World War II and Statehood: Cultural Diversity and Tourism
Development of Diversity in Hawaii – An Introduction
Hawaii’s main industry in the 19th century was sugar production, which required many labourers. Due to a labour shortage, people from Asia, Europe, and America immigrated to Hawaii to work on these sugar plantations. This was the beginning to the creation of a very ethnically diverse Hawaii. At this point in time the population of Hawaii consisted of Japanese, Chinese, Filipino, Spanish, Portuguese and Korean immigrants that came to work on these plantations. The 20th century saw an increase in ethnicity around the islands during and after World War II. A large portion of the laborers that came to Hawaii in the later 19th century were Japanese, because of the relatively close proximity of the two lands. The second generation of these immigrants were very invested in their home; therefore they flocked to sign up to fight and defend it. The Japanese formed the vast majority of the island’s population, numbering close to 160,000. Hawaii is a strong example of how people with different ethnic backgrounds can come together and work towards a common goal. All the immigrants came from different cultures but through hard work the generations to come had a particular attachment to the island, demonstrating how these people with various ethnic heritages came together to become a major part of all Hawaiian institutions.
Before the start of the war, the population of Hawaii was at 423,000 which included an Asian majority of around 310,000 and a white minority of 105,000. Although the census depicted over one hundred thousand whites living on the island, this was not the case. In the census, Portuguese and Spanish immigrants that had arrived decades earlier to work on the plantations were also considered part of the white minority. It was not until large scale military preparations in late 1940 and early 1941, that white American serviceman arrived. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, military officers and civilians with Japanese backgrounds were scrutinized. Many loyal to mainland US became distrustful of the large population of Japanese. They were distrusted by others on the island, yet they were invaluable as they comprised a large part of the workforce. Many of the Japanese people dealt with the suspicion and continued to contribute to the war effort. Their commitment can be seen in the distinguished 442nd Regimental Combat Team of the United States Army. Also, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, martial law was put in place meaning military rule was exerted by military officials in Hawaii when the local government could no longer handle the situation at hand. Hawaii became a military zone with thousands of different people essential to the war effort passing through the area. This meant that people from all over were flooding in and around Hawaii from many different places, increasing the ethnic diversity of the island. Many of these people that were posted in Hawaii or spent any amount of time there on their way to battles in the pacific found ties to the islands. In Honolulu, a large cemetery was developed for the thousands that died in the war. This meant that many people, including friends and family members of those buried there, wanted to travel back to pay their respects. With the strategically valuable military institutions on the island, communications between Hawaii and mainland United States improved drastically. This had an impact on the volume of travel to Hawaii. Along with this, Pearl Harbor became a major attraction to many travelers, increasing tourism to the islands. The population census of 1950 indicated this change with the total count of the people on the island reaching over 500,000.
After many heated political events, Hawaii became the 50th state on August 21, 1959. This momentous event drew tourists from all over to join the celebrations. Ever since the decrease of agricultural practices, Hawaii has depended largely on the tourism industry to maintain its economy, though resources such as sugar and pineapple are still major contributors. The part it played in the war efforts and the interesting colorful history of the path to statehood has kept interest up among civilians to visit the islands as well as helped maintain the ethnic diversity that has been present since the need for laborers in the 19th century.
The Road to Pearl Harbor
The rising events taking place during the post annexation period in Hawaii would lead Hawaiian residents to resent the United States due to their involvement in eastern affairs and the Russo-Japanese conflict. President Theodore Roosevelt mediated concessions after Japan won its influence over Russia in 1905, which lead to tensions between the U.S and Japan. Japan blamed Roosevelt for obstructing Japanese gains and blocking a Japanese indemnity that would have helped Japan pay for the war. Tensions would escalate further, eventually leading to the attack on Pearl harbor and U.S involvement in World War II.
The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor had its beginnings in Japanese expansionism in Eastern Asia and the Pacific. The tandem of victory in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) and a rapidly increasing population forced Japan to look beyond its own shores for vital raw materials. After the 1931 Mukden Incident, wherein the Japanese plotted an explosion to be blamed on the Chinese, the Japanese invaded Manchuria for economic and political gains. Full-scale war between Japan and China broke out after the 1937 Marco Polo Bridge Incident, the result of conflicting border patrols from each nation leading to an exchange of fire and a battle for the bridge. China was sourcing military supplies from the United States, which caused Japanese-American relations to deteriorate. Consequently, the Japanese invaded French Indochina to cut the Burma Road, the route by which American military supplies reached the Chinese. The Americans countered by freezing Japanese assets in the United States on July 26th, and embargoing petroleum exports to Japan on August 1st. The Japanese relied heavily on American oil causing them to look for alternative ways to keep their war machine going.
The Japanese response to this was preparation for full-scale war with the United States and the development of a three-phase plan. “Phase I, capture the ‘Southern Resources Area’ (mainly the Dutch East Indies) and defensible perimeter locations around the ‘Co-Prosperity Sphere’; Phase 2, consolidate and strengthen the defenses; Phase 3, defend until the USA is weary of war.” However, the Japanese began conducting preparations for war months prior to the freezing and embargo. Admiral Yamamoto, the commander-in-chief of the Japanese fleet, had already devised a “secret plan for a preemptive strike against the American fleet in order to give Japan time to fortify its newly conquered territories.” The bulk of the American fleet, including three aircraft carriers and nine battleships, had been moved to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, posing a significant threat to Japanese operations in the Pacific. The Japanese fleet, comprised of six aircraft carriers, two battleships, and numerous escort cruisers and destroyers under the command of Vice Admiral Nagumo, assembled near the Kurile Islands in mid November, and embarked upon their journey to Hawaii on November 26th. The fleet maintained radio silence and followed a storm front in order to escape detection. These precautions weren’t completely necessary as the Americans had yet to break the Japanese Naval code. The Americans, using the MAGIC system, had however broken the diplomatic codes used by the Japanese in 1940. Intercepted messages illustrated just how strained the Japanese-American relationship had become. Fearing an imminent attack, US Admiral Stark sent a warning message to American Commanding Officers in Hawaii and the Philippines. On December 2nd, a Japanese diplomatic message was intercepted and decoded, the message instructing officials at the Japanese Embassy in Washington to destroy the codes in order to prevent the Americans from seizing them. On December 4th, the Japanese Embassy began leaving Washington for Japan, which led President Roosevelt to implore Emperor Hirohito to avoid war on December 6th. However, it was to no avail, as the Japanese unleashed one of the most successful surprise attacks in history on Pearl Harbor on “a day which will live in infamy,” December 7th, 1941. Full scale war began between the Americans and the Japanese with Hawaii serving as a major military outpost in the Pacific.
Attack on Pearl Harbor
On December 7th, 1941, the nation of Japan attacked the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor on the island of Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi, west of Honolulu. During this time the majority of American naval power was stationed in Pearl Harbor. Japan intended to attack countries in South East Asia and the Pacific Islands for their strategic locations and resources and in order for this to happen, the Imperial Japanese Navy decided to attack Pearl Harbor to destroy the majority of the fleet, thus preventing the Americans
from attacking them for a few years. Japan was also retaliating against American intervention in Japanese affairs, which included the U.S. prohibition of steel, scrap iron and fuel exports to Japan due to the takeover of French Indochina. Japan had considered other American Naval bases as their target but 2-3 days before the attack they decided to attack Pearl Harbor because the other naval bases had empty docks. Pearl Harbor at this time had the USS Arizona docked in the naval harbor and the Arizona was the pride of the American Pacific fleet.
At 6:04 in the morning the Japanese launched their first wave on Pearl Harbor with the support of 183 aircrafts with the objective of disabling the American fighter planes to eliminate their ability to fight back in the air. The Island had advance radar, so the Americans did get early warning that unknown planes were approaching the island, but the warning was called off due to an arrival of six bombers. The American military was caught off guard and it was nearly impossible for them to launch a counter attack. The second wave of attack came at 8:30 am and the main objective on this attack by the Japanese was to disable any naval ships docked in the harbor. Upon the attack the Japanese navy thought that all Pacific naval ships were docked at Pearl Harbor but this critical information was wrong. The majority of the Pacific fleet was out on a training mission and not in the harbor. After the second wave Pearl Harbor was severely paralyzed but it remained a strong naval base in the Pacific. After all the fires were put out and the smoke cleared, 9 ships of the U.S. fleet had been sunk and 21 ships were severely damaged and the death toll reached 2,400 military personnel. The Japanese also received casualties by losing 29 of 350 fighter planes.
The attack on Pearl Harbor was a huge shock to the United States. President Franklin D. Roosevelt addressed the United States Congress as well as the world with his famous quote “December 7 , a date which will live in infamy”. The following day the United States declared war on Japan. The attack on Pearl Harbor is the factor that pushed the United States to enter World War II in both the Pacific and Europe. Although the Japanese attack was, in many ways, a tactical success, it was in retrospect a strategic failure. Seven months after the attack, fuel supplies overlooked in the attack enabled the defeat of a Japanese naval fleet forced by U.S. Pacific Fleet carriers at Midway, in a battle that turned the tide of the war.
Hawaii after Pearl Harbor
The Hawaiian population was able to maintain social cohesion and order in the aftermath of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor through organization, mass mobilization, and the utilization of Martial Law. The civilian response was united and overwhelming; civilian groups and clubs mobilized to aid emergency response teams while many citizens volunteered to protect public utilities and prepare for further attacks. The implementation of Martial law was welcomed by the majority and viewed as a necessary response to the crisis. The attack on Pearl Harbor was the beginning of war for the American nation as well as the state of Hawaii; after the initial response the citizenry settled in to a state of war by remaining organized and mobilized.
The civilian response to the initial chaos of the attack was immediate organization and mobilization through the involvement of volunteers and civilian groups and clubs. Clubs like the boy scouts of America signed aided services such as the police department fulfilling duties such as running supplies and transporting the wounded. Organizations such as the Red Cross and the Salvation Army set up canteens to provide food and drinks to the overwhelming number of civilian volunteers who organized and mobilized to help with the rescue and relief operations. As Hawaii and the United States entered the war, this organization of the citizenry grew into organized efforts to support the war and enabled the society to remain cohesive during a time of total upheaval. The mobilization of the population also primed society for the inevitable call to battle; as the men left to fight abroad Hawaii’s society was able to rationally and effectively reorganize to accommodate for such upheaval in state and social order. Schools were shut down as teachers left to the battlefields while women and children organized supply stations and interim hospitals. The effective use of organization and mass mobilization allowed the Hawaiian population to maintain social cohesion and order preventing the event from crippling the state and dispelling the populous into chaos and dysfunction.
Maintaining social order and unity was also achieved through the utilization of Martial law; in this case the mass population was willing to suspend civil liberties for the security of the citizenry and the defense of the state. Immediately after the attack, Hawaii’s Territorial Governor Joseph B. Poindexter proclaimed Martial law. National Guards took over control of the cities and protected civilians from a possible third wave of attack. A military curfew was implemented and all homes were ordered to blacken out at night. If any persons were to be found on the streets after curfew hours they would be detained and considered an enemy of the state until further investigation. What was damaging to the state of Hawaii was the treatment of Japanese Americans after the attack. Hawaii’s large minority of Japanese Americans became especially vulnerable after the Pearl Harbor attack to acts of violence from the populace on the islands. Since the attacks took place on the islands, many Hawaiians felt like they were personally being attacked by the Japanese leading to increased anti-Japanese sentiment throughout the islands. Many Japanese Americans were detained and removed to relocation centers; the Defense Department considered them spies until a full investigation could be completed. Although the treatment of Japanese Americans has been theorized as inhumane it allowed the state to create an atmosphere of order and security while enforcing social cohesion. The treatment of Japanese Americans really hurt the sugar plantations in Hawaii as well. Seeing as how sugar was a main export of Hawaii, the attack on Pearl Harbor weakened the industry immensely. In the 1860’s Hawaii sent recruiters to Japan to bring Japanese immigrants to work on the sugar plantations for low pay, and with the majority of Japanese immigrants sent to relocation centers many of the sugar plantations closed due to the lack of labor.
Through organization, mass mobilization and martial law the Hawaiian population was able maintain social order and cohesion during a time of chaos and social upheaval. The citizenry was able to maintain civil order while organizing temporary police and fire departments. The attacks on Pearl Harbor led to social mobilization and prepared the state to support to coming war.
Pre-1959 support for statehood
Hawaii spent a long time on the road to statehood before actually achieving the goal on August 21, 1959 through the Hawaii Admission Act. The calls for the local population of Hawaii becoming a state can be seen as early as 1946, in a brochure titled “Hawaii: 49th State” compiled by the University of Hawaii’s Student Association. The local support for statehood provided legitimacy to the claim. However, many people in the continental United States had concerns about the racial diversity of the island chain. The large population of Asians and Native Hawaiians led to concerns in pre-segregation USA. The large Japanese population in particular led to many concerns in the years directly following the war with Japan, as the stigma against the Japanese had not faded from American society. The Hawaiians actually believed this to be a strong point in their argument for statehood, by stating that many nationalities are represented within America, and that Hawaii was the bridge between the Europeans and Asia.
Another concern was the large amount of Native Hawaiians and their resistance to the annexation in 1898. It is evident that the United States was reluctant to allow a state made of an ethnic minority, due to concerns of how the Hawaiian population will run the state in relation to the European dominated states in the mainland. The resistance could also signify future problems concerning secession from the union over cultural and nationalistic justifications. Some Americans recognized that Hawaiian citizens had been entirely loyal to the United States during World War II even under Martial Law, and the threat of invasion by the Japanese army. The Pacific War actually gave Hawaiians a chance to prove themselves as patriotic citizens by standing with the American government and not taking up arms with the support of the Japanese. The government officials in Hawaii began to send pleas to leading politicians in the United States in the late 1950’s, including direct pleas to the Vice President and the Senate in 1958. It was shortly after in January 1959 that the Republican Party in Hawaii recommended that Hawaii be granted statehood. This was done because Hawaii filled all of the requirements to become a state and showed that they were patriotic American citizens. This was monumental as the Republican Party had been elected to the White House, giving new credentials to the idea of Hawaii gaining statehood and allowing Republicans in the continental United States to open their minds to the idea. It was shortly after that the 86th Congress of the United States took a new vote on Hawaii’s promotion to statehood. With the evidence of loyalty and patriotism within Hawaii, congress was more inclined to vote positively to the idea. A vote was cast with 86 members in favour and 3 opposed. With the approval of President Dwight Eisenhower, the Hawaii Admission Act was signed, thus granting Hawaii statehood on August 21, 1959 making it the 50th state in the United States of America.
Democratic Revolution of 1954
A defining moment in the Territory of Hawaii leading up to statehood was the Democratic Party’s first win in the 1954 territorial elections. This has come to be commonly known as the Democratic Revolution of 1954. This revolution was one that came to encompass not only political changes, but social and economical ones as well. Up until 1954, the Republican Party controlled all major political institutions in the Territory of Hawaii, including the state legislature, the non-voting delegate to Congress, and the Territorial Governor. During the 1954 election, the Democratic Party dominated, winning two thirds of the house seats and a 9-6 majority in the Senate. The sudden rise of the Democratic Party in the Territory resulted from a combination of factors including changing political allegiances and the growing influence of labor groups. One factor was the effort to ward off mass interment during World War Two of alien Japanese and Japanese-Americans in the territory. Through this, the Democratic Party gradually became the voice of Japanese-Americans in Hawaii, who had always supported the Republican Party. The first Japanese-American was elected to the state legislature as a Republican in 1930, and over the next twenty years their influence in the legislature would increase to near proportionality of Japanese ancestry within the Territory filling sixteen of forty-five seats by 1952. John A. Burns, then chairman of the Democratic Party in Hawaii and future state Governor, reached out to Japanese- Americans to come under the big tent of his party. In 1954 twenty-one Japanese-Americans were elected, sixteen being Democrats. While attracting a long marginalized ethnic group within the territory helped the Democratic Party towards their success, the growth of the labor movement in Hawaii also factored into the Democratic Party’s 1954 breakthrough. The launching of the modern labor movement in Hawaii began with the organization of Hawaii’s plantations in 1945 under the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), which directly challenged the oligarchic nature of the economic system through strikes and other forms of civil disobedience. Hawaii economy had long been driven by what was known as the “Big Five” corporations which controlled virtually all the staples of the Hawaiian economy including sugar and pineapple cultivation. Labor groups felt the need to challenge the long-standing order of the Territory’s economy and by extension the political system as well. The Democratic Party was seen as their avenue to achieve this. The Democratic Party was seen as progressive, and indeed in their first legislative session in 1955-56 passed a raft of reforms to taxes, education and labor, despite its eventual veto by the appointed Republican Governor. The path to electoral success for the Democratic Party in Hawaii then was the upheaval from labor groups coupled with shifting political allegiance of the Japanese-Americans both coalescing under the banner of the party.
Road to Statehood
When Hawaii was annexed in 1898 it became a territory of the United States. Ever since the annexation, there had been multiple movements from the residents for Hawaii to be accepted as a state.
Hawaii’s bid for statehood was supported not just by the people of Hawaii but people from the mainland as well. Students played a major part in supporting and promoting Hawaii’s bid for statehood.The grade eight students of Honokaa High and Elementary School, the students of the University of Hawaii, the representatives of the County of Maui, and California State Senate all expressed their belief in the statehood of Hawaii in written letters and petitions to the United State Congress between 1946 and 1959. Prior to becoming one of the states of the union, many Hawaiians felt like second class citizens and wanted to be able to enjoy all of the rights and freedoms other American’s had. The Associated Students of the University of Hawaii released a brochure in 1946 that requested Congress to make Hawaii the 49th state in the union. The brochure contained the opinions of several students, both men and women, giving reasons for statehood that included the desire of its citizens to receive the full American experience. They stated,that due to the influence of the United States government, the community is already quite like Americans in thought, purpose, and action, that given Hawaii’s history they are capable of independent government. In a 1951 letter expressing her belief in Hawaiian statehood, eighth grader Elizabeth Young from Honokaa High and Elementary School stated her and her classmates’ desire to, in the future, be able to vote for the President of the United States and thanked the senators who supported Hawaii’s efforts.
In 1953, the California State Senate passed a resolution that urged Congress to pass laws that would grant the Territory of Hawaii the status of statehood proving that it was not just Hawaiians who felt they should be full citizens of the United States. Many of the territorial counties of Hawaii submitted petitions to Congress on the topic of statehood, such as the County of Maui’s 1958 petition which reinforced their persistence and resolve for Hawaii to become a state no matter how many times the issue was brought before Congress. Hawaii finally achieved its goal of statehood on August 21, 1959 after over a decade of petitions, resolutions, and politicking. The Associated Students of the University of Hawaii passed a resolution that offered its thanks and gratitude to Congress for passing the Hawaii Statehood Bill. Through hard work, dedication, and a firm resolve the post-World War II citizens of Hawaii made their voices heard by Congress and were able to achieve full statehood for their collection of islands. Truly they achieved the American Dream of being free citizens of the United States. Even though Hawaii had achieved statehood there are some questions that need to be asked like, were all of Hawaii’s citizens treated equal? What of the original denizens of Hawaii, the natives who had their land annexed by the United States little more than a century before Hawaii became a state, were they also free citizens of the Union?
Like all great debates there many different arguments presented to oppose and support the granting of Statehood of Hawaii. Here are some of the arguments used:
Those against Hawaii entering statehood argued that the population of Hawaii was only one third Caucasian and a big portion of the population was Japanese. Ever since the bombing of Pearl Harbor the Americans harbored resentment against the Japanese and they thought that if they made Hawaii a state that the Japanese would betray them. Another argument that was made was that Hawaii had a high population of communists. The people feared that the communists would spy and give information to Russia.
Accepting Hawaii as a state would support American foreign policy and strengthen the position of the United States in international affairs. It would better the position of the States in the East, since two-thirds of the population was oriental, it would look like the country was willing to forget the distrust they had of the oriental population during the “Yellow Menace” policy during the World War II, and accept Asians as equals. Statehood would permit the sugar industry in Hawaii to expand their own refineries. It would give Hawaiians “an equal footing with the present states”. “The political power of citizens will be substantially enlarged by participation in national elections, by more efficient representation in Congress in the form of two senators from each area and, initially, two representatives from Hawaii and by election of the governor and other officials presently appointed by the President”.
The Boom of Tourism and How Hawaii Influenced America
In 1946 there were around 1200 hotel rooms available on the islands, with roughly 30,000 annual visitors. By the beginning of the 21st century, however, these numbers had ballooned to roughly 65,000 hotel rooms and over 7 million visitors annually. This rapid growth in Hawaii’s appeal to tourists rests not only in its climate, beauty and culture, but in the way these features are presented to the public. The media plays an important role in Hawaii’s rise to fame as a top tourist destination, particularly using the mediums of clothing, music, movies and art.
After World War Two and statehood, sugar and pineapple (which previously drove Hawaii’s agricultural economy) became the third and fourth largest export and contributor to the Hawaiian economy. The capital gained from these resources was replaced largely by tourism. While Hawaii was at first seen as a territory that had, “too much cultural diversity for statehood to be achieved”, it was not until the growth of tourism and defense spending that American politicians started to view Hawaii as a worthy state. With the Democrats in control of the islands in 1954, the push for statehood became increasingly more powerful and more popular. Statehood was finally attained in 1959 and with it, Hawaii began to come to the forefront as a popular tourist destination, particularly for American travellers.
Hawaii becoming a recognized state meant that the islands were now fully backed by the United States government. This made the prospect of investing in Hawaii a much more attractive option. The real funding that birthed the economic shift came from American and other foreign investors. After statehood, the rate in which new hotels were announced accelerated each year. Between 1955 and 1968, 22 hotels were built in the Waikiki area alone, as well as an average of 22% annual growth in number of tourists visiting the island in the 1950’s, and 19% annual growth in the 1960’s.
Another very large contributor that made Hawaii become one of the largest tourist locations was the jet airliners industry with one of the main actors being Pan American World Airways. It was said that no other single entity was more “responsible for promoting the Islands during the formative tourist period with money, passenger-carrying equipment, and dedicated personnel.” In comparison to many other popular tourist destinations in Europe, Hawaii was located in a convenient location for travel, and Pan Am saw potential in expanding its services to the islands. If someone wanted to travel to New Zealand, Australia, Japan, or any other location on the Pacific, they stopped in Hawaii. This gave the Islands more recognition and made people more aware of the state and what it had to offer. Hawaii had a foreign feel to it, without actually requiring that tourists leave the United States of America. This made Hawaii a less expensive alternative to foreign travel, and proved to be much simpler for Americans when they did not need to exchange currencies or learn new customs. According to a Gallop Poll conducted in 1963, Hawaii was by far the most desired vacation spot for Americans, being chosen almost twice as often as the second most popular destination, California.
While the airline industry worked to provide an inexpensive way to reach the islands, cruise ships sought to provide a more luxurious and decadent travel experience. Due to the distance between mainland America and the Hawaiian islands, travelling by sea took approximately 5 days when departing from the West Coast in addition to another 5 days for return. Due to this lengthy travel time, the Matson Navigation Company advertised its cruise ships to wealthy individuals who could afford the money and leisure time required to take such a trip. Matson’s targeted consumer for its cruise ships was often portrayed in its promotional material: travellers were depicted as admirable and sophisticated. By pinpointing Hawaii as a desirable destination for the elite, Matson would effectively create an appeal to those of a lower class wishing to engage in the luxury of the wealthy as well.
Media and pop culture was also a large influence in making Hawaii a popular place to get away. During the 1950’s it was still very expensive to travel by air, and many people in the middle and lower class never had an opportunity to travel. Hawaii was incorporated into many songs and films during that era. As an early form of virtual tourism, this made the islands an iconic place for Americans, as a destination full of atmosphere, exotic culture, and nostalgia. As technology improved, and flying became cheaper, more and more people who always dreamed of going to Hawaii but could never afford it, now could. The media, through fashion, music, films and art helped promote this dream of the Hawaiian islands for many potential tourists.
One of the most immediately identifiable pieces of Hawaiian culture is the Aloha shirt. It is mentioned in this section not because it is a form of media, but because it was an integral part of promoting Hawaii that garnered much attention through the media. The fabric of the aloha shirt is easily recognizable: it is made up of bright colours and generally depicts famous cultural landmarks or symbols, such as palm trees and hula girls. Some Aloha shirts even directly incorporate words that are commonly associated with Hawaii; for example, “Hula Dance” and “Waikiki”. These shirts served as the ultimate means of spreading the word as vacationers returned to their everyday life wearing them all over the country. Some even described the Aloha shirt as “postcards you can wear” and believed that donning a shirt speaks to a person’s “love for, and connection to, a most special place”, according to Tommy Holmes. Holmes is also quoted as saying, “There is today probably no better known garment in the world that captures a land’s ‘spirit of place'” (Holmes, “The Aloha Shirt”).
Hawaii, before it became the popular tourist destination that it is today, was well known for its music and dance (the hula). Western instruments gained popularity in the islands in the nineteenth century, but were altered so as to give the music a clear “Hawaiian” sound. For example, the guitar was tuned and often played with a metal bar, turning it into a “steel guitar”. This distinctly Hawaiian music appealed not only to the islanders, but also to Americans on the mainland. Hawaiian themed music was soon embraced by American songwriters and began to make an appearance in the sheet music market, allowing consumers to play it at home. Many songwriters who famously contributed Hawaiian-themed songs to the music industry had never actually set foot on the island and instead promoted the image of Hawaii that they often got from sources such as the movies. These songwriters gave their music titles such as “Oh, How She Could Yacki Hacki Wicki Wacki Woo (That’s Love in Honolu)” and “O’Brien is Tryin’ to Learn to Speak Hawaiian”, perpetuating the image of Hawaii as both a fun and romance filled destination. Hawaiian music also made appearances in film, such as Bing Crosby’s versions of “Blue Hawaii” and “Sweet Leilani” from the 1937 film Waikiki.
Film often helped throw Hawaii into the public limelight, with many early movies being set in the tropical destination. What the public often did not realize was that these movies generally were not actually filmed on location. Instead they were filmed in Hollywood using a combination of film sets and natural California scenery. Furthermore, Hollywood sets were often designed by people who had never actually been to the islands and were likely basing their perceptions from other forms of media, which as previously mentioned were often based on early forms of media as well. Movie stars also had a part in promoting the islands. These well-known figures were often spotted and pictured spending leisure time on the beach while awaiting their next scene in an upcoming movie, helping to create the idea that if Hawaii was desirable enough for a movie star, it was certainly good enough for everyone else too. Television also followed the catchy Hawaiian culture trend, with popular shows like Baywatch, Hawaii Five – O and Magnum, P.I.
Finally, art was a useful way to draw in potential vacationers with the allure of beautiful women, water and weather. As previously mentioned, Hawaiian music began to take the sheet music industry by storm. Sheet music was sold in a similar fashion to magazines and thus flashy and appealing photos depicting the beauty of the islands often appeared on the cover. Various organizations, such as The Hawaii Tourist Board and Matson Navigation Company, utilized the work of artists like Don Blanding, Ruth Taylor White, and Frank McIntosh to show the appeal of the islands and draw in tourists with pamphlets, brochures, books, and so forth.