Hawaii's Iolani Palace Recovers Long-Lost Furnishings

Raising American Flag at United States Annexation Ceremony at ʻIolani Palace, Honolulu, Hawaii.  The American marines performing the ceremony are from the USS Philadelphia.  Collection: Ray Jerome Baker Collection.  1898.
Raising American Flag at United States Annexation Ceremony at ʻIolani Palace, Honolulu, Hawaii. The American marines performing the ceremony are from the USS Philadelphia. Collection: Ray Jerome Baker Collection. 1898.
(Honolulu Advertiser Archives via Wikipedia)

Parisian-made china and Sheffield plate silverware that once graced King Kalakaua's table are among a trove of furnishings that have recently been returned to Iolani Palace, the royal residence in Hawaii. Sold off at auction in the early 1900s,  the dispersion of royal property followed the demise of the Hawaiian Monarchy in 1893.

Piece by piece donors are giving back what was lost and curators are sleuthing through antiques stores, documents, inventories and online to find clues about the palace furnishings.

A collection of forty-one pieces of silver, china, and glassware came from Thomas S. Morgan of Los Altos, Calif., whose grandfather had been an auctioneer at the palace sale. Morgan said he made the donation in 2009 so that the artifacts "will be preserved for the future and best appreciated by the many visitors to Iolani Palace."

Another donation came with a pair of gold cuff buttons or cuff links, once in the collection of Queen Liliuokalani, the sister of King Kalakaua who succeeded him as the last ruler of the Hawaiian Kingdom. New Jersey resident Jean Starks gave the pair, acquired several decades before by her father, a U.S. Navy lieutenant, at the original auction.

Iolani Palace has recovered palace artifacts from "36 states and 4 foreign countries - from porcelain plates returned from Australia and a table found in the Governor's mansion in Iowa, to a chair in a local thrift store."

Staff members have just heard about some cranberry glass vases that are believed to have been a gift from Queen Victoria, writes Eve Kahn in the New York Times.

Still missing are treasures like the King's bedroom set, a gilt and ebonized wood suite that was among the 225 pieces of furniture ordered from A.H. Davenport Co. of Boston. View the curator's "Most Wanted" list of missing artifacts, here.

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