King Kalakaua's Silver Jubilee

Imagine yourself as a ruler declaring your birthday as a public holiday and celebrating your two-week Silver Jubilee with your entire kingdom. That was how King Kalakaua celebrated his fiftieth birthday in November 1886.

Kalakaua hosted a luau (feast) for the public, and more than 1,500 people enjoyed poi, fish, and roasted pig. As the "Merrie Monarch" emphasized preserving and perpetuating Hawaiian arts, entertainment included the Royal Hawaiian Band and rarely seen hula performances and canoe racing, which were suppressed in the past sixty years. The Daily Bulletin describes the scenery around Kalakaua's luau table:

"The passages leading in to the head of the table are contained ... with the British ... and the United States flags. The roof and walls of the lanai are elegantly draped and festooned with flags, ti leaves and maile. The royal table is ... laid with trenches of silver and gold, China ware, silver knives, and forks, cut glass in blue, green, cherry and other rich colors. The table is margined with a stately row of covered calabashes of native woods ... The whole of the table ware is laid in a beautiful expanse of leaves and flowers."

The Silver Jubilee also marked one of the earliest uses of electric light in Hawaii:

"The entrance to and exit from the Palace grounds were brilliantly lighted by electricity, making the streets at the outside of the enclosure as well as the drives and walks inside almost as light as day."

A parade of people carrying torches and firetrucks decorated with flags and banners went through the muddy streets of downtown after heavy rain to the palace. Inside the palace, people looked around and paid the king his respects. Kalakaua received hundreds of presents including polished elephant tusks, calabashes (poi bowls), a cane of kauwila wood, gold coins, and wooden furniture.

Read more about the Silver Jubilee in the articles below.

- Alice Kim

Articles from Chronicling America

"His Majesty's Jubilee Birthday! The Reception"
The Daily bulletin., November 17, 1886, Image 2

"The King's Jubilee: Celebration of His Majesty's Fiftieth Birthday" and "The Regatta"
The daily herald., November 18, 1886, Image 3

"The Luau"
The Daily bulletin., November 23, 1886, Image 3

"His Majesty's Jubilee Birthday!"
The Hawaiian gazette., November 23, 1886, Image 1

"The Jubilee Luau"
The Daily bulletin., November 24, 1886, Image 3

"The Jubilee Ball"
The daily herald., November 26, 1886, Image 3

"The Jubilee Ball"
The Daily bulletin., November 26, 1886, Image 3