Tom’s Keys History Blog
Tom Hambright's musings on the rich history of the Florida Keys, with occasional guest posts by other library contributors
Before 1950, the only archives of Key West history were government records or private collections. After the Art and Historical Society was formed in 1950 it maintained a small archives to support the museum. With the founding of the Old Island Restoration Foundation in 1960 it became obvious that a larger archives was need to support the restoration projects. On February 15, 1964, Monroe County Library Director May Hill Russell formed the Historical Research Committee to act as a single body to compile all the historical material for the city …Read More »
Scott De Wolfe Collection, a set on Flickr.
Check out our newest, oldest collection of Keys images. The Scott De Wolfe collection contains some of the oldest images of Key West that we’ve seen around. We have scanned, tagged and captioned this amazing collection and are eager to share it. Here’s more info:Read More »
In 1823, Commodore David Porter wrote a letter ordering that an American flag be raised at Thompson’s Island (later known as Key West) to establish the Navy’s Anti-Piracy Squadron. That letter is at the centerpiece of an extraordinary, professionally-curated collection of Keys related documents, photographs and memorabilia recently donated to the Florida History department of the Monroe County Public Library.Read More »
In 1971, Tennessee Williams — a playwright famous for works such as “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “The Glass Menagerie” — went to the studios of the local radio station WKWF and made a recording of his poetry. Williams considered himself a poet first. He was a longtime supporter and patron of the Monroe County Public Library in Key West. The recording he made that day was expressly for the use and benefit of the Library. It was transferred onto a reel-to-reel tape and for decades has been stored in …Read More »
We salute Domingo Rosillo, the first aviator to successfully fly from Key West to Cuba, 100 years ago today.
Here’s a slideshow of early aviation images from the Library’s archive:
Last year, the Monroe County Library’s Florida History Department was the beneficiary of an amazing donation of materials from the Heritage House — home to generations of the Porter family and their descendants. It’s not surprising that so much incredible material was preserved — Jessie Porter Newton was the godmother of the preservation movement in Key West. When many people saw little value in old wooden homes and crumbling brick structures, she saw the history and beauty that has made Key West one of the nation’s premiere historic towns today. …Read More »
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.
As Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her Diamond Jubilee, we’re remembering her visit to the Keys more than 20 years ago, where she met our own version of royalty.
On May 18, 1991 Queen Elizabeth II of England visited Fort Jefferson National Park at the Dry Tortugas where she was welcomed by Monroe County Mayor and Queen Conch Wilhelmina Harvey who gave her a Florida Keys Conch Shell.
The late great Wilhelmina Harvey enjoyed telling the rest of the story about her meeting with the Queen. The Conch Shell is the proud symbol …
We’re just a little excited that photos from the library’s archives are featured in the May 21st issue of Newsweek. If you subscribe to Newsweek, take a look on page 28. You can also read the story and view one of the pictures online here.
Library photographs have also found their way into Nature and Smithsonian magazines, as well as a permanent display at the Smithsonian’s Ocean Hall. Click here to stroll through our entire online gallery.
The March meeting of the Key West Maritime Historical Society will feature antique and rare book dealer Scott DeWolfe. The meeting will be at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 21, in the Auditorium at the Key West Library. It is free and open to all. DeWolfe will speak about documenting Key West history through photos and ephemera.
DeWolfe, who hails from Maine, made his first visit to Key West in 1996 and became fascinated with its unique history. He began a collection of old photographs, documents and other ephemera which he continued …