The Hanson Family Archives
A Presence from the Past
The Hanson Family Archives is a collection of more than 1,000 historic documents and images from 1884 to the mid-20th century, passed down through five generations of one of Fort Myers’ first families. It’s a treasure trove of information about the historic places, people and institutions of Southwest Florida, including unrivaled insight into the community’s relationship with the neighboring Seminole-Miccosukee Indians.
The Hanson family began its own history in Southwest Florida in 1884, when London-born Dr. Wm. Hanson and his wife, Julia Allen Hanson, opted to settle in Fort Myers while on their way to Cuba. Dr. Hanson was physician to Thomas Edison and the Seminole-Miccosukee Indians as well as one of Fort Myers’ first real estate developers. Mrs. Hanson was active in almost every movement or institution in Southwest Florida and beyond and was called “the most beloved woman in Florida” upon her death in 1934.
Their son, W. Stanley Hanson (1883-1945), dubbed “the White Medicine Man,” was a trusted advisor to the Seminole-Miccosukee Indians from the early part of the 20th century until his death in 1945. He wanted to dispel myths about the tribe, including those shared by some of those who would help them, and offer a true portrait of their lives. With the permission of his tribal friends, he recorded their lives in hundreds of photographs, writings and drawings, illuminating a world that had been invisible to outsiders.
The letters and writings collected by the two generations—including correspondence from Presidents and legendary industrialists—were passed to the late W. Stanley Hanson, Jr., founder of Hanson Real Estate Advisors (HREA), and his wife, Mary Ellen Hanson, the great grand daughter of Manuel A. Gonzalez, Fort Myers’ first settler. The Hanson Family Archives and HREA are led by the couple’s son, fifth-generation Fort Myers resident Woody Hanson.