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As the Fleet approached the Islands of Hawaii on July 16th they made a close pass to the Island of Molokai which was operated as a leper colony. The fleet at 4 miles was an impressive site for the settlement and their visit was appreciated by the Jesuit brothers. Three Divisions then proceeded directly to the island of Oahu and anchored off Diamond Head. The fourth division visited Maui, led by Admiral Emory to meet with the Queen and listen to her perspective on the Islands.
Items from the fleet's visit to the Hawaiian Islands have proven difficult to find. This could be caused by several factors. The Hawaiian Islands were a distant place from the mainland and commercial photographers did not see a market in creating quick postcards for sale, who would they sell them too? Sailors purchased souvenir cards that were local cards and posted them in Honolulu. They looked no different than any other card from someone visiting the Hawaiian Islands. There is also a factor that the people of Hawaii did not see any particular value in America sending 16-battleships to remind them of their control over the Islands. The visit was not necessarily a good thing in their eyes.
Below is a real photo postcard showing multiple steamers approaching the fleet landing with liberty boats in tow. The boats in the foreground are from the Vermont, with the "V" displayed on their bow. The battleship behind, and to the left, is the Wisconsin.
cards mailed to family back home
For this port visit I rely most on individual collection from sailors who set cards and letters home. These can be verified by the crew rosters from before the ships left Hampton Roads making the cards identifiable from crew members of the fleet. Two of the collections, that are covered in detail on this site are the cards from Art Benefield, USS Rhode Island (Ben & Nellie), Charles Stotz, USS Illinois, and the cards and letters from Frank Lesher, USS Virginia. Frank's ship the Virginia which was in the 4th Division that visited Lahaina, Maui. The cards below are from Ben to Nellie living in Brooklyn.
The detachment of officers, led by Admiral Emory, that met with the Queen at her home listened to her talk of the island and what had been taken from her. Admiral Emory discussed the possibility of the Japanese invading the islands, in a way to say "the American occupation has prevented the Japanese from coming to the Islands." The Queen had replied, "In that case, your people would have been here too, no?" In the end, the visit brought no reconciliation and Admiral Emory and his staff left having confirmed the feelings of the former Queen.
These cards are from the Frank Lesher collection. At left, the royal throne room and casket where the crown of former days in kept.
Frank Lesher was a historian by nature. On almost every day of his journey he took time to write, or type I should say, his experiences. The letter at right, to "Papa" is written in Lahaina. "Well, Here we are in the village of Lahaina, which is nothing more than a large sugar plantation with thousands of acres of sugar cane growing on the sloping sides of the mountains of volcanic origin. The village is located right along side of the ocean and we had no sooner dropped anchor than fruit of all sorts was sent aboard as a gift of good feeling,consisting of watermelons, pineapples, bananas and other sorts of fruit."
Well ahead of the fleet's visit to Yokohama, the Mitsukoshi Gofukuten department store in Tokyo wisely advertised by passing out free postcards to sailors in Honolulu. The first card at right was mailed during the fleet visit from Honolulu to family back home in California. The picture shows their main store in downtown Tokyo.
The second card shows a Japanese kimono girl embracing the American Flag with a "welcome."
The company was an early version of "one-stop-shopping" offering everything for modern life under one roof. I was opened in 1904 and still survives today having merged in 2007 with Isetan, another major department store.
Some of the real photo postcards provided by the Battey collection show the pineapple barge coming along side his ship as it went pierside in Honolulu to take on stores. In the first photo you can see a tuba on deck from the celebration. In the third photo the band on the tug with ukuleles.
Hawaiian sailor's mail to the folks back home
During the fleet's visit, Honolulu had the Floral Parade. The parade went through downtown Honolulu to Waikiki and featured decorated cards and bands, including fleet sailors marching with flowers.
A card issued after the cruise by H. H. Stratton shows the crew of the USS Georgia marching through downtown Honolulu.
The card at right shows the King and Queen of the parade passing before crowds in a vintage auto. Both cards part of the Frank Lesher collection.
u.s. navy ballot post cards
These cards were a fun way to quickly tell folks back home how much fun they were having in Hawaii. The first card is sent by Charles Kreig, Seaman, USS Kansas and the second card by R. M. Dyer, USS Rhode Island.
Another fun postcard was the Cablegram. It had a pre-printed, typed message on it that looked like an actual cablegram with the date and time. This card was sent by F. R. Barker, USS New Jersey.
reception and Ball
The local population probably did not get too involved with a reception for the fleet, however, on Friday evening the 16th of July, The Official Committee for the Reception of the Fleet did have a Reception and Ball at the Waikiki Beach Seaside and Moana, in Honolulu. At left is the official invitation and at right the ticket, "Admit bearer and Ladies."
For my best guess, this was the Moana in Waikiki that was officially opened in March of 1901. It went by various names over the years including the Moana Seaside and is now the Moana Surfrider, A Westin Resort and Spa. In the center of the Moana's courtyard stands a large banyan tree planted in 1904 by Jared Smith, Director of the Department of Agriculture Experiment Station. When the tree was planted it was nearly 7-feet tall and now stands 75 feet high and spans 150 feet across the courtyard.
An important part of each port visit was to receive mail. The first card in this group is one that was possibly issued for the fleet visit with a date July 21, 1908 as part of the design.
The second card rating the port visit of Honolulu that could be filled out by a sailor and sent home. Also dated July 21, 1908
The card to the right is part of the Brown & Shaffer photographs showing the USS Minnesota on its way to Hawaii with the mail.
the baseball team of the uss maine
The USS Maine and Alabama were sent ahead of the main group of battleships departing San Francisco in early June 1908 and arriving in Hampton Roads in October 1908. These two photographs are taken by C. H. Hand, MD, Physical Director of the YMCA in Honolulu T. H. with "Aloha" June 21, 1908.
honolulu at night
These are two photographs taken at night. The first one shows the palace in downtown Honolulu decorated with lights for the fleet's visit. The second photo shows two of the cruisers that accompanied the battleship into the Western Pacific on their cruise. This card is canceled in October 1908 as they were returning to the West Coast.