jstor.org/stable/1504171?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents.
Georgiadis, Bonnie and Lu Vickers. Weeki Wachee mermaids: thirty years of underwater photography. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2012.
Hollis, Tim. Glass Bottom Boats &
Mermaid Tails: Florida's Tourist Springs. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2006.
Pelland, Maryan. Weeki Wachee Springs. Arcadia Publishing Inc, 2006. .
Revels, Tracy J. Sunshine Paradise: A History of Florida Tourism. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2011.
Vickers, Lu, and Sara Dionne. Weeki Wachee, City of Mermaids: A History of One of Florida's Oldest Roadside Attractions. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 2007.


Colson, Myrtle. “Letter from Myrtle Colson to John M. May (March 28, 1956).” RICHES of Central Florida accessed September 22, 2023, https://richesmi.cah.ucf.edu/omeka/items/show/10497.



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