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David O’Keefe and Yap

August 18, 2011

The Smithsonian has an interesting article on David O’Keefe, who left Ireland after the potato famine, made his way to the US, then continued on to the Pacific, where eventually he made himself a rich trader in Yap, the island that famously used as money stones quarried from another island, some of which retained their value even if they were lost at sea during transit between the two islands. The photo shows one such stone. How O’Keefe ended up in Yap is an interesting tale. It’s not so clear why he left. The article mentions a host of likely reasons: lice infestation that hurt his coconut trade, friction with Germany who claimed Yap, an excess number of wives, and perhaps wanting to introduce his sons to the US.

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