Hawaiian fishes is a diminutive book in our Joseph F. Cullman 3rd Library of Natural History, but its flashy red cover with gilt lettering certainly catches the eye. The interior, more »
This post was written by Maggie Dittemore, librarian in the John Wesley Powell Library of Anthropology.
You can’t go far in the stacks of the Anthropology Library without finding a book that has at least two stories to tell — that of its published contents and that of the book itself. Many volumes were once part of researchers’ personal libraries or otherwise “had another life” before reaching us. Because we have such rich collections, we don’t always know what is there.
The Smithsonian Institution Libraries recently acquired a telephone book. Big deal, you say? Ah, but this is a telephone directory for the territory of Hawaii, issued for the winter of 1930. For that reason alone, it’s fun to browse through, to see the old advertisements and daydream about living in the gorgeous Hawaiian Islands, back in the days when the entire list of businesses and households in the territory which owned telephones could be recorded in one slim volume.
But this isn’t just any old phone book. This particular copy belonged to the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in Honolulu, which opened in February 1927 on the spectacular Waikiki beachfront. Known as “the Pink Palace of the Pacific,” the Royal Hawaiian Hotel was one of the earliest luxury resorts established in this tropical paradise. The stylish décor featured at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, inspired partly by the native crafts of the South Sea Islanders, exerted a lasting influence upon tourists from the mainland, who came to associate the good life in Hawaii with vivid patterns reminiscent of exotic plants, birds, marine life, sunshine, and ocean waves.