When Western trading ships stumbled upon the harbor of Honolulu in the 1790s, the place was nothing more than a scattering of grass huts on a hot, dry, dusty plain. From the moment that first ship dropped anchor, nothing would ever be the same. By mid-19th century, Honolulu was the biggest and busiest whaling port in the Pacific. It was the capital of the Hawaiian kingdom, the center of population, both native and foreign. It was the hothouse of rapid change, a breeding ground of disease, disorder and disruption. From the first Iolani Palace and Kawaiahao Church to the taverns and dance halls and brothels of Fid Street down by the waterfront, Honolulu was in perpetual convulsion – epidemics, fires election riots, national crises, with Hawaiian kings and commoners, consuls and warship commanders, pious missionaries, grasping traders and drunken whalermen, all contesting the terrain of life, as history forced Honolulu toward modernity.
Author: Gavan Daws