"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

Whether you refer to the flag of the United States of America as Old Glory, the Stars and Stripes, the Red, White and Blue, or as the Star-Spangled Banner it is the greatest symbol epitomizing our sacred heritage, our civil constitutional government and our American ideals. When the flag waves in the wind we are reminded of American heroism and sacrifice, our dreams as a people and our aspirations for a future that is bright and free for all.

Early History: The American Flag in the Pacific

In post-Revolutionary War America merchants on trading ships converged on the Pacific Ocean, especially with China as their destination, either by Cape Horn (South America) or the Cape of Good Hope (South Africa).

The first ship to fly the American flag in the Far East was the Empress of China, financed largely by Philip Morris of Philadelphia. She sailed from New York City on February 22, 1784 and reached Macao, then under Portuguese control, on August 23. The Empress of China sailed for America from Whampoa, the anchorage of Guangzhou (Canton) on December 28 and returned to the United States on May 11, 1785. Though the Empress of China did not anchor in Hawaiian waters its journey paved the way for Americans to seek their fortunes in Asia.

In the meantime, Connecticut-born John Ledyard sailed with British Captain Cook on the third and final voyage of exploration of the Pacific Ocean. (Cook was killed in the Hawaiian Islands) Ledyard persuaded American merchants to trade in otter and beaver fur pelts from Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest with the Chinese. Elsewhere, the North Pacific also provided a lucrative hunting ground for American whalers, and sandalwood in Hawaii was traded in China where demand was high.

The American flag was probably first displayed from the masts of whaling and trading ships in the late 18th and early 19th centuries when they stopped in Honolulu, Lahaina or Hilo, each flying the flag of the United States. The first recorded American whaling ship arrived in Honolulu in 1820. Some officers and seamen decided to settle in the Hawaiian Islands, making this their home.

Honolulu newspapers record the arrival and departure of many American ships anchored in port that were named in honor of Americans associated with the American Revolution and the Early Republic Era. Such names as USS America, Jefferson, Franklin, Washington, Charles Knox, Henry Lee, John Jay and United States are some of the examples. The originating ports of various vessels included New Bedford, New London, Stonington (CT), Boston, Sag Harbor, Nantucket, Providence, Mystic, Newport, and New York.


The American Flag in Poetic Verse in Hawaii

Early Honolulu newspapers featured inspired verses and original works of poetry penned by American sailors in port. We are pleased to provide you with some transcriptions of these works. Click on the title of the poem to open a new window containing the transcription of the work:

  • The first of these, The American Flag, was written by J. R. Drake and appeared in December, 1840 edition of The Polynesian

  • Another, entitled America's Banner, was penned by an anonymous sailor on the William C. Nye. It was published in the March, 1845 edition of The Friend, an intelligencer published by Massachusetts-born Rev. Samuel C. Damon, Seamans' Chaplain in Honolulu of the American Seamans' Friend Society.

  • My Country's Flag of Stars was also penned by an anonymous sailor on a U.S. Man-of-War and published in the October 15, 1845 edition of The Friend.

  • America's national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner, was featured in all its verses in the July 2, 1857 edition of the Pacific Commercial Advertiser.

Web-based Resources

The Hawaii Society of the Sons of the American Revolution is pleased to provide visitors like you with the following web-based resources on the subject of the American flag and flag etiquette. Each provides information on how to properly respect the American flag along with some history:

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“American’s symbol of freedom – its flag - is changed today. It is different because of us in Hawaii. Today Hawaii’s star is set in the firmament for the first time, and   for all time. There is something special about our star. It stands for a state where peoples of every nationality and culture have learned to live in harmony with each other.”

~ Excerpted from Governor Quinn’s Address at the Iolani Palace
flag-raising on July 4, 1960, attended by 10,000 people.