In the Hawaiian legislature of 1878, Walter Murray Gibson, then a freshman member from Lāhainā, Maui, proposed a monument to the centennial of Hawaii’s “discovery” by Captain James Cook. The legislature approved and he chaired the monument committee.
Among sites which had been mentioned were Kapiʻolani Park (where the annual Kamehameha Day horse-races were held); Thomas Square (“it needed improvement”); the Kanoa lot at the junction of Merchant and King streets (“too expensive.”)
Most of the legislators favored the front of Aliʻiolani Hale (the present Judiciary Building) and this site was approved.
After Gibson had talked with artists in New York City and Boston; he made an agreement with Thomas R. Gould, a well-known Boston sculptor who used photographs of models and reviewed Hawaiian artifacts in local museums in his design.
‘Boston Evening Transcript’ of September 28, 1878, noted “It has been thought fitting that Boston, which first sent Christian teachers and ships of commerce to the Islands, should have the honor of furnishing this commemorative monument.”
While Gould was a Bostonian, he was studying in Italy, where he designed the statue; ultimately, the statue was cast in bronze in Paris.
This was not a portrait statue, the article went on, but Gould had modeled the features after an engraved portrait of Kamehameha.
At the request of the monument committee, he had modified the features to make the king seem about 45-years old. The intent was a bronze statue of “heroic size” (about eight-and-a-half-feet tall.)
The stance of the statue, with spear in left hand and right outstretched with open palm, showed the “successful warrior inviting the people … to accept the peace and order he had secured.”
The statue was shipped on August 21, 1880, by the bark ‘GF Haendel,’ and was expected about mid-December. On February 22, 1881, came word that the Haendel had gone down November 15, 1880, off the Falkland Islands. All the cargo had been lost.
About the time it was lost, King Kalākaua was on a royal tour of the island of Hawai‘i. He made a speech in front of the Kohala Post Office.
There, the King was reminded the Kamehameha Statue was destined for Honolulu, yet Kohala, the birthplace of Kamehameha, was overlooked as a place for his statue. Kohala residents then raised funds and a replica was ordered.
It turns out, however, that the original statue had been recovered and was in fair condition.
The right hand was broken off near the wrist, the spear was broken and the feather cape had a hole in it. It was taken to a shed at Aliʻiolani Hale to be repaired.
Meanwhile, on January 31, 1883, the replica ordered by Kohala tablets and a forearm for the damaged original statue arrived.
On February 14, 1883, the replica statue was unveiled at Aliʻiolani Hale during the coronation ceremonies for King Kalākaua.
As for the original statue (which had been repaired,) it was dedicated on May 8, 1883 (the anniversary of Kamehameha’s death – 193-years ago, today) and is in Kapaʻau, North Kohala outside Kohala’s community/senior center.
So, the original statue actually ended up in Kohala, where the residents felt it rightfully belonged.
However, that is not the end of the story.
There are now five different statues of Kamehameha:
• The first replica stands prominently in front of Aliʻiolani Hale in Honolulu
• The initial (repaired) casting of the statue is at Kapaʻau, North Kohala
• Another replica is in US Capitol’s visitor center in Washington DC
• Another statue is at the Wailoa River State Recreation Area in Hilo
• A statute, created by Herb Kane, is at the Grand Wailea Resort Hotel & Spa on Maui]
The image shows the original (repaired) statue in Kapaʻau in 1908.
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