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An Unusual Photo of Kamehameha I

Cover Image: Masthead of Ka Na’i Aupuni published on March 27, 1906.

Aloha Nūhou Monday!

In 1879, to help with the casting of the Kamehameha statue, John Tamatoa Baker, a Hawaiian politician and businessman, posed for photographs wearing the regalia representing Kamehameha I. Baker was clothed in the mahiole, or feather helmet, the ʻahu ʻula, or feather cape, and the kāʻei, or cordon.

Decades later in 1906, the editor of Ka Na’i Aupuni, Charles Kahiliaulani Notley filed and received copyright for a picture of Kamehameha I. In the image, Kamehameha stands tall on the cliffs of Nuʻuanu after his famous battle. Notley printed this illustration on a few occasions in the newspaper from 1909 to 1911 in celebration of Kamehameha Day.

Image: John Tamatoa Baker posing as model for statue of Kamehameha I, Hawaiʻi, 1879. Photo by Christian J. Hedemann. Bishop Museum Archives, SP 92195

Image sharing on social media is welcome. For all other uses please contact

Image: “Kamehameha I, Ka Na’i Aupuni o Hawaii, E Huli Ana Nana i na Koolau,” Kuokoa Home Rula, June 11, 1919, p. 1. (Courtesy of the Hawaiian Historical Society.)

Image: Loaa mai ka Hookuleana Aupuni no ke Kii o Ka Na’i Aupuni,” Ka Na’i Aupuni, June 11, 1906, p. 1.

Copyright Received for Image of the “Nation Conqueror”

Charles Kahiliaulani Notley received copyright documents from the Interior Office in Washington D.C. proving his copyright claim to the image of Kamehameha standing at the peak of Nuʻuanu shortly after the battle of Kaʻuaʻupali, the moment when Ka Naʻi Aupuni turned towards the Koʻolau districts, where the streaked reefs of Heʻeia are located.

This is a picture of Ka Naʻi Aupuni with his feather mahiole on his head, with his battle cape of feathers draped down his body and reaching his feet. His two hands grasp a wooden spear. He is belted with his kāʻei made of bird feathers wrapping around his shoulders.

Because Kahiliaulani received copyright, no one is allowed to publish this image without his approval.

If we are not mistaken, this picture will perhaps be published in various colors corresponding to the colors of the ʻōʻō, the mamo, and so forth.

You will learn about this painting if you ask Mr. Charles Kahiliaulani at our office.

(Ka Na’i Aupuni, 6/11/1906, p. 1)

This feathered cordon handed down from Līloa some 600 years ago will be a part of Bishop Museum’s upcoming exhibition, Ka ‘Ula Wena: Oceanic Red. The exhibition brought to you in Hawaiian and English explores manifestations of red in the landscapes, memory, and created expressions of Oceania. (May 25, 2024–January 12, 2025)

The phrase “ka ‘ula wena” refers to a glowing red, one whose warmth envelops Hawaiʻi each day, first at Kumukahi, the storied easternmost point of the Islands. It is the strength of the sun but also the bounty of reds found in the plants and animals it nourishes. Ka ‘ula wena is a red experienced beyond seeing. This redness is felt in mele (song), moʻolelo (stories), and the wena (warmth) of kinship. Red conveys a constellation of ideas densely populated by meaning. Red, beyond color, shade, or hue, elevates the senses, shifts emotions, affirms kinships, enlivens passions, consecrates the sacred, and sets apart the profane.

Click here for more information on the Premier Opening of Ka ʻUla Wena: Oceanic Red.

Image: This kāʻei hulu manu (feather sash), is believed to be the oldest piece of featherwork in the Bishop Museum collection. The sash came to ʻUmi from his father Līloa. Centuries later it was given to King Kamehameha I and remained in the royal family until it was gifted to Bishop Museum by Queen Liliʻuokalani in 1910. Photo by David Franzen, Bishop Museum Archives. Q 205260 © Bishop Museum

Image sharing on social media is welcome. For all other uses please contact 

Image: Kamehameha I, Hawaiʻi, Hedemann Collection. Bishop Museum Archives; Art Collection, SP 222699.

Image sharing on social media is welcome. For all other uses please contact 

This post is part of He Aupuni Palapala: Preserving and Digitizing the Hawaiian Language Newspapers, a partnership between Bishop Museum and Awaiaulu with assistance from Kamehameha Schools. Mahalo nui loa to Hawaii Tourism Authority for their support. Learn more about this project here.

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