Sunday, January 22, 2012

One Hundred Years Ago Today...

...Henry Flagler rode a train all the way to Key West. Today we don't think too much of driving over a seemingly endless chain of islands and bridges as we drive from Florida's mainland to Key West (with a stop at the History of Diving Museum on the way, of course). But in 1912, it was a very big deal. Nothing like it had ever been attempted.

The Key West Extension of the Florida Keys Over-Sea Railway was called "Flagler's Folly,"a nod to the fact that many thought it was an impossible feat. But Flagler proved them all wrong on January 22, 1912 when he and wife, Mary Lily, rolled into town on a special Pullman sleeping car. After seven years of setbacks, Flagler's dream had finally come true. For a complete historical timeline of the Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad, visit this website:

As this month marks the centennial of this occassion, there has been an upsurge in this (almost) unbelievable story. Several new books have been published, new documentaries produced, and a host of special events held to commemorate this special anniversary.

One thing that hasn't changed much is that we still know very little about the divers who were involved in building the Over-Sea Railroad. There are only two known photographs showing divers from this project. Both are from the collection of the Pigeon Key Foundation.

The Miller-Dunn Divinhood was just coming into popularity at this time, but the divers who worked on Flagler's Railroad wore hard helmets bolted to canvas suits. In other words, they were full-dressed divers. Note the large air pumps in the two photos below. A lot of man power was needed to allow the divers simply to breathe.

We hope you enjoyed these photos. They are staff favorites here at the History of Diving Museum. As always, we're looking for more, so let us know if you know of any other photos of divers from this project or era.

Happy Centennial, Henry!

Interim Director/Manager of Collections and Administration