The History Behind The Conch Republic Flag

Conch Republic Flag

Conch Republic Flag

Working for a flag company you get a lot of questions about the meaning behind all the different flags that we carry. We had been getting a lot of request for the Conch Republic flag and also a lot of questions about it. So I thought I’d take the time to discuss it’s unique and interesting history. For those of you who have never been to the Conch Republic also known as Key West, it is an understatement to say that it stands out from the rest of the United States. The people that live there are truly a great and unique bunch. Everyone is on island time, like a vacation year round. You never know what you may experience; if you wander into a unknown bar you may find that you are that only one in attendance that is fully clothed. The history of Key West has always been outside the norm from the rest of the United States. This is something they take great pride in, so why should their flag represent anything less?

The Southern Most point of the United States

The Southern Most point of the United States

To drive to Key West, you have to travel the only route south of Florida, crossing several bridges, islands and one 7 mile bridge. It is about a 160 mile drive from the tip of Florida. In fact it is known as the southern most point of the entire United States. Most of Key West’s income relies on tourism. It is such a popular tourist destination because of the year round warm climate, blue water, beaches, seaport, history, abundance of activities and it’s relaxed and unique atmosphere.

In 1982 the United States government felt that illegal immigrants and drugs could easily be brought into the US through the Keys because of its close proximity to Cuba (90 miles away). The government felt it was best to set up a inspection check point or border patrol on the only road leaving the Keys because it was too difficult to watch all of its shore line. The inspection point was so heavily monitored that traffic backed up for miles while all cars were searched. Because there is only one road going in and coming out of the Keys, traffic can be delayed easily on a good day so this newly added check point was not welcomed. The delays became well known and tourism decreased drastically which hurt the economy. The people of the Keys were so upset with the United States and their border control that they began protesting. All protests went unanswered and the people demanded to be heard. On April 23, 1982 the Prime Minister of Key West (Dennis Wardlow) decided they would be heard so he proclaimed the secession of Key West from the United States. The new country would be known as the Conch Republic, they had a flag made and threatened to remove the American one. Immediately following the proclamation read by the Prime Minister the people of Key West started “beating” federal officials in attendance with stale bread. They then surrendered to the federal officials and asked the United States for Foreign aid. Just like the history of Key West their methods were unconventional but they got their point across. The protests of the people were finally heard, although the United States government never formerly acknowledge the succession, they did however remove the border patrol road block.

Key West

Key West

Since then the people of the keys have been proud to be the people of the Conch Republic, the only group to successfully secede from the United States. Their motto is “We seceded where others failed”. It may have only happened in their eyes and the US government never took it seriously but they did what they had to do to save their community. It was a very brave thing but there was some humor behind it. They knew after all, that without the importing of supplies and food from the United States the only thing they would have to eat is Conch.

Sunset Sailing at Key West

Sunset Sailing at Key West

Although the Conch Republic flag initially represented Key West it can now can be seeing flying throughout all the other keys. It represents the unique culture and unconventional ways of the people of the Keys.

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