Key West Lou / FREDERIC REMINGTON AND KEY WEST
Frederic Remington still lives. Through his works. His art, sculpturing and writings will be as famous 100 years from now as they are today.
He is a Hemingway. Eternal. Both having had a connection to Key West. Though Hemingway’s time much longer.
Remington made his fame and fortune in the old west. A transplant of sorts. He was born and raised in Canton, New York. Near the Canadian border.
Cowboys, Indians, the land and its people simply stated turned Remington on. He loved painting the old west. He is best known to day for his sculptures of cowboys and Indians. Close your eyes and see a horse standing on his hind legs with a cowboy seated waving his hat.
Nothing is forever. By 1890, the old west was fading big time. Almost totally gone.
The 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee marked the last big clash between the U.S. Army and the Indians. By 1894, Remington stopped traveling west. Everything he had known was gone. It was a new day.
Remington spent time working in his studio in New Rochelle, New York. Whether a painting, sculpture or writing, all were done from memory.
Harper’s gave him an assignment which took him to Florida. His assignment was to write about Florida’s cowboys, cattle and the land.
He disliked all. None similar to the west of old. The cowboys did not sit tall in the saddle and appear to be tough guys. None the heroic images of he old west.
The cattle were not the husky animals he viewed on the western plains. Skinny in comparison. Remington described them as “scrawny creatures not fit for a pointer-dog to mess on.”
The land the worst comparison wise. No mountains, deserts and canyons. Only scrub lands.
He returned to New York. After a brief stay, an assignment arose which would take him to Key West and Cuba.
Tensions existed between the U.S. and Spain. Spain owned Cuba. Cuban revolutionaries in the mountains were causing the Spanish havoc.
Remington first visited Key West in 1890. William Randolph Hearst owned the New York Journal. He sent a wirier by the name Richard Harding and Remington to Cuba. It took a while for them to make it. They were stuck in Key West for three weeks.
Hearst had the fastest speedboat in the world at the time. Called Vamoose. Vamoose was to take Harding and Remington from Key West to Havana for a meeting with revolutionaries.
Two reasons offered why the had difficulty getting to Cuba.
The ocean was rough. Three times the trip was attempted. Three times it could not make it and had to return to Key West. There is a second reason. The Spanish fleet had blockaded Havana harbor which prevented Vamoose from breaking through.
Only one of the two reasons is accurate. Historians are split. Some believe it was the blockade that prevented Harding and Remington from reaching Havana. A fact that Hearst’s ego and reputation could not stand. No way anyone or anything could stop Hearst from doing what he wanted.
Whatever, Harding and Remington eventually got to Cuba. They took the steam boat like everyone else.
The two spent 3 weeks in Key West attempting to make the trip to Cuba. It was a wonderful three weeks for them. Harding and Remington were “gentlemen” of the day. Brought all the social niceties of New York with them. When recollecting those 3 weeks, Remington referred to them as “three years.” Insinuating they wee that good.
They were guests at dinner parties, luncheons and informal receptions ashore and on war vessels. They were social hits! The ladies were fond of them. The two brought charm and comradeship with them. Relationships were made that lasted lifetimes.
Harding and Remington returned home.
Remington detested Key West itself. The people wonderful, the City not so. He called Key West a “dusty smelly bit of sandy coral, and the houses built like snare drums; they are dismal thoroughly, and the sun makes men sweat and wish to God they were somewhere else.”
Hearst sent Remington back to Key West. This time to await the Spanish-American War. As far as Hearst was concerned, it was inevitable.
Remington sat around for quite a while waiting for the war to begin. His job was to do illustrations of the fighting once it had commenced.
Hearst was rabble rousing the war in New York. He had the north in a pro-war frenzy. Remington while waiting had made it to Cuba. He did not believe there would be a war and was sick of Cuba. He wired Hearst: “Everything is quiet. There is no trouble. There will be no war. I wish to return.”
Hearst responded: “Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”
Hearst was obviously correct. The Battleship Maine was sunk in Havana harbor in 1898.
No one has ever suggested Hearst had any direct involvement in the sinking of the Maine.
Greed was the motivating factor why Hearst wanted the war. It would improve circulation of his newspaper.
Remington was there for the war. A close friend was Teddy Roosevelt. Remington went up San Juan Hill in close proximity to Roosevelt.
Remington did not enjoy the war. He personally hated war. The death and heat were too much for him. On top of which, he came down with yellow fever.
He returned home. His thirst for war and killing satiated. He said, “From now on, I mean to paint fruits and flowers.”
Big entertainment evening last night. The PBS show re Hemingway and the Championship Game of the Final Four.
I am a Hemingway fan. More precisely, fanatic. I was first introduced to his writings in college. Those works I did not read at the time, I consumed over the next 10 years.
Spending almost 30 years in Key West, I have further become familiar with Hemingway. His personal habits, tastes, etc.
I did not enjoy the PBS show. Too may facts crowded into 2 hours. Expansion of some parts was required.
My mental expansion re Hemingway hit speed here in Key West. A lot of people living here who knew him personally or who knew those close to him after his death. Those who knew him personally were children at the time.
One was Dink. He died last year. His father was one of Hemingway’s personal friends, his driver and a fishing buddy. A drinker, also. Dink died last year. He still had a room full of boxes containing Hemingway works which his father had left to him.
A Hemingway discussion generally works its way to his sexual tastes. As PBS slid over last night, his mother frequently dressed him in girl’s clothes. One of his wives was a lesbian. The question always comes down to whether he was in some form bisexual.
No one knew. No historian had ever come up with the answer.
The PBS show was at 8. On another channel immediately before the PBS show was the film A Farewell to Arms. Magnificent! Made in 1932. One of Gary Cooper’s finest performances. Emotions galore.
Then came the basketball game. Baylor/Gonzaga. Baylor won 86-70. The game interesting. No where as good as Gonzaga/UCLAS two nights earlier.
Tuesday comes around rapidly each week. My blog talk radio show tonight. Tuesday Talk with Key West Lou. Nine my time.
You’ll love it! Join me! www.blogtalkradio.com/key-west-lou.
Enjoy your day!