Remembering Cable Day, when Hawaii became electrically connected to America

Remembering Hawaii

“Ladies and gentlemen! We are gathered here to celebrate one of the most important events in the history of these Islands!” 

On January 2nd, 1903, George W. Smith said this at the opening ceremony of what would later be called “Cable Day,” the completion of the Pacific cable that connected Hawaii to the American continent. The first telegraphs were sent the day before, when President Theodore Roosevelt wished “hearty congratulations” to the people of Hawaii for being “more closely connected than ever to their fellow citizens of the mainland.” This was the first piece of information that crossed the pacific instantaneously.

The effort to connect Hawaii to the continent via electricity took nearly 30 years, and was largely supported by those who supported Hawaii’s annexation into America, and opposed by those who did not. Indeed, the “Father of Annexation” John McGrew hailed the cable as a victory and vindication, saying at Cable Day’s opening ceremony that “through annexation we got the cable.”

Henry E. Cooper, Secretary of Hawaii’s provisional government who deposed Queen Liliʻuokalani 10 years earlier, called the completion of the cable the removal of “the greatest disadvantage under which we have lived.” 

Perhaps the most prescient comments came from William Henry Eustis, the United States Commissioner to Hawaii: “I have enjoyed my sojourn here exceedingly, and one of the pleasantest things about it is that I am perhaps one of the last to share with you the enjoyment of the solitude of the sea. You are no longer Robinson Crusoes. You have got out into the wide world and in touch with all mankind…You have been living a life of isolation in the solitude of the sea, but that is now broken and for all time to come.” 

Although Cable Day is far from the most well-known days in Hawaii’s history, it is sneakily one of the most important. Without a doubt, we are living in a society shaped by the connection between the islands and the continental United States.

Notable Births on January 2nd
Queen Emma Kaleleonalani (1836): Along with husband King Kamehameha IV, founded The Queen’s Hospital, now known as The Queen’s Medical Center. 

George Herbig (1920): Astronomer at UH, known for discovering bright plumes of dust and gas that are formed as a byproduct of newborn stars. 

Tia Carrere (1967): Award-winning actress and singer born and raised in Honolulu who graduated from Sacred Hearts Academy. Starred in movies such as Wayne’s World and Lilo & Stitch, and won the Grammy for Best Hawaiian Music Album in 2008 and 2010.

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