In 1763, when Great Britain took control of Florida, the community of Spaniards and Native Americans were moved to Havana. Florida returned to Spanish control 20 years later, but there was no official resettlement of the island. Informally the island was used by fishermen from Cuba and from the British, who were later joined by others from the United States after the latter nation’s independence. While claimed by Spain, no nation exercised de facto control over the community there for some time.
In 1815, the Spanish governor of Cuba in Havana deeded the island of Key West to Juan Pablo Salas, an officer of the Royal Spanish Navy Artillery posted in Saint Augustine, Florida. After Florida was transferred to the United States in 1821, Salas was so eager to sell the island that he sold it twice – first for a sloop valued at $575 to a General John Geddes, a former governor of South Carolina, and then to a U.S. businessman John W. Simonton, during a meeting in a Havana café on January 19, 1822, for the equivalent of $2,000 in pesos in 1821. Geddes tried in vain to secure his rights to the property before Simonton who, with the aid of some influential friends in Washington, was able to gain clear title to the island. Simonton had wide-ranging business interests in Mobile, Alabama. He bought the island because a friend, John Whitehead, had drawn his attention to the opportunities presented by the island’s strategic location. John Whitehead had been stranded in Key West after a shipwreck in 1819 and he had been impressed by the potential offered by the deep harbor of the island. The island was indeed considered the “Gibraltar of the West” because of its strategic location on the 90-mile (140 km)–wide deep shipping lane, the Straits of Florida, between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico.
On March 25, 1822, Lt. Commander, Matthew C. Perry, sailed the schooner Shark to Key West and planted the U.S. flag, claiming the Keys as United States property. No protests were made over the American claim on Key West, so the Florida Keys became the property of the United States.
After claiming the Florida Keys for the United States, Perry renamed Cayo Hueso (Key West) to “Thompson’s Island” for Secretary of the Navy Smith Thompson, and the harbor “Port Rodgers” in honor of War of 1812 hero and President of the Navy Supervisors Board John Rodgers. In 1823, Commodore David Porter of the United States Navy West Indies Anti-Pirate Squadron took charge of Key West, which he ruled, exceeding his authority as military dictator under martial law. Porter was tasked by the American Navy to end acts of piracy in the Key West area including slave ships.
After his purchase, Simonton subdivided the island into plots and sold three undivided quarters of each plot to:
John Mountain and U.S. Consul John Warner, who quickly resold their quarter to Pardon C. Greene, who took up residence on the island
John Whitehead, his friend who had advised him to buy Key West John Fleeming, John Simonton spent the winter in Key West and the summer in Washington, where he lobbied hard for the development of the island and to establish a naval base on the island, both to take advantage of the island’s strategic location and to bring law and order to the town. He died in 1854.
Pardon C. Greene is the only one of the four “founding fathers” to establish himself permanently on the island, where he became quite prominent as head of P.C. Greene and Company. He was a member of the city council and also served briefly as mayor. He died in 1838 at the age of 57.
John Whitehead lived in Key West for only eight years. He became a partner in the firm of P.C. Greene and Company from 1824 to 1827. A lifelong bachelor, he left the island for good in 1832. He came back only once, during the Civil War in 1861, and died the next year.
John W.C. Fleeming was English-born and was active in mercantile business in Mobile, Alabama, where he befriended John Simonton. Fleeming spent only a few months in Key West in 1822 and left for Massachusetts, where he married. He returned to Key West in 1832 with the intention of developing salt manufacturing on the island but died the same year at the young age of 51.
The names of the four “founding fathers” of modern Key West were given to main arteries of the island when it was first platted in 1829 by William Adee Whitehead, John Whitehead’s younger brother. That first plat and the names used remained mostly intact and are still in use today. Duval Street, the island’s main street, is named after Florida’s first territorial governor, who served between 1822 and 1834 as the longest serving governor in Florida’s U.S. history.
Antonio Del Pino and brothers Rafael and Luis were cigar makers from Cuba. Th company started in early 1880’s. By 1890 there were 12,000 workers making cigars in Key West. These kind of notes were usually made to pay workers who could redeem them at the company’s store, “payable in goods at our store.” Little is known of Antonio Del Pino & Brothers script, it is believed that it may have either burned down or was sold to a cigar company.
December 24, 1891 marked the charter date of the First National Bank of Key West replacing the failed Bank of Key West.
FIRST NATIONAL BANK OF KEY WEST CHARTER 4672.
In 1891 when the Bank of Key West closed its doors Mr. George W. Allen was in New York trying to prevent its failure. After the receiver was appointed, his friends in the cigar manufacturing business in New York started a movement to establish another bank in Key West to be managed by Mr. Allen, and subscribed for about $80,000.00 of the stock. With this support he returned to Key West, and in a short time organized the First National Bank of Key West, with a capital stock of $100,000.00. Its officers were George W. Allen, president; August Boesler, of the firm of Wm.Wicke & Co., vice-president; W. W. Flanagan, president of the Southern National Bank of New York, Ferdinand Hirsch, Charles Baker, Remigio Lopez y Trujillo and Oscar Rierson, directors. This institution, starting immediately after the failure of the Bank of Key West, had many obstacles to overcome, but by careful management and excellent business methods, it won the confidence and patronage of the people of Key West. The success of the First National Bank is a tribute to Mr. Allen’s banking ability, and shows conclusively that had his policies, instead of Mr. Lewis’, been adopted in the management of the Bank of Key West, the failure of that institution would not have occurred.
The charter for the Island City National Bank of Key West was issued on October 7, 1905 and was opened on October 16, 1905. To this day the building located on Duval Street is still standing but the bank fell into receivership back in 1915 due to lack of management.
THE ISLAND CITY NATIONAL BANK
The Island City National Bank was organized and commenced business on October 16, 1905. Its officers were Mr. George S. Waite, president; Mr. Charles R. Pierce, vice-president; Mr. E. M. Martin, cashier, and Judge Jordan M. Phipps, attorney. It has a capital stock of $100,000.00, and its deposits are over three hundred and fifty thousand dollars. The first board of directors were Messrs. Geo. S. Waite, Charles R. Pierce, Jordan M. Phipps, John T. Sawyer, Richard Peacon, Theodore A. Sweeting and E. M. Martin. Bank notes on this charter are very rare with only 3 notes known of all types as of this date, two of which are in this collection, including the only known Red Seal.
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Notes & Currency
- 18__ Fernandina $3 Obsolete Note
- 1882 $50 Jacksonville Note Charter #3869
- 1902 $10 Punta Gorda Note Charter #10512
- 1882 $5 Palatka Note Charter #3223
- 1902 $5 Key West Note Charter #7942