A Man Who Painted the Colors of Hawaii
Red, white, and blue...that is the first thought that comes to mind when people are asked
about the flag that represents the United States of America. Three simple colors, that a make a
bold statement. The red stands for valor, while the white signifies innocence, and the blue is for
justice. The Hawaiian flag carries the same colors as our nation’s flag, which is why I love it so
much. Hawaii is a beautiful, historical place of its own, that is a part of an equally extravagant
country. I would have to credit and thank Captain Alexander Adams for designing such an
exquisite flag for the place I call home.
Captain Alexander Adams was born in Scotland in 1780 and lived there until the year
1792. He began a career of working out of ships and eventually made his way to the United
States. He was docked in Boston and took the Albatross ship to Hawaii where he anchored in
1781. King Kamehameha I heard of Adams soon after he arrived on the island and decided to
hire him to work on his fleet of ships. Kamehameha put Adams in charge of getting his
sandalwood fleet to China via his ship, Kamehameha. Adams was extremely honored because he
was the first foreigner captain who worked out of Honolulu port.
Flags were flown on ships during voyages, but Adams refused to put up the American
flag on his ship after the War of 1812. Prior to leaving on his voyage in 1816, Adams worked
with James Auld, a Scottish friend, on a flag that would be flown while in route to China. He
included the British Jack into his design because Great Britain still had a strong influence over
the world at the time, and he wanted to remain on their good side. He kept with the red, white, and blue color scheme because it was the color of the United States and Great Britain’s flag.
Adams incorporated eight stripes to correspond with the eight Hawaiian Islands.
Adams flag wasn’t just flown on ships. It was also flown after he removed the Russians
from Fort Elizabeth in 1817 after being instructed to do so by Kamehameha. The flag was also
raised in 1820 when Adams and John Young stood on the shores of Kailua-Kona waiting for the
arrival of the first American Christina missionaries.
The Hawaiian flag that Adams and Auld designed was flown on important victorious
moments for the state of Hawaii and its people. It was a way of letting the people in the
surrounding area know that Hawaii was involved and proud to be so. It’s fascinating to know
that Adams initially designed the flag because he was not comfortable with flying his new home
countries’ flag, and it ended up turning into so much more. Not only did Adams raise that flag on
his ship, but now all the people of Hawaii raise the same flag daily. It makes me happy to see
families proudly flying their Hawaii State flag when I drive through the roads of Oahu. The flag
is a part of the culture. It unites the people and reminds us of the fact that we’re all family
through thick and thin. The camaraderie in Hawaii is partly because of the unity our flag brings
us, and for that we can thank Captain Alexander Adams.
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Oct. 2008. Web. 10 Apr. 2018.
"Captain Alexander Adams." Images of Old Hawaiʻi. N.p., 10 Feb. 2015. Web. 10 Apr. 2018.
Mini Biographies of Scots and Scots Descendants - Adams, Alexander. N.p., n.d. Web. 15 Apr.
"Posts about Alexander Adams on Nupepa." Nupepa. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2018.
Scotland and Hawaii in History. N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2018.
"The Story Behind Hawaii's State Flag." Hawaii Aloha Travel. N.p., 31 Jan. 2014. Web. 10 Apr.