Missing Pages, Missing History

Cover Image: Masthead of Ka Elele Hawaii published on December 15, 1854.

Image: The death announcement of King Kamehameha III. Notice the dark black borders, called “reversed column rules.” This effect was used in the newspapers to signify a time for public mourning. Ka Elele Hawaii, December 15, 1854.  

Aloha Nūhou Monday! 

Dear Reader, while there are pages and pages of Hawaiian language newspaper available online with a line here or a column there that are illegible, papers with entire issues or even years missing. Ka Elele Hawaii, which was printed from 1844 to 1855, is one of these newspapers. 

What do we miss without access to these issues of Ka Elele Hawaii? We miss history. We do not see the reaction to the passing of Kauikeaouli, Kamehameha III. It was his proclamation that this project to newly digitize Hawaiian language newspapers in Hawaiʻi repositories for free online access was named after:  

He aupuni palapala koʻu. 

[Mine is a kingdom of literacy.]  

While Kamehameha III left on the path of no return on December 15, 1854, Ka Elele Hawaii last appears online with its December 1, 1854 issue. There are no Hawaiian language newspapers available online from this date until the March 5, 1856 publication of the first issue of Ka Hae Hawaii. That is over two years of missing history!

On the very day of his death, Ka Elele Hawaii makes an announcement to the Kingdom: 

THE DEATH OF KAMEHAMEHA III!!

On the 15th of Dec., 15 minutes before 12 noon, God took away the life of the King. He was 41 years old, and he ruled the Nation for 29 years. This is a very sad day for all of us. There is much aloha felt. He was a truly benevolent King to his people; there was much benefits given to us while he was King.

With the passing of the King, it was soon declared, on this day, Liholiho is Kamehameha IV. See the announcement. Let us pray to God through whom all of Hawaiʻi nei are blessed.

The story of Kamehameha III is not completed; there was no time. On the 30th of Dec., the aliʻi’s funeral will be held.

(Ka Elele Hawaii, December 15, 1854, p. 80)

Image: Kanikau [dirge] for Kamehameha III, “He Mele Kanikau,” composed by Victoria Kamāmalu published in Ka Elele Hawaii, January 1, 1855, p. 81.

Image: The Royal Family; (from left) Victoria Kamāmalu, Lot Kapuāiwa (later Kamehameha V), Kauikeaouli (Kamehameha III), Alexander Liholiho (later Kamehameha IV), and Queen Kalama; Hawaiʻi. Photo by Seth Joel of an original daguerreotype by Hugo Stangenwald, ca. 1853. Bishop Museum Archives. SXC 76912.

Image sharing on social media is welcome. For all other uses please contact Archives@BishopMuseum.org

In the following issue of Ka Elele Hawaii, published on January 1, 1855 (also not available online), there is a kanikau [dirge] for Kauikeaouli composed by Victoria Kamāmalu. Not pictured here is another kanikau appearing in the same issue for Kamehameha III composed by S. W. Maherona [S. W. Mahelona] of Kapuaihalulu, Waiawa, Ewa. 

—Post by Bishop Museum Library & Archives Staff

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