‘Grog;’ what is that?
Short answer, it’s any liquor, but especially rum, that’s been diluted with water.
Grog was named after British Admiral Edward Vernon (whom the sailors called ‘Old Grog’ because he always wore a grogram coat (grogram is a coarse fabric of silk mixed with wool,)) who gave the order that the daily rations of rum aboard Her Majesty’s ships be diluted. Pretty soon, taverns catering to sailors had taken up the practice, and grog became what was settled for when one couldn’t afford a stiffer dose. (Greer)
According to Kamakau, “The first taste that Kamehameha and his people had of rum was at Kailua in 1791 or perhaps a little earlier, brought in by Captain Maxwell. Kamehameha went out to the ship with (John) Young and (Isaac) Davis when it was sighted off Keāhole Point and there they all drank rum. …. Then nothing would do but Kalanimōku must get some of this sparkling water, and he was the first chief to buy rum.”
Don Francisco de Paula Marin was a Spaniard who arrived in the Hawaiian Islands in 1793 or 1794 (at about the age of 20.) His knowledge of Western military weapons brought him to the attention of Kamehameha, who was engaged in the conquest of O‘ahu. Marin almost immediately became a trusted advisor to Kamehameha I.
Hawai‘i’s first accommodations for transients were established sometime after 1810, when Marin “opened his home and table to visitors on a commercial basis … Closely arranged around the Marin home were the grass houses of his workers and the ‘guest houses’ of the ship captains who boarded with him while their vessels were in port.”
He fermented the first wine in Hawai‘i and distilled brandy. He also made rum from sugarcane and brewed beer, all of which he sold at his boarding house-saloon near the waterfront.
Within a decade or so, Island residents were producing liquor on a commercial basis. “It was while Kamehameha was on Oʻahu that rum was first distilled in the Hawaiian group,” wrote Kamakau. “In 1809 rum was being distilled by the well-known foreigner, Oliver Holmes, at Kewalo.” Several small distilleries were in operation by the 1820s.
Although both Hawaiians and foreign residents had been drinking hard liquor – either bought from visiting ships or distilled locally – for many years, no mention of bars or saloons occurs in the historical record.
However, by November 1822, Honolulu had seventeen grog shops operated by foreigners. Drinking places were one of the earliest types of retail business started in the Islands. Later, more were established.
Whalers – primarily American vessels – began arriving in Hawai’i in the early-19th century; they were hunting whales primarily for the whale oil for heating, lamps and in industrial machinery; with these ships and sailors came more rum; it became one of the sought-after items the Hawaiians traded for with the Westerners.
“There is scarcely a community in the world able to prevent the pestiferous influence of grog-shops to keep the habitual customers from excess, riot, and rum.” (Hiram Bingham)
The missionaries weren’t the only ones concerned about the effects of liquor. “Some ship-owners are afraid to have their ships come often to this port. Capt. Joy and others have been ordered by their owners not to come into this harbor to recruit, lest their men should be tempted to leave their vessel, or otherwise be led astray and induced to make trouble in consequence of the facilities for getting drunk and bringing other evils upon themselves.”
Capt. Beechey, of the ‘Blossom’ (of the British Royal Navy,) said to Kalanimōku, “If you do not suppress the grog-shops, I will not bring my ship into your harbor, when I return.” To which Kalanimōku replied, “I wish to suppress them, but the British consul owns one of them.” (Bingham)
“For some years after the arrival of missionaries at the islands it was not uncommon in going to the enclosure of the king, or some other place of resort, to find after a previous night’s revelry, exhausted cases of ardent spirits standing exposed and the emptied bottles strewn about in confusion amidst the disgusting bodies of men, women and children lying promiscuously in the deep sleep of drunkenness.” (Dibble)
But the missionaries apparently also shared in the libations. As late as 1827, the Honolulu contingent ran in effect a liquor store for its members. From May 15, 1826 to May 2, 1827, Hiram Bingham bought on his personal account 7 ½ gal of wine, 6 ¾ gal, 1 pt and a bottle of rum, 4 gal of brandy, 1 doz bottles of porter and 4 bottles of port. (Mission Account Book, Greer)
While visiting Anthony Allen for dinner (a former slave who had a home at what is now Washington Intermediate School,) Hiram’s wife, Sybil, notes in her diary, “He set upon the table decanters and glasses with wine and brandy to refresh us”. They ended dinner “with wine and melons”.
The Binghams were not the only missionaries to imbibe. Elisha Loomis bought 8 gal, 1 pt of wine, 1 gal of rum, and 1 ½ gal of brandy. Abraham Blatchley bought 4 gal of brandy, 2 gal of rum, and 2 gal of gin. Joseph Goodrich bought 2 ½ gal of wine and 1 qt of rum. Samuel Ruggles bought 1 ¼ gal of brandy and 2 ¼ gal of wine. Levi Chamberlain bought 3 qts of wine and 2 qts of brandy. The Medical Department drew 4 gal of rum. (Mission Account Book, Greer)
However, they shortly got on the bandwagon against liquor and encouraged King Kamehameha III and most of the chiefs to pledge themselves to total abstinence. And, in part, became zealous preachers of temperance; the king himself frequently addressing the people on the subject. (The King and others regularly fell off the wagon.)
In March 1838, the first liquor license law was enacted, which prohibited all selling of liquors without a license under a fine of fifty dollars for the first offense, to be increased by the addition of fifty dollars for every repetition of the offense. (The Friend, December 1887)
All houses for the sale of liquor were to be closed at ten o’clock at night, and from Saturday night until Monday morning. Drunkenness was prohibited in the licensed houses under a heavy fine to the drinker, and the loss of his license to the seller. (The Friend, December 1887)
In 1843, the seamen’s chaplain, Samuel C. Damon, started ‘The Temperance Advocate and Seamen’s Friend;’ he soon changed its name to simply “The Friend.” Through it, he offered ‘Six Hints to seamen visiting Honolulu’ (the Friend, October 8, 1852,) his first ‘Hint,’ “Keep away from the grog shops.”
However, that was pretty wishful thinking, given the number and distribution of establishments in the early-years of the fledgling city and port on Honolulu. The map illustrates this, noting various grog shops and other places where it was sold in Honolulu, from the turn of the century to the mid-1800s (Map based on Greer and geo-referenced into Google Earth.) Here’s a list of these establishments/proprietors:
1. Shipyard Hotel
2. Alex. Smith’s Private Grog-Shop
3. Oahu Hotel and South Seas Tap
4. William R. Warren’s Boarding House
5. Joseph Navarro’s Hotel
6. Blonde (Boki House)
7. Ship And Whale, Blonde
8. Indigenous Grog-Shop
9. Pearl River House
10. Sign of the Ann
11. Joel Deadman, Alex. Smith, James Vowles, Church, Charles Turner
12. Telegraph Tavern
13. Eagle Tavern, National House Hotel
14. Shipwright Arms
15. John Crowne
17. John Hobbs
18. Commercial Hotel
19. Samuel Thompson
20. Samuel Thompson
21. Francisco De Paula Marin’s Boarding House And Hotel
23. William E. Gill’s Hotel
24. Louis Gravier, Thomas Mossman
25. Dog And Bell, Rising Sun, White Swan
26. The Red Lion
27. Alex. Smith’s, Samuel Thompson’s Grog Shops
28. Warren Hotel, Canton Hotel
29. The Blonde
30. Jose Nadal’s Grog-Shop
31. Globe Hotel
32. Hill And Robinson Coffee House
33. Alex. Smith And John Munn
34. Paulet Arms
35. French Hotel
36. Capt. Nye’s Boarding House
37. George Chapman’s Consular Boarding House
38. Samuel Thompson
39. Samuel Thompson
40. French Hotel
41. Royal Hotel, Desprairie’s Victualing House
42. French Hotel, Mrs. Carter’s Boarding House
43. Mansion House Hotel
44. Mrs. Dominis’s Boarding House
45. Robert Boyd’s Grog-Shop And Hotel