Portrait of Sponge Diver John M. Gonatos
The Florida sponge diving industry developed in the area of Tarpon Springs beginning in the late 19th century. In 1891, the entrepreneur John King Cheyney founded the Anclote and Rock Island Sponge Company. Cheyney initially harvested sponges from the floor of the Gulf of Mexico by hooking the sponges from boats. In 1897, Cheyney employed a young Greek sponge buyer and technical expert, John Cocoris, who explained how sponge divers in Greece, using rubberized wet suits, could harvest four times as much sponge as people working from boats. Cheyney placed ...