King Kalakaua’s Tour of the United States

By Andrea Cronin

On 1 January 1875 the last reigning King of Hawai’i arrived in Boston via railroad as the last stop in a good will visit to the United States. King Kalakaua III inherited a national economic depression in 1874 from his predecessor William Charles Lunalilo. In an effort to foster tariff-free trade between the Kingdom of Hawai’i and the United States, King Kalakaua embarked on a tour of the United States in November 1874, visiting cities such as Washington, D.C., New York, and Boston.

Why did the King of Hawai’i visit Boston of all places?

The Boston visit was strategic. New England sugar interests opposed tariff-free trade which would allow Hawaiian sugar to flood the market and overtake their business. The King’s visit fostered a cultural friendship including the lavish dinner held by the City of Boston on 2 January 1875 at the Revere House. The dinner started with oysters in true New England tradition. In fact, the City spent $3,000 in entertainment and accommodations for the royal party at the Revere House. Here is the bill of fare from the banquet in honor of King Kalakaua.

King Kalakaua left Boston on 9 January 1875 with great success. Within the month, his efforts secured the Reciprocity Treaty of 1875 which enabled Hawaiian goods to enter the United States without levies.