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Philography and the Art of Collecting History

Updated on August 29, 2014


During my years at when my husband Robert and I were Guides for the site, Toys and Collectibles for Kids we acquired plenty of toys, collectibles, and books about collectibles. Most of the items are stored up in the loft of our house. I have begun going through the boxes and folders as if I am on a scavenger hunt looking for treasures!

As I begin my journey, here at HubPages, what could be better than reviving and sharing my passion for collectibles? I guess it will be a bit of a scavenger hunt as I am not sure what I will discover from box-to-box.

Timoteo Kamalehua Haʻalilio


Timoteo Kamalehua Haʻalilio

There very first folder that I discovered was a collection of autographs. The oldest of the collection was not really an autograph, but a faxed version of an original autograph on a historical document. It had been sent to me by a man from Boston who had purchased it at an auction. The problem he had was that the short letter was written in Hawaiian, which he could not decipher. This was in 1994, a few years before the World Wide Web arrived with the search engines to quickly find answers for anything one may want to know. I was currently working with a selection of Bulletin Board Systems, or BBS, the forerunner of online social networks such as FaceBook. I managed a resource where I would help find the answers to questions that people were unable to find the answers for. As I have knowledge of the language, and through word-of-mouth, the hand-written letter arrived on my desktop.

The letter was penned by Timoteo Kamalehua Haʻalilio. From 1808 to 1884, Haʻalilio was the royal secretary and first diplomat for the Kingdom of Hawaii. He is best known as the person who most helped Hawaii to be considered a sovereign nation in America, Britain, and France.

Ha’alilio belonged to the ali’i, the class of nobility in the Hawaiian kingdom. In 1825 he took on the role as the royal secretary to King Kamehameha III.

The 1840s were a very busy time for Timoteo Ha’alilio. In 1840 he was included as a member of the Hawaiian House of Nobles and the following year he became the founding member of the very first Hawaiian Historical Society.

It was in April of 1842 when Ha’alilio became the first diplomat of Hawaii, as the envoy to Great Britain, France and America. In May he was appointed to a treasury board, and in July he left for a diplomatic mission abroad.

On A Mission

1843 Paris - Timothy Haʻalilio (1808–1844) (left) and William Richards (1793–1847) on the first diplomatic mission from the Kingdom of Hawaii to the USA and Europe to negotiate a treaty guaranteeing independence. Haʻalilio died on the return voyage.
1843 Paris - Timothy Haʻalilio (1808–1844) (left) and William Richards (1793–1847) on the first diplomatic mission from the Kingdom of Hawaii to the USA and Europe to negotiate a treaty guaranteeing independence. Haʻalilio died on the return voyage. | Source

A Diplomatic Mission

Ha’alilio, accompanied by his former teacher, translator, and close friend William Richards, set forth on a ship to America, stopping at Mexico, travelling overland, and finally aboard a steamer on their way to Washington D.C..

When they arrived in the capital city they arranged for a meeting with United States President John Tyler and Secretary of State, David Webster to discuss a diplomatic treaty and positive relations between the United Sates and the Kingdom of Hawaii. As the weeks passed, they had not received an official treaty, although they had accomplished a verbal promise that the Kingdom would be recognized as a sovereign nation by the United States.

As Ha’alilio was the first distinguished man of color to visit Washington he became quite the talk around town. Many Americans could not understand how William Richards could be Timoteo Ha’alilio's assistant, or servant, rather than the other way around!

If you are wondering what the message of 1842 sold at a Boston auction in 1994 it was quite a challenge to translate because of Ha’alilio’s elegant but difficult to read script and that Hawaiian words often have more than a few meanings depending on the syntax and relationship to the other words of the document. In a nutshell it all makes sense for the purpose that Ha’alilio had travelled to America.

In a nutshell:

Ha’alilio wished to speak soon to a person of authority. He was a foreign visitor and wished to meet with the Americans as a desire for continued ability to benefit without error or fault that may bring the consequence of war.

Following his attemps to secure a treaty in America Ha’alilio and his companion set force for Europe. Through their efforts France and Great Britain agreed to a joint declaration, yet not a treaty in November 28, 1843.

The Americans eventually came around, but not immediately. After Ha’alilio's success in Europe he returned to America and visited John C. Calhoun, the new Secretary of State. Calhoun told Ha’alilio that could not sign a treaty until after it was ratified by Senate.

By November, 1844 Ha’alilio was very ill and had spent time in hospital. It is thought he had contracted tuberculosis. As successful and interesting the voyage and mission was, Timoteo Ha’alilio and William Richards missed the Kingdom of Hawaii dearly and wanted nothing more to be at home in the islands. As soon as his health allowed, Ha’alilio and Richards set sail for Hawaii from Boston harbor aboard the Montreal on November 18, 1844. Sadly, Timoteo Ha’alilio died from his illness just offshore of New York the following December 3. The people of Hawaii experienced a very emotional mourning period, as Ha’alilio was greatly loved and admired by his people.

Although I do not know for sure the deciphered letter could very well have been written during the time that Timoteao Ha’alilio was in the Massachusetts Hospital while ill, which may be how the autograph found its way to a Boston auction.

Whenever it was penned during his mission it turns out there there is a remarkable story behind an unexpected Hawaiian document.

A History of the American Occupation of Hawaii

Faxed copy of the original document.
Faxed copy of the original document.

Recognition Of A Hawaiian Hero

On Sunday, November 26, 201, and on the grounds of `Iolani
Palace. Melvin Kalahiki, chair of the Living Nation, commemorates the life of Timoteo Ha`alilio, through highlighting the relationship Ha`alilio, Ambassador to His Majesty, King Kamehameha

Enjoy the video below.

To Be Hawaiian

Hawaii - The Conquest

Conquest Of Hawaii Dvd
Conquest Of Hawaii Dvd

Explore Hawaii's past through the knowledge of experts and discover how the soverign nation fell to American ambitions.


Hawaiian History on Kindle

Lost Kingdom: Hawaii's Last Queen, the Sugar Kings and America's First Imperial Adventure
Lost Kingdom: Hawaii's Last Queen, the Sugar Kings and America's First Imperial Adventure

"Lost Hawaii" tells the story of the Kingdom of Hawaii and how it became the prize of capitalism, military advantage, and the commercial outpost in the middle of the Pacific.


Much More Than A Signature

Collecting autographs becomes much more than a script on a piece of paper. It may turn out that it becomes a fascinating tale of history. An autograph collector or philographist will likely have a story about many, if not all of the signatures in a collection.

Do you collect autographs or historical documents?

History Comes to Life: Collecting Historical Letters and Documents
History Comes to Life: Collecting Historical Letters and Documents

This book is a terrific primer about beginning the hobby of collecting historical documents and correspondence.



Media Resources Consulted

Glosbe Hawaiian to English Dictionary


Aloha Quest

Photos are courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

By Norman D. Hill [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons credited to Hawaiian Mission Children's Society, Honolulu negative N-1838 [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons,_Paris,_1843.jpg

© 2014 Gayle B Olson

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