July 31 is Hawaiian Flag Day. In 1990, State of Hawai‘i Governor John D. Waihee III signed a proclamation designating the day. July 31 was selected as it is also Lā Ho‘i Ho‘i Ea (Restoration Day), an important holiday under the Kingdom of Hawai‘i. It was on that day in 1843 that British admiral Richard D. Thomas restored the sovereignty of Hawai‘i to King Kamehameha III during a ceremony on the site now known as Thomas Square, which was named after the admiral. Another British naval captain, Lord George Paulet, acted independently and took control of the kingdom for five months and had Hawaiian flags destroyed. It was during that ceremony in Thomas Square that the British flag was lowered and the Hawaiian flag raised again.
Hawaiian flag quilts typically have the Hawaiian flag along each side with a central medallion of the Hawaiian Coat of Arms. Like the flag of the United States of America, the three colors of the Hawaiian flag are red, white, and blue; unlike the US flag, the order of precedence of the Hawaiian flag is white, red, and blue.
Ku‘u Hae Aloha (My Beloved Flag), early 20th century
Cotton, plain weave, machine sewn, hand appliqued and quilted
Gift of Joanne Trotter, 1992 (7095.1)
Along with traditional Hawaiian applique quilts, Hawaiian flag quilts originated by the 1870s; they combine the artistry of patchwork and applique quilting into complex works of art. Their popularity increased during the overthrow of the monarchy in 1893, and during the Republic of Hawai‘i from 1893 to 1898. After the annexation of Hawai‘i by the United States in 1898 their popularity continued. These Hawaiian quilts were often carefully kept as the best quilts and brought out and used on special occasions.
Curator of Fashion and Textiles Tory Laitila examining Ku‘u Hae Aloha (My Beloved Flag)
We honor Hawaiian Flag Day by sharing just one of several Hawaiian flag quilts in our collection. This delicate Hawaiian flag quilt from the early 20th century is titled Ku‘u Hae Aloha (My Beloved Flag). The quilt has the traditional arrangement of Hawaiian flags along the border with a unique central medallion of a modified Hawaiian coat of arms consisting of an encircled Hawaiian shield surmounted by a Hawaiian crown. It truly is a beloved work of art.
-E. Tory Laitila, Curator of Textiles and Fashion