The Pacific Commercial Advertiser Now Available up to 1903!

The Pacific Commercial Advertiser

pcaheader Calendar View:

The Pacific Commercial Advertiser (PCA) debuted in Honolulu on July 2, 1856, when Hawaiʻi was in the throes of westernization and the resulting decline of the Native Hawaiian culture and population. Owner and editor Henry Martyn Whitney called the PCA an “opposition paper,” because “The whalemen wanted an American newspaper and the white residents wanted one that was not run ‘by authority’” (referring to the Hawaiian government-sponsored Polynesian, according to Whitney’s obituary. He based the PCA upon the New-York Commercial Advertiser, where he had been employed. Whitneywas the first newspaperman in Honolulu to meet ships off port in a boat to pick up foreign newspapers, as was often done in New York. Initially the Pacific Commercial Advertiser was published every Thursday. In 1882 a daily (except Sunday) edition was also published. In May 1888 the weekly edition ceased.

The PCA provided local political and legislative news and news of the neighbor islands, in addition to international news. Although the target audience was English-speaking, in the newspaper’s first two and one-half months, a Hawaiian-language section titled “Ka Hoku Loa o Hawaii” (The Morning Star of Hawaii) filled the PCA’s last page.

As an English-language newspaper serving the minority Caucasian community in Hawaiʻi, the PCA supported the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893, noting that it was “natural, logical and as common in the world’s history as it is natural and common to throw away a ragged coat” and was “a step forward.” The PCA faulted Native Hawaiians for the overthrow and criticized King Kaläkaua’s monarchy for “[committing] suicide.” Encouraging American annexation, a January 14, 1898 PCA editorial stated, “To expect the natives, with their Polynesian antecedents, their ignorance of the science of government, and their natural child-like love for their old environments, their love for the old native Monarch, to submit without some sort of protest to the new order of things, is to expect them to rise higher in the scale of reasoning beings than any white man on these islands has yet risen.”

Whitney had sold the PCA to James H. Black and William Auld on September 1, 1870. When Auld retired on June 1, 1875, Black became the sole owner. Thereafter the PCA experienced many ownership changes; owners included Henry L. Sheldon in 1876, Walter Murray Gibson on September 1, 1880, the Hawaiian Gazette Company (publisher of the newspaper Hawaiian Gazette) in 1888, and Lorrin Andrews Thurston in 1898. On March 31, 1921 Thurston renamed the Pacific Commercial Advertiser the Honolulu Advertiser, which eventually became known as one of the oldest newspapers published west of the Rockies.

The Honolulu Advertiser competed fiercely with the Honolulu Star-Bulletin for the next 60 years, eventually dominating the local newspaper market in the 1980s. Black Press, owner of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, purchased the Honolulu Advertiser on February 25, 2010. The two newspapers were merged on June 6, 2010, to become the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, thus turning Honolulu into a one-newspaper town.

Provided by: University of Hawaii at Manoa; Honolulu, HI

Prince Albert of Hawaii

On May 20, 1858, Kamehameha IV and Queen Emma’s only son, Prince Albert Kamehameha, was born. It was hoped that the Crown Prince of Hawaii would continue the Kamehameha dynasty as king.

Unfortunately, Prince Albert’s death at the age of four would end those hopes. Read about it in “Death of H. R. H. Prince Albert of Hawaii!”

Society Page

Wouldn’t you like to be rich and famous? Or maybe you just want to read about rich and famous people?

Today, we have tabloid newspapers, magazines, websites, and TV shows. The late 1800s and early 1900s had society pages in newspapers, including Hawaii newspapers. The society pages reported the news on the rich and famous, including their travels, social events, and personal relationships.

You can read more about the society pages in this historical feature article.

Uses of the Kukui Nut

Ever used a nut as a lamp?

The ancient Hawaiians did with the kukui nut (candlenut). To create the lamp, they strung the nuts together, placed them on a skewer, or put them onto a torch.

The ancient Hawaiians also used the versatile kukui nut to make jewelry, tattoo ink, red-brown dye, topical medication, and varnish.

Read more about the uses of the kukui nut in “Its Uses and Disuses Told by Mr. Girvin.”

Stealing Dog License Tags

Back in 1901, owning a dog in Hawaii required the purchase of a license, which comes with a tag. Some people couldn’t or didn’t want to pay for the licenses, so they stole tags from other dogs. Was the police able to get the tags back? Read more about it in “Stealing Dog Tax Tags.”

The Hawaiian Language

“Aiea,” the name of a town on Oahu, is spelled only with vowels. The Hawaiian language contains words composedly entirely of vowels, as a Montana newspaper notes in 1898:

“Its most prominent characteristic is the great use of vowels. Besides the five vowels it needs only seven consonants to make up the alphabet, and … two consonants shall never come together and … no word or syllable shall end with other than a vowel. On the other hand, vowels may string along in indefinite succession. The speech abounds with whole words which have not a single consonant to hold them together.”

The article notes that “aaa” means friendly, “eee” means rise up, “ooo” means to shrink, and “uuu” means to stammer.

Read more about an outsider’s view of the Hawaiian language in “The Hawaiian Speech.”


In ancient Hawaii, taro wasn’t just a dietary staple; it was also considered an elder sibling to the Hawaiian people. A central plant in ancient Hawaii, the taro plant required a flowing stream of water and was usually grown on flat lands near the sea. Only men would cultivate the taro and prepare it for eating.

Read more about taro in the Hawaiian culture in “Taro or Kalo.”


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