Historian Jim Miller speaks about and signs King of the Gunrunners on Monday, March 25th at noon at the Pass Christian Historical Society. Pass Books will be onsite with copies of the book for sale.
By the time he turned thirty at the end of the nineteenth century, John D. Hart thrived as the busiest importer of bananas on the East Coast. A master of ships with a thunderous voice, Hart aggressively carried tropical fruit to an insatiable market with little concern for notions of supply and demand. But when an unexpected crisis hit the fruit business, Hart was unprepared. The financial Panic of 1893 doomed his strategy of bringing in limitless bananas. Jobless consumers could not afford such luxuries. Nearing bankruptcy, Hart was approached by Emilio Nuñez, a member of the Cuban Revolutionary Party—a cadre of exiled conspirators in New York whose singular purpose was to liberate the Cuban island from four hundred years of Spanish rule. Nuñez enlisted Hart as a “filibuster” to transport guns and ammunition to the Cuban rebels. For nearly three years, Hart became the most visible of a disparate group of mariners between New York and Key West who tormented Spanish authorities, riled the US government, and became heroes to an oppressed people fighting to be free.
In King of the Gunrunners: How a Philadelphia Fruit Importer Inspired a Revolution and Provoked the Spanish-American War, author James W. Miller reveals the untold story of a forgotten American whose adventures helped pave the way for the United States’ emergence as an international power. With the Yellow Press trumpeting his exploits, Hart’s influence helped inflame the nation’s mood and made war with Spain inevitable. The quick US victory in what became known as the Spanish-American War compelled Spain to abandon Cuba and cede sovereignty over Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines to the United States, which also annexed the independent state of Hawaii during the conflict. This volume presents the story of Hart, the defiant king of the Cuban gunrunners, who prolonged a revolution, provoked a war, and left an indelible mark on history.