«Jacob Adler In the Hawaiian legislature of 1878, Walter Murray Gibson, then a freshman member for Lahaina, Maui, proposed a monument to the ...»
The Kamehameha Statue
In the Hawaiian legislature of 1878, Walter Murray Gibson, then a freshman
member for Lahaina, Maui, proposed a monument to the centennial of Hawaii's
"discovery" by Captain James Cook. Gibson said in part: Kamehameha the
Great "was among the first to greet the discoverer Cook on board his ship in
1778... and this Hawaiian chief's great mind, though [he was] a mere youth
then, well appreciated the mighty changes that must follow after the arrival
of the white strangers."
After reviewing the hundred years since Cook, Gibson went on:
And is not this history at which we have glanced worthy of some commemoration? All nations keep their epochs and their eras.... By commemorating notable periods, nations renew as they review their national life.
... Some would appreciate a utilitarian monument, such as a prominent light- house; others, a building for instruction or a museum; and I highly appreciate the utilitarian view, yet I am inclined to favor a work of art. And what is the most notable event, and character, apart from discovery, in this century, for Hawaiians to com- memorate? What else but the consolidation of the archipelago by the hero Kamehameha?
The warrior chief of Kohala towers far above any other one of his race in all Oceanica.
... Therefore... lift up your hero before the eyes of the people, not only in story, but in everlasting bronze.1 The legislature appropriated $10,000, and appointed a committee to choose the monument and carry out the work: Walter M. Gibson, chairman; Archibald S. Cleghorn, John M. Kapena, Simon K. Kaai, and Joseph Nawahi.2 Soon the committee became largely a one-man show. Gibson went to the United States just a few days after the end of the legislative session. After talking with artists in New York City and Boston, he made an agreement with Thomas R. Gould, a well-known Boston sculptor.3 Possibly the first public notice that Gould had been chosen was a story in the Boston Evening Transcript of September 28, 1878. The notice ended with a Gibsonian touch: "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."4 Gould set right Jacob Adler is a professor of Accounting and Finance at the University of Hawaii.
87 to work. The progress of the statue can be gleaned from excerpts of the correspondence.5 Gould to Gibson Boston, September 30, 1878 I am advancing my study rapidly and improving it daily. I have increased the likeness, lightened the body, and raised the left hand higher up on the spear. He begins to look heroic. A statue is not made in a day.
Gould to Gibson Boston, October 16, 1878 There stands the King finished, and ready for your inspection. I suppose it is a live, strong figure.... I keep it from all eyes but yours. When will you come?
Gould to Gibson Boston, October 29, 1878 I have been refining and strengthening the forms of the King, and must put the figure in plaster on Friday November first, because, not only does clay crack and deteriorate... but I am summoned to Philadelphia... and must secure our King from danger by translating him into plaster before I go.
Gibson, in Boston on November 9, just missed Gould, who returned to the city on November 10. Before going back to the islands, Gibson appointed Edward M. Brewer, Hawaiian Consul, Boston, and James W. Austin, a former Honolulu resident, to act as agents for the monument committee.
Gould to Gibson Boston, November n, 1878 Now if the funds come and the first payment of $2,500 is made, according to our verbal agreement, all is well. But how if they don't come? In that case I want you to stand in the gap....
I have no reason to doubt your good faith; and I must believe that you will advance the sum named... before you go back, according to my claim and my need, and your honor.
Gibson to Gould New York, November n, 1878 I... trust that next mail will bring confirmation on the part of the rest of the committee of my preliminary agreement with you and also some funds....
The study which you undertook... is—in my opinion—a good design... but the chief correction must be in the face, which although designed to represent an Srlier period should conform somewhat more in likeness to the engraved portrait which you have had for copy.6 Gould to Gibson Boston, November 14, 1878 I propose to make another separate head in exact resemblance to the print we saw together... and perhaps another study of the figure, photograph all three and send them to your address in the islands.
Gould to Gibson Boston, December 4, 1878 In modelling the statue it will be very easy for me to lengthen the feather cape as you suggest, and to extend the waist cloth so as to cover the privates not as a clout but as a falling drapery....
With the photographs you promise to send me... I should be fully furnished to undertake this most interesting work.... Accordingly... I have drawn up and signed a contract embodying I believe our mutual understanding... and enclose herein. Would it not be well to obtain the endorsement... even of the King himself?
Commend me to His Majesty.. and say to the King that my heart is in this work to make a noble statue of his ancestor.
In mid-December other members of the monument committee confirmed Gibson's arrangement with Gould to complete a bronze statue of "heroic size" (about eight-and-a-half-feet tall) in twelve to fifteen months, for $10,000.
E. M. Brewer and J. W. Austin were confirmed as Boston agents. The cabinet council of the king also approved the arrangements.7 Gould to Gibson Florence, Italy, January 28, 1879 Your letter of Dec. 21 is before me: also three photos of natives to assist in my study of the figure....
No word has yet come from Mr. Brewer, nor any of the photos you speak of as sent to his care for me....
I hope the photos and funds will come soon for I want to begin the statue. Those photos ordered by His Majesty of a Hawaiian with the original feather cloak on, will be particularly valuable.
Gould to Gibson Florence, February 23, 1879 [Gould "perplexed and disappointed" that first payment of $2,500 has not been received.] Also that the photos of the Hawaiian with original feather cloak on...
[have] been detained in Honolulu.... These delays delay the statue.... all agencies ready for the work, but no news comes to me, no contract, no money.
Gould to E. M. Brewer Florence, April 23, 1879 I have received a joint letter from Mr. Austin and yourself... together with a contract in duplicate, a copy of the committee's instructions... and five photos, three of them being of a nude native Hawaiian, and the other two of a Hawaiian in the royal feather cloak and baldric, with helmet & spear, countersigned by the King.
Gould to Gibson Florence, May 26, 1879 Enclosed a photo of my Kamehameha statue nearly finished in clay. This was taken under disadvantages.... The photograph has less energy and dignity of pose and action than the statue itself.
But [this].. will form a basis for your judgment & criticism, and those of the King, to whom please present my most respectful compliments and my earnest desire that he will add his comment to yours.... Question: length and shape of spear? [Gould also enclosed a design for the pedestal by his son Alfred, a student of architecture under the "best Florentine masters."] Gibson to F. A. Schaefer8 Koele, Lanai, July 23, 1879 I enclose photo of Kamehameha statue in clay... and I beg that you will show the photo to gentlemen of the Committee.... [The artist] asks for instructions about the sandals.... I presume and hope that... the Committee will consult with His Majesty, and have the benefit of his valuable antiquarian observations....
I think the artist has succeeded in producing a vigorous Hawaiian expression...
strikingly resembling the portrait in work of Dumont D'Urville—Voyage Pittoresque.
The artist has copied closely the fine physique of [Robert] Hoapili [Baker].. and it presents a noble illustration and a correct type of superior Hawaiian manhood.9 Gould to Gibson Boston, September 19, 1879 A letter comes from... John M. Kapena, Minister of Foreign Affairs, enclosing a copy of one from His Majesty to... S. K. Kaai, Minister of Finance....
These relate to certain changes in the muscular development, arrangement of baldric, and to the feather malo.... A sketch by the King shows the point of spear and hints at other changes. These I understand to be the final instructions.
I... shall proceed to incorporate instructions in my statue immediately on my arrival in Florence the last of October.
On May 15, 1880, Gibson as chairman of the monument committee made a report to the legislature. The statue was finished, he said, and on its way to Honolulu. As he spoke, photographs of the final plaster cast were distributed among the legislators. They unanimously approved a motion that the photographs should be framed.10 The pictures caused some editorial comment on the un-Hawaiian aspects of the statue. For example, the Advertiser complained that the sandals were Grecian rather than Hawaiian and "detract from the fidelity to characteristic details so desirable in a national monument."11 In reply to such criticism, and no doubt with one eye on the legislature, Gibson either wrote or inspired an
article to the following effect:
The statue had been exhibited in Paris. Artists, diplomats, and eminent French citizens thronged to look at it, and took a new interest in the island kingdom that was commemorating its hero with a noble work of art. James Jackson Jarves, a former Hawaii resident and noted art critic, had expressed great admiration for the statue as a work of art and as an example of Hawaiian physique.
This was not a portrait statue, the article went on, but Gould had modelled 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 artist had seen a model of the helmet in the Boston Museum of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions.
90 There he had also studied a Hawaiian spear and feather cloak. His Majesty King Kalakaua had furnished the artist with a photo of a Hawaiian wearing a long feather cloak and helmet. As to the sandals, the committee had asked the artist to modify the Hawaiian footwear and use his own taste in giving the sandals a more classic look.
The writer (Gibson?) supposed that 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."12 The legislators passed a resolution that the monument committee remain in charge until the statue was finished and in position.13 They also included $2,000 in the appropriation bill for "pedestal and incidentals for Kamehameha statue and railing around same."14 Among sites which had been mentioned were Kapiolani 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 Aliiolani Hale (the present Judiciary Building), and this site was approved.15 Robert Lishman, Honolulu architect and builder, was chosen to build the base for the statue. He broke ground on December 6, 1880. He was under pressure to get the job done, for the statue had left Bremen on August 21, 1880, by the bark G. F. Haendel, and was expected about mid-December.16 December passed and the New Year came, and still no statue. On February 22, 1881, came word that the Haendel had gone down November 15, 1880, off Stanley in the Falkland Islands. All the cargo had been lost.17 One might suspect that the residents of Kohala, Hawaii, had prayed the statue to the bottom of the sea. About the time it was lost, King Kalakaua was on a royal tour of the island of Hawaii. He made a speech in front of the Kohala Postoffice.
Mr. D. S. Hookano responded in Hawaiian to this effect: "We receive your words with joy.... Let me add another matter. May it please your Majesty... let us remember the Conqueror, Kamehameha I.... It is good that we should here raise a monument for him, as this is his birthplace....
I therefore subscribe towards a monument in Kohala $ioo." 18 No doubt the residents of the district knew all about the statue planned for Honolulu, and they were piqued to have been overlooked.
The statue had been insured for 50,000 marks (about $12,000) with Gustave C. Melchers of Bremen through F. A. Schaefer of Honolulu. With the proceeds, a replica was ordered. Under a new agreement with Gould, the replica was to cost $7,000. He was also to get $4,500 for four bronze tablets, not less than 30 inches square, for the pedestal.19 These were to show incidents
in the life of Kamehameha:
1. The young chief visiting Captain Cook aboard his ship.
2. The warrior warding off five spears hurled at him at once.
3. The conqueror reviewing his fleet of war canoes from a bluff at Kohala.