Hawaiian Electric: The Jubilee Ball

#90 in the Moʻolelo series

The film Princess Kaʻiulani begins with the lighting up of ʻIolani Palace, which is just then stormed by a militia of “citizens” (they all had one thing in common), who demand a new constitution. Kūhiō himself, presumably puts a gun to Lorrin Thurston’s head and he backs down, temporarily avoiding the “inevitable.” This dramatic sequence never occurred, but it signifies the ambivalent tension around Kalākaua’s reign – nothing he could do was impressive enough to satiate sugar growers’ need for annexation.

ʻIolani Palace and the Kalākaua family crest (wikimedia commons)

In 1886 ʻIolani Palace was indeed lit up by electric lights for the Jubilee Ball. Kalakaua met and continued to correspond with Thomas Edison in order to make this happen. It is well-known that ʻIolani Palace had electric lighting before the White House or Buckingham Palace. The Daily Bulletin noted the achievement:

The entrance to and exit from the Palace grounds were brilliantly lit by electricity, making the streets outside the enclosure … almost as light as day.

The Daily Bulletin, Nov. 25, 1886

The Bulletin complemented his majesty’s hospitality:

As mentioned in “The Other Big 5,” it was Kalākaua who initiated Hawaiian Electric Company in the Kingdom era to facilitate the introduction of electricity in Hawaiʻi.

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