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VIRTUAL Happy Hour with the Historian | Key West in the 1800s

4-August from 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM

The Key West Art & Historical Society is excited to offer a series of VIRTUAL fun historical lectures entitled ‘Happy Hour with the Historian’.

Historian: Cori Convertito Ph.D.
Topic: Key West in the 1800s


Key West, or Cayo Hueso, was discovered by Ponce de Leon and claimed by Spain in 1513.  John W. Simonton, from Alabama, bought the island from Salas for $2,000 in 1821 and the following year, Lt. Matthew C. Perry, USN, took possession of the island and claimed it for the United States as part of the ceded territory from Spain.  From that point, Key West began a rapid stage of development which included declaring it a port of entry, opening a custom house and post office, establishing a courthouse and more.

This happened alongside a growing population that came to the island to seek new opportunities and establish a life.  Homes, warehouses, saloons, wharves soon dotted the downtown area centered around the maritime industries.  The U.S. Navy, too, saw the strategic importance of the small island and soon originated a naval base from which they battled pirates and monitored international merchant trade.  The Federal government took a vested stake in the island, determining to build several substantial forts and a series of lighthouses to protect and defend Americans in the Florida Straits.

The island’s residents prospered in several industries including wrecking, sponging, cigar making and salt farming, but they had to endure many hardships including hurricanes, yellow fever, the Civil War and Cuban insurrection.

In this talk, Cori will sprint through the first 80 years of Key West’s history, paying particular attention to the island’s economic development and its growing diverse population.

Happy Hour with the Historian is sponsored in part by The Helmerich Trust and the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs.


August 4
4:00 PM - 5:00 PM
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Key West Art & Historical Society