National Geographic : 1954 May
Honolulu, Mid-Ocean Capital The YWCA has had a program to orient the 1,000 war brides brought here from Tokyo and Berlin, Manila and Paris, by returning GI's. How confusing it must be to a flaxen haired German girl from Bonn, married to a Japanese-American named Sakai or Yama guchi, to settle in this modern American city! No more confusing, perhaps, than it was to the prim wives of the first missionaries who found the sparsely clothed population emerging from idolatry. These missionaries, paid $500 a year to Christianize the polyga mous Hawaiians, felt it a responsibility to Americanize them as well. Soon the natives were dressing in the full-length cotton Mother Hubbards that inspire today's fad for the holoku (a loose, princess-style dress), reading the Bible, and referring to their mud paths as streets with New England-sounding names like King and Hotel. Russians in Hawaii in 1816 Many nations have played parts in Hono lulu's history. In 1816 a company of Russian traders laid out the ground plan for a fort at the harbor mouth, thus giving downtown Fort Street its name. But rapid intervention by the native ruler forced them to withdraw to another island. In 1839 the French sent a frigate to Hono lulu to insure freedom of action for Catholic missionaries. Under the guns of the ship, all demands were agreed to, a bond was paid guaranteeing tolerance for Catholics, and Frenchmen were given extraterritorial status. Similarly, there was a brief British "con quest" of Honolulu in 1843. British subjects had complained of unfair treatment in the native courts; a warship was sent to see that they received justice. The king, despairing of meeting the commander's terms, ceded the kingdom to Great Britain. London later re pudiated the forced surrender, and the islands regained their independence. The strong English influence exerted by early explorers like Vancouver is reflected in Hawaii's flag, which carries the Union Jack in the upper left corner (page 581). Honolulu was the capital of the Hawaiian monarchy until 1893. Then, in a revolution of comic-opera proportions, the haole element led in overthrowing Queen Liliuokalani and establishing a provisional government. Fail ing to persuade the United States to annex the islands immediately, the revolutionaries set up the Republic of Hawaii. It took four years for this regime to achieve annexation by the United States, August 12, 1898.* So Hawaii and Honolulu, its capital, have been a part of the United States for 56 years. Gov. Samuel Wilder King has been a leader in the fight for statehood. "The process of becoming a State is simple," he says. "Get ting action is what has caused delay. We had a convention in 1950 that drafted a con stitution, later adopted by popular vote." The statehood bill requires that the Presi dent proclaim Hawaii officially the 49th State immediately after the Islands have elected representatives to Congress. "What difference will statehood make?" I asked. "We already pay all Federal taxes, are governed by all Federal laws." "We will have the right to elect the man who sits here," Governor King said, tapping his leather chair, "and we will have repre sentation in the Senate and the House. But, most of all, we will feel that a long-standing promise has been fulfilled." Travel men wonder if statehood will detract from the islands' charm, make them seem prosaic. Or will mainlanders, reassured about currency and passports, inoculations and drinking water-which have caused some of the uninformed to hesitate-come in ever greater number? Though there is a modern capitol on the drawing boards to replace baroque Iolani Palace, most attractions will remain. Museum Shows Feathered Cloaks The Nuuanu Pali, the wind-blown pass to newer Honolulu, will still afford its exalted view of verdant pastures, Kaneohe Bay, and the blue-green Pacific (page 599). The Bishop Museum's collection of Ha waiian artifacts is the world's best. Dis played are gold and red cloaks adorned with feathers for old Hawaiian kings (page 595), amulets of whalebone, spears carved by stone adz from ebony-black kauwila wood, and tapa cloth beaten from paper mulberry bark and decorated with primitive designs with pigments from berries and plant juices. Tourist cameras can still focus on early prefab homes that missionaries cut to size in New England and brought around the Horn. The houses are preserved now as a memorial in Honolulu's Civic Center. * See "Hawaii, Then and Now," by William R. Castle, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, October, 1938.