King Kalakaua's Last Trip

We can't always predict when we die. Neither could King Kalakaua.

In December 1890, Kalakaua sailed on the American steamer Charleston to San Francisco for a five-to-six week tour. The last king of Hawaii would take his last trip to San Francisco, never to see his homeland again. As Kalakaua was experiencing an illness and impaired eyesight, a doctor recommended him to seek medical treatment in San Francisco. The Los Angeles Herald reports Kalakaua's trip aimed to develop a steamship line between either San Diego or Redondo and the Hawaiian kingdom.

During the trip, American newspapers reported the rumor of Kalakaua trying to sell the Hawaiian kingdom to the United States, supposedly from an influential man in Hawaii's sugar industry. However, this trip did not result in the sale of Hawaii.

Throughout the trip, Kalakaua dined at receptions in his honor with dignitaries, shook hands with many members of the public, visited the Sweetwater Dam and Tia Juana, went sailing on a yacht with John D. Spreckels (son of Claus Spreckels, who loaned a large sum of money to Kalakaua), visited Sausalito at the invitation of Aloph Spreckels (Claus Spreckels' other son), attended church services, and watched the performance of the farce "A Straight Tip" at the California Theatre.

In the third of week of the trip, newspapers note that Kalakaua looked significantly healthier and would return to Hawaii sooner than expected during the first week of January. However, his health actually worsened, and Kalakaua died on January 20, 1891, at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. The American cruiser USS Charleston returned Kalakaua's body to his homeland.

Hawaii and American newspapers chronicled his ill-fated trip to California, as seen in the articles below.

- Alice Kim

Articles from Chronicling America

"Kalakaua: The Hawaiian King in California for His Health"
Los Angeles herald., December 05, 1890, Image 1

"King of Hawaii: Public Reception Tendered Him at San Francisco"
Sacramento daily record-union., December 05, 1890, Image 1

"Hawaiian Islands for Sale: Kalakaua's Business in 'Frisco Is That of Real Estate Agent"
Rock Island daily Argus., December 08, 1890, Image 2

"King Kalakaua's Mission: He Wants the Hawaiian Islands Annexed to the United States"
The evening bulletin., December 08, 1890, Image 1

"King Kalakaua's Mission: Does He Come in the Interest of the Annexation of Hawaii?"
New-York tribune., December 08, 1890, Image 1

"Uncle Sam's Royal Visitor: Something About King Kalakaua and His Realm in the Sea"
Pittsburg dispatch., December 14, 1890, THIRD PART, Page 23, Image 23

"King Kalakaua Entertained"
The morning call., December 14, 1890, Page 8, Image 8

"King Kalakaua: Arrival in San Francisco and Reception at the Palace Hotel. Independence Day Dinner"
The Hawaiian gazette., December 16, 1890, Page 4, Image 4

"Kalakaua at a Banquet: When the Wine Sparkled He Didn't Care Whether School Kept or Not"
Pittsburg dispatch., December 21, 1890, THIRD PART, Page 22, Image 22

"A Good Story: Of the Late Congressman James Burns of St. Joseph"
The Sedalia weekly bazoo., December 23, 1890, Page 2, Image 2

"Prominent Men: King Kalakaua, The Royal Visitor Who Is Now Being Entertained in This City"
The morning call., December 25, 1890, Page 13, Image 13

"The King Abroad: Banqueted by the Bohemians"
The Daily bulletin., December 26, 1890, Image 5

"How Are You, Mr. King?: Young America's Salutation to Kalakaua"
Los Angeles herald., December 29, 1890, Image 5

"The Kanaka King: His Visit to California to Be Cut Short"
Los Angeles herald., December 31, 1890, Page 2, Image 2

"A Hawaiian Question: Has Arisen as the Result of Kalakaua's Visit to This Country"
The evening bulletin., January 01, 1891, Image 1

"Feted, Dined, Wined: His Majesty of Hawaii in the City Yesterday"
Los Angeles herald., January 04, 1891, Page 7, Image 5

"King Kalakaua's Book: A Theological Work That Is Expected to Startle the World"
Los Angeles herald., January 11, 1891, Page 7, Image 7

"King Kalakaua: His Movements in Southern California"
The Hawaiian gazette., January 27, 1891, Page 9, Image 9

"Kalakaua's Death: The News Official Broken at Washington"
Los Angeles herald., January 22, 1891, Image 1

"Jolly King Dave: Kalakaua Had an Easy Conscience and Always Enjoyed Himself"
Pittsburg dispatch., January 25, 1891, SECOND PART, Page 9, Image 9