Still Our Museum Today! 1900.


The Bishop Collection of Curios.

One of the Most Interesting Sights In Honolulu Pleasantly Described.

HONOLULU, Feb. 8.—Above the inner entrance to the Museum of Hawaiian and Polynesian History is a tablet of polished mottled stone, in which is engraved in letters of gold the following inscription:

To the Memory of
A Bright Light Among Her Peo-
ple; Her Usefulness Survives
Her Earthly Life.

A Bernice Pauahi, she was related to the royal family of the Kamehameha dynasty, and the cousin of Queen Emma, two women who have indelibly inscribed their names upon the hearts of…


…all Hawaiians, whether by birth of association. She married the Hon. C. R. Bishop, and with her immense wealth and her kindly deeds through life, created a new life among the Hawaiians. Upon her death she left most of her wealth to endow the Kamehameha Schools, a separate school for boys and a separate one for girls. These schools are kept up entirely from the income of her estates, which have become so vast as to render it necessary to erect other buildings throughout the Islands in order to expend the revenue. In memory of his wife, the Hon. C. R. Bishop dedicated the museum in her name, laying aside a princely endowment. Collectors have scoured the Hawaiian Islands for curios of historical and intrinsic value and have succeeded by the most diligent effort and at great expense, in depositing in the museum an invaluable collection of ancient materials which would warm the cockles of the antiquarian’s heart beyond measure. Calabashes, large and small, ancient and modern, have come into the museum; some were in the possession of families, relics passed from one generation to another; others were found in the caves where in ancient times were buried kings and chiefs. Idols of grotesque shapes, dedicated to all the elements of nature, good and evil; some dedicated to Pele, the Goddess of Volcanoes; others to the poison god and to the fish god; some made of stone, others of the valuable koa and kou woods; one made of the trunk of the poison tree, its wood, upon being steeped in water, being a most powerful, yet undetectable poison which acts upon the heart, and which was used by the kahunas and chiefs. Beautiful feather cloaks of wonderful sheen and delicate texture, worn by Kamehameha the Great during his tour of conquest a century ago.

Then from all parts of Polynesia came trophies and relics; manufactures of kapa, or cloth made of the fibres of trees; shell ornaments, implements for preparing the foods of the people, and the receptacles for containing them; war-clubs, fashioned and turned and inlaid with shells in the most dextrous manner. All the South Sea Islands were visited, and they in turn furnished idols of ancient days; cloth, fishing implements, canoes, shellwork, beadwork, and personal ornaments fashioned from whatsoever nature placed at their disposal. In fact, nature has supplied every material for food, for clothing and for pleasure, and, strange as it may seem, every tree fibre, every root, every plant, every blossom, every part of a fish, every part of an animal—a pig—even to the entrails and stomach, are utilized in some way or another.

At the main entrance one is confronted by hideous wooden and stone gods of the Hawaiians, carved into fantastic designs, head and body all out of proportion to the human being which they are supposed to represent; wide, gaping mouths, marvellously turned noses, short, thick arms, rotund stomachs, or “opus,” as the natives term them, create a nightmare of fantasy in one’s mind. These gods were worshipped up to about eighty years ago, or just previous to the time of the arrival of the first missionaries from New England.

Royal Insignia.

Within a hall set apart for royal insignia, ancient and modern, are to be found the wonderful feather cloaks which were worn only by the kings and high chiefs, and persons of royal blood. The marvellous construction of these cloaks shows the exact skill of the natives of the earlier days. They are made of the yellow feathers of the Oo bird, which is now extinct; it was a small bird, and but two yellow feathers could be obtained from each one, showing what numbers of the birds must have been used in the making of a single cloak; the red feathers which are interspersed in regular designs, mostly triangles, are from the Iiwi bird; a network of fibres was first prepared, and upon this the feathers were sewn until the mantle was completed, large enough to drape the royal person from neck to sandalled foot. Some of these cloaks were used by Kamehameha the Great, and are greatly treasured by the museum people, for the reason that no cloaks of a similar kind can ever be duplicated, the birds being an extinct species now. The cards attached to each cloak giving its history bear the legend as the gift of the Hawaiian Government, and turned over to the museum in 1893, the date of the overthrow of the monarchy, showing that they were just previously in the possession of the royal family. One cloak was worn by Nahienaena, daughter of Kamehameha, on the occasion of the visit of Lord Byron to the Hawaiian Islands (or Sandwich Islands, as they were then called), in 1824, and since her death has been used as a royal pall. In some manner or another some cloaks found their way to London, but most of them have been bought back by the Hawaiians, in some cases paying an immense sum of money to gain possession of them. This exhibit forms one of the most interesting in the entire building.

War helmets made of the same kind of feathers are frequently seen in the Hawaiian exhibits, but in most cases they were the personal headgears of Kamehameha; they are of the Minerva type, and upon the head of a giant Hawaiian such as King Kamehameha, must have been very impressive.

Another interesting feature of the industry of the older natives is the great collection of kapa, or clothing, mostly made from the fibres of the wauke bush, a species of ramie. The bark is stripped until the fibre is left; this is then placed in water until it becomes a pasty pulp; it is then rinsed and placed upon specially prepared logs of kou wood, smooth and rounded on the upper side; short clubs, quite heavy, are then used to beat the pulp to the thinness of paper, the mass spreading out during the process, until it is large enough to make a dress or cloak, which will extend from head to foot; then short, thick, square-sided koa clubs, with carved designs upon them, are dipped into coloring fluid, and placed upon the kapa; by pressure, the design is transferred to the cloth, and so on until the entire piece is marked off in different colors and various designs. Most of the kapa displayed in the museum belonged to Mrs. Bishop or her cousin, Queen Emma, and was given to the institution by Mr. Bishop.

Then there are the ancient war spears, some of them twenty or twenty-five feet in length, made of hardened wood, carved and colored in various designs; most of those in the museum are supposed to have been used in the battles of Kamehameha; these are called pololus by the Hawaiians, and they are, of course, more than a century old.

(To be Continued.)

(Pacific Commercial Advertiser, 2/21/1900, p. 3)


The Pacific Commercial Advertiser, Volume XXXI, Number 5474, Page 3. February 21, 1900.

1 thought on “Still Our Museum Today! 1900.

  1. Pingback: Still Our Museum Today! 1900. | HDNP

Leave a Reply

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

You are commenting using your 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