Art McKee showing group the coral encrusted pistol he found - Plantation Key, Florida.

Art McKee showing group the coral encrusted pistol he found - Plantation Key, Florida.

Credit this photo: State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,
(please include photographer's name when noted).


  • Art McKee showing group the coral encrusted pistol he found - Plantation Key, Florida.

Image Number

  • AM0212


  • Not before 1955

Series Title

General Note

  • His wife Gay McKee is the woman identified in red at the left.
  • Arthur McKee Jr., known as Art "Silver Bar" McKee, was a noted Florida treasure diver for many years and is often referred to as "the father of modern treasure diving." Sometimes called "The Treasure Hunter's Treasure Hunter," McKee pioneered salvage work on historic shipwrecks in the days before scuba diving became popular.
  • Art McKee was born in Bridgeton, New Jersey, on November 2, 1910, and spent his teenage summers as a lifeguard teaching others to swim and free dive. After high school, he worked as a tender for an old helmet diver who was repairing a bridge on the Delaware River. Seeking warmer and clearer waters, he moved to Florida in 1934 and got a job as chief diver for the underwater pipeline that ran from Homestead to Key West. He then worked as recreational director for the City of Homestead for ten years. On his days off, he explored the offshore reefs with his hard-hat diving rig salvaging old iron and brass from shipwrecks.
  • In 1937, a commercial fisherman showed McKee a pile of ballast stones and cannons off Plantation Key, and McKee began to find Spanish silver coins, including one gold escudo coin dated 1721. Curious about his find, he wrote to the Archive of the Indies in Spain and received a packet of documents relating the fate of the 1733 Spanish treasure fleet that was wrecked in the Florida Keys during a hurricane. From translations of the documents, McKee learned that the wreck off Plantation Key was the Capitana, El Rubi Segundo, flagship of the fleet. During the next ten years, he and his partners searched up and down the Keys, exploring more than 75 shipwrecks. Meanwhile, during World War II, McKee worked as a diver for the Navy (1941-1942) on the construction of the freshwater pipeline.

Physical Description

  • 1 photoprint - col. - 6 x 4 in.

Subject Term

Geographic Term

Personal Subject

Learn more about the Art McKee Collection »

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