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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, November 15, 2003

Merrie birthday, and here's your sword

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

King David Kalakaua's 167th birthday is tomorrow, and the Friends of 'Iolani Palace plans a quiet celebration after acquiring a valuable possession of Hawai'i's last king.

Five items once belonging to King Kalakaua, the Merrie Monarch, were auctioned yesterday in New York, but only one — a Masonic sword — will make its way back to Honolulu and 'Iolani Palace.

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With the financial help of the local Masons organization, the Friends yesterday successfully bid on a Knights Templar Masonic sword that was made for Kalakaua, who reigned from 1874 to 1891. The sword was one of five items that belonged to the Merrie Monarch that were on the block at Sotheby's Auction House in New York yesterday.

Also auctioned were two other swords and two walking canes, said 'Iolani Palace curator Stuart Ching.

"All of these items were connected with the king and I wish we could have gotten them all, but we're happy that we got one of the items at least," Ching said. "We just didn't have the reserves to bid successfully on all the items."

The winning bid for the sword was $13,000, said Deborah Dunn, executive director of the Friends. The sword eventually will be part of a new exhibit, the Gallery on Royal Lifestyles, which is not expected to open for at least four years, she said.

Kalakaua was proud of his status as a 32nd degree mason, and local Masons came to the aid of the Friends by offering to pay for the sword. The Masons laid the corner stone at the 'Iolani Palace in 1879 and stood guard when Kalakaua lay in state after his death.

Dunn said she hopes to some day have all of the items at the palace.

"We can hope that the people who purchased them, and we don't know them, will enjoy them for now and think about us later," Dunn said. "I'm happy for what we got and I'm mostly happy that people were affected and wanted to help."

She said the palace has a photo of the king wearing a Mason ring and holding the sword.

Reach Curtis Lum at 525-8025 or culum@honoluluadvertiser.com.