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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

[4 Jan 2015 | 6 Comments | Posted by ]
From the album: De Wolfe Collection

Scott DeWolfe 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:

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[27 Aug 2014 | No Comment | Posted by ]
Tom talks about Howard England

I first read an article about Howard England and how Admiral Brush, Commander of the Naval Base, in response to a question from Action Line in the Miami Herald “What happened to Fort Taylor?” sent Howard to find the answer. Howard was a Civil Service architect in the Public Works Department of the Naval Station and the Navy’s expert on local history.
He found Fort Taylor covered with sand and material from the property disposal department (a fancy military word for junkyard). He was able to answer the newspaper’s question but …

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[15 Aug 2014 | No Comment | Posted by ]
Honoring Howard England

Saturday, August 16th is officially Howard S. England Day in Key West. One of our finest citizens, Mr. England (1914-1999) was passionate about historical preservation and is considered the “Father of Ft. Zach.” He also created an amazing collection of gingerbread tracings that are in our library archives. Happily, they are all digitized and available online.

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[30 Jul 2014 | One Comment | Posted by ]
Capt. Tony in National Geo

We’re just a little excited that this photo from the library’s archives is featured in the July 2014 issue of National Geographic. If you subscribe to NatGeo, take a look on page 105. You can also read the story and view the photo gallery here.
Library photographs have also found their way into Newsweek, 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.

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[16 Apr 2014 | One Comment | Posted by ]
Tom reviews new Keys books

Five new Keys history book were published in the past year.
Thomas Neil Knowles’ Long Key: Flagler’s Island Getaway for the Rich & Famous is published by University Press of Florida. The Long Key Camp was destroyed by the 1935 Hurricane and with it most of the records. Other have tried to write about Long Key and failed became of lack of material. Through extraordinary research, Tom Knowles  has made an exceptional contribution to Keys history with his account of how the rich and famous vacationed and fished in the Florida …

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[18 Feb 2014 | One Comment | Posted by ]
50th Anniversary–Historic Florida History history

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 …

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[11 Oct 2013 | 15 Comments | Posted by ]
Founding Document Returns to Key West

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.

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[14 Jun 2013 | No Comment | Posted by ]
Tennessee Williams recording now available online

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 …

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[17 May 2013 | One Comment | Posted by ]
Up in the Air

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:

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[1 Feb 2013 | One Comment | Posted by ]
All in the family

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. …

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