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

Numbers to neighbors

NINE years after lowering the flag of Spain and fifteen years before statehood, Florida made its debut as a contributor to the United States decennial census. The national enumeration of 1830 separately counts whites, slaves and free persons of color, but records the names only of “heads of families.” Enslaved and free dependents remain anonymous, … More Numbers to neighbors

The greatest gifts

LOWER latitudes and warmer climes than William Whitehead had previously known defined his nineteenth full winter, and each of the nine that followed. On its face this decade of residence in the South answered no maverick yearning for wild frontiers; it sprang instead from Whitehead’s trusted role in the business concerns of his family, spun … More The greatest gifts

Gibraltar of the Gulf

“I considered them,” Commodore David Porter declared with satisfaction, “as merely tolerated on the island….” So slight was the Navy commander’s regard for claims of the self-styled proprietors of Key West.1 Yet his presence, arguably, was the result of these men’s enterprise, especially that of the island’s original purchaser, John W. Simonton, who first caused the … More Gibraltar of the Gulf

Climate of Newark

RECENTLY, there were reports that the Oxford English Dictionary had identified the earliest use of the term “climate change.” In the context in which they appeared–an American scientific magazine of 1854–and even in their inflection, the words differed somewhat from how we read and understand them today. But it’s evident from the brief article where they were … More Climate of Newark

The Daily

BETWEEN the day on which William A. Whitehead, at age 13, left Newark with his family for Perth Amboy and the day that he returned, at age 33, to live there once more with a new family, the place, like Whitehead, had come of age. The Newark he returned to was a far cry from … More The Daily