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Sandwich Island Girl 3

Craig Lockwood recently wrote in, addressing the subject matter of the Police Gazette, itself:

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... In case anyone's interested in upping the level of arcane-interest in publications such as the Police Gazette, (there were several and were euphemistically referred to as "Gentleman's Periodicals" ) in doing research for my latest book last year, I had the chance to visit and do extensive work at the home library and archive of a True Crime and Boxing author named Johnson.

It's an impressive floor-to-rafters lifetime accumulation that occupies a small house and garage. He has loosely cataloged this enormous assemblage of photographs, late 19th and early 20th Century contemporary journalism, and books relating to his subjects of interest, including most if not all of the published issues of the Police Gazette during it's period(s) of publication. (Judging by what I looked through, there may have been several incarnations over many decades.)

Socially and culturally, the Police Gazette and its subsequent imitators were roughly the equivalent of a combined Ring Magazine-National Inquirer-Playboy-True Detective, typically in a tabloid or digest format. The subjects were those aimed at titillating a very sexually inhibited and repressed Victorian male audience, and it was a table-top staple of the neighborhood saloon, barbershop, and athletic club---all bastions of the younger male middle-class and skilled tradesmen.

Scantily clad---well, by the mores of the times, scantily clad---women were featured at every possible opportunity. These magazines---and there were several---saw publication well into the middle of the last century. This was certainly the case during the early 1940s when I was a kid, and first saw this genera of publication in the Laguna Beach barbershop. The word my mother used to describe them was "racy," which translated to "interesting" to a pre-adolescent boy.

As can be imagined by reading the pages of the Star or Inquirer today, the level of journalism found in these periodicals was inspired by a combination of rumor, innuendo, and extrapolative falsification, with as much emphasis on females in "unusual" situations as possible.

While it may be interesting to speculate about an un-named possibly Polynesian young woman surfing in Atlantic City at that time---and certainly it is not beyond the bounds of reason that such a person might have---ascribing much validity to anything one of these magazines reported would be like placing equal credence on a headline such as : "BRITTANY RIDES PIPELINE ON HAWAIIAN VACATION, LOSES BIKINI!" would seem premature.

If memory serves me right, Robert Louis Stevenson visited and wrote about Hawaii and seeing surfing about this time. His adventures in the South Seas were widely published and commented upon during the late 1880s. I seem to recall that something about his travels---letters or other correspondence---were published in Harper's during the same period.

It might prove interesting to do a little literary detective work, i.e., an analytic comparison between the Police Gazette's piece's details and those of R.L. Stevenson's.

Craig Lockwood

Sandwich Island Girl 2

The discovery a couple of months back of a cover and short column in an 1888 Ashbury Park "Police Gazette" has generated much discussion. Some of it I recapped in the April edition of the LEGENDARY SURFERS Newsletter (not on the list? Just email me at malcolm@legendarysurfers.com with a subject header of "LS Newsletter subscribe" or something similar; doesn't have to be exact.).

The continuing discussions, as far as I know them, will be posted here on the LEGENDARY SURFERS Blog. Please feel free to add your own comments at the bottom of any blog items. Just click "Comments" and you will be taken to the comment page.

First of several corrections:

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First Board Surfing in U.S.A.

In the April 2006 LEGENDARY SURFERS Newsletter, I made a number of statements that were inaccurate. That was my fault. I just didn't proof-read my copy. One glaring mistake was identified by DeSoto Brown. He wrote:

"In regards to the Sandwich Island girl surfer in the Police Gazette, first, here’s some additional info:

"1) The 3 Hawaiian princes were in military school in California in the middle 1880s (not 1895), so they predate this surfer girl.

"2) Princess Kaiulani left Hawaii to travel to school in Britain in May 1889, when she was 14 years old. So she cannot have been the surfer girl.

"3) Yes, the Police Gazette was a spicy publication that used sexy pictures to sell copies. It was notorious for doing so, and in later decades (1920s-‘40s), it was often referred to nostalgically for this reason. The attitude then was, we’re more sophisticated today, and it’s funny to look back at such modest pictures and think that people originally found them shocking. The actual publication was still being published in the ‘50s and perhaps into the ‘60s, and by then it was kind of like all the other scandal/crime/adventure magazines on the market, with lurid sex crime descriptions.

"My take on the surfing Sandwich Islander is that she is more likely to have been a complete fiction. I agree that if she’d been a performer, there would have been some sort of plug in the text for where she was currently appearing. And if she had been performing – and she really was from Hawaii – I think we would know about her already. The hula was still too immodest to perform onstage then, I would say, so I don’t know what such a person would have been doing had she been an entertainer.

"Illustrations of surfers had already appeared in a number of publications by this time, although the image was certainly not yet very well known. These would have been descriptive books about other lands, or would have been personal accounts of travel to Hawaii. Tourism at this point was practically nonexistent. The earliest publication which is purely commercial, specifically printed to promote travel to Hawaii, probably appeared in this same year. (There are at least 3 different editions of it, with different copyright dates.) This is a foldout brochure from the Oceanic Steamship Co, which has a number of illustrations, including a surfing scene. I doubt many people on the east coast would have seen it, however, since the Oceanic ships traveled only in the Pacific. My point is, even though surfing was not yet widely known in the late 1880s, pictures of it had been published and there was at least some awareness in the American public. Certainly this picture and accompanying article show this is true, since there is no detailed explanation of what surfing was, or how it was done. Thus the readers of the Police Gazette can be assumed to have already had some familiarity with the concept.

"Whatever the story, I still think this is a terrific find to add to surfing’s history."

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Here's what I wrote in LEGENDARY SURFERS Volume 1, published last year:


It was inevitable that surfing would spread outside the boundaries of Polynesia. The first place it was to do so was Santa Cruz, in north central California, on the U.S. mainland. Here, Hawaiian Queen Kapi‘olani‘s nephews surfed redwood boards at the San Lorenzo River mouth in 1885.137

Jonah Kuhio Kalaniana‘ole (Prince Kuhio) and his brothers138 David Pi‘ikoi Kupio (“Cupid”) Kawananakoa and Edward Kawananakoa had been sent to attend St. Matthew’s Military School in San Mateo, south of San Francisco.139 During the summer time, they were guests of the Swan household of Santa Cruz. Mrs. Swan had once been a chambermaid to the Hawaiian Queen at Iolani Palace in Honolulu.140 While in Santa Cruz, the young men made or had constructed for them surfboard planks made from redwood and surfed in the waves off the mouth of the San Lorenzo River.141
The Hawaiian surfing influence in Santa Cruz is documented in a Monday, July 20, 1885 local newspaper article. “The breakers at the mouth of the river were very fine today. Three young Hawaiian princes were in the water, enjoying it hugely and giving interesting exhibitions of surf-boarding and swimming as practiced in their native islands.”142

Over a decade later, in a July 23, 1896143 edition of the Santa Cruz newspaper called The Daily Surf, there appeared to be local Santa Cruzans surfing. “The boys who go in swimming in the surf at Seabright beach use surfboard to ride the breakers like the Hawaiians.”144