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Hawaii: historical flags

Last modified: 2004-12-18 by
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History of the Hawaii flag

Summarizing the book "The History of the United States Flag", by Quaife, Weig, and Appleman (1961):

Dipesh Navsaria, 21 November 1995


I don't know if this is (or was) Standard Operating Procedure, but the British did confiscate all Hawaiian flags and burned them in 1843. This was the reason for the Hawaiian "revolt" which led to a British withdrawal in July (or so says a book I have on Hawaiian history). The "revolt" consisted of the total ignoring of the presence of the British by the Hawaiians. No talking, no notice, no nothing. Actually, the occupation was not sanctioned by London and Feb to July is how long it took word to go to London and back again. But the Hawaiians say they defeated the British by ignoring them!

Dave Martucci, 19 April 1997

The Hawaiian flag is traditionally held to have been commissioned, and possibly designed, by King Kamehameha I, who was, of course, not haole. However, this site at quotes the following from the "Polynesian Newspaper" of May 31, 1845:

"At the opening of the Legislative Council, May 25, 1845, the new national banner was unfurled, differing little however from the former. It is octo (eight) parted per fess (horizontal band), first, fourth and seventh, argent (silver represented by the color white): second, fifth and eighth, gules (the color red): third and sixth, azure (light purplish blue), for the eight islands under one sovereign, indicated by crosses saltire, of St. Andrew and St. Patrick quarterly, per saltire counter changed, argent (white) and gules (red)."

The Hawaiian flag previous to 1845 differed only in the amount of stripes, which was formerly "seven", and also the arranging of the colors. Previous to 1845 the white stripe was at the bottom instead of the present position of at the top. The person accredited with the designing of the new flag, which was unfurled before the 1845 Legislative Assembly, was Captain Hunt of H.B.M.S. (Her British Majesty's Ship) Baselisk. The Union Jack represented the friendly relationship between England and Hawai'i, and also noting that it was England and France that formally recognized the Hawaiian Kingdom as an Independent State and admitted her into the Family of Nations on November 28, 1843."
Unfortunately, they don't give any further source citation for this than the name and date noted above. Not that Capt. Hunt is credited with the design of the new (and current) flag, which doesn't preclude the traditional association of the earlier design with King Kamehameha I.

Andrew S. Rogers, 23 October 2003

Historical Variant

by Andreas Birken

Meyer's Konversations-Lexikon of 1897 had a different version of the Hawaiian flag. The Union Jack is smaller, the height corresponding only to three stripes instead of four. This could be the pre 1903 version.
Andreas Birken, 4 October 2001

Kuhina Nui flag

by Randy Young

This flag is from the book "Flags to Color, Washington to Lincoln," and is on page 30. It's listed as "Kuhina Nui's flag, 1850s."
Quoted from the book:

"Colors: Crown, letters, comma and period red; field white."

"Hawaii is the only part of the United States which was previously a separate monarchy. In the 1850s one of the important advisors to the king was the Kuhina Nui; her flag is shown here and incorporates the distinctive royal crown of Hawaii. American settlers overthrew the monarchy in 1893 in the hope that the islands would be annexed by the United States, but this did not happen until 1898 when concern was raised about way-stations for ships heading to newly acquired territories in the Far East."
Randy Young, 11 October 2004