Today in Keys History – Jan. 28, 2023

A man and woman stand in front of a picket fence and a sign that reads Audubon House.

1902 – Nearly a dozen Key West-based sponging vessels were seized by British authorities for interloping and illegally gathering sponges on the Bahama Banks. They were turned over to U.S. authorities for trial.

1906 – D.F. Hartman of West Virginia was arrested at Key West by the Secret Service for counterfeiting nickels, dimes, quarters, and half-dollars. Hartman had been charged in his home state but had fled to the island to avoid capture.

1913 – The Key West Board of Trade asked its counterpart in Tampa to join them in opposing the lifting of federal import duties on unbleached sponges. They feared cheap, untaxed Mediterranean sponges would ruin the Florida market.

1950 – It was reported that shrimp boats operated by Thompson Enterprises of Key West had been experimenting over the last few weeks to see if they could locate shrimp beds in the far western keys. New sources of shrimp supply were being sought, as beds elsewhere in the state had been exhausted.

1979 – Acclaimed writer and Key West resident Tennessee Williams and his friend, Dotson Rader, were assaulted on Duval Street. Both men were punched but neither needed medical attention. Williams said of the attackers, “”Maybe they weren’t punks at all, but instead New York drama critics.’”

1983 – Mitchell Wolfson, Key West native, who founded Wometco Enterprises in Miami died at age 82. In addition to the Miami holdings, Wometco owned the Conch Train. Mr. Wolfson and his wife Frances saved the Audubon House from destruction and had it fully restored.

1985 – Radio Marti began broadcasting from a transmitting tower at Marathon. The 14 hours of daily programming aimed at Castro’s Cuba originated in Washington, DC.

Information compiled by Tom Hambright, Historian Emeritus, and Dr. Corey Malcom, Lead Historian, Monroe County Public Library, Florida Keys History Center.

Image: Mitchell and Frances Wolfson in front of the Audubon House on Whitehead Street on Jan. 21, 1972. Monroe County Public Library, Florida Keys History Center.


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