Prince Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole in U.S. Newspapers
However, in the early 1900s, when Kuhio served as a congressional delegate, his non-Western names attracted attention in Washington D.C. President Theodore Roosevelt struggled to pronounce “Kalanianaole.” He did not want to call Kuhio “Prince Cupid,” his nickname, so he called him “Prince Kuhio.” When the clerk said Kuhio’s name during the congressional roll call, laughter could be heard from the galleries. But his fellow congressmen, who knew Kuhio’s royal background, never laughed.
When Kuhio became the first elected member of Congress representing Hawaii in 1903, he served as the first native Hawaiian and only royalty by birth. His background attracted attention from the U.S. mainland media.
The Deseret Evening News says Kuhio is “very much more of an American citizen than his name would seem to indicate.”It also says Kuhio proved his doubters wrong and succeeded in Congress and acted in a “manner befitting the royal blood that animates his system.”
The New-York Tribune says, “Well known in Washington as well as Honolulu, the well educated and widely traveled [Kuhio] and [his wife Elizabeth Kahanu Kalanianaole] were noted for their gracious and lavish entertaining as well as for their generosity. … Known to almost every man, woman and child in Hawaii, he was loved by all.”
“Always happy, always smiling, always smoking–that’s the prince, who, because of his affability and rotundity, is sometimes called ‘Cupid’ among his intimates in the house cloakroom. His eyes are always twinkling …
“Congressmen and friends of Kalanianaole address him as ‘Prince,’ just the same as childhood intimates might say ‘Hello, Mike.’ It is remarkable how democratic ‘prince’ can sound when applied with familiarity.”
“He dresses well, wears his straight black hair a la pompadour, and his fierce black mustache is forever waxed brilliantly. He is almost six feet tall and has a fine physique, erect and athletic. Mr. Kuhio is light brown in color and would be taken anywhere for a wealthy Mexican. His fad is red neckties–real flaming red of the most aggressive shade.”
Kuhio owned an “odd private collection” of animals, according to Tennessee’s Lawrence Democrat. He reportedly collected rare birds during his trip around the world and kept a pet turtle in his front yard (right image). With an estimated age of 750 years old, the turtle lived with Kuhio’s royal family for almost 150 years.
“In Washington, he’s ‘Prince Cupid,’ and his apparent aim is to make us like the Numbo Jumbo dance, an Americanized Hula Hula, said to be several degrees ‘naughtier’ than the Turkey Trot or the Grizzly Bear. The Numbo Jumbo is a guaranteed anti-fat article. It was bring the stoutest society dame to sylph-like proportions and the divorce court about the same time so the American translators aver.”
Even as an American dignitary, Kuhio experienced racial discrimination. When he was watching a show in a theatre box, an attache thought he was a “negro” and asked him to leave with his wife Elizabeth. After the theatre management learned of this incident, it sent representatives to Kuhio’s luxurious hotel apartments to make amends, but he “scorned at them and left for the East.”
Kuhio was arrested for “disorderly conduct.” In a letter to his brother Prince David Kawananakoa, Kuhio said policemen in Washington D.C. hit him from behind, tackled him to ground, called him a racial slur (“n—–“), and arrested him. But they said Kuhio was arguing with a man, they told him to quiet down, and he replied he was a congressional delegate and acted abusively.
In the end of the letter, Kuhio says, “You may judge for yourself from the statement of either of the policemen … I can only say now that it was a misfortune to me and a misapprehension on the part of the police officers, so to get out of the muddle they made, are attempting to get out of it the best way they now how.”
– Alice Kim
Articles from Chronicling America
“Prince Cupid’s New Name: President Roosevelt Calls Hawaii Delegate ‘Mr. Kuhio'”
Palestine daily herald, December 14, 1903, Image 5
“Kuhio Ordered from Theater Box”
Pacific commercial advertiser, November 14, 1903, Page 8
“Cupid Has New Name”
Williston graphic, January 21, 1904, Image 3
“Kuhio’s Account of His Arrest” and “He ‘Saw Things’ at Mokuaweoweo”
Hawaiian star, January 22, 1904, Image 1
“Congressman’s Own Zoo: Hawaii Representative at Washington Has an Odd Private Collection”
Lawrence democrat, March 31, 1905, Image 2
“Men of the Moment in Congress and Elsewhere”
Deseret evening news, January 12, 1907, Page 15
“Smiling Prince from Hawaii”
The Clovis news., February 25, 1916, Image 9
“Last of a Line of Kings”
New-York tribune, February 26, 1922, Page 6, Image 52