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 there.

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. He also attended church services, and watched the farce “A Straight Tip” at the California Theatre.

Kalakaua even visited the sons of Claus Spreckels, the “Sugar King” who loaned money to Kalakaua. Kalakaua went sailing on a yacht with John D. Spreckels and visited Adolph Spreckels at Sausalito.

In the third week, newspapers note that Kalakaua looked 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.

Hundreds of spectators crowded on Honolulu Harbor, chattering among themselves on January 29, 1891. King Kalakaua was to return from San Francisco. As the USS Charleston sailed to the harbor, the crowd waited for the Merrie Monarch to exit the ship. But rather, naval officers in blue jackets carried a casket onto the harbor, and the news quickly spread: The King has died!

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 5, 1890, Image 1

“King of Hawaii: Public Reception Tendered Him at San Francisco”
Sacramento daily record-union, December 5, 1890, Image 1

“Hawaiian Islands for Sale: Kalakaua’s Business in ‘Frisco Is That of Real Estate Agent”
Rock Island daily Argus, December 8, 1890, Image 2

“King Kalakaua’s Mission: He Wants the Hawaiian Islands Annexed to the United States”
The evening bulletin, December 8, 1890, Image 1

“King Kalakaua’s Mission: Does He Come in the Interest of the Annexation of Hawaii?”
New-York tribune, December 8, 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

“King Kalakaua Entertained”
The morning call, December 14, 1890, Page 8

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

“A Good Story: Of the Late Congressman James Burns of St. Joseph”
TSedalia weekly bazoo, December 23, 1890, Page 2

“Prominent Men: King Kalakaua, The Royal Visitor Who Is Now Being Entertained in This City”
The morning call, December 25, 1890, Page 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 1, 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

“King Kalakaua: His Movements in Southern California”
Hawaiian gazette, January 27, 1891, Page 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

“Returned to Rest: King Kalakaua’s Body Landed from the ‘Charleston’”
The Daily bulletin, January 30, 1891, Image 3


3 Comments on “King Kalakaua’s Last Trip”

  1. […] guns shot from Punchbowl could be heard, and and people of Hawaii heard the proclamation. After her older brother King Kalakaua died in 1891, the future Queen Liliuokalani would serve as Hawaii’s last monarch. Read more about it in “The […]

  2. […] King of Hawaii in 1874, Kapiolani started her reign as the Queen Consort. The reign lasted beyond King Kalakaua’s death and until the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy in […]

  3. […] the world near the Punchbowl Crater, the last king of Hawaii reigned from February 12, 1874 through January 20, 1891. The “Merrie Monarch” was known for throwing big parties for the entire kingdom and played an […]

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