Today in Keys History – Jan. 31, 2023

A wall next to a grandstand with an image of a greyhound reads Racing, Key West Kennel Club, Information 294-9517.

1887 – The population of Key West was reported to be 17,000.

1900 – The Florida sponge fishery reached a peak when 189,661 kg of sponges with a value of $567,685 was landed.

1904 – The Ganon-Pollock Stock Theater Company wrapped an eight-week run at Key West, having played every Monday and Thursday to full houses. The group performed the romantic play “A Woman’s Sacrifice,” set in Louisiana during the Revolutionary War, and Mr. Ganon gave an illuminated slide show with his “picture machine.”

1911 – The Ross Company was building the east jetty in the Northwest Channel.

1925 – Malcolm Meacham, of Palm Beach and New York City, purchased 1,000 acres of the eastern part of Key West for $500,000. The area included the Salt Ponds, which Meacham intended to convert to a yacht basin.

1929 – The Navy towed the submarine S-4 into port. The submarine had sunk in an accident in 1927, killing 40 sailors. The S-4 was then converted for use in safety tests, particularly in the development of the “Momsen Lung,” a submarine escape device.

1930 – Writer Ernest Hemingway, accompanied by his wife Pauline and son Patrick, arrived at Key West from Paris to spend their third winter season at the island. “We are going to do a lot of fishing,” said Hemingway.

1934 – A crew from MGM studios, headed by director Nat Spitzer, arrived at Key West to shoot a film featuring Capt. Wallace Caswell combatting various sea creatures by hand. The team planned to be in the area, shooting both above and below the water, for the next few weeks. Caswell, a veteran of such exploits, claimed a silver plate replaced a part of his forehead, which had been crushed in an earlier battle with a “devilfish.”

1953 – The new dog track on Stock Island, which was built in six weeks, drew an opening-night crowd estimated at 4,000.

1989 – Commander William H. Westray, USN retired, died at age 70. He had served as executive officer of the Naval Air Station and after his retirement had been an activist in local government. He wrote the Key West Comprehensive Plan and had led the movement to cap island building heights at 40 feet.

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

Image: Key West Kennel Club on Stock Island circa 1960. From the DeWolfe and Wood Collection. Monroe County Public Library, Florida Keys History Center.


Arts & CultureFlorida HistoryToday In Keys History