Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2011

King Kalakaua Goes to Washington, 1874

The first ever foreign potentate to be accorded a White House state dinner was King David Kalakaua of the Sandwich Islands, now known as the state of Hawaii but then still its own sovereign nation. He was hosted by President Ulysses S. Grant on Dec. 12, 1874, while in Washington on a mission to win trade concessions. Kalakaua's traveling was not restricted to visits to the U.S., a nation that was slowly stepping up its influence in the far-flung Pacific archipelago. In 1881, Kalakaua left his sister in charge and embarked on a lengthy global tour, calling on a host of important courts, from the Forbidden City to the Holy See. But, for all his worldliness, he wouldn't be able to stave off challenges to the rule of his line and the independence of his kingdom. His powers were severely curtailed by reformist forces within Hawaii in 1887, and in 1898 the islands were annexed by the U.S.