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1876 Giles Centennial Map of the Kingdom

The 1876 Centennial Map of the Kingdom
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The 1876 Centennial Map of the Kingdom

The first major map published by the Hawaiian Government Survey was prepared especially for the Hawaiian exhibit at the International Exhibition of Arts, Manufactures and Products of the Soil and Mine, which opened in Philadelphia in the spring of 1876, Celebrating the one hundredth anniversary of American independence, it was more commonly known as the Centennial Exhibition.

In size, design, and execution it compared favorably with the best wall maps displayed there. Its de- sign and scope were undoubtedly decided by Survey General, W.D. Alexander, with the manuscript compiled by Curtis Lyons, who was responsible for most of the drafting for the government survey at that time. H.Giles is credited with the final execution.

An examination of the Centennial map reveals that it deliberately departs from the policy and intent of the Hawaiian Government Survey. Unlike the agency’s other maps, it is not a map of the landed property of the kingdom and was not meant for a technical audience. Alexander thus chose to high- light the main topographical features rather than information on land titles or land divisions. Those features are more accurately placed than ever before, and the kingdom’s towns and major plantations and ranches are named. Alexander took extra pains to portray information not normally found on a map of this type, by indicating the extent of many of the major forested areas on Hawai’i and Maui and delineating historic lava flows. However, at this stage in the life of the government survey, only O’ahu had been completely surveyed and was thus correctly drawn. In the coming years, the agency would improve the shape of the individual islands as accurate surveys were completed, but the Cen- tennial map remained the basic map of the kingdom until 1901.

The map’s design contained a number of interesting aspects, the compass cartouche, for instance, appears to link Hawai’i with the American mainland. Considering the map’s debut at a centennial celebration for the United States, one might wonder if this placement was intentional. Also notable are the insets in the lower left corner of plan views of Haleakala, Moku’aweoweo, and Kilauea. Since the map held a prominent place in the Hawai’i exhibit at the exposition, the inclusion of these craters reflects the pride Hawaiians took in their volcanoes.

By highlighting volcanoes and lava flows, the kingdom may have been playing to the nascent tourist industry. It is interesting to note, for example, that all the crater plans are drawn at the same scale of approximately one mile to the inch. On either side of the map’s title is a representation of the main building of the exposition drawn at the same scale. At more than a quarter mile long, the exposition building was monumental for its time. The judicious placement of the crater insets seems almost a subtle taunt from across the Pacific; “If you think this building is grand you should see our volcanoes”