On Sunday, March 20, the Monroe County Library System accepted the donation of the 200-year-old original logbook of LCDR M.C. Perry’s voyage on the U.S. Schooner Shark, in which he documents the claiming of the Florida Keys for the United States. The book will be kept safely in Key West’s Florida Keys History Center at the Key West library. The book was donated by the Key West Maritime Historical Society and Haffenreffer Foundation after the naval rarity was bought for $52,500 at the Doyle Auction House in New York City earlier this year.
The handing over ceremony kicked off the Key West bicentennial week festivities and was fittingly done aboard the USCG Cutter Ingham, docked at the Truman Waterfront.
“This is the most complete account of the founding of Key West through the firsthand descriptions of the captain,” said Corey Malcom of the Key West Maritime Historical Society. “The logbook describes in detail the journey that laid the foundation of the first days of Key West.”
Within the book and letters to the government from 1822, Key West was described as uncultivated, with a fine harbor to escape bad weather, freshwater springs, and abundant fish, turtles, and Key deer to eat. When Perry claimed Key West for the United States, the area was occupied by smugglers, wreckers, and outlaws.
“This is the one and only surviving relic of Key West’s start,” he said. “The genesis of Key West is in this logbook.”
No one is sure who had the logbook in the days leading up to its auction.
“We are so grateful to be the recipients of this kind of donation. It speaks to the trust this community has for the Florida Keys History Center at the Library, knowing we will keep this type of historical document safe in perpetuity,” said Kimberly Matthews, Monroe County’s Director of Libraries. “There are many valuable assets in the Monroe County Public Library, which is why it is important to maintain our facilities at the highest possible levels when they serve as protectors of these irreplaceable assets.”
While the logbook will not be available to checkout, a digitized version will be made available for the public to read at www.keyslibraries.org. Excepts from the logbook can also be found daily in the Key West Citizen’s “Today In Keys History” section -- this week showcases the founding of Key West, known in the 1800s as Thompson Island.
Pictured: Cates, left, Mary and Karl Haffenreffer, Matthews, and Monroe County Historian Emeritus Tom Hambright view the original book for a brief moment before it goes back into its preservation box.