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The history of the celebrated island city, from its founding in the 1820s to the “secession” era of the 1980s.

Parrotheads, Hemingway aficionados, and sun worshippers view Key West as a tropical paradise, and scores of writers have set tales of mystery and romance on the island. But the city's real story is as fabulous as fiction.

In the early 1800s, pioneer settlers battled Indians, pirates, and deadly disease, and grew fabulously rich in the process. In the two centuries since, Key West has nurtured tragedy and triumph and stood at the crossroads of American history.

Key West: History of An Island of Dreams is the first full account of this beloved island's history, from pirate battles of the 1820s to the arrival of hippies, drugs, and Jimmy Buffett in the 1960s and 1970s.

Did you know?

  • Confederate Florida seceded in 1861, but Key West remained in the Union, thanks to a midnight takeover of Fort Zachary Taylor by federal troops stationed on the island.
  • On July 2, 1934, during the depths of the Great Depression, the people of Key West practiced another kind of secession. The city was broke, so city officials signed the island over to the governor of Florida. He, in turn, passed it on to the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, which took over the job of getting the place back on its financial feet.

The Critics Say:

“Ogle’s thorough research [and] wry perspective make this book a fascinating read.” / Tallahassee Democrat

“Beautifully written and inescapably readable, it's not just the history of Florida's most famous southern island; it is also a history of post-1800 America as told from one vantage point.” / Tampa Tribune

“Ogle captures this island city in all its quirky charm. Her story breezes along in typical Key West fashion--full of gossip and good humor, with the jolt of a good cup of Cuban coffee.” / Lee Irby