Grandeur in the view

IN a travel memoir such as William A. Whitehead compiled, telling of sundry voyages “by land & water” made over the span of four or five years, time is by turns an objective measure of experience and a phantasm. Between journeys, time vanishes entirely. In successive narratives, it seems to expand or contract, as details … More Grandeur in the view


Royal retreat

DURING the first decades that swift stages traversed the breadth of northern New Jersey, whose roads while judged by an early commentator “not so good” were nonetheless “absolutely turnpiked,” an ever swelling tide of travelers made for Schooley’s Mountain, one of the earliest leisure destinations in the United States.1 As European colonizers became aware of … More Royal retreat

Road trip

LITTLE is known of the writings from William A. Whitehead’s youth, but a generous amount survives from his early twenties, chiefly through a book of travel narratives in his own hand. This volume is the second of at least two, none other having come to light. Whitehead gave the work a grandiose name, Memorandums of Peregrinations … More Road trip

Tift’s Tower

GAZING one last time at a pair of large, unfurled sheets of paper, William A. Whitehead traced with his eye the busy waterfront, the streets and buildings depicted on them. Then, possibly with a faint smile, he again rolled them up carefully to be delivered to their final destination. License to imagine such an interlude … More Tift’s Tower

The fiefdom

KEY West the island sits upon a bed of limestone a hundred thousand years old, while Key West the city has for its foundation poor judgments and worse luck that, less than two centuries ago, with painful regularity piled up seagoing vessels on the Florida Reef. That history created what attorney Charles Walker called “the … More The fiefdom

A rising tide

SOMETIME in 1833 or thereabouts, citizens of Key West witnessed the opening of a large mound near the island’s western shore. At least ten feet in height “and of considerable circumference,” it stood midway between the custom house and the slight rise of Whitehead’s Point. The collector of customs, William A. Whitehead, who appears to have … More A rising tide

Light duties

AMID a hoisting of the American ensign, a salute of thirteen guns and a greater number of champagne toasts, Lieutenant Matthew C. Perry in March 1822 extended the dominion of the United States to a desolate coral cay that he named Thompson’s Island, better known before and ever since as the island of Key West.1 … More Light duties