Hidden Treasure of Hawaiiana

The vast collections at an institution like the American Antiquarian Society have been built and sorted over decades and, somewhat to the surprise of many scholars and readers, continue to be processed today.  Bulk collections are constantly being inventoried and rehoused to address conservation concerns and, when the Society has the resources and staff available, many of these collections are cataloged to the item level to improve access.  During a sweeping hunt for separately published engravings for our Prints and the Parlor project, visual material cataloger Christine Graham Ward and I are having a closer look at the Society’s U.S. Views Collection, which is a useful pictorial reference collection organized by state.  (A box list is available online at http://www.americanantiquarian.org/Inventories/usviews.htm.) The U.S. Views Collection is quite a hodgepodge of visual material and includes printed ephemera, photographs, book illustrations, and engraved material showing street scenes, buildings, and landscapes.

While going through the folders concerning Hawaii, we discovered the simple drawing of the printing office in Honolulu shown here.  The ink drawing features accents and shading done in graphite and is dated August 14, 1866.  It shows a three story building with large windows.  The printing office was built in 1841 out of bleached coral blocks cut from the reef in the nearby ocean.  We were very excited to find the drawing, as the Society is home to outstanding examples of Hawaiian printing, including newspapers, books and maps.  We also hold a collection of rare early Hawaiian engraved views produced by students at the Lahainaluna School on the island of Maui in the 1830s and 1840s.  (An illustrated inventory of these images is available online at http://www.americanantiquarian.org/Inventories/hawaiianengravings.htm.)

We were chatting about how great it would be to add this newly discovered view of the printing office on Honolulu to the Drawings Collection at the Society, when I noticed the sheet was folded over.  After unfolding, we discovered the second drawing inside, also illustrated here, showing the island of Maui from the water!  This drawing is closely based on the Lahainaluna School engraving with the same title, already in our collection. Both are called “Maui from the anchorage at Lahaina” although the artist of the drawing has added the subtitle “A distant view” as well as marginalia featuring two small doodles of a carved stick with a wide-mouthed tiki head.  We know the print was done by a student named Kalama after a drawing by K. L.  Could this be the original drawing for the engraving?  Or is this a later picture based on the engraving?  The 1866 date on the accompanying drawing of the printing shop seems to argue for the latter. The drawing will be added to the Society’s drawing inventory and be made available online and we shall continue to work our way through the U.S. Views over the coming months.  Who knows what additional treasures we may find!

Published by

Lauren Hewes

Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Graphic Arts, American Antiquarian Society

2 thoughts on “Hidden Treasure of Hawaiiana”

  1. This is so interesting! I have many ancestors and family members from Massachusetts who were in Hawaii 1820s- about 1910. There were many missionaries from Holden there at this time period, too. I never thought of exploring your resources for Hawaiiana. Shame on me!

    1. Heather,
      Thank you for your post. There is actually an 1838 engraving of Holden in our Hawaiian Engravings collection done by someone named “Bailey.” We expect it was someone from the Massachusetts missionary group. Many of the Society’s Hawaiian imprints (newspapers and books) arrived here from missionary families — so please do come in and have a look!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *