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Art "Silver Bar" McKee

Art McKee
Born: November 2, 1910. Died: 1979.

One of the pioneer treasure hunters. Indeed, he is called the "Father of Modern Treasure Hunting." Using a diving helmet, he excavated his first wreck in 1938. Art McKee achieved great success, both with his treasure hunting and with a museum he founded to display many of his finds.

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. His nickname was derived from the silver bars he recovered off Gorda Cay

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.

In 1948, McKee began working the ballast mound that had been shown to him from the 1733 Capitana. Among the cannons, ballast, and other treasures were silver coins dated 1732. In 1949, having a warehouse full of artifacts and treasure from several different wrecks, McKee opened to the public the first museum in the world devoted to sunken treasure, on Plantation Key at Treasure Harbor. He took visitors to the Capitana in his glass-bottom boat, and he took many of them on underwater tours in his diving helmet. Three years later he opened the "Sunken Treasure Museum" on U.S. #1 , Plantation Key. He built it to resemble a fortress, with cannons on the ramparts and the huge 16 foot anchor from the Capitana mounted out front.

Eventually, McKee obtained a lease from the State of Florida to explore older shipwrecks and located several other shipwrecks from the 1733 fleet. He also explored shipwrecks in the Bahamas and in the Pedro Bank south of Jamaica.

Colonial Lead Seals

Authentic Coin Jewelry

8 Reales

Sao Jose Shipwreck

Ring   China Trade Currency

unmounted  1 Reales

2 Reales in 14kt Gold

Santiago 1585

1715 Fleet Study Collection

El Cazador Caribbean  Florida 1700's maps

Colonial & Shipwreck Gold

Dry Tortugas Shipwreck

Art McKee

Royal Cob Research

Bob Allison Treasure Museum SS Central America