Famous safe bought at auction, 1897.



Safe That Was Once Robbed of $800 in Gold Coin—At Custom House Sale Yesterday—Society Pick Up a Curio.

The Portuguese Mutual Benefit Society of Honolulu had carried to its meeting hall today a large iron safe which has a romance connected with it that is very interesting indeed. The safe was purchased by the President of the society at an auction sale at Morgan’s for the small sum of $35. There was no demand for the safe and the auctioneer congratulate himself upon securing the sum he did.

The safe was in the government service in the fifties during the reign of Kamehameha the Fourth. It was used to store the Custom House revenues and has held many thousands of dollars within its doors. On the evening of March 28, 1858, burglars entered the old Custom House, where the safe was stationed, and took from the drawers some $8573, nearly all of which was offered for any information that would lead to the detection of the guilty persons. They have never been discovered.

Warren W. Goodale, who died recently in Honolulu, while on his way from P. C. Jones’ residence to board a Nuuanu street car, was Collector General of Customs at the time. He was obliged to make good the loss to the Kingdom.

A good many of the old-timers remember the incident quite distinctly, but they have forgotten the details. Professor Alexander’s history gives very little information regarding the robbery. One pioneer said today that the thief had taken the key from Mr. Goodale’s trousers while he was sleeping, stolen the money, and then returned the key.

The safe is a large, bulky affair of the plainest design. When it was in the service of the Kingdom a combination key was all that was required to open it. After the robbery a bar and bolt was added, which improvement is on the safe to this day.

A safe of somewhat similar construction is in use at the Board of Education, but money is not kept in it.

(Hawaiian Star, 5/11/1897, p. 1)


Hawaiian Star, Volume IV, Number 1270, Page 1. May 11, 1897.

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