19 GilesCentennialMap1876.png
19 GilesCentennialMap1876.png


from 18.00

The first major map published by the Hawaiian Government Survey was prepared especially for the Hawaiian exhibit at the International Exhibition of Arts, Manufactures and Products of the Soil and Mine, which opened in Philadelphia in the spring of 1876, celebrating the 100th anniversary of American independence, it was more commonly known as the Centennial Exhibition. 


In size, design, and execution it compared favorably with the best wall maps displayed there. Its design and scope were undoubtedly decided by Surveyor General, W.D. Alexander, with the manuscript compiled by Curtis Lyons, who was responsible for most of the drafting for the government survey at that time. H.Giles is credited with the final execution.


At a scale of 30,000 feet to the inch, the map said Alexander, “will do this country no little credit at the Centennial.” Alexander also noted that the map was an impressive four feet high by six feet wide. As it turned out, however, the printed map was published at approximately thirty-five inches in height by fifty-five inches in width, or 75 percent of the actual size Alexander had intended, a reduction that may have been made for reasons of cost or expediency. Certainly publishing a map at the intended size would have been a monumental task; even at the final size it was a significantly large map for the time period.

The change in size also changed the scale, from 30,000 feet to the inch, or 1:360,000 to 40,000 feet to the inch, or 1:480,000. Regrettably, when the scale statement was printed, it kept Alexander’s planned scale of 30,000 feet to the inch rather than showing the actual scale. Such an error would have been difficult to catch without having a representative of the Hawaiian Government Survey in attendance at the printer’s plant. As the agency’s first formal production, the map remains a remarkable achievement despite the error.


An examination of the Centennial map reveals that it deliberately departs from the policy and intent of the Hawaiian Government Survey. Unlike the agency’s other maps, it is not a map of the landed property of the kingdom and was not meant for a technical audience.


Alexander thus chose to highlight the main topographical features rather than information on land titles or land divisions. Those features are more accurately placed than ever before, and the kingdom’s towns and major plantations and ranches are named.


Alexander took extra pains to portray information not normally found on a map of this type, by indicating the extent of many of the major forested areas on Hawaii and Maui and delineating historic lava flows. However, at this stage in the life of the government survey, only Oahu had been completely surveyed and was thus correctly drawn. In the coming years, the agency would improve the shape of the individual islands as accurate surveys were completed, but the Centennial map remained the basic map of the Kingdom until 1901.


The map’s design contained a number of interesting aspects, the compass cartouche, for instance, appears to link Hawai’i with the American mainland. Considering the map’s debut at a centennial celebration for the United States, one might wonder if this placement was intentional. Also notable are the insets in the lower left corner of plan views of Haleakala, Moku’aweoweo, and Kilauea. Since the map held a prominent place in the Hawai’i exhibit at the exposition, the inclusion of these craters reflects the pride Hawaiians took in their volcanoes.


By highlighting volcanoes and lava flows, the kingdom may have been playing to the nascent tourist industry. It is interesting to note, for example, that all the crater plans are drawn at the same scale of approximately one mile to the inch. On either side of the map’s title is a representation of the main building of the exposition drawn at the same scale. At more than a quarter mile long, the exposition building was monumental for its time. The judicious placement of the crater insets seems almost a subtle taunt from across the Pacific; “If you think this building is grand you should see our volcanoes” 

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