1937 3¢ Hawaii
US #799 pictures a statue of Kamehameha in Honolulu.

The first king of the Kingdom Hawaii, King Kamehameha I, is believed to have died on May 8, 1819.

Kamehameha’s exact birthday is unknown but is believed to have been between 1735 and 1761. There are several different accounts claiming the date of his birth, but one interesting one places his birth in 1758.

1883-86 25¢ Hawaii, dark violet,perf 12, wove paper
US #H47 – 1883 Kamehameha stamp

According to legend, just before his birth, Hawaii’s mystic seers, or kahunas, determined a great leader would be born who would reign over all the islands. They came to this conclusion upon the sighting of a bright star. The date of the sighting coincides with the appearance of Halley’s Comet in 1758.

1893 25¢ Hawaii, dark violet, red overprint
US #H64 was issued under Hawaii’s provisional government in 1893.

Kamehameha was ordered to be put to death by his grandfather, Alapai, who was formerly king. But after Kamehameha was born, he was raised in secret. His original name, Paiea, meaning “Soft-Shelled Crab,” was changed when he reached adulthood to Kamehameha, meaning the “Great Lonely One” or the “One Set Apart.”

1894 5¢ Hawaii, rose lake, Kamehameha
US #H76 – Hawaii stamp picturing a statue of Kamehameha

Kamehameha was raised in the royal court of his uncle Kalaniʻōpuʻu. Upon his uncle’s death, Kamehameha received an important religious position, guardianship of the Hawaiian god of war, Kūkāʻilimoku, plus control of the Waipi’o Valley. His cousin succeeded his uncle and the two young men didn’t get along. Eventually, a group of chiefs from the Kona district pledged their allegiance to Kamehameha.

1899 5¢ Hawaii, blue, "cents" added
US #H82 – Hawaii stamp picturing a statue of Kamehameha

The island was divided between the two cousins, but they all lived in relative peace until July 1782. A dispute among some of their chiefs broke out and led to the Battle of Battle of Mokuʻōhai, during which Kamehameha’s cousin was killed. It was a major victory for Kamehameha, which gave him leadership over most of the island of Hawaii. From there, Kamehameha was determined to unite all the islands. He received aid from British and American traders, who sold him guns and ammunition.

2008 Hawaii State Quarter, D Mint
Item #CNHI25D – The Hawaii state quarter pictures the Kamehameha statue.

By 1795, Kamehameha had conquered all of the main islands except Kauai and Niihau. He appointed the local chiefs as governors and proclaimed himself King Kamehameha I. The chiefs of Kauai and Niihau accepted his rule in 1810.

2008 Hawaii State Quarter, P Mint
Item #CNHI25P – Hawaii State Quarter from the Philadelphia Mint

The first Hawaiian chief to unite the islands of Hawaii, Kamehameha was an able ruler and role model for the Hawaiian monarchy. He used chiefs as effective local rulers and preserved many of his people’s customs and religion. However, he did institute changes when necessary. Under Kamehameha’s rule, trade increased greatly. He built a huge fortune for Hawaii through a government monopoly on the sandalwood trade and port duties on visiting ships. Throughout the period of discovery by whites, Kamehameha did not succumb to foreign rule or colonization. In fact, he often had white men, or haoles, in his employ.

1937 3¢ Hawaii Classic First Day Cover
US #799 – Classic First Day Cover

Kamehameha is believed to have died on May 8, 1819 (though it could have been May 14). Following tradition, his friends hid his body. The Hawaiians believed a person’s mana, or power, was sacred, so their body needed to be buried in secret to protect their power. His final resting place is still unknown today.

1982 PRA King Kamehameha I
Item #126201 – Kamehameha Commemorative Cover

Kamehameha had between 21 and 30 wives and a total of 35 children. The children born to his highest-ranking wife, Keōpūolani, would succeed the throne. His family led the kingdom until 1872. After a series of governments, Hawaii became a territory of the United States in 1900. Though his family no longer reigns in Hawaii, King Kamehameha is a revered figure in the state’s history.

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  1. The story of the political struggles on the Islands ends rather abruptly with the statement that “Hawaii became a territory . . . ” That coincides with our ’empire-building binge following the war with Spain. I suppose we should already know, but I guess I’ll have to look up just how it happened In any case, Hawaii has been an important addition to the U.S The stamps are interesting, too..

  2. Kamehameha obviously was not stupid and proved himself to be pretty smart. With a different wife for every night and 35 children, he had his way every day … with plenty in his household to take care of his kids and lifestyle !! On the serious side, he indeed proved himself to be a capable leader who cared for people, united the Islands, improved trade and international relations for Hawaii , and today … Hawaii is one of the beautiful and wonderful States of our GREAT Nation … the USA !! Thank you, Mystic, for the explanation and update !

  3. I hope that someday the people of the world, especially the USA. Realize that hawaii was illegally taken, it was overthrown and forced to become a state. Not by choice but by force. The kingdom of hawaii never wanted to become a part of the USA, but given our strategic location for the purposes of war were forced to or face genocide. Our queen was thrown in jail and forced to sign away her lands in order to save her people. GOD sees all, and the day of judgement soon come, blessings.

    1. It’s probably nothing we can do about what what happened back then. But we can’t change and things up on its Earth. We need to leave and learn to respect. Other people property their culture.
      Is saying Agreed get in the way what other people have built

    2. I dream of a day America will give the land back to the indigenous people here before colonization, especially Hawaii. Too many act like this was ancient history & it’s ’too late now’ but Hawaii wasn’t even a state a century ago. It’s time to give the land back to its true people!

  4. I often learn more about history from these articles than I did in any of my high school or college history classes.

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