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Pokiulai: The Fourth of July in Hawaiʻi

Image: Masthead of Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, July 25, 1868.

Aloha Nūhou Monday!

As the 4th of July nears, we acknowledge the history of the day in the Hawaiian Kingdom. Just as the birthday of Queen Victoria of England and Chinese New Year were widely celebrated in the Kingdom, this American holiday was also celebrated. Initially commemorated in Hawaiʻi in 1814, Hawaiians joined in the celebration lead by Kamehameha I. Over time the celebrations became lively days filled with leisurely events like banquets; parades; horse and foot races; and fireworks exhibitions enjoyed by citizens of all nationalities.

The 4th of July however would not become a national holiday until 1895, a year following the formation of the Republic. That year, there were proclamations in the newspapers by J. A. King, Minister of the Interior, and the day would be known as the Birthday of the Hawaiian Republic. This day would remain an official holiday for nearly a decade until 1903.

Image: “Kamehameha I., a me ka la 4 o Iulai.” Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, July 25, 1868, p. 3.

Image: “Celebration of the Fourth of July in Honolulu.” Pacific Commercial Advertiser, July 11, 1868, p. 2.

Image: “Kanawai 66.” Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, July 17, 1896, p. 8.

ACT 66.


Be it enacted by the Legislature of the Republic of Hawaii:

Section 1. The following days of each year are hereby set apart and established as national holidays, to wit:

The first [New Year] and seventeenth [Downfall of the Monarchy] days of January, the eleventh day of June [Kamehameha Day], the fourth day of July [Birthday of Hawaii’s Republic], the third Saturday of September [Regatta Day], the twenty-eighth day of November [Recognition of Hawaiian Independence] and the twenty-fifth day of December [Christmas].

Section 2. This Act shall take effect upon publication.

Approved this 13th day of June, A.D. 1896.


President of the Republic of Hawaii.

Image: ʻIolani Palace, Honolulu, Hawaiʻi. Photo by Elizabeth Van Cleve Hall, July 4, 1894, Bishop Museum Archives. SP 79627.

Image sharing on social media is welcome. For all other uses please contact, Bishop Museum Archives.

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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