Key West Aloe History
Ponce de Leon was the first explorer to discover Key West in 1521. It was a tropical paradise occupied by the Calusa Indians, and teemed with life on the land and in the sea. He declared it a part of Spain and brought tales of this magical isle back to his homeland. In 1761, Great Britain took control of Florida, and moved the Indians and Spanish 90 miles south across the Florida Straits to the city of Havana, Cuba. Key West became an island frequented by fishermen and a few hearty settlers, but didn’t really start to prosper until Mathew Perry sailed the USS Shark into Key West’s deep harbor and claimed the island property of the United States.
Early founders like John Simonton and John WC. Fleming envisioned a Key West teeming with tourism, industry, and agriculture. In the 1830s, an increasing number of Conchs (immigrants from the Bahamas) began flooding into Key West and settled in an area of Old Town known as Bahama Village. Key West remained relatively isolated until 1912, when it was connected to the mainland via the Overseas Railway, which was demolished in the Labor Day hurricane of 1935. The U.S. government stepped in and completed an extension of United States Highway 1, which connected all of the keys to south Florida in 1938.
A favorite haunt of presidents and poets alike, Key West became a much sought-after escape from the brutal winters to the north. Harry Truman spent 175 days on 11 visits during his presidency at the “Winter White House” and continued to return after he left office. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, and Jimmy Carter also spent time relaxing in Key West while holding the land’s highest office.
Nobel-Prize Winner Ernest Hemingway was so inspired by the romance of Key West that he wrote some of his greatest works here. These include A Farewell to Arms, Death in the Afternoon, For Whom The Bell Tolls, The Snows of Kilimanjaro, The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, and To Have and Have Not. Tennessee Williams was equally captivated and wrote the American classic, A Streetcar Named Desire, while staying at the La Concha Hotel in 1947.
Closer to Havana than it is to Miami, Kew West today is a mystical place with six-toed cats and free-range chickens strolling about, and lots of characters on display. Every evening, residents and tourists alike gather at Mallory Square and toast the setting sun. The Duval Street bar and restaurant district serves up island treats and frosty drinks to appreciative guests in whimsical settings. Gingerbread houses and old hotels line quaint streets, and beckon neighbors and guests alike to throw open the windows and let the sea breeze waft through. Popular attractions include the Key West Lighthouse (which we named our Lighthouse men’s cologne after), the Mel Fisher Maritime Museum, Truman’s Winter White House, and annual celebrations like Fantasy Fest and a Taste of Key West.
While many only visit for a short time, the Key West experience can live on for a lifetime through our many products that harness the unique vibe of the island.