From Our Files: Hawaii Firsts

Our History

Throughout 2013—our 125th anniversary year—From Our Files will focus on a different theme each month, looking back at how particular aspects of life in Honolulu were lived and reported on by HONOLULU Magazine and its predecessor, Paradise of the Pacific.


October 1896

Paradise of the Pacific, predecessor to HONOLULU Magazine, reports that President Grover Cleveland has thrown his support behind the idea of a transpacific telegraph cable to connect Hawaii to the Mainland. The Reciprocity Treaty is one year away from expiring, but the president is interested in extending the American relationship with Hawaii, citing national security concerns and the need to join in the booming commerce of the Pacific lest the nation lose that opportunity to Canada or England.

Paradise would report on progress on the cable almost monthly, until January 1903, when it was able to announce that the cable was complete and the first telegraph from San Francisco received: “San Francisco, January 1st—Compliments of the season. Weather finer than California has ever known at this time.”

March 1905

The first cars have arrived in Honolulu and Paradise brings its readers up to speed.

“Twenty-five automobiles of various makes and patterns are in daily use in Honolulu,” primarily as recreational vehicles. Paradise predicts they’ll soon replace horses and buggies, quickly becoming cheaper and without the attendant cruelty to animals. “A good horse and buggy … represents a capital of $500 ($13,500 in today’s dollars) and the cost of maintenance … is nearly $500 a year more,” while “there are 18 makes of gasoline cars whose prices in the east range from $425 to $700, and averaging six horsepower.” The magazine also describes the “wild exhilaration” of “speeding 30 miles an hour.”

September 1927

*Inspired by Charles Lindbergh’s prize-winning nonstop flight from New York to Paris, James D. Dole sponsors an air race with prizes for the first civilian pilots to fly nonstop from California to Oahu. First place would receive $25,000 ($330,000 in today’s dollars), second place would receive $10,000 ($132,000 in today’s dollars). “Four airplanes left Oakland Airport, California, early in the afternoon of Tuesday, August 16, bound for Wheeler Field, near Honolulu,” writes Paradise. “Two finished in grand style after more than a day’s tense flight over twenty-odd hundreds of North Pacific air-miles.”

First-place winner is Arthur C. Goebel, with Martin Jensen in second place. “And what of the other two? At this writing—August 23, 9 a.m.—they are still missing, as is the plane Dallas Spirit which took off from Oakland for Honolulu on August 19.”

Later issues would report that the missing pilots were never seen again.

(Bonus history: Amelia Earhart would be the first pilot to fly nonstop to California from Hawaii, in 1935.)

*Updated 1/1/14. In our November From Our Files, the item on the first pilots to fly nonstop from California to Oahu in 1927 should have clarified that they were the first civilian pilots. The Army made the first official flight 16 days earlier. Thanks to Ruth Freedman for catching the error.

January 1953

Television became a reality in Hawaii on December 1st, when KGMB-TV went on the air with a lineup of top flight work programs and feature film shows,” announces Paradise. “A live telecast from the studio at 1534 Kapiolani Boulevard launched that station, and a local radio personality, ‘Kini Popo,’ made his TV debut.” Hopalong Cassidy became the first TV show to attract a local sponsor, Love’s Biscuit and Bread Co. As Hawaii’s only station, KGMB-TV then carried programs from networks NBC-TV, CBS-TV and ABC-TV, including Arthur Godfrey and His Friends, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, Studio One, Schlitz Playhouse of Stars and Abbott & Costello. “Experts … estimate that by the middle of January there will be approximately 12,000 TV receivers in Hawaii.”


September 1959

“The jet age officially came to Hawaii a few weeks ago on the swept-back wings of a Qantas 707, first airline to begin scheduled jet service across the Pacific,” writes Paradise, in a cover story on the coming jet age. Pan American and United Air Lines are scheduled to begin jet service to Hawaii this month, with more airlines to follow as they acquire jets. “This is the year the world shrinks by 40 percent … [the jet age] in this ocean hemisphere will shatter the isolation of vast over-water distances … the jet age can usher in a new era of understanding among people of the world. And jet airliners will bring nations closer together than has ever before been possible.”

The issue also includes a travel guide to other Pacific destinations, on the grounds that they’ll soon be within easy reach for Hawaii’s travelers.

December 1967

HONOLULU reports that KAIM-FM was the first station to broadcast in the new stereo, high-fidelity FM frequencies, and recommends the purchase of FM radios for adult music, as opposed to the top 40 and rock ’n’ roll on the AM dial.

May 1980

A HONOLULU cover story reports on several Island firsts in alternative energy, including the first federally funded windmill, built on Kahua Ranch on the Big Island in April 1980; Barnwell Industry’s first geothermal well drilling in Puna, to commence in June 1980; and the successful 1979 test of Mini-OTEC, a sea vessel that converts ocean thermal energy to electricity. Writes HONOLULU, “Hawaii is currently in an unenviable position energywise, relying on imported oil for 92 percent of its energy needs—yet at the same time, Hawaii is considered a global leader in alternate energy research.”