The Outdoor Circle

Is Hawaii better off without billboards? In 1912, a group of women vowed to protect Hawaii’s natural beauty. When they patronized a store, they left this note:

“I will not buy anything advertised on billboards as long as I can find a substitute, or a last resort, go without.”

This was the start of The Outdoor Circle, which beautified Hawaii and fought against billboards for the next fifteen years.

The women convinced people to not patronize stores or buy products that used billboards advertising. In 1914, after The Outdoor Circle wrote to the producer of “Old Dutch Cleanser,” it removed billboards in Hawaii. Similarly, in 1916, after hearing from The Outdoor Circle, Madame Eugenio de Folco removed the billboard advertising of the De Folco Grand Opera season in Honolulu.

The Outdoor Circle also did landscaping. The women planted monkeypod trees at Aala Park and coconut trees along Kalakaua Avenue, removed debris from vacant lots, and restored the landscaping at the Iolani Palace grounds.

The women campaigned for the removal of the iron fence around the grounds of Iolani Palace. Mrs. Lowrey argued doing so would turn the grounds and nearby grounds of other government buildings into a large park and a “beautiful parklike civic center.” However, that campaign failed: the fence still surrounds Iolani Palace today.

Eventually, The Outdoor Circle rid Hawaii of billboards. In 1926, it bought the Honolulu Poster Service, Hawaii’s last billboard company, for $4,000 ($52,000 in today’s money). A year later, the Hawaii Territorial Legislature would ban billboards in Hawaii.

– Alice Kim

Note: Hawaii is still billboard-free today!

Sources from Chronicling America

“Women Open War on Billboards”
Hawaiian gazette, April 5, 1912, Image 1

“Outdoor Circle Busy with Effective Work”
Honolulu star-bulletin, July 16, 1912, 2:30 Edition, Page 5

“Make Arguments for Removal of Capitol Fence”
Honolulu star-bulletin, March 9, 1915, SPORTS, CLASSIFIED AND SHIPPING NEWS SECTION, Page 10

“Billboards Go Down to Please Outdoor Circle”
Honolulu star-bulletin., January 13, 1916, 2:30 Edition, Page 4 Articles from Chronicling America

“Outdoor Circle Scores; Civic Improvement Clubs Cooperate”
Evening bulletin, March 16, 1912, Page 15

“Outdoor Circle Opposes Water-meters; Makes Work Impossible”
Honolulu star-bulletin, January 21, 1913, Page 5

“Outdoor Circle Carrying On Improvement Work: Pure Are Outlinedlans for the Fut”
Honolulu star-bulletin, May 9, 1913, 2:30 Edition, Page 5

“Criticism of Work Fails to Deter Women”
Honolulu star-bulletin, August 25, 1913, Page 5

“Outdoor Circle Funds Will Go to Public Work”
Honolulu star-bulletin, June 6, 1914, 3:30 Edition, Page 4

“Outdoor Circle Is Brightening Grounds Around the Capital”
Honolulu star-bulletin, July 16, 1914, NEWS SECTION, Page 12

“Billboards Swatted Again”
Hawaiian gazette, July 31, 1914, Page 5

“Outdoor Circle Works for City Beautiful”
Honolulu star-bulletin, October 10, 1914, Page 9

“Outdoor Circle May Turn Attention to Kaneohe Bay”
Honolulu star-bulletin, November 19, 1915, 3:30 Edition, Page 13

“Outdoor Circle Doing Much to Beautify City: Paid Worker Will Start Monday Morning on Kalakaua Avenue Shrubbery”
Honolulu star-bulletin, December 9, 1915, Page 3

“Women of Outdoor Circle Meet at Annual Luncheon”
Honolulu star-bulletin, January 15, 1916, Page 12

“Billboard War Rumbles Heard in Two Letters”
Honolulu star-bulletin, November 2, 1916, 2:30 Edition, Page 3

“Outdoor Circle Awaits Return of Robt. W. Shingle”
Honolulu star-bulletin, November 17, 1916, Page 4


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