1959: When Congress Approved Hawaii As A State, And Hollywood Followed Suit

By | March 9, 2020

test article image
Left: Elvis Presley in a publicity photo for 'Blue Hawaii' (1961). Right: the cover of 'Hawaii in Stereo' by Leo Addeo and his Orchestra. Sources: Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images; Flickr

Mainland Americans have been traveling to the exotic island of Hawaii for fun in the sun since the early 1800s but when Congress approved Hawaii to be a state in 1959 pop culture changed forever. As America’s 50th state Hawaii became a fixation not only for tourists but Hollywood. In the decade following Hawaii’s induction into statehood pop culture found a new muse in the isolated cluster of islands in the pacific. A romanticized idea of Hawaii spread thanks to the films of Elvis, tiki culture, exotica, and even Pan-Am. In many ways this pineapple and palm tree explosion expanded the horizons of many land locked Americans while turning the islands into one massive resort regardless of what locals wanted.

Locals only

test article image
source: wikimedia

The initial settlers on the Hawaiian Islands date back to the eighth century when Polynesian explorers made their way through the pacific and touched down on the fertile island of aloha. Americans didn’t start poking around Hawaii until the 18th century when traders looked to the islands in search of sandalwood. At the time Hawaii was ruled by its own monarchy, first the Kamehameha dynasty then followed by the Kalākaua Dynasty. On July 17, 1893, Sanford B. Dole, a descendant of the American missionary community to Hawaii and major proponent of the westernization of Hawaiian culture organized a coup an overthrew the Hawaiian government in an effort that was backed by U.S. businesses. On July 4th, 1894. Sanford Dole became the first president of the Republic of Hawaii and in 1898 the islands were annexed by President William McKinley.