The Second Kamehameha Statue

The Kamehameha statue is famous. Every June 11th. on Kamehameha Day, this bronze statue, clothed in gold with an outstretched arm, is draped in Hawaii’s finest leis…plumeria, pekake, ginger, and tuberose decorate this striking figure. This statue is located near downtown Honolulu and I must have driven past it one hundred times…so today I decided to take a closer look and share it with you!

Standing directly in front of the Ali’iolani Hale, Hawaii’s Judiciary History Center and Supreme Court, and across the street from the Iolani Palace, stands Kamehameha, Hawaii’s ruler from 1782 until 1819. Considered the Guardian of the God of War, Kamehameha was best known for his humanitarian efforts. His grand gesture, holding a spear in one hand and reaching out to his people with the other showed the artist’s European flare, as it was a pose used commonly by Roman generals. Commissioned in 1878 by a member of the Hawaii government, this 14-foot statue was sculpted in Italy and then sent to Paris, France to be cast in bronze. In 1883 the statue was shipped to Hawaii – but it didn’t arrive. The ship carrying this precious cargo was shipwrecked near the Falkland Islands. Can you imagine? Shipwrecked!

Luckily the statue was insured for $12,000 – an exorbitant amount of money at the time – and a new one was quickly cast. Before the second statue could be shipped from Europe, fishermen in the Falkland Islands found the first statue. It was sold back to the Captain of the wrecked ship for $500…the crafty Captain then turned around and sold it immediately back to Hawaii…for $875!

Now Hawaii has TWO statues! The original statue can be located at Kamehameha’s birthplace on the big island of Hawaii and the second commissioned piece is here on Oahu…in the heart of Honolulu!

137 years later there are now six Kamehameha statues but that is another story…

-Meredith Novack

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