Home » Hot Across the Keys, Staff Favorites, Tom's Keys History Blog

Kerstein’s “Key West on the Edge”

Posted Jan 14, 2013 Posted by Be the first to comment

UPDATE: Congratulations to Bob! His book has been nominated for the 2012 Florida Historical Society’s Tebeau Award for best Florida history book of the year!

This excellent new book describes how Key West invented an economy based on mass tourism after major cutbacks in the once-thriving military which had been the driving force in Key West life from 1940 to 1970. After years of research and countless interviews with everyone that would talk to him, Dr. Kerstein documents how the changes occurred without destroying the things that make Key West unique.

The first part of the book covers the history of the Island up to the closing of the Naval Station in 1974. Kerstein documents in detail the failed attempt during the Great Depression by the Federal Government to create the “Bermuda of America”.

He accurately explains the challenges of the major recession of the 1970s and the oil embargo with resulting gasoline shortages and price increases. At the same time, Key West’s thriving shrimp industry began its steady decline and disappeared by the late 1980s.

Despite all the obstacles, the tourist industry was growing when the adverse publicity from the Mariel Boatlift destroyed the business in 1980.  The next blow came when the Federal Government created the roadblock at Florida City with traffic delays that killed travel from South Florida to the Keys. Key West countered with the Conch Republic and received national publicity, which helped make the Florida Keys one of the top tourist destinations in the country. These and many other stories are in this fine book.

A must read for anyone interested in Key West history and economy.  Solares Hill wrote ”The best book on our town since Joy Williams’ classic on our place, ‘The Florida Keys: A History and Guide,’ now in its 10th edition.”

The book was published by The University Presses of Florida and is available at all book sellers. Shop through this Amazon link to benefit the library.

Read other posts by

Comments are closed.