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  • Remembering Lili‘uokalani:Coverage of the Death of the Last Queen of Hawai‘i by Hawai‘i’s English-Language Establishment Press and American Newspapers
  • Douglas V. Askman (bio)

Introduction: The Death of Liliu‘okalani

On November 11, 1917, Lili‘uokalani, the last monarch of Hawai‘i, died at her residence, Washington Place, in Honolulu at the age of 79. The queen’s death and burial were covered extensively by the press in Hawai‘i, reflecting the enormous impact she had on the people of the territory. On the front page of the Pacific Commercial Advertiser on the day following her death was a declaration from the territorial governor, Lucius Pinkham. In his statement Governor Pinkham attested to Lili‘uokalani’s strong character, “I have found her tender and kind to her own race, thoughtful and helpful to others and a valued and appreciative friend.”1 Pinkham also ordered the flags of the United States and Hawai‘i to be lowered to half-staff in honor of the queen. [End Page 91]

Government agencies demonstrated their respect for the queen in various ways, reflecting her great stature. Territorial courts were adjourned, ‘Iolani Palace was draped in black, and the House of Representatives chamber, formerly the palace’s throne room, hosted her funeral. The City and County of Honolulu closed its offices to mourn. Schools, both public and private, honored the queen by preparing special programs and flying their flags at half-staff. Public schools were given a half-day holiday in order for students to pay their respects to the queen, whose body rested in state at Kawaiaha‘o Church for several days prior to her funeral. Indeed, students from over half a dozen public schools marched in procession from Thomas Square to the church on November 16. From just one of those schools, St. Louis College in Honolulu, today St. Louis School, 900 students paid their respects to the former monarch. The Advertiser reported that in the course of just one day approximately 15,000 people passed through the church.2

The American military paid tribute to Lili‘uokalani as well. Soldiers from Schofield Barracks and Fort Shafter took part in the queen’s funeral as did other officials from the army, navy, and national guard companies from all of the major Hawaiian islands. The soldiers’ duties included not only marching in the funeral procession, but providing a twenty-one gun salute for the queen.3

Numerous local organizations also paid tribute to the former sovereign through official resolutions. These included the Honolulu Chamber of Commerce, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce, and the Honolulu Board of Supervisors. Indeed, members of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce, the Japanese Association of Hawai‘i, and the United Chinese Society marched in the funeral procession.4

The queen’s honorary pall bearers included the governor of Hawai‘i, chief justice of the territory, the president of the Hawai‘i senate, the speaker of the territorial house of representatives, officials of the American army and navy, a United States senator, and a member of the United States House of Representatives. Also in the funeral procession were other members of Congress, including senators and representatives from Montana, Utah, Kansas, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, Ohio, West Virginia, Minnesota, and Maine. Local representatives included members of the territorial legislature, the Hawai‘i Supreme Court, the mayor of Honolulu, and members of the Honolulu and Hawai‘i county boards of supervisors.5 [End Page 92]

There was even an international component to the events surrounding the queen’s death. For example, on November 15, while the body of the queen rested in state at Kawaiaha‘o Church, Viscount Kikujiro Ishii, a special representative of the emperor of Japan who was traveling through Hawai‘i, visited the church and paid his official respects. Moreover, a contingent of several hundred Japanese sailors from the imperial navy participated in the queen’s funeral procession. In particular, a Japanese naval officer carried Lili‘uokalani’s Order of the Precious Crown of Japan, an award that was presented to the queen during her reign by the Japanese emperor. Also participating in the funeral were consuls representing Belgium, Denmark, Italy...


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