27 March 2008

Early Days of the Polynesian Society

I recently discovered that the right venerable Polynesian Society in New Zealand has been slowly digitizing the back issues of its long-lived Journal of the Polynesian Society and mounting them on its website, working together with the University of Auckland Library. At this point, one can browse volumes 1 (1892) through 40 (1931). A perusal of the front matter in the earliest volumes transports one into another era.

Volumes 1 (1892) through 3 (1894) list the Patron of the Society as "Her Majesty Liliuokalani, Queen of Hawaii." Her reign began in 1891, after the death of her brother, King Kalākaua. The Queen was deposed in January 1893, the rebels declared the Kingdom a Republic in July 1894, and then arrested the Queen in January 1895 after suppressing a royalist counterrebellion.

Volumes 4 (1895) through 8 (1899) accordingly list the Patron of the Society as "Liliuokalani, ex-Queen of Hawaii." No Patron is listed in the volumes from 1900 through 1903, but the ex-Queen still heads the list of Honorary Members, with her address given as "Honolulu, Sandwich Islands." Next on the list is the "Rev. R. H. Codrington, D.D., Wadhurst Rectory, Sussex, England." Codrington was the author of The Melanesian Languages (Oxford, 1885).

From 1904 through 1910, the ex-Queen's address is given as "1588, 21st Street, Washington, U.S.A." and the Rev. Codrington's as "Chichester, England." In 1911, the ex-Queen is back in the "Hawaiian Isles." Back numbers of the journal in those years cost 2s. 6d.

In 1905, the Society acquired a new Patron, "His Excellency, Lord Plunket, Governor of New Zealand." From 1911, the Patron is listed as the "Right Hon. Baron Plunket, K.C.M.G., K.C.V.O., ex-Governor of New Zealand, Old Connaught, Bray, County Wicklow, Ireland."

The annual report report of the governing council for the year ending in December 1911, which appears in volume 21 (1912) begins with a retrospective and ends with its customary financial report.
The Council feels in presenting its nineteenth report that there is some justification for congratulating the Society on having attained its twentieth year of existence....

Our financial position is good, though there are a few members in arrear with their subscriptions. We end the year with a balance to our credit of £28 18s. 7d.
At that point the society had 201 members. Good show, chaps.

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