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Celebrate the 125th Anniversary of Duke Kahanamoku’s Birth

A new Bishop Museum exhibit on Duke Kahanamoku features many never before-seen photos and artifacts.


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FROM LEFT: DUKE KAHANAMOKU IN ATLANTIC CITY, NJ, IN THE LEAD-UP TO ATTENDING THE 1912 OLYMPICS IN STOCKHOLM. KAHANAMOKU IN 1915, WELL-DRESSED AS USUAL, EVEN ON WAIKĪKĪ BEACH IN FRONT OF THE MOANA HOTEL BATHHOUSE. KAHANAMOKU WITH MOVIE STARS RICHARD BOONE AND PETER LAWFORD IN WAIKĪKĪ; ALL THREE ARE WEARING DUKE ALOHA SHIRTS.
PHOTO: COURTESY OF BISHOP MUSEUM 

 

Duke Kahanamoku: Olympic swimmer, surfer, heartthrob and … savvy businessman?

 

If your knowledge of the Duke consists mostly of his prowess in the water, you’ll want to check out an exhibit opening early next month at the Bishop Museum. Timed to coincide with the 125th anniversary of Kahanamoku’s birth, the exhibit brings together a unique collection of rare photos, video and artifacts—ranging from his Olympic medals to business correspondence—that give a behind-the-scenes look into his life.

 

“It’s clear from the records that Duke was very much in control of his image and his career. He was a veteran of publicity and he knew what he wanted,” says Bishop Museum historian DeSoto Brown. 

 

In the course of his decades-long career, Kahanamoku created and promoted his own aloha-wear line, traveled all over the world and moved in elite social circles that included celebrities, politicians and moguls. As the exhibit makes clear, he really blazed a trail as a Hawaiian, creating something that no other person from Hawai‘i had done before. “He did love to go to the beach, to Waikīkī. It was his home,” Brown says. “But Duke wasn’t just the happy-go-lucky surfer guy. He was definitely not a dumb guy.”

 

Exhibit runs from Aug. 8 through Nov. 30 at Bishop Museum. For more information, visit  bishopmuseum.org or call 847-3511.

 

Interested in more? Discover 10 Things Kids Shouldn’t Miss at the Museum’s Newest Exhibit.

 

READ MORE STORIES BY MICHAEL KEANY

 

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Honolulu Magazine September 2018
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