Ka Lama Hawaii and Ke Kumu Hawaii were the papers of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM,) mainly New England Calvinist missionaries, but produced by and for their students at Lahainaluna School in Maui.
The Hawaiian language newspapers were not the only early papers in Hawai’i. Although Ka Lama and Ke Kumu Hawaii were the first two newspapers to be published in Hawai’i, English language newspapers soon followed.
Ka Nonanona and Ka Elele Hawaii were both edited by Reverend Richard Armstrong, who later became the superintendent of the Department of Public Instruction. Ka Hae Hawaii, official newspaper of that department under Armstrong, also conveyed a Protestant slant.
Some English language papers supported Christianity. The Polynesian (1840-41, 1844-64), was published by James Jackson Jarves of Boston. From 1844 to 1860 it became the official printer of laws and notices of the Hawaiian government. The Friend (1843-1954) was begun by Reverend Samuel Chenery Damon.
In contrast, the Honolulu Times (1849-1851) published by Henry L Sheldon, originally of Rhode Island, opposed the influence of American Protestants, as did the earlier English language newspapers supported by the business community.
After the Honolulu Times ceased publication, Abraham Fornander, who had written for Sheldon, published the Weekly Argus (1851-53). Fornander’s objective was to provide in the Weekly Argus a voice against the government’s Polynesian. From 1853 to 1855 it was published as the New Era and Weekly Argus.
In 1856 Henry Whitney began the Pacific Commercial Advertiser (1856-), which was renamed the Honolulu Advertiser in 1902. In 1882 Whitney also started the Daily Bulletin (1882-) which was later renamed the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.
Henry Martyn Whitney (1824-1904), son of Samuel and Mercy Whitney of the Pioneer Company of ABCFM missionaries, was born on Kauai, and educated in Rochester, New York.
He worked on the American newspaper New York Commercial Advertiser and for the publisher Harper and Brothers, then returned to Hawai‘i where he served as head printer at the Hawai’i government printing plant and business manager of the English-language newspaper, The Polynesian.
In 1861, while he continued to publish the Pacific Commercial Advertiser, Whitney commenced publication of Ka Nupepa Kuokoa.
Ka Nupepa Kuokoa has been described as “the first independent Hawaiian newspaper”, in the sense that it was independent of American Protestants, French Catholics and the government of the Hawaiian kingdom (although published by a missionary son and edited by him, as well as students from the Mission’s Lahainaluna.)
“It is true that a foreign publisher in this city has offered to issue a journal in the Hawaiian language to supply the intellectual want of the native people, and that his offer has been most warmly seconded and espoused by the Missionaries, but as a general thing the natives repudiate it …”
“… not because it may not prove a valuable and instructive journal, but because it is calculated to drive their own paper out of the field, and because they apprehend that it will not be a true reflex of their own opinions and thoughts upon matters and things.” (Polynesian, November 23, 1861)
Henry Whitney’s far-reaching influence as publisher of Ka Nupepa Kuokoa is described by Helen Chapin as being due to his practice of hiring capable Hawaiian editors, such as Joseph Kawainui, SK Mahoe, and JM Poepoe, who published what turned out to be materials of the greatest importance to Hawaiian history. (Chapin; Hori)
In 1861 the editor of Ka Nupepa Kuokoa was L H Gulick. He announced in the paper that Kuokoa would continue where Ka Hae Hawaii had left off, in its support of the missionary position.
In 1866, while still editor of Kuokoa, Gulick started the Hawaiian language newspaper Ke Alaula, with coeditors Anderson O. Forbes and Lorenzo Lyons. All three were also agents and distributors of Kuokoa on outer islands. Ke Alaula was from the Hawaiian Board of Missions.
Ka Nupepa Kuokoa, the Hawaiian language newspaper with the longest publication history, first appeared in 1861. While published with Christian mission support and demonstrating a haole, or European-American stance, it had a long history of publishing information about Hawaiian, or Kanaka Maoli, tradition and culture.
Ka Nupepa Kuokoa published monthly in October, November, and December of 1861, and weekly thereafter until December 29, 1927. In the course of its history it would absorb a number of its rival newspapers.
In Kuokoa were genealogies, tales of gods and goddesses, vivid descriptions of Hawaiian birds, bird catching and fishing practices, instructions on canoe building, summaries of medical practices, accounts of travel through the Islands, and how to speak the Hawaiian language correctly.
In its pages, too, first appeared the stories of John Papa Ii and Samuel M Kamakau, which were later gathered together respectively as Fragments of Hawaiian History (1959) and The Ruling Chiefs of Hawaii. (Chapin; Hori) (The inspiration and information in this summary are largely from Hori.)