Keep the booze, dump the uke

The St Joseph Observer of 18 March 1918 observed this from the Editor of the Hannibal Post:

While the government is considering prohibition for the Hawaiian islands, it might not be amiss to put some sort of ban on the ukuleles.

Prohibition, for those of you born closer to the beginning of this century than of the last, was the outlawing of the manufacture and sale of alcohol (it was very popular with gangsters during the 1920s and 30s in the United State of America).  I can just imagine how it would have run with a prohibition on ukuleles, with underground clubs and speak-easies selling their bootleg booze and ukes. The trouble is, they wouldn’t have been able to smuggle their drinks or Thompson machine-guns in ukulele cases, as that might have suggested a contraband ukulele to the authorities.

Published in: on March 16, 2010 at 6:15 pm  Comments (1)  
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Did he marry her for her money, or for the Ukulele?

Hawaiian Gazette, 12 September 1911, reports the elopement of Miss Warren Mills (Toots) with Mr James J. C. Haynes, and their marriage — ill advised, according to Miss Mills’ family.

… friends of the family say the [the new] Mrs Haynes will not be allowed to touch a penny of her fortune. Mrs L. T. Garnsey, mother of the bride, and her aunt, Mrs Sarah G. McMillan, are shocked and indignant that there should have been an elopement. They are opposed to Mr. Haynes … and Mrs McMillan asserts that “never, never will there be a reconciliation as long as Toots is living with that man.”

[As for the young couple] “We are as happy as can be, and of course we do not regret what we have done,” and the bride glanced shyly at her husband standing beside her, who was emphatic enough in reply to that glance to please even an American girl.

On the night of the elopement, the door of Toots’ room was heard to open and close, and later, when it was investigated, her ukulele, and little red hat that had been on her bed, were gone.  A sure sign of impending marriage.


Toots’ aunt gave the marriage three months — “Why, Toots spent more every week, yes, double as much, as her husband’s salary amounts to in a month. He cannot support her as she has been in the habit of living all her life”.

As far as I can find, there is no indication in the news — one way or the other — as to the result of this prophecy.

Published in: on March 10, 2010 at 10:02 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Woman’s life saved by ukulele

The Hawaiian Gazette ran the following report on 21 March 1911 (not for the faint hearted):

Drink and jealousy were responsible for a bloody affair last night at Waihee, near Kalia, on the windward side of the Island, when Sam Pookalani attempted to murder his mistress, eighteen-year old Hilda Sheldon. After breaking the blade of a foot-long (30cm) knife on the woman’s forearm bone, slitting that arm and her other hand with another knife, and more or less seriously wounding a Chinaman, who came to the girl’s assistance, he was overpowered and disarmed.

He is now under arrest in the Kaneohe jail, while the wounded woman and her year-old baby will be brought to town this morning and place in the Queen’s Hospital.

She owes her life to the fact that she held a ukulele at the time her lover rushed at her with his knife, warding off the first vicious thrusts with the instrument.

One more benefit of ukulele playing (but in such situations, a bass instrument might offer more protection — a saxophone, perhaps)

Published in: on March 7, 2010 at 8:43 am  Comments (2)  
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Ukuleles and charity (1900)

The Independent (Hawaii) of 18 September 1900 related the following story:

Charming Charity

There is a clergyman at Lihue (writes a correspondent) whose heart has gone out to the starving people of India and who is collecting money for them in a novel but very pleasing manner. When Luna is looking down in her brightest way on the Garden Island generally and Lihue specially the reverend gentlemen gathers around him eight beautiful Hawaiian girls with guitars and ukuleles, and other sweet instruments. A “bus” is awaiting the party. The parson and the sweet singers squeeze into the vehicle and then they go forth serenading the good people of Lihue and passing the hat around for contributions to the poor Hindoo. The noble people of Lihue may swear under their breath when the parson’s “bus” wakes them up but how many can resist the plaintive notes of “Ahi Wela, Moanalua” and other sweet hymns sung under the direction of a man of the cloth. And when the moon hides her face the noble band goes home and the Indian starvation fund has been swelled, and all sleep soundly on a conscience which says “nobly done.” Who wouldn’t be a charitable reverend on Kauai.[sic]

There’s something about the tone of this report that isn’t too sweet.

Published in: on January 27, 2010 at 6:02 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“Hawaiian” music, America and the ukulele (1917)

The Evening Ledger, 2 June 1917, reported the following vital information on page 9:

By the phonograph editor

It was “The Bird of Paradise” which first brought Hawaii prominently before the eyes of Americans. Once the craze for the Pacific Island was established in the United States, the ukulele and the lai retained their grip on popularity. It has been impossible to dislodge them from their vogue in this country. But with all the furor over Hawaiian music, very few persons have troubled themselves to find out the source of this insinuating, smoothly flowing, sensuous melody.

As a matter of fact, strictly pure Hawaiian music is never — or at least rarely — heard in America. [I snipped out a bit] The Hawaiian ditties strummed on ukulele by young chaps at college and played by restaurant orchestras come from Hawaii right enough. But they are not essentially Polynesian.

About 1820, when the language was being formulated [?], the island was visited by groups of missionaries bent of Christianizing the people. These purveyors of the Gospel, like all religious teachers, were accustomed to sing hymns, most of them German, since the missionaries were, in many cases, themselves of Teutonic origin. The brown skinned pupils quickly took up the hymn tunes, adapting them very slightly to measures that were natural to the Hawaiian mind and love of rhythm. The result today is the sort of thing you heard in “Stop, Look, Listen!” and in the vaudeville specialties of Toots Paka and her troupe.

This reminds me a little of a comment in The Argus of 1935.

Uke Books for Ukeland (1925)

[From Presto, 4 July 1925, page 22 — reproduced courtesy of The International Arcade Museum and the Musical Box Society International]

New York Publishers Send Quantities of Ukulele Folios to Home of “Jumping Flea.”

You’ve heard of the American who tried to sell linen to Madeira, and his pal, a salesman for a Milwaukee brewery, who used to take in Pilsen and Munich, in Germany, on his selling trips. All related to the lad who carried coals to Newcastle.

Well, none of the aforementioned gentry has a thing on Robbins-Engel, Inc., New York, publishers of ukulele books. For, in the year that that firm has been developing and exploiting its famous ukulele catalog, it has sold  more than 50, 000 “uke” folios to no less a place than Hawaii — home and natal place of the ukulele, or “jumping flea,” as they call it on the much publicized beach of Waikiki.

An order for five thousand books, received last week from the Hawaii Sales Co., Ltd., 1009 Nunanu Street, Honolulu, included “Ukulele Ike’s Comic Songs for the Ukulele,” Nos. 1 and 2, “W. C. Handy’s Famous Comic Blues,” and the following famous books by Hank Linet, — “Hank’s One Hour Course in Ukulele Playing,” “Hank’s College Ditties,” “Hank’s Songs of the Sunny South” and “Hank’s Comic Camp Ditties,” all of Robbins-Engels publications.

Hank who … ?

Published in: on January 22, 2010 at 5:24 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Ukulele Manufacturing News from 1916

The following report appeared in The Musical Trade Review in 1916.

At the end of August,  1915, manufacturers of ukuleles in the Hawaiian Islands were turning out 500 or 600 instruments per month. At the end of August, 1916, the output was extended to 1,600 per month, with demands from mainland music dealers which could not be met.

There are eight principal manufacturers of ukuleles in Honolulu, with a scattering of instruments coming from small makers in the other islands. Each manufacterer has turned his small workshop into a factory, adding new workers and increasing the plant as rapidly as possible. In the first week of September a company was organised in Honolulu with plans to manufacture from 1,000 to 2,000 ukuleles per month with improved machinery, the workers to be Hawiians and Portuguese. This company plans not only the manufacture of ukuleles, but also to purchase completed material from other makers.

The originator of the ukulele, a Portuguese, who is now head of a manufacturing company, is still an active worker in his own factory, and turns out about 700 instruments per month. Another Honolulu firm produces about 400 per month.

The Hawiians and Portuguese of Hawaii claim that the instruments made by them, principally of koa wood, are seasoned and properly prepared. The prevailing local prices for ukuleles range from $3.75 to $16 and $20.  The highest-priced products are heavily beaded. The tone is of the most important items in the construction of the ukulele, and the Hawaiians and Portuguese claim that this is obtained only with the use of properly seasoned koa wood and proper attention paid to shaving the wood and fitting it.  The plans of the new companies forming, and of old factories being enlarged, will give an output close to 3,000 per month.

Passage reproduced courtesy of The International Arcade Museum and the Musical Box Society International.

Published in: on October 8, 2009 at 6:51 am  Comments (1)  
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