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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Help bid a happy birthday to Kalakaua

By Bob Krauss
Advertiser Columnist

Permit me to explain how to select the proper gift to give King Kalakaua for his birthday party on Sunday at 'Iolani Palace. How about a walking cane handed down from Kamehameha III, or a ceremonial sword with "K" for Kalakaua in gilt on the hilt?

By coincidence, two rare Kalakaua canes and two authenticated Kalakaua swords will go on the block at Sotheby's Auction House in New York on Friday.

Unless a Friend of the King enters a successful bid and donates these relics of the monarchy to the Friends of Iolani Palace, the spirit of Kalakaua will be disappointed at his birthday party on Sunday.

The four items in the catalog are each listed to sell at an estimated $8,000 to $12,000. A Friend of the King has already donated $25,000. About a dozen others have ponied up about $50 apiece to rescue his majesty's accouterments from profane hands.

"We need them for a new exhibit of the personal possessions of Kalakaua and other members of the royal family," said Deborah Dunn, executive director of Friends of Iolani Palace. "The canes are my favorite. They are elegant. My Auntie Birdie K. Reist was 90 years old when she told me a story about Prince Kuhio's cane.

"She and another little girl were about 10 when the prince in a suit and hat came walking by his boat house in Waikiki. He saw the children, stopped, swung his cane around and around, then bowed low to the girls. They were in awe."

The two Kalakaua swords and canes have excellent provenances. All have come to Sotheby's from King Kalakaua through the Kawananakoa family.

One of the canes was made for King Kamehameha III, who passed it on to Kalakaua. The slender shaft is carved of indigenous Hawaiian hardwood and inset with a gold, inscribed collar. The other cane, also inscribed, was a birthday gift to King Kalakaua from the Royal Guard. It is made in sections of various hardwoods and bone.

Each sword has a different history. The Knights Templar Masonic sword has special significance because Kalakaua was a 32nd degree mason. The Masons laid the cornerstone of Iolani Palace and were invited to one the first receptions in the royal mansion, then stood guard over the king's body when he lay in state after his death.

The other is a European dress sword made especially for the king. Its blade is engraved with the Hawaiian royal monogram with a crown above the letter "K."

You are invited to indicate which item you would like your donation to go toward. However, if the bid fails, Dunn asks that the donation go toward buying the next item and toward an acquisitions fund if all the bids fail.

Call Dunn at 522-0825 or curator Stuart Ching at 522-0834 to make your bid for the Friends.

Reach Bob Krauss at 525-8073.