In the 19th century sponge harvesting in America started in Key West. After storms sponges would wash up on the beachs. This begin the business of harvesting sponges, which became one of the largest industries on Key West in the 19th century, in 1849. As it became an industry a fleet (about 350 boats) called "Hook Boats" soon filled the docks and shores. These hook boats were long and thin, the spongers would stand in the boat and use long poles with holes to pull the sponges from the reefs. this industry grew quickly eventually reaching 1400 men.
Sponging on Key West ended by the end of the century with the Spanish American war going on in 1898 and sponges being nearly all gone the spongers moved up to Tarpon Springs to continue their harvesting.