Hawaii #52 (1891)

Hawaii #52 (1891)

Hawaii #52 (1891)
Hawaii #52 (1891)

The Hawaiian Islands (Mokupuni o Hawai‘i) are an archipelago of eight major islands, several atolls, numerous smaller islets, and undersea seamounts in the North Pacific Ocean, extending some 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) from the island of Hawaiʻi in the south to northernmost Kure Atoll. Captain James Cook visited the islands on January 18, 1778, and named them the “Sandwich Islands” in honor of John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich, who was one of his sponsors as the First Lord of the Admiralty. This name was in use until the 1840s, when the local name “Hawaii” gradually began to take precedence. The Hawaiian monarchy was overthrown in 1893 and the United States annexed the islands in 1898. The Hawaiian Islands have a total land area of 6,423.4 square miles (16,636.5 km²). Except for Midway, which is an unincorporated territory within the United States Minor Outlying Islands these islands and islets are administered as Hawaii — the 50th state of the United States since 1959. The capital city is Honolulu, on the island of Oahu.

Stamps were issued by Hawaii under four different administrations. The Kingdom of Hawaii (Aupuni Mōʻī o Hawaiʻi) was established in 1795 with the unification of the independent islands of Hawaiʻi, Oʻahu, Maui, Molokaʻi, and Lānaʻi into one government. In 1810 the entirety of the archipelago was unified when Kauaʻi and Niʻihau joined the kingdom willingly and without bloodshed or war. The first postage stamps of the Kingdom of Hawaii were issued in 1851. They came to be known as the “Missionaries” because they were primarily found on the correspondence of missionaries working in the Hawaiian Islands. Only a handful of these stamps have survived to the present day, and so they are amongst the great rarities of philately. The kingdom was overthrown in 1893, largely at the hands of United States citizens. The Provisional Government of Hawaii (Aupuni Kūikawā o Hawaiʻi) was proclaimed after the coup d’état on January 17, 1893 and issued overprinted stamps until the Republic of Hawaii (Lepupalika ʻo Hawaiʻi) was established on July 4, 1894. On August 12, 1898, Hawaii was annexed by the United States as a territory of the United States. The last stamps for Hawaii were issued in 1899 under United States administration. The Territory of Hawaii was formally established as part of the U.S. in June 14, 1900, at which time the stamps of Hawaii were superseded by those of the United States. Hawaii was admitted as a U.S. state on August 21, 1959.

Hawaii is one of four U.S. states — apart from the original thirteen — the Vermont Republic (1791), the Republic of Texas (1845), and the California Republic (1846) — that were independent nations prior to statehood. Along with Texas, Hawaii had formal, international diplomatic recognition as a nation.


Based on archaeological evidence, the earliest habitation of the Hawaiian Islands dates to around 300 CE, probably by Polynesian settlers from the Marquesas Islands. A second wave of migration from Raiatea and Bora Bora took place in the eleventh century. The date of the human discovery and habitation of the Hawaiian Islands is the subject of academic debate. Some archaeologists and historians believe there was an early settlement from the Marquesas. They think it was a later wave of immigrants from Tahiti around 1000 CE who introduced a new line of high chiefs, the kapu system, the practice of human sacrifice, and the building of heiau. This later immigration is detailed in Hawaiian mythology (moʻolelo) about Paʻao. Other authors say there is no archaeological or linguistic evidence for a later influx of Tahitian settlers and that Paʻao must be regarded as a myth.

The history of the islands is marked by a slow, steady growth in population and the size of the chiefdoms, which grew to encompass whole islands. Local chiefs, called aliʻi, ruled their settlements, and launched wars to extend their influence and defend their communities from predatory rivals. Ancient Hawaii was a caste-based society, much like that of Hindus in India.

The rulers of the Hawaiian islands (noho aliʻi o ko Hawaiʻi Pae ʻAina) are a line of Native Hawaiians who were independent rulers of various subdivisions of the islands of Hawaii. Their genealogy is traced to Hānalaʻanui and others. The aliʻi nui were responsible for making sure the people observed a strict kapu (a code of conduct relating to taboos). The system had rules regarding many aspects of Hawaiian social order, fishing rights and even where women could eat. After the death of Kamehameha I, the system was abolished, and the Hawaiian religion soon fell as the gods were abandoned.

By 1500, Hawaiians began to spread to the interiors of the islands and religion was more emphasized.

It is more than just “possible” that Spanish explorers arrived in the Hawaiian Islands in the sixteenth century —200 years before Captain James Cook’s first documented visit in 1778. Ruy López de Villalobos commanded a fleet of six ships that left Acapulco in 1542 bound for the Philippines with a Spanish sailor named Juan Gaetano aboard as pilot. Depending on the interpretation, Gaetano’s reports describe an encounter with either Hawaiʻi or the Marshall Islands. If de Villalobos’ crew spotted Hawaiʻi, Gaetano would be considered the first European to see the islands. Some scholars have dismissed these claims due to a lack of credibility.

Spanish archives contain a chart that depicts islands at the same latitude as Hawaiʻi but with a longitude ten degrees east of the islands. In this manuscript, the island of Maui is named La Desgraciada (The Unfortunate Island), and what appears to be Hawaiʻi Island is named La Mesa (The Table). Islands resembling Kahoolawe, Lanai, and Molokai are named Los Monjes (The Monks). For two-and-a-half centuries, Spanish galleons crossed the Pacific from Mexico along a route that passed south of Hawaiʻi on their way to Manila. The exact route was kept secret to protect the Spanish trade monopoly against competing powers.

Captain James Cook led three separate voyages to chart unknown areas of the globe for the British Empire. On his third voyage he encountered Hawaii. He first sighted the islands on January 18, 1778, the first documented contact by a European explorer with Hawaii. He anchored off the coast of Kauai and met with the local inhabitants to trade and obtain water and food for their continued voyage. Cook named the archipelago as the Sandwich Islands in honor of his sponsor John Montagu, 4th Earl of Sandwich. Cook published the islands’ location and rendered the native name as Owyhee. This spelling lives on in Owyhee County, Idaho. It was named after three native Hawaiian members of a trapping party who went missing in that area. The Owyhee Mountains were also named for them.

On February 2, 1778, Cook continued on to the coast of North America and Alaska searching for a Northwest Passage for approximately nine months. He returned to Hawaii chain to resupply, initially exploring the coasts of Maui and Hawaii Island to trade. He anchored in Kealakekua Bay in January 1779. After departing Kealakekua, he returned in February 1779 after a ship’s mast broke in bad weather. On the night of February 13, while anchored in the bay, one of his only two longboats (lifeboats used to ferry to/from ship/shore) was stolen by the Hawaiians. In retaliation, Cook tried to kidnap the aliʻi nui of Hawaii Island, Kalaniʻōpuʻu. On February 14, 1779, Cook confronted an angry crowd. Kanaʻina approached Cook, who reacted by striking the royal attendant with the broad side of his sword. Kanaʻina picked up the navigator and dropped him while another attendant, Nuaa killed Cook with a knife.

After Cook’s visit and the publication of several books relating his voyages, the Hawaiian islands attracted many European visitors: explorers, traders, and eventually whalers, who found the islands to be a convenient harbor and source of supplies. In 1782, Hawaii was passed to Kalaniʻōpuʻu’s son, Kīwalaʻō, while religious authority was passed to the ruler’s nephew, Kamehameha. During the 1780s and 1790s, chiefs often fought for power. Although successful in attacking both Oʻahu and Maui, he failed to secure a victory in Kauaʻi, his effort hampered by a storm and a plague that decimated his army. Eventually, Kauaʻi’s chief swore allegiance to Kamehameha. The unification ended the ancient Hawaiian society, transforming it into an independent constitutional monarchy crafted in the traditions and manner of European monarchs. After a series of battles lasting 15 years, all inhabited islands were subjugated under a single ruler, who became known as King Kamehameha the Great. He established the House of Kamehameha in 1795, a dynasty that ruled the kingdom until 1872.

The Kingdom of Hawaii was established with the help of western weapons and advisors, such as John Young and Isaac Davis. Early British influence can be seen in the design of the flag of Hawaiʻi, which bears the Union Jack in the top-left corner. European and other visitors introduced diseases to the once-isolated islands, causing the Hawaiian population to drop precipitously. Native Hawaiians had no resistance to Eurasian diseases, such as influenza, smallpox and measles.

By 1820, disease, famine and wars between the chiefs killed more than half of the Native Hawaiian population. During the 1850s, measles killed a fifth of Hawaii’s people. Historical records indicated the earliest Chinese immigrants to Hawaii originated from Guangdong Province; a few sailors arrived in 1778 with Captain Cook’s journey and more arrived in 1789 with an American trader, who settled in Hawaii in the late eighteenth century. It appears that leprosy was introduced by Chinese workers by 1830; as with the other new infectious diseases, it proved damaging to the Hawaiians.

After Kamehameha II inherited the throne in 1819, American Protestant missionaries to Hawaii converted many Hawaiians to Christianity. They used their influence to end many traditional practices of the people. During the reign of King Kamehameha III, Hawai’i turned into a Christian monarchy with the signing of the 1840 Constitution. Hiram Bingham I, a prominent Protestant missionary, was a trusted adviser to the monarchy during this period. Other missionaries and their descendants became active in commercial and political affairs, leading to conflicts between the monarchy and its restive American subjects. Catholic and Mormon missionaries were also active in the kingdom, but they converted a minority of the Native Hawaiian population. Missionaries from each major group administered to the leper colony at Kalaupapa on Molokaʻi, which was established in 1866 and operated well into the twentieth century. The best known were Father Damien and Mother Marianne Cope, both of whom were canonized in the early twenty-first century as Roman Catholic saints.


In the early nineteenth century, mail to and from Hawaii was carried by ship captains on an ad hoc basis. By 1849, partly as a side effect of the California Gold Rush and the settlement of California, mail to and from San Francisco had increased greatly. In response, the Hawaiian government established a post office and set postal rates. On September 9, 1850, Hawaii’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Robert Crichton Wyllie, asked San Francisco’s postmaster J. B. Moore to implement the treaty’s mail exchange provision quickly, to support Hawaii’s sovereignty against any potential French ambitions in the Hawaiian Islands. Moore agreed by early December, and the Honolulu Post Office opened on December 21, 1850. Henry Martyn Whitney, the first postmaster, was authorized to print stamps for those rates in June 1851, which he did using the printing press of The Polynesian, a weekly government newspaper.

The stamps — known to collectors as the “Missionary Issue” went on sale on October 1, 1851, at the Honolulu and Lahaina post offices. These were in three denominations covering three rates: the 2-cent stamp was for newspapers going to the U.S., the 5-cent value was for regular mail to the U.S., and the 13-cent value was for mail to the U.S. East Coast, combining the 5 cents of Hawaiian postage, a 2-cent ship fee, and 6 cents to cover the transcontinental US rate. The design was very simple, consisting only of a central numeral of the denomination framed by a standard printer’s ornament, with the denomination repeated in words at the bottom. The top line read Hawaiian / Postage for the 2- and 5-cent values, but H.I. & U.S. / Postage for the 13-cent value, reflecting its unusual role of paying two different countries’ postage. A thin line surrounded by a thicker line framed the stamp as a whole. All stamps were printed in the same shade of blue on pelure paper, an extremely thin tissue-like paper prone to tearing; 90% of known Missionaries are damaged in some way. Although the stamps were in regular use until as late as 1856, of the four values issued only about 200 have survived, of which 28 are unused, and 32 are on cover.

Hawaii’s second issue was produced by intaglio printing in Boston, thus the name “Boston Engraved.” Only two denominations were printed, 5 cents in blue and 13 cents in dark red, picturing a portrait of King Kamehameha III. The 5-cent value paid the Hawaiian domestic foreign mail charge to handle a letter and deliver it to a ship bound for San Francisco. The 13-cent value paid both the Hawaiian 5-cent rate and the United States 6-cent rate from San Francisco to the Eastern States plus the 2-cent ship fee paid to the captain of the vessel carrying the mail to San Francisco. They were printed on a thick paper, varying from thick to very thick. The printer used a plate layout of twenty subjects (4 x 5). This layout was used throughout all subsequent printings re-issues and official reproductions of these stamps.

On August 1, 1859, Hawaii prescribed rates for local and inter-island mail. Until then, mail of all classes sent within the kingdom was carried free of charge. The new rate required 2 cents on letters and 1 cent on newspapers.  These brought about the “Numerals” issues,  in denominations of 1 cent, 2 cent and 5 cents. There are numerous variations in ink color, paper, and type arrangements for these stamps, released between 1859 and 1865.

By 1861, Hawaiian postal officials were confident the 2-cent domestic rate would be retained so they decided to replace the “Numerals” with a more finished stamp. Because these new stamps were printed by a Boston printer using lithography, they and their engraved re-issues and engraved imitations are known collectively as the “Boston Lithographs.” These stamps bear a portrait of King Kamehameha IV. The design, as with all of the previous Hawaiian stamps, was quite crude.

Stung by criticism of their stamps in the philatelic press, the Hawaiian post office determined to obtain more finished stamps from the United States. Borrowing much of the design concept from the the Nova Scotia 10-cent stamp (Nova Scotia Scott #12), William J. Irwin, a clerk in the Honolulu post office, designed a 2-cent orange red stamp featuring a portrait of King Kamehameha IV. Postmaster General David Kalakaua, ordered the stamp to be produced the National Bank Note Company of New York, directing that they be perforated if it would cause little extra cost.

The first stamps printed by the National Bank Note Company, the 2-cent orange red Kamehameha IV stamp was released in 1864. Almost without exception, the next thirty years of Hawaiian stamps would feature members of the royal family. All of the Bank Notes stamps were intaglio printed on unwatermarked wove paper in sheets of 50, laid out 5 across and 10 down. In the earlier stamps, a plate of 50 subjects was used. In later printings, a plate of 100 subjects was used and the two panes were separated into sheets of 50. In 1879, the operations of the National Bank Note Company were taken over by the American Bank Note Company.

The December 1872 death of the bachelor King Kamehameha V — who did not name an heir — resulted in the popular election of Lunalilo over Kalākaua. Lunalilo died the next year, also without naming an heir. In 1874, the election was contested within the legislature between Kalākaua and Emma, Queen Consort of Kamehameha IV. After riots broke out, the United States and Britain landed troops on the islands to restore order. King Kalākaua was chosen as monarch by the Legislative Assembly by a vote of 39 to 6 on February 12, 1874.

Hawaii’s tourism industry began in 1882 when Matson Navigation Company, founded by William Matson, began sailing vessels between San Francisco and Hawaii carrying goods. His transports encouraged him to purchase passenger steamships that would carry tourists hoping to vacation in Hawaii from the mainland United States. Matson’s fleet included the SS Wilhelmina, rivaling the best passenger ships serving traditional Atlantic routes. With the boom in interest of Hawaiian vacations by America’s wealthiest families in the late 1920s, Matson added the SS Mariposa, SS Monterey and SS Lurline (one of many Lurlines) to the fleet.

On January 20, 1887, the United States began leasing Pearl Harbor. Shortly afterwards, a group of mostly non-Hawaiians calling themselves the Hawaiian Patriotic League began the Rebellion of 1887. They drafted their own constitution on July 6, 1887. The new constitution was written by Lorrin Thurston, the Hawaiian Minister of the Interior who used the Hawaiian militia to threaten Kalākaua. Kalākaua was forced to dismiss his cabinet ministers and sign a new constitution that stripped the king of much of his authority. It established a property qualification for voting that effectively disenfranchised most Hawaiians and immigrant laborers and favored the wealthier, white elite. Resident whites were allowed to vote but resident Asians were not. Because the 1887 Constitution was signed under threat of violence, it is known as the “Bayonet Constitution”. King Kalākaua, reduced to a figurehead, reigned until his death in 1891. His sister, Queen Liliʻuokalani, succeeded him; she was the last monarch of Hawaiʻi.

In 1893, Queen Liliʻuokalani announced plans for a new constitution. On January 14, 1893, a group of mostly Euro-American business leaders and residents formed the American Committee of Safety to stage a coup d’état against the kingdom and seek annexation by the United States. United States Government Minister John L. Stevens, responding to a request from the Committee of Safety, summoned a company of U.S. Marines. Queen Liliʻuokalani was overthrown and replaced by a provisional government composed of members of the Committee of Safety.

The coup left the queen under house arrest at Iolani Palace. The Kingdom briefly became the Republic of Hawaii, before annexation by the United States in 1898. Advised about supposed threats to non-combatant American lives and property by the Committee of Safety, Stevens summoned a company of uniformed U.S. Marines from the USS Boston and two companies of U.S. sailors to take up positions at the U.S. Legation, Consulate and Arion Hall. On the afternoon of January 16, 1893, 162 armed sailors and Marines aboard the USS Boston in Honolulu harbor came ashore under orders of neutrality. The sailors and Marines did not enter the Palace grounds or take over any buildings, and never fired a shot, but their presence intimidated royalist defenders. Historian William Russ states, “the injunction to prevent fighting of any kind made it impossible for the monarchy to protect itself.”

Joseph Oat replaced the ailing Walter Hill as Postmaster General shortly after the Provisional Government seized power. Hawaii’s postage stamps with portraits of the royals were embarrassing to the revolutionaries but ordering new stamps would take time and also might be a total waste of money if the mood in Washington, D.C. came around to favor annexation. Oat recommended overprinting the Royal Portrait stamps as a quick and cheap option. Hawaii’s provisional cabinet approved the idea. A design was approved and the stamps were sent to the Gazette Company to be overprinted with the inscription Provisional / GOVT. / 1893. Red ink or black ink was used in the process of overprinting depending upon which gave the better contrast.

Knowing Hawaiian stamps were especially popular with stamp collectors worldwide, Postmaster General Oat used newspapers and other publications to broadcast Hawaii’s decision to overprint the remaining portrait stamps. He announced plans to have them on sale to the public on May 20, 1893. Dealers, collectors and speculators from the United States and Europe flocked to Hawaii to attend the event and secure stocks. The date of issue became chaotic around the Honolulu Post Office as speculators, stamp dealers and stamp collectors crowded the room and flowed out into the street. For several days, other work of the Post Office virtually ceased as regular patrons were unable to get through the swarm.

Controversy ensued in the following years as the Queen tried to regain her throne. The administration of President Grover Cleveland commissioned the Blount Report, which concluded that the removal of Liliʻuokalani had been illegal. The U.S. government first demanded that Queen Liliʻuokalani be reinstated, but the Provisional Government refused.

Congress conducted an independent investigation, and on February 26, 1894, submitted the Morgan Report, which found all parties, including Minister Stevens — with the exception of the Queen — “not guilty” and not responsible for the coup. Partisans on both sides of the debate questioned the accuracy and impartiality of both the Blount and Morgan reports over the events of 1893. In 1993, the US Congress passed a joint Apology Resolution regarding the overthrow; it was signed by President Bill Clinton. The resolution apologized for the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom and acknowledged that the United States had annexed Hawaii unlawfully.

Following the overthrow of the monarchy a military was formed on January 27, 1893, and put under the command of Colonel John Harris Soper. This military consisted of four companies: three national guard companies and one regular army company. The national guard companies were: the A Company made up of ethnic German volunteers, commanded by Charles W. Zeigler; B Company made up of members of the Honolulu Rifles, commanded by Hugh Gunn; and C Company made up of ethnic Portuguese volunteers, commanded by Joseph M. Camara. The regulars were D company made up, like B Company, from the Honolulu Rifles, commanded by John Good.

The military was active under the Provisional Government of Hawaii where they were activated in the Leprosy War in 1893 and the Republic of Hawaii and were again activated during the 1895 Counter-Revolution in Hawaii in 1895. After Hawaii was annexed becoming the Territory of Hawaii in 1898, the companies entered the Army National Guard system and became part of the Hawaii Army National Guard.

Under the new administration, the Government was made more restrictive, including denying citizenship to Chinese immigrants. The Hawaii Department of Education drove the Hawaiian language to near extinction in favor of English. They also restricted voting from 14,000 under the Bayonet Constitution to 4,000 people, most of them politicians in power of the population of approximately 100,000.

The Provisional Government was dealt a huge blow when United States President Benjamin Harrison, who was supportive of the annexation of Hawaii, was voted out of the White House. Grover Cleveland, an anti-imperialist, assumed the presidency and right away worked to stop the treaty of annexation. Just a month before Cleveland became president, Lorrin A. Thurston had struck a deal with Congress as it prepared to ratify a treaty of annexation. Cleveland, having heard the appeals of Princess Kaʻiulani on behalf of her imprisoned aunt, withdrew the treaty and launched an investigation of the matter.

Cleveland appointed James Henderson Blount of Macon, Georgia, as Commissioner Paramount and Minister to Hawaii. His chief mission was to investigate the overthrow of Liliuokalani’s government. Blount concluded in his report that the overthrow had utilized the aid of the John L. Stevens, United States Minister to Hawaii who ordered the landing of troops from the USS Boston. On the basis of Blount’s report, Cleveland sent Albert Sydney Willis of Kentucky to Honolulu as Minister to Hawaii with secret instructions. Willis, initially rebuffed by the queen, obtained Liliuokalani’s promise to grant an amnesty after a considerable delay. After securing that promise, Willis made a formal demand for the dissolution of the Provisional Government and complete restoration of the monarchy, although unbeknownst to him by that time it was too late since Cleveland had already referred the matter to Congress. Taking the demand at face value, on December 23, 1893, Sanford B. Dole sent a reply to Willis flatly refusing to surrender the authority of the Provisional Government to the deposed queen.

In response to Cleveland’s referral of the matter, the Senate passed a resolution empowering its Foreign Relations Committee to hold public hearings under oath, and cross-examine witnesses, to investigate U.S. involvement in the revolution and also to investigate whether it had been proper for President Cleveland to appoint Blount and give him extraordinary powers to represent the U.S. and intervene in Hawaii without Senate confirmation. John Tyler Morgan, an expansionist pro-annexation Senator from Alabama, chaired the commission.

The findings of the Morgan Report contradicted the assertions of which he was not a part of earlier made by Blount and former President Cleveland, and on February 26, 1894, at 10:43 PM was submitted. It concluded that the U.S. troops had remained completely neutral during the overthrow, exonerated Minister Stevens in landing troops, and concluded Blount’s appointment and investigation without congressional approval were constitutional. However, the nine member Senate Foreign Relations Committee that submitted the report could not agree on a final conclusion, and the oft-executive summary was signed only by Morgan himself.

Following the Morgan Report, and the Turpie Resolution on May 31, 1894, in which Congress prohibited any further intervention by the president and other government officials against the Provisional Government of Hawaii, Cleveland officially declared the Provisional Government as “neither de jure nor de facto”.

Following the Morgan Report, and the Turpie Resolution which stated a policy of non-interference in Hawaiian affairs by the U.S., Lorrin A. Thurston and the Provisional Government of Hawaii convened a constitutional convention and established the Republic of Hawaii on July 4, 1894. American lawyer Sanford B. Dole became the first (and only) President of the Republic. The constitution provided that the presidential term of office would be six years and specified that individuals could not be elected to consecutive terms in office. The President appointed, subject to the confirmation of the Senate, members of his Cabinet. Cabinet members were considered usurers of both houses of the Legislature, they could participate in proceedings, but could not vote as they were not elected members of the Legislature. If the presidency became vacant, the Minister of Foreign Affairs could serve as Acting President until the Legislature voted to elect a successor.

As royalists had boycotted the republic and refused to take the oath of allegiance to run for office, the American Union Party won every seat in the 1894 and 1897 elections. There was also a property requirement of $1500 net worth to vote for Senators, kept from the 1887 constitution, which ran counter to the prevailing trends of that period. The 1897 election had the lowest turnout in Hawaii’s history with less than one percent of the population going to the polls. The new Republic Constitution allowed only men that were natural born citizens of the Hawaiian Kingdom, or naturalized Citizens of the Kingdom to vote in the new Republic. This eliminated most all Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, and European immigrants from voting. As a result, Polynesians had a two-thirds majority voting block and were the highest represented group in the Republic Legislature. The Speaker of the House of the Republic was also a Polynesian, J.L. Kaulukou.

On February 28, 1894, the first five of the nine-stamp “Pictorial Issue”, printed by the American Bank Note Company, were issued. E. W. Holdsworth designed the initial five stamps, having won a design competition. Another stamp followed on October 27, 1894. Three more stamps were issued in 1899. The 1899 stamps were color changes from three of the first five stamps and were issued after Hawaii became a United States possession. Three different governments issued the nine stamps of the Pictorial Issue — the Provisional Government of 1893-1894, the Republic of Hawaii and as a possession of the United States. The twelve cents stamp is the only one of these nine stamps to bear the name Republic of Hawaii. After annexation, the formerly independent “Republic of Hawaii” continued to exist as a United States possession for purposes of conducting all internal affairs, including the operation of its independent postal service.

In 1889, Hawaiian native revolutionary Robert William Wilcox had led an army of 150 Hawaiians, Europeans and Chinese in rebellion against the Hawaiian Kingdom. Wilcox was brought to trial but released as juries refused to find him guilty of wrongdoing. In 1895, Wilcox participated in another attempt, this time to overthrow the Republic of Hawaii and to restore Queen Liliʻuokalani to power. Royalist supporters landed a cargo of arms and ammunition from San Francisco, California in a secret Honolulu location. At the location on January 6, 1895, a company of royalists met to draft plans to capture the government buildings by surprise. A premature encounter with a squad of police alarmed Honolulu and the plans were abandoned as the royalists were quickly routed. Wilcox spent several days in hiding in the mountains before being captured. The son of one annexationist was killed. Several other skirmishes occurred during the following week resulting in the capture of the leading conspirators and their followers. The government found arms and ammunition and some potentially evidential documents on the premises of Washington Place, Liliʻuokalani’s private residence, outlining in her own handwriting who she would select for her cabinet after the counter revolution, further implicating her in the plot.

The Republic of Hawaii put the former queen on trial. The prosecution asserted that Liliʻuokalani had committed misprision of treason, because she allegedly knew that guns and bombs for the Wilcox attempted counter-revolution had been hidden in the flower bed of her personal residence at Washington Place. Liliʻuokalani denied these accusations. She was sentenced to 5 years imprisonment at hard labor and a fine of $10,000. However, the imprisonment was served in a large bedroom with a piano, bathroom with hot and cold running water bathtub and sink at Iolani Palace where she was allowed two maids in waiting while under guard by military personnel at all times. After eight months, she was allowed to go to her Washington Place home and kept under house arrest by President Sanford B. Dole. A year later, she was granted a full pardon including the right to travel. President Dole gave her a passport to travel to Washington D.C. to visit her friends and in-laws. However, she used that opportunity to lobby the U.S. Senate in 1897 against annexation.

Upon the inauguration of William McKinley as the 25th President of the United States on March 4, 1897, the Republic of Hawaii resumed negotiations for annexation, which continued into the summer of 1898. By this time, President McKinley and Republican leaders saw the islands as having gained a new strategic relevance in the central Pacific Ocean in the wake of the just concluded Spanish–American War, as argued by naval strategist Alfred Thayer Mahan.

Both Japan and the United Kingdom showed interest in taking control of Hawaii. On June 16, 1898, after a unanimous vote of the Republic of Hawaii Legislature, a new treaty of annexation offer was signed. As the U.S. Senate appeared uncertain to have a two-thirds majority to ratify the treaty alone, its supporters took alternative measures by passing it by way of a Congressional Executive Agreement method, the “Newlands Resolution” named for Congressman Newlands that introduced the bill through which the treaty of cession offered by The Republic of Hawaii was accepted. As it turned out, it was ratified and confirmed in the Senate by a vote of 42 to 21 (two-thirds majority) after all. The House of Representatives accepted the Newlands Resolution by a vote of 209 to 91 (over two-thirds majority). President McKinley signed the bill accepting the Republic of Hawaii’s treaty offer on July 7, 1898. The formal claim of transfer of sovereignty took place on August 12, 1898 with the hoisting of the “Stars and Stripes” flag of the United States over the former royal Iolani Palace and renaming the island cluster as the Territory of Hawaii, which was formally organized two years later. Former President Sanford B. Dole was appointed Hawaii’s first territorial governor.

The Newlands Resolution established a five-member commission to study which laws were needed in the newly organized Territory of Hawaii. The commission’s final report was submitted to Congress for a debate which lasted over a year. Many Congressmen and Senators raised objections that establishing an elected territorial government in Hawaii would lead to the admission of a state with a “non-white” majority in the then racist and segregated era of “Jim Crow” laws in the South at the time.

The United States Congress finally agreed to grant Hawaii a popularly elected government of its own and 25th President William McKinley signed a law passed by the Congress, “An Act to Provide a Government for the Territory of Hawaii”, also known as the Hawaiian Organic Act of 1900. The Organic Act established the Office of the Territorial Governor, an office appointed by the sitting American president and was usually from his own political party. The territorial governor “served at the pleasure” of the President of the United States and nominated by him and confirmed by the Senate and could be replaced at any time.

Before June 14, 1900, stamps of the United States were distributed to all the Hawaiian post offices. A minor run on Hawaiian stamps occurred before the change to territorial status and at midnight on June 13, all Hawaiian stamps became invalid for postage. Remaining stocks of Hawaiian stamps were sent to Honolulu on June 15 where they were boxed and sent to Washington, D. C. and burned on February 9, 1901. Interim accounts were made of the remainders but a final accounting has not been located so the total number of stamps destroyed is somewhat uncertain.

With annexation, the United States saw Hawaii as its most strategic military asset. McKinley and his successor U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt expanded the military presence in Hawaii and established several key bases, some still in use today. By 1906, the entire island of Oahu was being fortified at the coastlines with the construction of a “Ring of Steel,” a series of gun batteries mounted on steel coastal walls. One of the few surviving batteries completed in 1911, Battery Randolph, is today the site of the U.S. Army Museum of Hawaii.

As a territory of the United States, sugarcane plantations gained a new infusion of investment. By getting rid of tariffs imposed on sugarcane sent to the United States, planters had more money to spend on equipment, land and labor. Increased capital resulted in increased production. Five kingdom-era corporations benefited from annexation, becoming multi-million dollar conglomerations: Castle & Cooke, Alexander & Baldwin, C. Brewer & Co., American Factors (later Amfac), Theo H. Davies & Co. Together, the five companies dominated the Hawaiian economy as the “Big Five.”

James Dole, also known as the Pineapple King, arrived in Hawaii in 1899. He purchased land in Wahiawa and established the first pineapple plantation in Hawaii. Confident that canned pineapples could become a popular food export, Dole built a cannery near his first plantation in 1901. Hawaiian Pineapple Company, later renamed Dole Food Company, was born. With his profits soaring, Dole expanded and built a larger cannery in Iwilei near Honolulu Harbor in 1907. The Iwilei location made his main operations more accessible to labor. The cannery at Iwilei was in operation until 1991. Dole found himself in the midst of an economic boom industry. In response to growing pineapple demand in 1922, Dole purchased the entire island of Lanai and transformed the Hawaiian tropical low shrublands into the largest pineapple plantation in the world. For a long stretch of time, Lanai would produce 75% of the world’s pineapple and become immortalized as the “Pineapple Island.”

By the 1930s, Hawaii became the pineapple capital of the world and pineapple production became its second largest industry. After World War II, there were a total of eight pineapple companies in Hawaii. Today pineapples are imported from Thailand and elsewhere; few are commercially grown in Hawaii.

From 1941 to 1944, following the attack on Pearl Harbor and America’s entry into World War II, Territorial Governors Joseph B. Pointdexter and Ingram M. Stainback stripped themselves of their administrative powers by declaring martial law. With the territorial constitution suspended, the legislature and supreme court were also dissolved indefinitely. Military law was enforced on all residents of Hawaii. The formation of the military government was mostly done by Maj. Gen. Thomas H. Green of the U.S Army Judge Advocate General’s Corps, who became Military Attorney General. General Walter Short appointed himself military governor December 7, 1941. He assumed control of Hawaii and governed from ʻIolani Palace, which was quickly barricaded and fitted with trenches. He was relieved December 17 and charged with dereliction of duty, accused of making poor preparations in case of attack before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Under martial law, every facet of Hawaiian life was under the control of the military governor. His government fingerprinted all residents over the age of six, imposed blackouts and curfews, rationed food and gasoline, censored the news and media, censored all mail, prohibited alcohol, assigned business hours, and administered traffic and special garbage collection. The military governor’s laws were called General Orders. Violations meant punishment without appeal by military tribunals. The military government instituted employment stasis by General Order No. 91 (no leaving an employer without a letter of good standing); and the banning of courts that required witnesses and juries. Traffic violations were said to have netted prison terms and the military courts evidenced bias against civilians. There ensued a turf battle between the federal Departments of War, Justice and Interior, in which the middle one played a mediating or flip-flopping role. Indeed, it appeared War if not the Pacific Command was operating autonomously.

The Territory of Hawaii (Panalāʻau o Hawaiʻi) existed until August 21, 1959, when its territory was admitted to the Union as the fiftieth U.S. state, the State of Hawaii. In March 1959, both houses of Congress passed the Hawaii Admission Act and U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed it into law. On June 27, 1959, a plebiscite was held asking Hawaii residents to vote on accepting the statehood bill. Hawaii voted 17 to 1 to accept. On August 21, church bells throughout Honolulu were rung upon the proclamation that Hawaii was finally a US state. The Hawaii Admission Act explicitly specified that the State of Hawaii would not include Palmyra Atoll, The Midway Islands, Johnston Atoll, Sand Island (off-shore from Johnston Island), or Kingman Reef.

Scott #52 bearing the portrait of Queen Liliʻuokalani on a 2-cent dull violet stamp released on November 7, 1891, perforated 12. It was the final Royal Portraits stamp design printed by the American Bank Note Company. Born Lydia Liliʻu Loloku Walania Wewehi Kamakaʻeha on September 2, 1838, in Honolulu, Liliʻuokalani was a composer of Hawaiian music, an author, and the last reigning monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii. She reigned from January 29, 1891, until the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii on January 17, 1893.

Liliʻuokalani’s parents were Analea Keohokālole and Caesar Kapaʻakea, but she was hānai (informally adopted) at birth to Abner Pākī and Laura Kōnia. She was raised with the family of Bernice Pauahi Bishop, founder of the Kamehameha Schools. Baptized as a Christian and educated at the Royal School, she and her siblings and cousins were deemed eligible for the throne by King Kamehameha III.

She married American-born John Owen Dominis, who later became the Governor of Oahu. The couple had no children of their own but had several adopted children. After the accession of her brother, Kalākaua to the throne as monarch in 1874, she and her siblings were given Western style titles of Prince and Princess. In 1877, after her younger brother Leleiohoku II’s death, she was proclaimed as heir apparent to the throne. During the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria, she represented her brother as an official envoy to the United Kingdom.

Liliʻuokalani became monarch on January 29, 1891, after her brother’s death. During her reign, she attempted to draft a new constitution which would restore the power of the monarchy and the voting rights of the economically disenfranchised. Threatened by her attempts to abrogate the Bayonet Constitution, pro-American elements in Hawaii overthrew the monarchy on January 17, 1893. After the failed 1895 Wilcox Rebellion, the government of the Republic of Hawaii placed the former Queen under house arrest at the ʻIolani Palace.

Liliʻuokalani and her siblings are regarded by the Hawaiian Music Hall of Fame as the Na Lani ‘Ehā (The Royal Four) for their patronage and enrichment of Hawaii’s musical culture and history. Liliʻuokalani was an accomplished author and songwriter. Her book Hawaiʻi’s Story by Hawaiʻi’s Queen gave her view of the history of her country and her overthrow. Liliʻuokalani was known for her musical talent. She is said to have played guitar, piano, organ, ʻukulele and zither, and also sang alto, performing Hawaiian and English sacred and secular music. She would find herself in music. After Liliʻuokalani was imprisoned in the ʻIolani Palace, she was denied literature and newspapers, essentially cutting her off from her people. However, she was not forbidden from having a paper and pencil, so she could continue to compose music while she was in confinement. According to Liliʻuokalani, she “found, notwithstanding disadvantages, great consolation in composing”.

Liliʻuokalani used her musical compositions as a way to express her feelings for her people, her country, and what was happening in the political realm in Hawaii. One example of the way her music reflected her political views is her translation of the Kumulipo, the Hawaiian creation chant. While under house arrest, Liliʻuokalani feared she would never leave the palace alive, so she translated the Kumulipo in hopes that the history and culture of her people would never be lost. The ancient chants record her family’s genealogy back to the origin story of Hawaii.

Another of her compositions was Aloha ʻOe, a song she had written previously and transcribed during her confinement. In her writings, she says, “At first I had no instrument, and had to transcribe the notes by voice alone; but I found, notwithstanding disadvantages, great consolation in composing, and transcribed a number of songs. Three found their way from my prison to the city of Chicago, where they were printed, among them the ‘Aloha Oe’ or ‘Farewell to Thee’, which became a very popular song.” Originally written as a lovers’ good-bye, the song came to be regarded as a symbol of, and lament for, the loss of her country.

Living out the remainder of her later life as a private citizen, Liliʻuokalani died at her residence Washington Place in Honolulu on November 11, 1917.

Much of the philatelic information in this article has been sourced from the award-winning website Post Office in Paradise: Mail & Postage Stamps of Nineteenth Century Hawaii. It is an excellent resource for all those interested in Hawaiian philately and postal history. As with most stamp-issuing entities, the postage stamps of Hawaii are just a starting point as there is a plethora of interesting “back-of-the-book” items such as revenue and official stamps, postal stationary in addition to the rich variety of postal history that is simply fascinating to collectors such as myself.


Kingdom of Hawaii Coat of Arms
Kingdom of Hawaii Coat of Arms
Seal of The Republic of Hawaii, 1894-1900
Seal of The Republic of Hawaii, 1894-1900
Seal of the Territory of Hawaii, 1900-1959
Seal of the Territory of Hawaii, 1900-1959


2 thoughts on “Hawaii #52 (1891)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.