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Hawai`i Bookshelf:

Stamps tell the story

Hawaiian Stamps

by Emmett Cahill

Orchid Isle Publishers

124 Pages $12.95

Emmett Cahill offers understanding of local history through his book Hawaiian Stamps, taking us back to 1851 when Honolulu was a small town and postmaster Henry M. Whitney doubled as newspaper editor and government printer. In 1851, Hawai`i issued its first stamps, which were called the Missionaries since Missionaries received and sent most of the mail. It was the same year Canada issued its first stamps: Three Penny Beavers.

Cahill explains that letters had been coming in and out of Hawai`i. Since the first explorers and adventurers stopped into the port of Honolulu. Usually a ship sailed in with the mail, which was often dumped on the floor of the Customs House for recipients to sort through the letters. In 1850, King Kamehameha III organized the mail service and established two, five and 13 cent stamps. By 1855 there were 24,984 pieces of outgoing mail and 23,940 pieces of incoming.

Cahill's book serves as an excellent reference on Hawai`i's rulers and the times they lived in. Below the picture of each stamp bearing a monarch's portrait, Cahill provides a biography and historical perspective. King Kamehameha III, for example, lived in troublesome times when lawlessness stemming from visiting whalers and sailors led to a crack-down by his step mother, Queen Ka‘ahumanu and her successor, Princess Kinau. The two women, who had adopted Protestantism, banned drinking and Catholic churches. When Kamehameha III matured beyond his regents' influence, however, he allowed the Catholics back into the kingdom and eased other social restrictions. The author writes that Kamehameha III divided the lands among the commoners and favored annexation to the United States, but he died in 1854, before the treaty could be signed.

Other stamps with interesting historical notes include the Kamehameha the Great statue, which sank with a ship on the way to Hawai`i from Germany. After the statue was recast, however, the original statue was found in the wreck of the ship and resold by sea captain to the Hawaiian government for $875. The original now stands on the Big Island in front of the Kohala Courthouse, near the birthplace of Kamehameha I, while the replacement stands in Honolulu's Palace Square.

Other histories explained by Cahill include revenue stamps, stamped envelopes, postal cards, stamps with Hawaiian themes from foreign countries and postal marks from old Hawaiian post offices.

Hawaiian Stamps is available from Orchid Isle Publishers, Box 807, Volcano, Hi. 96785.

Phone 808-967-7413.


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