Photograph from Something About the Author, Vol. 8

What was Alexander Key's full name?"

It is cited that his full name is Alexander hill Key and that he was named after his father in several sources. However, recently I received an email from Sarah W. who is the daughter of Alexander Key's first cousin. She believes that his middle name is actually "Heill." His mother's name was Charlotte (Ryder) Key.

When and where was he born?
He was born on 21 September 1904 in La Plata, Maryland. His father owned a cotton mill and gin which was burned down by "night riders." After his death, the Key family moved to Jacksonville, Florida, where his maternal grandfather, a Methodist minister, had retired. When Alexander Key was fifteen, his mother was killed while crossing the street one night. Alexander Key and his younger brother Robert went to live their uncle Steven Key, who had a bank in Quincy, Florida.

What type of education did he have?

As a teenager, Alexander Key attended a military academy in Georgia. He loved it! Later at seventeen, he went to Chicago to attend at the Chicago Art Institute. Sculptor-Artist Lorado Taft was teaching there at the time. Mr. Key wanted to be a portrait painter but his uncle's bank failure put an abrupt stop to that. He turned to illustration to make ends meet. His first illustration job was for The Light of Myth. He was paid $900. That was a lot of money back then! During the Depression, he wrote stories as a way to get his art commissions.

Was he married? Did he have any children?

His first wife was Margaret Key. They met in art school and moved to Apalachicola, Florida. Here they bought a Victorian mansion which later became known as the Key House. They did not have any children. I am not sure when they divorced. According to the article in the News Herald, they divorced in 1946, but according to other sources, he and Alice Towle were married on December 21, 1945. He had one son named Zan. He dedicated Sprockets: A Little Robot and Cherokee boy to Zan. Zan Key died several years back.

Alexander and Margaret Key. Courtsey of Sally of the Key House.

What was his religion?

According to the article in Something About the Author, vol. 8, p. 98, Mr. Key was a Freethinker. Exactly what he meant by that, I really don't know. Did he actually follow the Freethinker philosophy? Again, I don't know. From what I read in his writings and what little I could find about him, he seemed to be using the term rather loosely--that is, he prefer to think things out for himself. His maternal grandfather was a Methodist minister. It seems likely he had a belief in God or a Higher Being. This could be inferred from Preposterous Adventures of Swimmer, The Incredible Tide, which has a strong religious overtone, and Strange White Doves: True Mysteries of Nature. He may not believe in an orthodox sense. He also writes about the "Pool of Knowledge," an idea he uses in both The Golden Enemy and The Incredible Tide. Anything I write on this is, of course, purely speculation on my part because I really don't know.

Where did he live?

Many of the settings he used in his stories were based on where he lived in the South (Florida, North Carolina, and Alabama). This is what I found during my research (I can't give exact dates or anything):

• Born in La Plata, Maryland.

• He lived his first six years on the Suwannee River, Florida. Jacksonville, Florida.

• He lived in Quincy, Florida.

• In the 1920s, he studied art at Chicago Art Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He met and married Margaret Key.

• Lived in Batavia, Illnois.

• Carrabelle Beach, Florida

• In the late 1930s, Alexander and Margaret Key moved to Apalachicola, Florida. They lived in the Key House, a late Victorian home.

Alexander Key before he left for WWII.
courtsey of Sally of the Key House

• World War II (1942-45), he served in the Navy and reached the rank of Lieutenant Commander. He was a Navy boarding officer in San Francisco bay. He met and married Alice Towle Key.

• Return back to the Gulf Coast of Florida. Tarpon Springs, Florida (?)

• Decided Florida was growing too fast. They moved to Smokey Mountains in North Carolina where they built a studio home. According to the article in something about the author, they lived on Wayah Valley road, Franklin, NC.

• On 1976, the Keys moved to "our little plantation" in Eufaula, Alabama.

• lived in Puerto Rico while writing Flight to a Lonesome Place.

When did he died?

He died on 25 July 1979 in Eufaula, Alabama.

Sent in by Sally of the Key house.

Are there other Alexander Key websites?

I have searched and haven't found very much. I have found a couple of links. A lot of the sites has to do with the Japanese anime Future Boy Conan, which is based on the Incredible Tide. They are listed below. Also, MacAnakin, a frequent contributor to this site, hopes to have one up soon. if you come across one, please send it my way.


  • U SM de Grummond Collection - Alexander Key Papers
  • Stormy's Fannish Kingdoms (Stormy's Anime webpage)
  • Robert Koehler's Witch Mountain Webpage
  • GPA's Conan Page
  • Article About Alexander Key
  • Is there an internet group for Alexander Key?

    Yes, there is one. I recently started one up. It's a Yahoo group, but it's unlisted in the Yahoo Directory at this time. If you are interested in joining and meet other Alexander Key kindred spirits, please send me an email and I will be happy to send you the information. Right now it's a pretty small group. I don't imagine it ever get to be too big or too busy.

    Front the back cover of The Forgotten Door

    Where can I get his books?

    Most of his books are out-of-print. The only ones that is still in print are the The Forgotten Door and supposedly The Case of the Vanishing Boy. I know for sure that you can still get new copies of The Forgotten Door fairly easy. The Case of the Vanishing Boy is another matter. According, The Flight to the Lonesome Place Is suppose to be released in hardcover in January 2004, although I have some misgivings about the reliability of this information from So far the book has not been released.

    You probably have better luck finding used copies of his books. The best way (and the cheapest!) is finding copies of his books at a library sales. This is when libraries weed books off their shelves and sell them to raise money to buy more books. Usually they are sponsored by the Friends of the Library. You can call your library and find out when their next library sale!

    The next best thing is stumbling on the books at a thrift store. That's where I found my copy of Flight to the Lonesome Place.

    You can also try used bookstores or used online booksellers. I have found that online booksellers tend to run on the more expensive end of the price range. One was selling Sprockets: A Little Robot for $500! I don't know about you but that's a lot of money to me!

    If you were going to buy online, I would try online auctions first. Usually (not always!) they go for the lower range of price. Listed below are websites that I've used on my quest to complete my Alexander Key collection. Please note I am no way affliated with them and I'm posting them for informational purposes only!)

    If you just want to read them, you can read some of them online at Stormy's Site. If you want to actually hold them in your hand while you read them, then ask if your local library can do an interlibrary loan! But you may want to hurry because it seems a lot of libraries are pulling his books off the shelf to make way for newer books.

    Who holds the copyright to Mr. Key's books? They should be reprinted!

    I am afraid I don't know. Several people-- MacAnakin, Kandelwik, Kevin H., Jay, and Sarah W. are some--have researched this information. So far, most of the trails has stopped at Mrs. Alice Key and Zan Key--both of whom have passed away. So if anyone knows this information or know how to do some copyright finding magic, please send me an email. I really like to know this information.

    Misc. information

    Key's love for animals can be seen in his stories and books--especially the Strange White Doves: True Mysteries of Nature, The Preposterous Adventures of Swimmer and Jagger: the Dog from Elsewhere to name a few.

    Teri wrote in an email:

    I, too, discovered Alexander Key in elementary school (5th grade). I chose him as an author to write to. we corresponded several times, and I found that he loved turtles as I did, and in fact, had made a special turtle pond on his property.


    Something About the Author, vol. 8, pps. 98-99
    Something About the Author, vol. 23, p. 108
    Publisher's form letter
    Letter from Mrs. Alexander Key (2-9-81)
    Tallahassee Democrat Online - (submitted by Taryn Campbell)
    News Herald Alexander Key--His Life and Work by Margaret Key, June Times, 1993.