A Failed Challenge

This week, I was met with a challenge I could not meet. As my final microfilm assignment (for the time being), I was asked to look into the invitation of ex-queen Liliuokalani to New Bedford’s semi-centennial. According to a scrapbook my supervisor found at the New Bedford Whaling Museum, the ex-queen was invited to the celebration and to the surprise of everyone, she accepted. As written in the file, “the celebration committee was quite disturbed just what to do with an ex-queen and her attendants, but later the Queen recalled her acceptance.” My job was to look into any articles referring to her potential visit and her backing out. Our theory was that the committee wasn’t expecting her to accept, and panicked!

The semi-centennial and Liliuokalani, were advertised across the country – I found articles mentioning the event everywhere from New York City to San Francisco – so I didn’t think it would be quite difficult to find information about it from The Morning Mercury. I started in July 1897, looking for any mentions.

I found a few articles about the Queen, and plenty about the semi-centennial, but nothing pertaining the two of them. The closest I got was an article in early October, briefly mentioning how visitors from “as far away as Honolulu” had been invited to the ceremony.  However, they did not include her on the list of invited guests – by that point, I assume, she had already declined the offer.

What I could find about Liliuokalani is the following: while her earlier visits had attempted to prevent the annexation of Hawaii, it seemed almost impossible now. Instead, she was pleading with President McKinley to support an overthrow of the current Hawaiian administration in favor of a new election allowing all citizens to vote.[1] However, she continued protesting the Hawaiian annexation, saying she only abdicated the throne due to death threats, the Hawaiian people did not support annexation and that she would do whatever it would take to prevent it from happening. In fact, according to the San Francisco Call, “Liliuokalani…has accepted a nattering invitation to attend in a few weeks the reunion at New Bedford, Mass., of the old whalers. They hope to be able to assist her in her opposition to annexation with its implied control of the islands.”[2]  From what I gathered in The Morning Mercury, the ex-queen was traveling from Washington to San Francisco, and then at some point made her way back to Chicago. However, the details of her journey weren’t exactly clear.

As for the semi-centennial, it certainly looked like an event to remember.  Distinguished guests from all around the region were invited. Letters of congratulations were received from the governor and president.  The grand event took place over five days, with programs everyday hosted by local groups and businesses. I haven’t researched the actual date of the semi-centennial yet, so my details are still vague, but I can’t wait to find out more!

I still don’t know the reason why Liliuokalani rescinded the offer, so the journey continues into next week. I’ll especially take a closer look into the last few weeks of the reel, around the time of the San Francisco Call article. But this week reminded me of the struggle that comes with research. The answers aren’t always there – and when they are, it takes a lot more effort than just a few hours reading through a week of newspapers. I love a challenge – and it certainly makes this story more interesting as I read more and more about the situation. Stay tuned!


[1] Kim, Alice. “Liliuokalani Preventing U.S. Annexation – Hawai’i Digital Newspaper Project.” Liliuokalani Preventing U.S. Annexation – Hawai’i Digital Newspaper Project. https://sites.google.com/a/hawaii.edu/ndnp-hawaii/Home/historical-feature-articles/liliuokalani-preventing-us-annexation (accessed February 14, 2014).

[2] San Francisco Call, “Going to New Bedford,” September 15, 1897. http://cdnc.ucr.edu/cgi-bin/cdnc?a=d&d=SFC18970925.2.148 (accessed February 14, 2014

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