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New Zealand Connection

Helen G. Chapin, Courtesy of the Hawaiian Historical Society

In January of 1892, two groups of men separated by the vast Pacific organized historical societies — one in Hawai‘i, the other in New Zealand. In late 1891, ten men met in Honolulu to form such a society, meeting again on January 11, 1892, at the Honolulu Library and Reading Room to launch the first successful historical society in Hawai‘i. Three days earlier, on January 8 in Wellington, an organizational meeting was held in a similar location — the Library of the New Zealand Institute — a first for the South Pacific country. The one in Honolulu was named the Hawaiian Historical Society; the one in New Zealand, the Polynesian Society. This was clearly an idea whose time had come.

At the Honolulu meeting in January, Professor W. D. Alexander read the assembled group a letter from Wellington, proposing an unofficial affiliation between the two groups, each acting independently but sharing an exchange of information and scholarship. The Honolulu group elected Charles Reed Bishop, banker and financier, as its first president. The assemblage in Wellington also named Bishop a charter member. Another bond between the two societies is that both elected Her Majesty Lili‘uokalani, queen of Hawai‘i, as patron of their respective groups and both honored this status until her death. The two organizations remain in contact to this day.