CLICK image Above
Hotels and motels
and Key West
from Audubon's time to 1869
Key West - 1832
representation of the City of Key West in the distance
beneath a portion of Audubon's Great White Heron print.
The detailed sketch of Key West utilized in this plate
was done by Assistant Lehman.
YORK SPECTATOR, March 30, 1830
portion of the text of a March 30, 1830 news account in
the New - York Spectator newspaper provides a good
description of the Key West Audubon saw. The text refers
to Dr. "Shobel" which is most likely a misspelling and
should refer to Dr. Strobel.
Key West - - We have advices from Key West to the
27th ultimo. The Register of the 26th, states that
the island was very healthy. The following is a
list of deaths from April 1st, 1829, to February,
1830, as certified by Drs. Waterhouse and Shobel :
fever 3, contracted at Havana : Bilious Remittent
15; 9 of these were without medical attendance:
Worm Fever 1, child : Visceral Obstruc tion 3,
consequent upon intemperance; old drunkards: Mania
a Potu 3: Chronic Meningitis 2: Dysentery 1:
Childbed 2, no regular attendance: Gunshot wound 1:
Accident 1 : Consumption 2 : Marasmus 1 :
Ulcera-tion of the prostrate glands 1: Ulceration
of the Aorta I : Visceral disease 1 : Tenatus I :
Small Pox 1 : Applexy 2: Gradual Decline
17: Residents 26 Total 1 43."
the 1st of Jan. 1826, 1074 vessels have been
entered at the Key West Custom house, viz, in 1826,
198 ; in 1827, 265; in 1828, 326; in 1829, 2S5. It
is supposed that at least 500 more have entered the
port during that time, making altogether
permanent population of the island, is slated to be
not less than 200; besides which there are a great
number of wreckers, fishermen, &c. who make it
their principal place of residence.
- The brig Belle Isle, Lloyd, master, from New
Orleans bound to Liverpool, with a cargo of cotton,
ran ashore on Carysford Reef, near where the Light
Ship Caesar was formerly moored, about the 11th
Feb. and, after lying in imminent danger for
several days, and being very much injured, was
given up to and relieved by the wreckers, and
brought into Key West on the 20th inst. Cargo all
French ship Isaiah, _________, master from New
Orleans, bound to Havre, with a cargo, &c. ran
ashore on the most dangerous part of Crocker Reef,
about 4 o'clock, A. M. on the 18th Feb. and after
lying a short time, her situation being considered
very perilous, she was given up, and relieved by
the wreckers, and carried into Key West. She
received little or no damage, and will probably
proceed on her voyage as soon as the amount of
salvage is sett'ed.
see image of the original article click
West in Audubon's Time
several hundred or so permanent residents of Key West
during the time of Audubon's visit made their living
mainly through wrecking, the salvaging of ships found
aground on the nearby reef. The resident population
consisted primarily of "conchs" from the Bahamas plus a
few educated folk from New England, Virginia and the West
anchoring at Key West , Audubon describes the site as a
"beautiful harbour", and proceeds to make inquiries of
resident , Dr. Benjamin Strobel. We learn from Audubon
that Key West has salt ponds.
I reached Key West, my first inquiries, addressed to
Dr. Benjamin Strobel, had reference to the Flamingoes,
and I felt gratified by learning that he had killed a
good number of them, and that he would assist us in
procuring some. As on that Key they are fond of
resorting to the shallow ponds formerly kept there as
reservoirs of water, for the purpose of making salt. .
description of his search for the Key West Pigeon,
Audubon gives a good account of the abundant vegetation
present on the island.
soon reached the thickets and found it necessary to
move in truth very slowly, one foot warily advanced
before the other, one hand engaged in opening a
passage, an presently after occupied in securing the
cap o the head, in smashing some dozens of hungry
musquitoes, or in drawing the sharp thorn of a cactus
from a leg or foot, in securing gun-locks, or in
assisting ourselves to rise after a fall occasioned by
stumbling against the projecting angle of a rock. but
we pushed on, squeezed ourselves between the stubborn
branches . . . "
Sergeant Sikes shoots a Key West pigeon and disappears.
The heat was excessive, and the brushwood here was so
thick and tangled, that had not Mr. Sykes been a
United States soldier, I should have looked upon him
as bent on retaliating on behalf of the 'eccentric
naturalist; for, although not more than ten paces
distant from me, not a glimpse of him could I obtain .
. . . "
looking at it Audubon wraps the bird in paper and
traveled in much the same manner, until we reached the
opposite end of the island. . . . As we sat near the
shore gazing on the curious light pea-green colour of
the sea, I unfolded my prize account . . . . We
returned along the shore of this curious island to the
garrison, after which Major Glassel's barge conveyed
me on board the Marion."
description Audubon's of excitement on examining the Key
West Pigeon can be read at Key
West Quail Dove.
also describes extensively the wrecking and turtle
industries of Key West in his Ornithological Biography.
His description is not presented in this website, but a
1842 news account from the New York Herald Tribune is
provided below along with old sketches and a mix of
comments by authors, past and present.
of Key West 1838
from a sketch of the business district by William
Whitehead, taken from the Cupola of a warehouse looking
north, June 1838. Visible are wharfs and warehouse with
Front Street and Duval Streets, a Naval anchorage in the
upper left. In the lower left is a turtle crawl . Click
on image for larger representation.
account from the 1830s about a report in the Naval and
of the island is dreary in the extreme", "want of
unsuited" as a Naval base "as the existence of insects
of all kinds and some of dangerous character, require
the utmost caution to guard against insects, which in
many instances have disabled individuals for life."
for service men falling fast into decay"
instead of soldiers being able to protect others from
the encroachment of the wreckers, who compose the
community, and are a lawless set, they themselves most
need protection from the united causes of climate and
Account from THE NEW YORK HERALD TRIBUNE dated 1842 about
Wrtecking in Key West
those interested in reading further about wrecking a good
book is The Young Wrecker on the Florida Reef or, The Trials and Adventures of Fred Ransom
by Richard Meade Bache. First published in 1869 and
reprinted in 1999 with an Introduction by Tom Corcoran.
the book tells about a fifteen-year-old boy from New
York, in 1839, who finds himself thrust into a sea-going
adventure in the Florida Keys. A popular book when first
published in 1869, The Young Wrecker offers a wonderful
depiction of nineteenth-century life in South Florida and
in Key West.
author, Richard Mead Bache, great-great-grandson of
Benjamin Franklin and the grand-nephew of General George
Gordon Meade, describes characters, geography, natural
history, weather, tough times, and humor that all ring
of Key West showing Fort Zachary Taylor with Key West to
the right during the Civil War
image for larger representation.
on Key West - 1867
Twain on his visit in 1867 observed that Key West's
principal business seemed to be providing Fort Taylor's
soldiers with liquor from the city's many gin-mills and
I got Key West sized up right, they would receive War,
Famine, Pestilence and Death without question - call
them all by some fancy name, and then rope in the
survivors and sell them good cigars and brandies at
easy prices and horrible dinners at infamous rates."
West in 1869
a description of Key West from a later period by Daniel
G. Brinton, A. M., M.D., and published in 1869 in his
book, A Guide-Book of Florida and the South for
Tourists, Invalids and Emigrants.
KEY WEST -- THE FLORIDA KEYS AND THE GULF
-- * Russell House, George Phillips, proprietor, on
Duval St.; Florida House, both $2.50 per day, $40.00
to $60.00 per month
Boarding-Houses. -- John Dixon, Whitehead Street; Mrs.
E. Armbrister, Duval Street; Mrs. Clarke; from $8.00
to $15.00 per week.
Telegraph to Havana and the north; office in Naval
Post Office opposite the Russell House.
Churches.-- Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Baptist, and
Bookseller.-- R. P. Campbell, Duval Street, (northern
weeklies, Brinton's Guide-Book).
Newspaper. -- Key West Dispatch, weekly, well
The Key West Literary Association has a
Steamship Lines.-- The Baltimore, Havana, and New
Orleans line, semi-monthly; to Baltimore, $50.00, to
Havana $10.00, to New Orleans $40.00. The C. H.
Mallory & Co., line from New York to Galveston and
New Orleans $40.00. The Spofford and Tilson line from
New York to Galveston and New Orleans, semi-weekly; to
New York $40.00, to New Orleans $40.00. The Alliance,
United States mail line to Fort Jefferson, Tampa,
Cedar Keys, St. Marks, Apalachicola, Pensacola, and
Mobile, the line for the west coast of
name Key West is a corruption of the Spanish Cayo
Hueso, Bone Key, the latter word being of Indian
origin (Arawack, Kairi, island). Formerly it was
called Thompson's island by the English. It is about
six miles long and one mile wide, and is formed of an
oolitic coralline limestone. It is the highest point
of the Florida Keys, yet of such insignificant
altitude that the most elevated point is only fifteen
feet above the sea level. The soil is thin, swampy and
but little cultivated. it produces, however, a thick
jungle-like growth of mangroves, cacti, tamarinds,
mastics, gum elemi, and similar tropical bushes from
twelve to fifteen feet in height. There is no fresh
water except that furnished by e-- rains. Wells are
dug in different parts, and reach water at the depth
of a few feet, but brackish and unpalatable. So
closely, indeed, are these wells in connection with
the surrounding ocean, that the water rises and falls
in them as the tides do on the shore, but following
after an interval of about three hours.
town is in latitude 24 degrees 33'. It was
incorporated in 1829. The present population is 4,800,
of which 1500 are colored. It is situated on the
northern part of the western end of the island, and
has an excellent harbor. Duval is the principal
street. Rows of cocoanut palms line some of the
principal avenues, presenting a very picturesque
appearance. A fine view of the harbor and town can be
had from the cupola of Mr. Charles Tilt, agent of the
Baltimore line of steamers.
of the residences are neat and attractive. The lower
part of the town is known as Conch town. Its
inhabitants are called Conches, and are principally
engaged in "wrecking," that is, relieving and rescuing
the numerous vessels which are annually cast away or
driven ashore on the treacherous Florida reef. The
Conches are of English descent, their fathers having
migrated from the Bahamas. In spite of the dubious
reputation which they have acquired, they are a hard
working and sufficiently honest set, and carry on
their perilous occupation if not quite for the sake of
humanity, yet content with a just salvage. Their
favorite vessels are sloops of ten to forty tons,
which they manage with extra-ordinary
a number of Spaniards are domesticated in Key West.
The dark eyes, rich tresses, graceful forms, and
delicate feet of the ladies frequently greet the eye.
Havana is only eighty-four miles distant, with almost
oranges, coacoanuts, alligator pears, cigars and other
good things for which the Pearl of the Antilles is
famous can readily be obtained. The favorite social
drink is camperou, a compound of caracoa, eggs,
Jamaica spirits and other ingredients. Fish are
abundant and finely flavored. A variety of sardine has
been found in the waters near, and has been used
commercially to a limited extent.
principal industries are "sponging" and "turtling."
The sponges are collected along the reef and shores of
the peninsula. From December, 1868, to March 1869,
14,000 pounds were received by one merchant. They are
all, however of inferior quality.
turtles are of four varieties. The green turtle is the
most highly prized a food. They are sometimes enormous
in size, weighing many hundred pounds. The hawks-bill
turtle is the variety from which "tortouse shell" for
combs, etc., is obtained. The logger-head and duck
bill are less esteemed.
salt works have long been in operation here. They
produce annually about 30,000 bushels of salt by solar
evaporation. Corals and shells of unusual beauty are
found among the keys, and can be bought for a trifling
canes made of the Florida crab-tree, are also to be
West is a U.S. naval station for supplying vessels
with coal, provisions, etc. There is a Naval Hospital
near the town, 100 feet in length, and several other
extensive public buildings. As in a military point of
view the point is deemed of great importance in
protecting our gulf coast, the general government has
gone to large expense in fortifying it. Fort Taylor ,
at the entrance of the harbor, is still in process of
construction. When completed, it will mount 200 heavy
guns. Besides it there are two large batteries,one on
the extreme north part of the island, and one midway
between it and Fort Taylor. The Barracks are usually
occupied by a company of the 5th U.S.
climate of Key West is the warmest and most equable in
the United States. Even in winter the south winds are
frequently oppressive and debilitating. From five to
ten "northers" occur every winter, and though they are
not agreeable on account of the violence of the wind,
they do not reduce the temperature below 40 degrees
the proximity of the Gulf Stream renders the air very
moist, mists and fogs are extremely rare, owing to the
equability of the temperature, and though the
hygrometer shows that the air is constantly loaded
with moisture, this same equability allows the moon
and stars to shine with a rare and glorious
brilliancy, such as we see elsewhere on dry and
effect of the Gulf Steam may also be noted. Every
evening, shortly after sunset, a cloud-bank rises
along the southern horizon in massive, irregular
fleeces, dark below and silver gilt above by the rays
of the departing sun. This is the cloud-bank over the
Gulf Stream, whose vast current of heated waters is
rushing silently along, some twelve miles
PAGE CREATED BY FLORIDA KEYS BEST
386 East Seaview Drive
Marathon, Florida 33050