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

By Jacob Shelton
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.

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