From Our Files

November archives

In 1888, King Kalakaua issued a royal charter, commissioning a magazine. Then titled Paradise of the Pacific, this publication became HONOLULU Magazine, making it the oldest magazine west of the Mississippi.




Pineapple was king in the Islands in 1949. The industry on Oahu included 96 acres for field studies conducted by the Pineapple Research Institute of Hawai‘i. “The Wahiawā experiment station has the world’s largest collection of pineapple varieties—more than 100 different cultivated, semi-wild and wild forms including the original Hawaiian pineapple called the Wild Kailua,” observes Paradise of the Pacific. Researchers studied soil management, the use of insecticides, new hybrid varieties and the development of production and harvesting machinery. In the photo, they are taste-testing the pineapples for sweetness.


“Preparing a book on Matson’s history is fascinating work. Digging through old files, talking to old timers, retired seamen and early-day friends of Captain William Matson is both stimulating and rewarding,” writes Paradise. Matson’s historian shares his stories, including the discovery of old ledgers and the history behind the name of the famed S.S. Lurline. It not was named after similarly sounding “Lorelei,” the maiden who sang at the cliffs of the Rhine River in Germany, luring ships to their doom as the legend goes, but rather was a Spreckels family name. The Spreckels family owned sugar plantations on Kauai.




Oahu celebrates the grand opening of the $26 million state Capitol ($161 million in 2009 dollars). “It is a structure filled with Hawaiian symbolism,” writes HONOLULU. “The exteriors of the House of Representatives and the Senate resemble volcanoes. The entire structure is surrounded by water—a capitol floating like an island.” Belt, Lemmon & Lo and John Carl were the building’s architects. The Capitol was praised as an impressive feat, but was also criticized for crowding the preceding seat of government, Iolani Palace. The 40-year-old Capitol received a minor facelift this summer for Hawai‘i’s 50th anniversary of statehood.




“James J. Williams began capturing history with his lens in 1879 and become one of Hawaii’s most prominent
and prolific photographers. In 1888, during the reign of King Kalakaua, who was a frequent photographic subject of his, J.J. Williams founded Paradise of the Pacific,” under a royal charter from the king. HONOLULU sits down with Williams’ grandson Alex Williams, who carried on the family photography business. “Grandfather was a friend and photographer of the monarchy,” he says. “He gave King Kalakaua the first copy of Paradise of the Pacific.” Some of Williams’ most iconic photos include those of Hawaiian royalty, Native Hawaiians and the fall of the monarchy. 



HONOLULU writer Joseph Theroux delves into the 1834 murder mystery of famous botanist David Douglas, who discovered the Douglas fir. It is said that, while conducting research on the summit of Mauna Kea, Douglas fell into a camouflaged animal trap (called a bullock pit) and was trampled to death. Theroux found a report by a community member of the time, Charles Hall, who suspected foul play. The key suspect: Edward “Ned” Gurney, an ex-convict from Australia, who lived in the mountains as a cattle hunter, and the same man who led missionaries to the scene of Douglas’ alleged accident. Hall believed that Douglas went to the convict’s hut, asking him to point the way to Hilo. They argued, and the convict fractured Douglas’ skull, killing him. He then dumped the body in one of the bullock pits. To this day, it is unknown whether Gurney killed Douglas. All that remains of the case is a plaque at Kawaiaha‘o Church, describing Douglas as a victim of science.  (For Theroux’s latest historical crime article, see "The Nerviest Man in Honolulu.")




Jason Scott Lee would rather be known for his body of work, not his chiseled abs (as seen in Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story). HONOLULU talks with the Island-raised actor about his love for local culture and his assessment of his past work. “I watch my movies over and over and over again,” he tells HONOLULU. “I like to think I’m watching myself from the inside, sort of as a third person, watching what my intentions are, why I reacted the way I did.” Lee comes home after finishing each of his films and does film work in the Islands today.