Milestone-Proposal:Electric Lighting Of The Kingdom of Hawaii 1886-1888

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Docket #:2017-07

This Proposal has been approved, and is now a Milestone

To the proposer’s knowledge, is this achievement subject to litigation? No

Is the achievement you are proposing more than 25 years old? Yes

Is the achievement you are proposing within IEEE’s designated fields as defined by IEEE Bylaw I-104.11, namely: Engineering, Computer Sciences and Information Technology, Physical Sciences, Biological and Medical Sciences, Mathematics, Technical Communications, Education, Management, and Law and Policy. Yes

Did the achievement provide a meaningful benefit for humanity? Yes

Was it of at least regional importance? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to pay for the milestone plaque(s)? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to arrange the dedication ceremony? Yes

Has the IEEE Section in which the milestone is located agreed to take responsibility for the plaque after it is dedicated? Yes

Has the owner of the site agreed to have it designated as an IEEE Milestone? Yes

Year or range of years in which the achievement occurred:


Title of the proposed milestone:

Electric Lighting of the Kingdom of Hawaii, 1886-1888

Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:

In November 1886, electric lights illuminated Iolani Palace's grounds for King Kalakaua's 50th birthday celebrations. By March 1887, the Palace had 325 incandescent lights installed within its 104 rooms. The king's action promoted economic development and accelerated implementation of electric lighting of the town of Honolulu on 23 March 1888.

In what IEEE section(s) does it reside?

IEEE Hawaii Section

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) which have agreed to sponsor the Milestone:

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) paying for milestone plaque(s):

Unit: IEEE Hawaii Section
Senior Officer Name: Arthur G Foytag

Unit: Power & Energy Society Hawaii Chapter
Senior Officer Name: John O Borland

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) arranging the dedication ceremony:

Unit: IEEE Hawaii Section
Senior Officer Name: Arthur G Foytag

Unit: Power & Energy Society Hawaii Chapter
Senior Officer Name: John O Borland

IEEE section(s) monitoring the plaque(s):

IEEE Section: IEEE Hawaii Section
IEEE Section Chair name: John O Borland

Milestone proposer(s):

Proposer name: Sophia Tang
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Please note: your email address and contact information will be masked on the website for privacy reasons. Only IEEE History Center Staff will be able to view the email address.

Street address(es) and GPS coordinates of the intended milestone plaque site(s):

Phase I. Iolani Barracks, also known as Hale Koa, meaning House of the Warriors, inside the Hale Koa Gift Shop with latitude: 21.3075 and longitude -157.8589; located at 364 S. King St., Honolulu, HI 96813

Phase II. Iolani Palace, an exhibit of King Kalakaua's legacies in the basement galleries, with latitude: 21.3067 and longitude -157.8589; located at 364 S. King St., Honolulu, HI 96813

Describe briefly the intended site(s) of the milestone plaque(s). The intended site(s) must have a direct connection with the achievement (e.g. where developed, invented, tested, demonstrated, installed, or operated, etc.). A museum where a device or example of the technology is displayed, or the university where the inventor studied, are not, in themselves, sufficient connection for a milestone plaque.

Please give the address(es) of the plaque site(s) (GPS coordinates if you have them). Also please give the details of the mounting, i.e. on the outside of the building, in the ground floor entrance hall, on a plinth on the grounds, etc. If visitors to the plaque site will need to go through security, or make an appointment, please give the contact information visitors will need. The Iolani Palace, including other registered, historic buildings within the grounds of the Palace, is the one and only official Palace in the United States and a designated National Historic Landmark. Media:Iolani_Palace,_Hawaii.JPG

Are the original buildings extant?

Yes, the Palace was restored and opened to the public as a museum in 1978.

Details of the plaque mounting:

The plaque is to be mounted on a wooden frame so that The Friends of Iolani Palace may hang the IEEE Milestone plaque inside Hale Koa Gift Shop housed inside the Iolani Barracks during Phase I of the initial installation.

For Phase II, The Friends of Iolani Palace plan to mount the IEEE Milestone plaque in the basement galleries within Iolani Palace as part of an exhibit detailing King Kalakaua's legacies.

How is the site protected/secured, and in what ways is it accessible to the public?

Phase I. Iolani Barracks (or Hale Koa) is open to the public Monday through Saturday. Phase II. Iolani Palace is open for public tours Monday through Saturday. Tickets for guided tours of the palace interior are available by advance reservations (fee charged) and located in Hale Koa. Both buildings are secured, manned during operating hours, and locked after hours. For further information, call the Friends of Iolani Palace at (808)522-0832 or visit website:

Who is the present owner of the site(s)?

State of Hawaii, Department of Land & Natural Resources, Division of State Parks. Iolani Palace State Monument, also The Palace, is Administered by the Division of State Parks, but is managed by the Friends of Iolani Palace under a long term lease.

What is the historical significance of the work (its technological, scientific, or social importance)?

A king's foresight and achievement, one who was fascinated with technology in the world stage, traveled thousands of nautical miles to visit the International Exposition of Electricity in Paris as part of his World Tours on 15 August 1881, then met with Thomas Edison the inventor of the light bulb in New York City on 26 September 1881 only 2 years after the invention, spent his own funds for the electric lighting project at Iolani Palace, resulted in 325 incandescent lights illuminating the interior of the Iolani Palace in early June of 1887--four years before the White House had electric lighting. The Town of Honolulu was lighted by electric lights on 23 March 1888. The king's action inspired the technical industry and accelerated implementation of the new technology in the Kingdom of Hawaii then and the State of Hawaii today. This award acknowledges King Kalakaua's foresight and achievement in bringing electric lighting to Hawaii.

1891 article in The Electrical Engineer about lighting and telephone developments in Hawaii (then known as the Sandwich Islands)

What obstacles (technical, political, geographic) needed to be overcome?

Geographic challenge was a major issue for the isolated Kingdom of Hawaii in the Pacific, more than 2,556 nautical miles from the west coast and another 2,600 nautical miles between coast to coast on the mainland. Further constraints included delivery time, longer duration for shipping of materials & supplies, import of skilled laborers and technical personnel, plus long-distance communications between Hawaii and New York. Hawaii is separated from the east coast through 5 different time zones.

What features set this work apart from similar achievements?

A king's pioneer work in bringing electric lighting to Iolani Palace in early June 0f 1887 and to the Kingdom of Hawaii 4 years ahead of the White House. This also created Hawaiian Electric Company. Iolani Palace is the only royal residence and Palace in the United States and a registered National Historic Landmark. When the Milestone Award is approved, IEEE can open doors for a world renown historic landmark to educate the general public, international visitors and world-wide audience how Hawaii championed Electric Lighting years ahead of many other cities outside the Northeastern part of the United States.

Supporting texts and citations to establish the dates, location, and importance of the achievement: Minimum of five (5), but as many as needed to support the milestone, such as patents, contemporary newspaper articles, journal articles, or chapters in scholarly books. 'Scholarly' is defined as peer-reviewed, with references, and published. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. At least one of the references must be from a scholarly book or journal article. All supporting materials must be in English, or accompanied by an English translation.

Chronological Events: 26/09/1881 – The Sun Article “Kalakaua visits Edison” describes King Kalakaua visit to Thomas Edison’s headquarters in 5th Avenue, New York to investigate electric lights to replace kerosene light in Honolulu. The King was undecided between gas or electric lights but resolved to wait until electricity has had a full and practical trial. [1-King visit Edison] 22/07/1886 – The Daily Bulletin Article “Electric Light” states 5 lights provided at various location near the palace grounds demonstration. [2-Iolani light demo] 18/09/1886 – The Daily Bulletin Article “The Legislature” changes to Electric light bill from “C.O. Berger & Associates” (Brush Electric) to “Ministry of Interior is hereby authorized to grant unto any person, associations of persons, or corporation the right” to maintain electric works and to light the City of Honolulu with electric lights. Changes required to avoid additional charges due to patent infringements from [Thomson-Houston]. [3-Seq-4 charlesberger] 19/11/1886 – The Daily Bulletin Article “The Electric Light” Ten arc lights of 2000 candle power each arrived Wednesday by steamer. Electrician D.P. Smith and assistant A.W. Smith to install lights. [4-seq 3 palace lighting] 26/11/1886 – The Daily Bulletin Article “The Jubilee Ball” The Jubilee Ball 8pm to 11 or 12am featured electric lights at the entrance to and exit from the Palace grounds, making the streets at the outside of the enclosure as well as drives and walks inside almost as light as day. [5-Jubilee lights] 03/12/1886 – The Daily Herald Article “Coming to the Light” discuss Legislature cited “There are not at the present time a single city of any size lighted entirely by electricity”. [11-seq-2 herald 18861203] 08/02/1888 - The Pacific Commercial Advertiser Article “The Electric Light” W.O. Faulkner states two circuit – one arc lamp and other incandescent lamp. Standard light being 2000 candle power. Dynamos to be run on water. And 7-10 HP required for each 2000 candle power lamp. [8-seq2 adv 18880208] 21/03/1888 – The Daily Bulletin Article “Honolulu Electric Works” energized dynamos after receiving turbine wheels manufactured by Leffel & Co., Springfield Ohio, under 135 psi. Armature turning about 900 times a minute. Dynamos and lamps were supplied by Thomson-Houston Co. of Massachusetts, [which eventually became General Electric]. Larger dynamo “Harry” supplies power to 50 arc lights and a smaller 8 year old dynamo “Billy” supplies power to 12 arc lights hung around the room. There were 12 older lamps showing corrosion. [6-Honolulu Electric Works] 24/03/1888 – The Daily Bulletin Article “Electric Lighting of Honolulu” Energized two circuits run by a large and small dynamos at the Electric Light Station [hydroelectric plant] in the [Nuuanu] Valley. Long circuit is 15 miles and short is 6 miles on 46 poles. [7-seq – 3 nuuanu hydroelectric] 26/03/1888 – The Pacific Commercial Advertiser Article “A New Danger” reports accident occurred when wires contacted a tree. Another Article “The Electric Lights” reports two circuits – one 15 miles and other 6 miles. Dynamos run by water and pressure at water wheel is 130 psi. The lamps are 2000 candle power each. [9-seq2- 2 adv 18880326] 01/08/1888 – The Pacific Commercial Advertiser “The Legislative Assembly” under “Afternoon” Report of Committee, Appropriation bill additions to electric light system, Honolulu $43,000. Reports of the existing system, “The power for running the electrical works is obtained from the water pipe that supplies the town of Honolulu with water. A turbine wheel is used to run the dynamos. The water passes on from the wheel into another large pipe through which it is conducted on down the valley for distribution through the town. The present system cost up to March 31, 1888 $42,746.45 and the running expense is about $8000.” It is proposed to ask for an appropriation of $43,000 to purchase and erect one more 50 light arc Dynamo, in order to complete the system for lighting the streets of Honolulu – also two incandescent Dynamos to furnish lights for the dwellings of the town. The cost of additional arc dynamos for streel lights will be about $13,913 and additional expense for running the same will be $1080. The cost of the two additional incandescent dynamos will be about $28,441 and the additional expense of running the same $1700. The total receipts from the incandescent lights are estimated at $12750. The article states “At present there is not a sufficient water supply during the summer to furnish the necessary power to run the additional dynamos; but by constructing storage reservoirs above the electric works, which is really necessary in order to meet the increasing demands for water in Honolulu, sufficient power can be readily obtained.” [10-seq 2 adv 18880801]

Supporting materials (supported formats: GIF, JPEG, PNG, PDF, DOC): All supporting materials must be in English, or if not in English, accompanied by an English translation. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. For documents that are copyright-encumbered, or which you do not have rights to post, email the documents themselves to Please see the Milestone Program Guidelines for more information.

Eleven (11) References and a Letter of Agreement were emailed to, Attention: Milestone Administrator on this day of 22nd of August 2017. Letter signed by Site Owner, Iolani Palace, on 10 August 2017 was emailed to, Attention: Milestone Administrator on this day 17th of August 2017. Copyrighted 2017, Hawaii News Now, "Iolani palace gets new nighttime look from over 1,000 LED lights", 28 August 2017.

Please email a jpeg or PDF a letter in English, or with English translation, from the site owner(s) giving permission to place IEEE milestone plaque on the property, and a letter (or forwarded email) from the appropriate Section Chair supporting the Milestone application to with the subject line "Attention: Milestone Administrator." Note that there are multiple texts of the letter depending on whether an IEEE organizational unit other than the section will be paying for the plaque(s).