Why do they call it that? Mascotte and City of Tampa Seal: City symbol screw-up

10:13 AM, Jul 11, 2013   |    comments
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It's a city symbol screw-up -- a mistake that's on trucks, buildings, and official letters all over town. But, hey, at least there's a good story behind it!

Why do they call it the Mascotte?

The City of Tampa's seal needs to explain itself.

Check out the State of Florida's seal, and you'll see what you expect: sunshine, beaches, and exploration.

Look at the City of Tampa's seal, and you'll see... wait -- what is that, a sailboat? What is going on here?

In the middle of the seal is a steamship called the Mascotte. It carried cigars, soldiers, you name it, between Tampa, Key West, and Havana for decades.

The Mascotte was put on Tampa's seal to honor the guy who owned the Mascotte, Henry Plant. It was his trains, hotels, and steamships that took Tampa from a dusty village to a serious city more than 120 years ago.

But -- this is awkward -- the Mascotte, the ship that is the centerpiece of the whole seal -- is wrong.

The Mascotte's flowing sails and tall masts sure look snazzy on the seal, but they do not belong. In City Hall, there's a mockup of the real Mascotte. It's a steamship, not a sailing ship, so it has a smokestack, but no sails.

The name comes from a French short opera called La Mascotte. Most Americans didn't know the words -- but plenty of them did love the show.

Its characters have runs of major good luck and bad luck. The opera was so popular, it led Americans to start using the word "mascot" to describe a lucky person or symbol.

So, big furry cheerleaders like Raymond of the Tampa Bay Rays and Thunderbug of the Tampa Bay Lightning are called mascots because of this opera.

And because of ships like the Mascotte, Tampa first reached out into the world.

Why do they call it that? Now you know.

Tampa's seal lists this month, 126 years ago, as the date the city was organized.

But depending on how you look at it, Tampa has up to seven different birthdays!

Starting after the first Army troops showed up in 1824, Tampa has had a local government established, then shut down, and then started up again, a half-dozen times.

Grayson Kamm, 10 News

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