DATELINE: Melbourne, Florida – First Installment of the Thompson Files Now Available

In our newsletter post of July 14th, I reported that the Fleet Society came into possession of some historical documents relating to the work of Colonel Dan Thompson and the Real Eight Company. As everyone knows, Colonel Thompson was one of the original Real Eight members. The materials provided to the Fleet Society were the property of Jane Thompson, his widow.

Jane’s files included not only hundreds of newspaper articles, but also magazine articles, personal photos, and records of the Real Eight Company.

With Jane’s permission, I was able to download over 1,500 documents which are now digitally reproduced. The Fleet Society has reviewed the entire collection so that we can properly, and legally, display items that are not subject to copyright at this time.

Regrettably, the vast portion of the collection consists of newspaper articles that cannot be reproduced here in their original text because of copyright issues. The Fleet Society has contacted several newspapers for permission to reprint the articles published by their writers in the 1960’s and early 1970’s. Unfortunately, not one newspaper has even offered to discuss the matter and many of our phone calls and emails have gone unreturned and unanswered. Nevertheless, we are able to publish some items that are not problematic.

Our first installment contains pictures of traveling exhibits that were created by the Real Eight Company for the purpose of educating the public and promoting awareness of the 1715 Fleet and the artifacts and treasures recovered therefrom.

The exhibits were, in large part, the brain child of Robert Page who was hired by the Real Eight Company for public relations purposes. The photographs and information found in the first installment depict a typical traveling exhibit at the Commercial Bank of Winter Park, Florida which took place probably in the mid-1960’s. It lasted 4 days with an average attendance of 3,750 people. According to the report filed by Robert Page, similar results were obtained by traveling displays for Indian River Citrus Bank in Vero Beach, Florida and Wilton Manors National Bank in Wilton Manors, Florida.

Also there is information and images of the exhibit at Explorer’s Hall in the National Geographic Building in Washington, D.C. in mid-December 1964. This exhibit coincided with the January 1965 release of the story about the Real Eight Company published by the National Geographic. The images were part of the report prepared by Robert Page for the Real Eight Company.

Although they were black and white they adequately represent the impressive collection that was viewed by an estimated 270,000 people over 76 days from December to February 1965. The average daily attendance was 3,750. Given the fact that the entire population of Washington, D.C. at the time was 750,000, this constituted approximately 36% of the population.

We hope that you enjoy this installment of the Thompson Files. More to come in the future.

You can access the Thompson Files through the Thompson Files Archive on the Fleet Society Site right here.  The first installment is also included directly below.



First Installment of the Thompson Files


Traveling Display of Real Eight Company Treasure

Commercial Bank of Winter Park, Florida Mid-1960’s


In the 1960’s the Real Eight Company hired Robert Page as a public relations consultant. Mr. Page arranged for a traveling exhibit of Real Eight Company treasure to circulate among various venues for the purpose of drawing attention to the exploits of the Real Eight Company and their discoveries. Also, the traveling exhibits served to educate the public about the history of the 1715 Fleet, its loss, rediscovery, and recovery. To promote this public awareness, it was decided that exhibiting the treasure found by the Real Eight Company would create the kind of interest they were seeking.

The following documents from the Thompson Files provide information regarding one venue, the Commercial Bank of Winter Park, Florida, as an example of the kind of interest generated by publicly displaying the treasure found by the Real Eight Company.

During a 4-day period in the mid-1960’s in Winter Park, Florida alone 15,000 individuals attended the display with the daily average attendance of 3,750 which constituted 10% of the population in that area.

The publicity and public relations value of these traveling exhibits was inestimable. It should be noted at this time that members of the Real Eight Company were actively involved in speaking engagements and media interviews and their efforts were known nationally.

Some of the following documents contain notes of presentations that were given in connection with the traveling exhibits. These are the original documents and they are unedited.


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National Geographic Exhibit Explorer’s hall

Washington, D.C., December 1964


The exhibit at Explorer’s Hall in December 1964 was set to coincide with the January 1965 release of the Real Eight story in National Geographic Magazine. In his book “Pieces of Eight” Kip Wagner described this exhibit as follows:

“…the National Geographic planned a full-scale exhibit at Explorer’s Hall in their magnificent new quarters in Washington. It was to feature all our key treasure finds to date, including Rex’s necklace, the gold and silver coins, gold discs, silver wedges, Kang HSI china, and other artifacts.

The exhibit opened to an enthusiastic first day crowd in mid-December 1964, and for the next two months it broke one attendance record after another. With armed guards keeping an eye on our pride and joy, tens of thousands of Washingtonians filed through the exhibit. Sometimes, I was told, the lines of people waiting outside to get in stretched for two blocks and longer.

There is a magic about recovered treasure that fascinates people. It must be that they relate themselves to it – that they believe, if they went out on Sunday afternoons and strolled the beaches and paddled out in the water, they could have found it themselves is. Whatever this phenomenon is, you can see it in the intense faces faces as they peered at our finds. Some, in fact, came back again and again during the exhibit.

The exhibit next moved, in tact, to the Florida State Museum, in Gainesville, and again it shattered records.”

It was this exhibit that sparked the idea that the Real Eight Company should have its own permanent exhibit and museum.

What follows are pictures from the Real Eight Company files of the exhibit at Explorer’s Hall. The grandeur of this exhibit speaks for itself.

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Bob Page, PR man for the Real Eight Company, examines a gold disc at the National Geographic exhibit December 1964
Bob Page, PR man for the Real Eight Company, examines a gold disc at the National Geographic exhibit December 1964

2 thoughts on “DATELINE: Melbourne, Florida – First Installment of the Thompson Files Now Available”

  1. This is cool. I remember when the treasure was displayed in the Seagle Bldg, Gainesville, when the state museum was there.
    It is really interesting to see all the artifacts that were found. Unfortunately, as Reale 8 and the museum in Cape Canaveral sold off a lot of the earlier finds to raise money for costs. I recently purchased reales from Steve Hodges in Vero that were once in the Cape Canaveral museum.

  2. Howdy
    Dan was my neighbor in 1961-2 at the cape. We lived in a duplex on base housing, his garage was joined to ours…I remember him coming home from diving and my mom setting up a card table for him to show us his stuff….He had a zillion cobs, plates and a cannon in his garage then….was way cool for a 10 year old Kid..I have a picture of him and my family digging up a mast from one of the fleet on beach I found one day…..he is the one on his knees digging…. story is here

    It spurred me on to what I did my whole life….in the ocean

    Sea ya

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