Civil Beat Featured Chronicling America in Reporting HECo’s History

Iolani Palace lit up

Honolulu Civil Beat used Chronicling America to illustrate Hawaiian Electric Co.’s history in a special report “How One Company Turned ‘Darkness Into Day:'”

On a long-ago summer night, thousands of people gathered on the grounds of Iolani Palace for what might be described as an illuminating tea party with David Kalakaua, Hawaii’s last ruling king.

There was tea, coffee, ice cream, Hawaiian music, dance and high society in fine evening wear. But the real draw on the evening of July 21, 1886, was the simple spectacle of electric light that few locals had ever seen.

The 49-year-old king, who was fascinated by the potential of electricity, was something of an early adopter who had promised to bring electric light to Hawaii. Even the White House wouldn’t have electric lights for years after Iolani Palace, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, was electrified.

In 1881, during a trip around the world, Kalakaua had dropped in on Thomas Edison’s “invention factory,” a laboratory in New Jersey, to see if he could find a way to brighten Hawaii’s future. It was less than two years after the inventor had come up with the incandescent light bulb.

As night fell on that July evening in 1886, a small steam engine located in the Honolulu Iron Works on Merchant Street successfully powered up cables that led to five lamps outside the palace. During the course of the night, the light around Palace Square drew a gawking crowd that the Honolulu Daily Bulletin put at more than 5,000. That amounted to one in every six people on the island.

It was, according to another news report in the Pacific Commercial Advertiser, a “soft but brilliant light which turned darkness into day.”

Soon, the newspaper said, the Royal Hawaiian military band began playing, soldiers marched on the grounds and a tea party for children got underway, hosted by Princess Liliuokalani and Princess Likelike.

“The Palace was brightly illuminated, and the large crowd moving among the trees and tents made a pretty picture.”

A nonprofit online news source, Civil Beat is currently publishing “Electric Dreams,” a special report series:

For the past 125 years, Hawaiian Electric Co. has helped shape Hawaii’s development, its politics and its culture. We explore its past to see what we can learn about its future.

Civil Beat Article: How One Company Turned ‘Darkness Into Day’
http://www.civilbeat.org/2016/07/how-one-company-turned-darkness-into-day/

Hawaii’s First Electric Lights
https://hdnpblog.wordpress.com/…/hawaiis-first-electric-li…/

Electric Light (second column from left, bottom)
The Daily bulletin, July 22, 1886, Image 3
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/…/…/1886-07-22/ed-1/seq-3/

Kalakaua Visits Edison: The King in Search of a Means to Light Up Honolulu (column on the extreme right)
The sun, September 26, 1881, Image 1
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030272/1881-09-26/ed-1/seq-1/

Points in Hawaiian History (second column from left, middle)
The Daily bulletin, September 30, 1887, Image 3
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82016412/1887-09-30/ed-1/seq-3/

Honolulu Electric Works: Starting of the Machinery (third column from left, top)
The Daily bulletin, March 21, 1888, Image 3
http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn82016412/1888-03-21/ed-1/seq-3/

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