King Kalakaua’s Silver Jubilee

Imagine yourself as a ruler whose birthday is a public holiday, and your Kingdom celebrates for two weeks. King Kalakaua did this for his fiftieth birthday in November 1886.

Kalakaua hosted a luau (feast) for the public, and more than 1,500 people enjoyed poi, raw and cooked fish, and roasted pig. As the “Merrie Monarch” preserved and encouraged Hawaiian arts, entertainment included the Royal Hawaiian Band, hula, and canoe racing. The latter two were outlawed and rarely seen in sixty years. The Daily Bulletin depicted 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 Hawaii’s earliest uses of electric lights:

“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.”

Earlier in the day, heavy rain muddied downtown Honolulu’s dirt roads, which muddied the parade route to the palace. On the route at night, the mud soiled the parade participants, who were carrying torches, and firetrucks, which were adorned with flags and banners.

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.

– 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”
Daily bulletin, November 23, 1886, Image 3

“His Majesty’s Jubilee Birthday!”
Hawaiian gazette, November 23, 1886, Image 1

“The Jubilee Luau”
The Daily bulletin, November 24, 1886, Image 3

“The Jubilee Ball”
daily herald, November 26, 1886, Image 3

“The Jubilee Ball”
Daily bulletin, November 26, 1886, Image 3


5 Comments on “King Kalakaua’s Silver Jubilee”

  1. […] Today in history — November 16, 1886 — King David Kalākaua and the entire Hawaiian Kingdom celebrated his fiftieth birthday with a silver jubilee. The celebration included a public luau (feast) with poi, fish, and roasted pig; rarely seen hula performances and canoe racing; a parade; and one of the earliest uses of electric light in Hawaii. Read more about it in “King Kalākaua’s Silver Jubilee.” […]

  2. […] 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 […]

  3. […] Read about how Kalakaua celebrated his fiftieth birthday in “King Kalakaua’s Silver Jubilee.” […]

  4. […] while mourning the death of his sister Queen Liliuokalani. Kalakaua might be no more, but the “Merry Monarch’s” legacy through hula and boat races live […]

  5. […] This week in history–December 27, 1850–King Kamehameha III established the Honolulu Fire Department. Famous firefighters would include modern baseball inventor Alexander Cartwright and King David Kalakaua. […]

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