More on the Palace mirrors, 1913.


Editor Honolulu Star-Bulletin,

Sir:—The readers of the daily Advertiser of the 10th inst. were treated to one of the most unmitigated pieces of newspaper rot that I have ever been privileged to read. The crowning feature of the article is in the fact that it is false from the first to the last sentence.

While attending to my work I observed employees of the public works department removing two defective mirrors which needed slight repairing. He asked me if I knew of any other defected mirror frames. We investigated, and finding none, Mr. Cole then left the building. On returning to my work I saw a stranger approaching, who made some inquiries about the building, which I answered to the best of my ability.

This is the true story of the “Curio Seekers” trying to rifle the capitol building.


[Here is an interesting response from the “Roland Green” of the previous articles.]

(Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 1/11/1913, p. 4)


Honolulu Star-Bulletin, Volume XX, Number 6482, Page 4. January 11, 1913.

Mahalo to Zita Cup Choy for pointing out this related article in the Pacific Commercial Advertiser, 1913.


King Kalakaua’s Mirrors the Pet Object of Souvenir Hunters—Kamehameha Knocked.

Daring souvenir collectors, willing to run the risk of a term in prison to gratify their desires, made a bold attempt to carry off a number of mirrors and bronze frames from the Capitol Building some time Wednesday night. It is believed that the collectors were frightened while at work and for that reason did not accomplish their purpose.

Roland Green, keeper of the Capitol, yesterday morning discovered the work of the would-be souvenir owners on the first terrace of the Ewa side of the building. They had succeeded in partially breaking two of the mirrors from their fastenings on the wall. A board holding one of the glasses in place was broken in two in tearing it from its lodgment. Green had the glasses and bronze frames removed to the basement of the Capitol where they will be repaired, resilvered and returned to their positions on the Capitol wall.

During the past few years several of these mirrors have been torn from their fastenings and carried away. Though malihinis, sightseeing and treasure hunting on the island, have been accused of the depredations it is said that kamaainas have had knowledge of at least one or two of them.

Kamehameha’s statue has not escaped the destructive onslaughts of the vandals. Several heads of the little bronze images at the base of the statue have been knocked off and carried away by the curio-seekers.

The mirrors, however, seem to have the most attraction. These mirrors are set in elaborate circular bronze frames surmounted by the coat of arms of King Kalakaua, bearing the initials of that monarch supported by two perfectly carved cherubs. It is stated that these frames originally cost $250 each and many were installed around the terraces of each floor of the palace. The idea of putting them in place is said to have originated with the King and were designed for the purpose of aiding in illuminating the palace grounds.

This was in 1883. Gas was then the modern method of illumination in Honolulu as well as on the mainland. Gas fixtures were arranged in front of each of the glasses. When these were lighted the mirrors were intended to cast the reflection to the surrounding grounds. It is said that this innovation cost the monarchy about $20,000.

For a year after the completion of the new palace it is said that King Kalakaua had one of the best illuminated palaces in the world, though practically the full capacity of the local gas plant was required to accomplish this purpose. By that time the good King learned that, after all, his bright mirrors were not the success they should be. Soon afterward the electric lights came and the gas fixtures were removed. Since then the mirrors have not only been sought after by curio hunters but have been the object of much speculation on the part of tourists.

Many of these strangers have figured that the mirrors were installed on the palace walls by the King with a view of aweing visiting native subjects, many of whom, according to fiction, had never gazed into a looking-glass.

It remained for Keeper Green to give the true version of their cause of their installation.

“It is strange how some people look upon this Capitol Building as a curio pile,” said a territorial official yesterday. “The fact that the former palace of the King is being used as the seat of a democratic government seems to appeal to them strongly and but for the vigilance used by the watchman and others the entire building would be carried off by souvenir hunters within a few years.”

[This is most likely the basis of the Hawaiian-Language article in the Kuokoa, 1/17/1913, p. 6.]

(Pacific Commercial Advertiser, 1/10/1913, p. 6)


Pacific Commercial Advertiser, Volume LVII, Number 9494, Page 6. January 10, 1913.

Attempted theft from Iolani Palace, 1913.


Flagrant was the actions of some vandals who went and removed some mirrors from the wall of the palace the other night of this past Wednesday; however, [as the saying goes,] “Learn to be a warrior; learn also to run away.” And perhaps it was as if due to their being full of fear, that the ones who went to take the mirrors, left them on the lanai without them succeeding in taking them.

When Roland Green, the palace guard, arrived the next Thursday morning, the mirrors were left on the Ewa-side lanai, and he immediately surmised that the people who carried out the vandalism were people who sought out antiquities to sell them.  These mirrors were hung on the wall of the palace and they were there for many years. They were taken by Mr. Green to his place to fix, and to reapply the mercury behind the mirrors.

In many years past, there were numerous mirrors removed from the walls and taken. The statue of Kamehameha standing on the grounds of the court house was also vandalized. One of the heads of a brass image below Kamehameha was severed.

According to what is said, the cost of one of the mirrors and related expenses is $250 each; and there are many of those mirrors that are hung around the first floor walls of the lanai surrounding the palace. The idea for the hanging of these mirrors on the walls was devised by King Kalakaua himself; the intent it is said was to brighten the grounds of the palace.

(Kuokoa, 1/17/1913, p. 6)


Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, Buke XLIX, Helu 3, Aoao 6. Ianuari 17, 1913.