This unique kapa moe (bark cloth bedcover) has a distant relationship to Queen Lili‘uokalani, last sovereign monarch of the Kingdom of Hawai‘i, born on September 2, 1838. The donor’s father served the Queen in several capacities.
Kapa moe (bark cloth bedcover) (detail), mid-19th century. Felted inner bark of wauke (paper mulberry), cotton, dye. Gift of Miss Ivy Richardson, 1943 (203.1)
The kilohana (top sheet) of this mid-19th century kapa moe is decorated with stylized floral designs and a border stamped in blue and pink dyes. It is constructed in the traditional manner with four layers, the three lower sheets are natural in color, with all the layers sewn together along one edge. The stamped decoration on the top sheet appears to mimic designs seen on coverlets and imported printed cotton textiles. As it dates from the time when imported fabrics started to replace kapa, it is interesting to note the change in ornamentation on this printed kilohana. As a bedcover it would be used as a blanket and the layers could be peeled back depending on the temperature.
The donor was Miss Ivy Richardson (1883–1975), who presented her family’s kapa moe to the museum in 1943. Miss Richardson was the daughter of Colonel John Keone Likikine Richardson (1853–1917). Colonel Richardson was born on Maui and became a prominent attorney there. He served the Kingdom of Hawai‘i in the House of Representatives and the House of Nobles. As a member of the 1891 Privy Council for Queen Lili‘uokalani, he became a colonel on the Queen’s staff.
Lydia Lili‘u Loloko Walania Wewehi Kamaka‘eha was born on September 2, 1838. She married John Owen Dominis (1832–1891) on September 16, 1862. When her brother David Kalākaua (1836–1891) became king in 1874, she was titled a princess, named Lili‘uokalani, and became an heir to the throne. She ascended the throne on January 29, 1891 after the passing of King Kalākaua. In January 1893 a group of American businessmen in the Kingdom acted independently for financial reasons and formed the Committee of Public Safety. This committee, with the support of a US naval ship in Honolulu, the USS Boston, overthrew the Hawaiian Kingdom. The committee removed the Queen from power and imprisoned her until 1896. The committee installed their own government, which would eventually lead to Hawai‘i becoming part of the United States. Queen Lili‘uokalani eventually moved back to Washington Place, the Dominis family home and just a short distance from ‘Iolani Palace, where she passed away on November 11, 1917. Colonel Richardson was one of three delegates in 1897 who traveled to Washington, D.C. and petitioned the United States Congress to preserve and maintain the autonomy of the Hawaiian Islands.
–E. Tory Laitila, Curator of Textiles and Fashion