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May 1998

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History In A Square Inch
by Veronica S. Schweitzer     

6-cent 1893 Hawaii stamp Valued at $12,500

Stamps and postal marks , those thin squares of paper worth less than a dollar at the time of purchase, often mirror the history of a country. As for Hawaii, its five-stage transition from monarchy to 50th state of the United States created a postal reflection filled with bizarre and one-of-a-kind events.....

Collectors love this. Anthony Anjo, for example, a collector in North Kohala, got hooked to stamp collecting when he came across a stamped 1897 family envelope sent from Mahukona, one of 130 post offices erased from the map. A stamp can hold magic. Its design is often beautiful.

The first Hawaiian stamps came out in 1851. It was King Kamehameha III's response to the missionaries needing a reliable postal service for letters to their friends and family east. The first post office was part of the government's newspaper, the Polynesian. In 1855 no less than 24,984 pieces of mail left the islands and 23,940 answers returned!

These first stamps, with a floral border and a number, were aptly called "the Missionaries". Valued at $150,000 to $250,000 the rare two-cent blue stamp now belongs to a few lucky collectors. It is the only stamp in history for which a collector was killed and the only stamp once accepted by two sovereign nations, Hawaii and the US.

Around the same time, a stamp was printed with the image of King Kamehameha III. But a few years later, the government issued a series of plain numerals, seemingly forgetting how much a picture can explain to the world. Where was the image of the Great King Kamehameha I? What about Kamehameha II?


Above letter was stamped in 1852 with the 13-cent blue, "Hawaiian Postage". This letter cover today is valued at an astonishing $50,000-$75,000

In 1864 a new series came out presenting the Hawaiian royalty. But neither Queen Kaahumanu or Princess Kinau was represented. On stamp, also, appeared King David Kalakaua, Hawaii's merry ruler, who had started himself out as a postmaster and became king due to a lack of royal heirs. Probably the only king in the world with such a career, Kalakaua made sure to be on millions of colorful stamps while still alive. Kamehameha I finally appeared in print in 1883.

In 1893, the Hawaiian people, unhappy with Queen Liliuokalani's rule, abandoned the monarchy. Hawaii declared itself a republic. The stamps reflected the change only through an overprint.


The 1882 5-cent Kamehameha V stamp. This set of four is valued today at $7,500-$10,000.

The following year Hawaii officially became a republic and seven new stamps came out. Among them one of Star and Palms, expressing already the idea of annexation which occurred in 1898.

At the turn of the century, Hawaii was declared US territory. From now on, stamps were US postage with or without a Hawaii theme. In 1959 Hawaii became the 50th State.

Over the 20th century many stamps continued to reveal Hawaii's unique position: Here appeared the only American palace, Iolani in Honolulu, Hawaii's native flowers such as the lehua ohia, and endangered native birds such as the nene and the i'iwi. Stamps also highlighted influences in Hawaii such as the Chinese New Year.

But all such history disappears when paper crumbles and town marks fade. History soon to be forgotten except for the print on a one square inch.

*David P. Ingham writes:

This is language from United States Public law 103-150 passes by both houses of the U.S. congress and signed by the President 23 November, 1993. This language accurately represents the history of the overthrow of the Hawaiian government as opposed to the language in the article on your web site.

"On January 14, 1893, John L Stevens...the United States Minister assigned to the soverign and independent Kingdom of Hawaii conspired with a small group of non-Hawaiian residents of the Kingdom of Hawaii, including citizens of the United States, to overthrow the indeginous and lawful government of Hawaii."

As you can see there is quite a difference between what happened and what is written on your site. I am attaching the full text of U.S. Public law 103-150 and a contemporary letter from President Grover Cleveland that explains exactly what happened in greater detail.

I hope you enjoy history as much as I do especially Hawaiian History...there has been alot of mis-informaton put out in years past...even in the public schools...I am having to re-learn all the stuff that i was tought on the subject...


"Readers may submit editorial comments to any of our stories by sending an email to les@lbdcoffee.com. We would be happy to attach your comments and feedback to anything we publish online. Thank you for your interest."

Readers Respond:

David P. Ingham writes:

This is language from United States Public law 103-150 passes by both houses of the U.S. congress and signed by the President 23 November, 1993. This language accurately represents the history of the overthrow of the Hawaiian government as opposed to the language in the article on your web site.

"On January 14, 1893, John L Stevens...the United States Minister assigned to the soverign and independent Kingdom of Hawaii conspired with a small group of non-Hawaiian residents of the Kingdom of Hawaii, including citizens of the United States, to overthrow the indeginous and lawful government of Hawaii."

As you can see there is quite a difference between what happened and what is written on your site. I am attaching the full text of U.S. Public law 103-150 and a contemporary letter from President Grover Cleveland that explains exactly what happened in greater detail.

I hope you enjoy history as much as I do especially Hawaiian History...there has been alot of mis-informaton put out in years past...even in the public schools...I am having to re-learn all the stuff that i was tought on the subject...

Story appeared originally in Coffee Times print magazine and appears online for archival purposes only. Any use or reprinting of these stories without the expressed written consent of the author is prohibited.

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