1874: First State Dinner for the King of Hawaii

1874: First State Dinner for the King of Hawaii

The President’s Own’s first participation in state dinners was on December 22, 1874. King David Kalakaua and Queen Kapiolani of the Kingdom of Hawaii were the band’s very first foreign audience.  They came to secure a diplomatic trade between the Hawaiian Kingdom and the United States. 

An engraving of King Kalakaua visiting President Ulysses S. Grant in the White House, December 22, 1874, White House Collection

"But the first visiting foreign leader ever honored by the extravagant black-tie blowout that has become America’s highest diplo-social ceremony was not French or British, Russian or Mexican. He was David Laʻamea Kamananakapu Mahinulani Naloiaehuokalani Lumialani Kalākaua, the last king of Hawaii.​​​​​​​"

- Steve Hendrix, Washington Post, 2018

Photograph of King David Kalakaua, 1867, Hawaii State Archives

Photograph of Queen Kapi'olani, 1890, Hawaii State Archives

To make the foreign visitors feel welcome, the band performed the Hawaiian national anthem, which was written by the King himself. They also played the “Star Spangled Banner.”

On January 30, 1875, the Reciprocity Treaty of 1875, a free trade agreement between two countries, was ratified. The band’s performance had left such an imprint on Queen Kapiolani that she returned in 1887. A state dinner was personally organized in her honor by President Grover Cleveland.