Snapshots of Hawai’i’s Past: The Hopkins Family Collection

This summer, thousands of demonstrators blocked construction of the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) that would sit atop Mauna Kea. Demonstrators noted the sacredness and environmental significance of Mauna Kea, and many Native Hawaiians and supporters highlighted Hawaiʻi’s controversial annexation into the United States over 100 years ago. At Burns Library, we hold pieces of Hawai’i’s political power, cultural renaissance, and global presence in the 19th century.

The Hopkins Family Papers (1825-1919) collection contains correspondence, photographs, and ephemera from the Hopkins family, ranging from 1826-1989. Most of the materials pertain to Manley Hopkins and his wife Catherine, as well as letters with their son, British writer Gerard Manley Hopkins, SJ.

Letter from David Kalakua - 1875

Letter from David Kalakua, 1875, Box 13, Folder 3, Hopkins family papers, MS1991-023

In 1856, King Kamehameha IV declared Manley Hopkins Consulate-General to the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi. The Hawaiian Islands had been a unified kingdom for only sixty years. Less than forty years later, Queen Liliʻuokalani would be placed under house arrest in ‘Iolani Palace, beginning her overthrow as sovereign; by 1899 Hawai’i would be annexed by the United States.


David Kalakua, undated, Box 4, Folder 53, Hopkins family papers, MS1991-023

From Manley Hopkins’ appointment as Consulate-General until the overthrow of the

Hawaii by Manley Hopkins 1869

Title page of Manley Hopkins’ book on Hawai’i (1869). DU625 .H79 1869 MANLEY HOPKINS

monarchy in 1893, five Hawaiian monarchs ruled the unified islands: Kamehameha IV (1855-1863), Kamehameha V (1863-1872), Lunalilo (1873-1874), Kalākaua (1874-1891), and Liliʻuokalani (1891-1893). This was a period of cultural renaissance for the Kingdom of Hawai’i, and Hawai’i began to engage much more widely with Euopre and the United States. In 1881, King David Kalākaua became the first monarch in history to circumnavigate the globe. By 1882, the official residence of the monarchy, ‘Iolani Palace, was completed, furnished with electric lights, a telephone, and plumbing– amenities not yet in the White House or Buckingham Palace. Throughout these changes, Hopkins wrote Hawaii: the past, present, and future of its island-kingdom; an historical account of the Sandwich Islands (Polynesia), detailing the history of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi, Captain James Cook’s landing on the Island of Hawaiʻi, and contemporary happenings of the monarchy.

As an observer and documentarian of this period of cultural expansion in Hawai’i, Manley Hopkins kept photographs which capture important moments of Hawaiian history.A photograph of “The group at Oxford” includes a photograph of Queen Emma, Manley Hopkins, with others at Oxford University during her visit to England in 1865. Following her husband, King Kamehameha’s death in 1865, Queen Emma was received by Queen Victoria, then also a widow.

Black and white photo of 18 people, including Queen Emma

“The group at Oxford”, Box 4, Folder 46, Hopkins family papers, MS1991-23

The collection also includes photographs of Matthew Makalua, the first Western-trained doctor and surgeon of Hawaiian descent. At fifteen, Makalua left Hawaiʻi for England, where he trained as a doctor and graduated from King’s College. Following the Bayonet Constitution in 1887, which stripped King David Kalākaua and the monarchy of most of its authority, Makalua was petitioned by Kalākaua to return to Hawaiʻi and train Native Hawaiians in medicine, translate English medical texts to Hawaiian, and serve the government. However, Makalua remained in England, where he is buried today. Following the Hawaiian monarchy’s overthrow in 1893, Makalua was naturalized as a British citizen, with papers that list his previous nationality as “American.” Despite this, Makalua denied any connection to the United States, declaring he never claimed American citizenship following the loss of Hawaiian independence and American annexation.


Matthew Makalua, Box 4, Folder 41, Hopkins family papers, MS1991-23

The Hopkins Family papers also contain photographs of Bernice Pauahi Bishop, a member of the Hawaiian royal family. Betrothed to Prince Lot Kapuāiwa (later crowned Kamehameha V), she instead married American businessman Charles Reed Bishop in 1850. At the time of her death, Bishop’s estate estimated 485,563 acres of Hawaiian land. This land would later be incorporated into the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Estates, which fund Kamehameha Schools on O’ahu, Maui, and the island of Hawaiʻi today.



Bernice Pauali Bishop, Box 4, Folder 48, Hopkins family papers, MS1991-23

We may now only see Hawaiʻi as a tropical getaway or another state in the union, but today’s multicultural, diverse, and vibrant communities across the Hawaiian Islands tell a different story. As the Native Hawaiian community continues to fight for land, food, and environmental sovereignty, we can do our part in learning more about Hawai’i’s complex—and often untold—history.

To view the Burns Online Exhibit about the Hopkins Family:

  • Annie Malady, Reading Room Assistant, MA Candidate in the Department of English

Works Cited:

Balutski, Nalani. “‘I have never claimed American citizenship,” Dr. Matthew Makalua: Lā 4 Hastings.” Native Hawaiian Student Services, The University of Hawai’i at Mānoa. May 2019.

“A Brief History of the Hawaiian Islands.” GoHawaii. 2019.

Prior, Ryan & Boyette, Chris. “Protestors Arrested  at HAwaii’s Mauna Kea for blocking construction of the Thirty-Meter Telescope.” CNN. Jul 7 2019.

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