20¢ Hawaii Statehood
Issue Date: March 12, 1984
City: Honolulu, HI
Printed By: American Bank Note Company
Printing Method: Photogravure
This issue celebrates the 25th anniversary of Hawaii statehood. Prior to becoming our 50th state, Hawaii had been a U.S. territory for more than 60 years.
Polynesians were the first people to settle the Hawaiian Islands. They journeyed across the Pacific, moving from island to island in giant canoes. They probably reached Hawaii around 2,000 years ago. Another group from Tahiti reached the islands in 1200 A.D. and conquered the earlier settlers. The name Hawaii is either derived from the name of a chief, Hawaii-loa, or the legendary name of the Polynesian homeland to the west, Hawaiki.
Europeans Discover the Sandwich Islands
Although European or Japanese ships may have reached the Hawaiian Islands during the 1500s, Great Britain’s Captain James Cook was responsible for making them known to the rest of the world. Cook landed there on January 18, 1778, and engaged in friendly trade. It’s estimated that about 300,000 people lived in Hawaii at that time. The Hawaiians believed Cook had divine powers and considered him a great chief. He named the islands in honor of the first lord of the British admiralty, the Earl of Sandwich. Cook left the Sandwich Islands after two weeks. He returned in November 1778, and was later killed when a fight broke out between the Hawaiians and his men.
Cook’s voyages brought more explorers and traders to Hawaii. The first trading ship stopped there in 1786 while transporting a load of furs from Oregon to China. New types of livestock, manufactured goods, and plants were introduced to the islands. Unfortunately, new diseases took a devastating toll on the islanders.
King Kamehameha Establishes the Kingdom of Hawaii
Local chiefs had controlled the islands throughout Hawaii’s history. In 1782, Chief Kamehameha obtained firearms from European traders and began a bloody war to unite the islands into a kingdom. By 1792, he controlled Hawaii Island. Three years later, he controlled all the main islands except Kauai and Niihau. Kamehameha appointed the local chiefs as governors and proclaimed himself King Kamehameha I. The chiefs of Kauai and Niihau accepted Kamehameha’s rule in 1810.
Sandlewood, Water, Sugarcane and Pineapples
From 1811 to 1830, Hawaii shipped great supplies of sandalwood to China. Money from this lucrative trade allowed the Hawaiians to purchase weapons, ships, and other supplies. From then until the 1860s, Hawaii’s greatest source of income was the sale of fresh water and other supplies to whaling ships. The first permanent sugar cane plantation in Hawaii was started at Koloa on Kauai Island in 1835. In 1885, the first pineapples were brought to the islands from Jamaica. The plants were imported by the British horticulturist Captain John Kidwell. Even today, sugar cane and pineapples remain Hawaii’s most profitable crops.
The Arrival of Missionaries
Kamehameha’s son, crowned Kamehameha II in 1819, banned the official religion of the Hawaiian Kingdom and disbanded its orders of priests. In 1820, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions sent Protestant missionaries and teachers to the islands. Most Hawaiians converted to Christianity. In 1827, Roman Catholic missionaries arrived. These missionaries met resistance from the chiefs who considered Protestantism the official religion. The Roman Catholics were forced to leave in 1831. Efforts were made to prevent new Catholics from arriving, and many Hawaiians practicing Catholicism were jailed. In July 1839, French Captain C. P. T. Laplace of the the frigate L’Artémise blockaded Honolulu. Laplace demanded Roman Catholics have religious freedom and threatened to destroy Honolulu. As a result, the Hawaiians granted the Catholics their freedom.
Hawaii Adopts a Constitution
Hawaii adopted its first constitution in 1840. It provided for an executive, a legislature, and a supreme court. The legislature consisted of a house of chiefs and a house of elected representatives. The United States recognized Hawaii as an independent government in 1842.
Before 1848, the king owned all the land in Hawaii. That year, land reforms were enacted under the Great Mahele. Land was distributed to chiefs who divided it into homesteads. Some land was sold to foreigners. From 1854 to 1900, Hawaii’s economic opportunities attracted a great number of foreigners. Chinese, Polynesians, Japanese, Portuguese, Filipinos, Koreans, and Puerto Ricans all came to the islands.
Hawaii Becomes a Republic
King Kalakaua gave the U.S. the right to use Pearl Harbor as a Naval base in 1887 in return for trading privileges. In 1891, Kalakaua died and his sister was crowned Queen Liluokalani. Liluokalani attempted to install a new constitution that would increase her power. In 1893, a group of nine Americans, two Britons, and two Germans led a revolution against Liluokalani, removing her from office. The revolutionaries were aided by U.S. marines and sailors. In 1894, the Republic of Hawaii was formed. This short-lived nation had just one president, Sanford B. Dole.
A U.S. Possession and Territory
Hawaii came under the control of U.S. businessmen. These businessmen lobbied for Hawaii to be annexed by the U.S. – which was financially beneficial to their interests. On August 12, 1898, the islands were officially annexed and became U.S. possessions. Hawaii became a U.S. territory on June 14, 1900. Hawaiians became U.S. citizens. However, their Congressional representative could not vote and the U.S. Congress could veto any law passed by their legislature.
World War II and Pearl Harbor
On December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked the U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor and airfields on Oahu. The surprise attack brought the U.S. into World War II. Hawaii was under martial law from 1941 to 1944, although little more fighting took place there.
The 50th State to Join the Union
The first bill attempting to make Hawaii a state was introduced in 1919. In 1950, Hawaii adopted a constitution in preparation for statehood. Congress approved the appropriate legislation in 1959 and President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed the bill. The matter went before the Hawaiian people, who voted 17 to 1 in favor of statehood. On August 21, 1959, Hawaii achieved statehood.