Information at “Indian Key,” 1840

If you ever find yourself bored with the internet, tired of movies and music and magazines and books and so on, take a moment and think about the world of information available to Henry Perrine’s teenage children on a tiny, 12-acre island in the Florida Keys in 1840.

We had an abundance of books and papers, but only a monthly mail. This mail we generally had brought in a bushel basket & had our arrangements so made that for at least a week after its receipt our household duties should not seriously interfere with our enjoyment of it.

Hester Perrine Walker, 1885

A whole week to bask in the glory of the monthly mail! I spend less than a second with most of the things I see online. For young Hester, each piece of information must have been a treasure, a thing to be turned over and over in her mind and discussed again and again. It’s difficult for me to imagine as I go about my historian’s work of empathizing and visualizing.

We are blessed and cursed with information. Blessed by abundance, maybe we don’t take the time to really process the things we read and see. I know I don’t.

p.s. — in light of last night’s post, think about what it means that the first group of settlers in this extremely remote area decided to put down roots in a place they called “Indian Key.”

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