Rare recording of King Kalakaua to be recovered

King David Kalakaua
King David Kalakaua
DeSoto Brown
DeSoto Brown
Mark Dunkerley
Mark Dunkerley

By Duane Shimogawa - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Imagine hearing the voice of one of Hawaii's kings. Soon we may be able to listen to a recorded message left by King David Kalakaua in the late 1800s.

It's the oldest audio recording in Bishop Museum's collection. It uses the first type of audio technology invented by Thomas Edison.

But because of funding from Hawaiian Airlines and the new technology to recover it, we may now hear the last words of King Kalakaua.

It's definitely something to chant about. Recovering the final words of the last reigning king of Hawaii.

"This is the one remaining mystery that no one alive has ever heard, plus it's King Kalakaua," Bishop Museum Hawaiian Archivist DeSoto Brown said.

In the late 1800s, while ill in bed, King Kalakaua recorded a message on this wax-type phonograph in the Palace Hotel in San Francisco. He died a few days later.

The wax cylinder was flown back to Honolulu and given to James Pratt, owner of the only recording device in the kingdom at that time.

He donated it to the Bishop Museum in 1918 and now, almost a hundred years later, King Kalakaua's voice may be brought back to life.

Bishop Museum officials say without the help of Hawaiian Airlines, this wouldn't have been possible.

"We wanted to show our appreciation to the people of our state for their support by finding a lasting and meaningful way to give back to our community," Hawaiian Airlines president and CEO Mark Dunkerley said.

Part of this $150,000 gift will go to fund a trip to Berkeley, California. That's where the wax cylinder will be analyzed and possibly recovered.

"I want to be realistic about it and not get people overly excited and then to find out that it didn't work," Brown said.

Museum officials say it'll take months to recover the recording.

But here's what he said on it: "Aloha to you, we are perhaps returning in the near future to Hawaii, to Honolulu and there you will tell the people what you have heard here."