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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

[14 Jun 2013 | 2 Comments | 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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[14 Jan 2013 | Comments Off on Kerstein’s “Key West on the Edge” | Posted by ]
Kerstein’s “Key West on the Edge”

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.

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[1 Jun 2012 | One Comment | Posted by ]
The Queen Conch

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 …

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[20 Mar 2012 | 3 Comments | Posted by ]
Key West Maritime Historical Society: Scott DeWolfe

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 …

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[1 Dec 2011 | Comments Off on Pirates invade, really. | Posted by ]
Pirates invade, really.

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 just finished scanning, tagging and captioning this amazing collection and are eager to share it. Here’s more info:
The Pirates Well a photo by Florida Keys–Public Libraries on Flickr.
Scott De Wolfe is the co-owner of De Wolfe & Wood Rare Books in Alfred, Maine. He made his first visit to Key West in 1996 and quickly became interested in the history of the …

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[3 Nov 2011 | One Comment | Posted by ]
It’s about time for a bath!

One of Key West’s oldest  documents is finally getting a bath.  The Florida Keys History Room of the Monroe County Public Library has sent an 1829 “First of Exchange” to the Northeast Document Conservation Center (“NEDCC”) in Andover, Mass. for repair, treatment and preservation.  Known locally as the “Fleeming Check”, the document was an early form of financial exchange similar to our current day bank check.  Its front and back bear the signatures of three of Key West’s four founding fathers:  John William Charles Fleeming (aka Fleming), John Simonton and John …

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[1 Aug 2011 | Comments Off on Thanks a million! | Posted by ]
Thanks a million!

We are proud beyond words to announce that our online archive of historic images of the Florida Keys recently passed the million-hit mark — meaning the images have been viewed more than 1 million times. That’s quite something for a little library system at the end of the road.
The site can be accessed from this website — just click on any of the images under “Our Pix” at right — or by going directly to Flickr and searching for our photostream under “Florida Keys–Public Libraries.”
The online archive has been the work of …

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[1 Jul 2011 | 3 Comments | Posted by ]
Marking 25 years

I would to thank all my friends who came to the Ingham to mark my 25 years as Monroe County Historian and our work to preserve history for future generations.  I could not do this alone and everyone there had done their part over the years to help and support this effort.  We must continue our effort to preserve the Florida Keys and its very special history. A special thanks  to Bruce and Patricia Neff and the Historic Marker crew, Bill Verge of the USCG Ingham, Mayor and Mrs. Cates, …

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