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Today in Key West History

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Key West and the surrounding Florida Keys are rich in history dating back to the Spanish Conquistadors. Each day holds a new opportunity to learn about the significant historical events that happened in Key West and the Florida Keys. These bite sized podcasts are a great way to brush up on your historical facts about this beautiful coral cay archipelago that we call Paradise!

Key West and the surrounding Florida Keys are rich in history dating back to the Spanish Conquistadors. Each day holds a new opportunity to learn about the significant historical events that happened in Key West and the Florida Keys. These bite sized podcasts are a great way to brush up on your historical facts about this beautiful coral cay archipelago that we call Paradise!
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Key West and the surrounding Florida Keys are rich in history dating back to the Spanish Conquistadors. Each day holds a new opportunity to learn about the significant historical events that happened in Key West and the Florida Keys. These bite sized podcasts are a great way to brush up on your historical facts about this beautiful coral cay archipelago that we call Paradise!






Key West History - Jan. 15, 1971 - Finally a Conviction in the Murder of a Charter Boat Captain and His Son

Roger Foster, the 17 year old admitted killer of the charter boat, Dream Girls, two man crew was brought to us by a Coast Guard vessel and was immediately whisked away from the docks by FBI agents and Key West Police officers. The husky youth, wearing a t-shirt and pants stained with blood, was held for 15 minutes aboard the Coast Guard Cutter after its arrival, and then hurried to waiting automobile. Both his hands were bandaged and he appeared dazed and he was led ashore as an FBI agent...


Key West History - Jan. 12, 1952 - The Pink Shrimp "Gold Rush" in Key West

In late 1949, 100 years after the peak of the California Gold Rush, Pink Gold was discovered off the Florida Keys near Dry Tortugus. The “gold” was a grooved variety of shrimp called “pink” shrimp in the industry – scientifically Panaeus duorarum. In early 1950, the first shrimpers arrived in Key West looking to off load and process their treasures. On February 11, 1950, The New York Times likened the Pink Gold Rush to that of the Klondike gold strike in the late 1890’s. More than 100...


Key West History - Jan. 11, 1926 - There's a Menace Terrorizing the City

There's a menace going on on the streets of Key West, as documented by the historic archive of the Key West citizen. And I quote, "Fully realizing that it is treading on sacred ground to interfere with the pleasures and pastimes of the little folks, The Citizen desires to call attention to the numerous complaints now made about boys and girls on roller skates monopolizing the sidewalks. In certain portions of the city, roller skating on sidewalks is a dangerous pastime dangerous for the...


January 10, 1861 - Key West Refuses to Secede from the Union

Key West was an awkward place to live when the Civil War broke out. The heavy military presence on the island meant that much of the island supported Union efforts, and with the critical Naval base fortified against capturing from the Confederacy, the island became even more firmly entrenched as a critical port for the Union during the Civil War. The military had no plans to give up control of Fort Taylor or Fort Jackson, and military battalions were sent in to make sure those bases...


January 9, 1827 - Construction Starts on the First Sand Key Lighthouse

Sand key is situated next to a channel that leads to Key West. It's located roughly eight miles to the north west of Key West. In normal conditions, a significant amount of sand accumulates on the submerged reefs at Sand Key and it actually creates a small island. Soon after the United States took possession of Florida in 1821, a wooden daymark was placed on the island to warn mariners of this navigational hazard. Lighthouses to mark Florida's reef had just recently been completed at Cape...


January 8, 1828 - Key West Is Incorporated as a City

Key West, like the other Florida Keys, began as a coral forest under the sea water. Marine life was its only population as the polar ice caps reformed and the sea level dropped. Terrestrial plant and animal life found its way. Soil was formed by decaying organic matter and storm actions. For millenniums the ocean continued to drop and the ocean currents, wind currents, birds and other things began to propagate the islands. Eventually, human life forms also found their way. These trillions of...


Key West History: December 26, 1923 - Reward Offered for Vandals of Yards in Key West

The Key West Citizen has received so many complaints recently about the willful destruction of plants and flowers in yards in the city, that it has decided to reward $25 for the arrest and conviction of anybody for committing such vandalism. A woman resident who used many hours of her time and beautifying her yard had so many of her plants broken or torn up a few days ago, she was mortified to tears when she viewed the destruction. Whoever broke the plants or pulled them up was prompted to...


Key West History: Dec. 24, 1923 - Key West Declared a Port of Real Consequence

On December the 24th, 1923, this quote appeared in the Tampa Tribune. "Tampa is the nearest port of any real consequence in the United States to the Panama Canal." Soon after, there was a rebuttal printed in the Key West Citizen. "Either the tribune is ignorant of the fact that Key West is nearer to the Panama Canal than Tampa or is deliberately misrepresenting the fact or does not consider Key West a part of any real consequence. Let us consider those suppositions in order. If the tribune...


Key West History: Josè Marti Arrived for His First Visit to Key West

José Martí was born in Havana to Spanish immigrants in 1853. From a young age, he dedicated himself to the Cuban struggle for independence. During his life he visited Tampa 20 times, a place with strong ties to Cuba where he consolidated drive and advocacy to bring change to Cuba. Martí attended university in Spain and studied law and philosophy. He published his first newspaper, La Patria Libre (The Free Fatherland), in 1869 and later El presidio político en Cuba (The Political Prison in...


Key West History: Dec. 21, 1975 - Key West Aloe Opened It's New Store and Factory

While vacationing in Key West in the 1960’s with his partner, Joe Lizska, Frank Romano made the terrible mistake of falling asleep on the beach. It’s a mistake many tourists to Key West make, not realizing how much closer Key West is to the equator than the mainland, and how much faster you get sunburned at this latitude. By the time Frank woke up, he could barely move without terrible pain. His entire chest was completely burned and he could barely move, let alone put on a shirt. Another...


Key West History: Dec. 20, 1996 - Key West's Grand Dame and Matriarch Dies

By the early 1970s, when the fabrics and designs of Lilly Pulitzer were retail and media darlings, Tony Falcone started coming to Key West with his partner, Bill Conkle. Eventually, they decided to open up a store. It was called Fast Buck Freddie's and it was on Key West's main drag, Duval street. They opened at a time when many other stores on Duval Street were closing. They tapped into the new chic money that was just starting to discover Key West, with it's fabulous old houses built in...


Today in Key West History - Dec. 18, 1955 - The Ferry from Key West to Havana Completed Testing

Now, more than 50 years after Fidel Castro's takeover of Cuba it remains a mysterious forbidden and a foreign place. Few of us can picture a time when Cuba was a friendly neighbor of the United States, and a place for a quick weekend getaway. When Flagler's train reached Key West in 1912, some of the trains were loaded onto 300 foot long barges to continue on to Havana for gambling and exotic rum drinks, especially after Prohibition too hold in 1920. Even up through the late 50's though, a...


December 17, 1899 - More than a Year After The Sinking of the Maine, Bodies of Victims Were Recovered By the Military

The night seemed like any other. It was February 15th and the crew of the battleship Maine had been dispatched to Havana. In the evening, they were riding quietly at anchor in the Havana Harbor, everyone going about their duties and minding their own business, when suddenly at 9:40pm out of nowhere an explosion happened and tore out the bottom of the ship and sank the entire ship, killing 260 of nearly 400 men on board. By the time the sun rose the next morning, only the twisted parts of...


December 15 - The Underwater Cable System Connection Key West to Havana was Started

From much of its early history, Key West stood in relative isolation due to the lack of regular mail service to the island, and the sporadic nature of the shipping supply channels which could easily be affected by storms and less than desirable weather. It wasn't until the end of the Civil War in this country that some enterprising businessmen decided to develop the undersea cable system to connect the US to other countries for Telegraph and Telephone calls. When the practicality of this...


December 14 - The Contract for the Building of the Key West Custom House was Awarded

As Key West became increasingly wealthy, the four story architectural marvel known as the Custom House was built, and it is a perfect example of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture. It's easily one of the most beautiful buildings in Key West and the crown jewel of the island. Despite the difficulties and delays in construction, the Custom House opened in April of 1891. Built at a total cost of $107,955 - and that was almost $30,000 over the budget. The Key West climate took an immediate...


December 13 - Key Deer Were Hunted on Big Pine Key

On December 13, 1928, this small paragraph appeared in the Key West Citizen. "The Turtelino hunting crowd killed a large deer yesterday on No Name Key. The deer was killed by Eddie Marquez and weighed 90 pounds. Marquez is is the latest one of the crowd to meet success in the hunting expeditions carried our by the Turtelino Organization." When I saw this paragraph, this one paragraph it made me sick to think about our beautiful key deer being stalked and hunted. So it sent me searching to...


December 12 - Key West Had the Only English Wesleyan Methodist Church in the United States.

The congregation was originally known as the "Gulf of Mexico Mission with Cayo Hueso". The local history informs us that it was Reverend George Lister, who established the mission in Key West. It was seen as vital to extending the English Wesleyan Methodism to Cuba. While missionaries were sent to Cuba, the overall effort did not produce the hoped for results. Because Catholicism was firmly entrenched in Cuba, and Methodism, was unable to gain many converts. The congregation in Key West...


December 11 - The Search for Hoffa Comes to Key West!

On December the 9, 1961, Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa was in Key West inspecting the once grand Casa Marina hotel. It was a hotel that the Teamsters had recently acquired. He later least the hotel to the US military, and it was used for military housing. Less than a year later, on November 26, 1962, when JFK was in Key West. His motorcade went by the Casa Marina so he could see where the military was housed. Not really sure the historical records don't reflect whether JFK knew that the...


December 10 - Norman Sherwood Becomes The First Prisoner is Hanged from the Gallows in Key West

Norma Sherwood has the distinction of being the first man to the west. Sherwood had an altercation with a man named Jones on the 5th of July in 1830. After they were separated, he went away but returned in an hour with the pistol, allowing his intention of killing Jones bystanders interfered and induced him to leave, but he returned shortly still determined to kill Jones, Mr. JOHN Wilson, who was Sherwood's friend and partner then stepped up and asked him to give up the pistol. He...


December 9 - The Shark Processing Industry Comes to Big Pine Key

Joe Whalton recalls that a visit to the shark camp on Big Pine Key was a favorite activity during his boyhood stays at a nearby family vacation retreat. "The place was close enough that we could see it and smell it. There were times it was really ripe. A whole bunch of us would pull our schull a boat up to watch them skin the sharks. Sometimes, we got in the way, but the workers most of them blacks were real nice. They would never holler at us and they got a kick out of watching us dig out...