Today in Keys History – Dec. 4, 2022

A man stands on a horse-pulled cart piled with sponges.

1830 – William R. Hackley recorded in his diary: Rose with the sun. George Weaver is so sick with a cold that he has to take to his bed. Yesterday in blowing a conch out of its shell (which is done by making a small hole in the upper part of the shell and putting a charge of powder in the fish is blown entirely out and the shell remains sweet) I burnt my right thumb considerably but this morning it is not at all painful. After tea sat and talked until after nine. Went to bed but could not go to sleep until near two. Wind southeast by southwest. Weather pleasant.

1854 – John W. Porter was re-elected Mayor of Key West.

1864 – Admiral David Farragut arrived in Key West and was given a salute of 13 guns and the “best dinner” the island could offer.

1900 – The sponge fleet arrived and reported good trips with shares from $85 to $135. The market is lively and the prices given were good. Some of the vessels sold at Tarpon Springs, while others brought the catch here.

1926 – Eduardo H. Gato, Key West’s leading cigar manufacturer, died in Havana. He was born in Santiago de las Vegas, Cuba, in 1847 and came to Key West in 1874. His factory at its peak employed 500 workers. His last factory on Simonton Street is now used as offices for the Monroe County government.

1932 – John W. Atkins, age 75 years, died in Homestead. He had worked for Western Union Telegraph Company for more than 30 years and before he retired was the resident manager of the Key West Office. He was widely known as a naturalist and had one of the finest collections of tropical fishes and birds in the country. He was also an accomplished taxidermist.

1945 – The captured German U-boat 505 was open for public tours to anyone that had purchased a bond in the Victory Loan Campaign.

1969 – Sam Golan died at the age of 70. In the 1950s he built the Key Ambassador Motel and later with Charles Little built the Holiday Inn.

1985 – In a hurricane-delayed election, Tom Sawyer was a 58-vote winner over Capt. Tony Tarracino for Mayor of Key West. Sally Lewis and Jimmy Weekley were elected to the City Commission.

Information compiled by Tom Hambright, Historian Emeritus, Florida Keys History Center, Monroe County Public Library

Image: The sponge docks with a horse cart loaded with sponges in the 1930s. This photo was used the December 1934 Key West Guide Book. From a collection of photographs taken or collected during the 1930s by the WPA workers in Key West. The Heritage House Collection, donated by the Campbell, Poirier and Pound families. Florida Keys History Center, Monroe County Public Library.


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