1984 20¢ Hawaii Statehood
US #2080 was issued for the 25th anniversary of Hawaii’s statehood.

On June 14, 1900, Hawaii became a US territory and began using US stamps for its mail.

2002 37¢ Hawaiian Missionaries, souvenir sheet of 4 stamps
US #3694 pictures the rare “Hawaiian Missionary” stamps along with the famous “Dawson” cover.

American missionaries arrived in Hawaii in 1820. As the white population grew, it became apparent that postal provisions were a necessity. The first attempt at establishing postal regulations was made in the 1840s, with the Organic Act. This was a series of three laws, the second of which established postal rates for inter-island mail and mail to the US. These laws were never put into effect.

George Grinnell's Hawaii Missionaries Stamp Collection
Item #HI-MSNRY – You can own the famous Grinnell Missionaries. Click the image for the story behind these stamp rarities.
1851-52 5c Blue Hawaiian Missionary
US #H2 – One of the rarest and most famous stamps in the world. Only 3 known with crossed bar cancellation!

At the time, Hawaii had a government-printed newspaper, called The Polynesian, which published letters from the residents of the islands, complaining about the lack of a postal system. The first Hawaiian stamps were printed in the same office that printed The Polynesian. It was not until October 1, 1851, that these first stamps, called the “Missionaries,” were sold.

1853 13¢ Hawaii, dark red, thick wht wove paper
US #H6 – 1853 Kamehameha III stamp

In 1853 new stamps picturing King Kamehameha III were printed in Boston. “Plain Border Numerals” followed these in 1859. These stamps were printed in Hawaii using the same methods as the previous Missionaries. These stamps were produced in limited runs, as they were unsure of the future of their postal system. So they were printed a total of nine times.

US #H13 – 1859 Plain Border Numeral stamp

Then in 1861 the Hawaii post began producing stamps honoring Hawaiian royalty. For over 30 years, Hawaii’s stamps pictured kings, queens, princes, and princesses. But in 1893, Queen Liliuokalani was overthrown and the monarchy was replaced.

1893 2¢ Hawaii, rose, black overprint
US #H66 – 1893 stamp with Provisional Government overprint

In the first year after the coup, the Provisional Government ruled Hawaii. The previous stamps were still used, but with an overprint marking the difference. On July 4, 1894, the Republic of Hawaii was declared – even as representatives were lobbying the American government to be added to the United States. (While Benjamin Harrison had supported annexation, President Grover Cleveland, who took office just two months after the coup d’état, was a staunch anti-imperialist and called for the queen’s restoration.)

In conjunction with the new government, a new set of stamps, known as the Pictorials, was issued. E.W. Holdsworth of Honolulu, who was the winner of a design contest advertised in the Commercial Advertiser newspaper, designed them. Holdsworth received $10 for each accepted stamp design.

1894 12¢ Hawaii, blue, S.S. "Arawa"
US #H78 – 1894 Pictorial stamp – only stamp with “Republic of Hawaii”

Six stamps were issued for the Republic of Hawaii, with five of them issued before the new government officially began. The sixth was issued on October 27, 1894. It had the inscription “Republic of Hawaii” added to reflect the new status, making it the only stamp of its kind in the world.

Complete Set, 1898 Universal Postal Union Colors
US #279-84 – UPU colors stamps that were in use at the time Hawaii became a territory and began using US stamps.

The new stamps were used through June 13, 1900. In 1898, Hawaii was eventually annexed by the US under President WIlliam McKinley. Three more stamps were issued in 1899, and used until Hawaii officially became a US territory on June 14, 1900. At that time, all Hawaii stamps were “demonetized” (marked as having no value), and regular US stamps were used instead. The US stamps in use at the time included the Universal Postal Union Colors stamps as well as the Trans-Mississippi Exposition commemoratives.

Click here for more Hawaii stamps.

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  1. Interesting story. I did not know that Hawaii was a Republic before becoming a US territory. Keep up the good work.

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