America Goes Hawaiian

The Influence of Pacific Island Culture on the Mainland


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About the Book

How did Hawaiian and Polynesian culture come to dramatically alter American music, fashion and decor, as well as ideas about race, in less than a century?
It began with mainland hula and musical performances in the late 19th century, rose dramatically as millions shipped to Hawaii during the Pacific War, then made big leap with the advent of low-cost air travel. By the end of the 1950s, mainlanders were hosting tiki parties, listening to exotic music, lazing on rattan furniture in Hawaiian shirts and, of course, surfing. Increasingly, they were marrying people outside of their own racial groups as well. The author describes how this cultural conquest came about and the people and events that led to it.

About the Author(s)

Geoff Alexander is the author of multiple books on cinema and popular culture. He is the founder and director of the Academic Film Archive of North America in San Jose, California.

Bibliographic Details

Geoff Alexander

Foreword by DeSoto Brown

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 292
Bibliographic Info: 46 photos (12 in color), appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2019
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6949-6
eISBN: 978-1-4766-3356-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments viii
Foreword by DeSoto Brown 1
Preface 3
Of Hawaiian Words and a Note on Money 7
Introduction 8

One—Sailing to Paradise 17
Two—Flying Air Paradise: The Evolution of Flight to Hawaii 33
Three—The Hula: Taking America by Dance 51
Four—Sliding into Paradise: The Hawaiian Steel Guitar 81
Five—Ring My Bell: Music from the Paradise of Exotica 95
Six—Passing the Tiki Torch 121
Between pages 142 and 143 are 8 color plates with 12 photographs
Seven—A Twisted Tale: The Emergence of Rattan Furniture 143
Eight—The Shirt Heard Round the World 157
Nine—If It Swells, Ride It: A Surfin’ Tsunami Surges to the California Coast 193
Ten—Breeding a Hope for the Future: Interracial Romance Embarks for the Mainland 210

Afterword 224
Appendix A—Bigger, Better and Braver: Why the World’s Largest Flying Boat Ever Made Never Flew a Commercial Route to Hawaii 225
Appendix B—The Zenith Trans-Oceanic: Bringing Hawaii to Your Living Room via Shortwave 228
Chapter Notes 230
Bibliography 256
Index 265

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “An excellent overview on the huge cultural influence Hawaii actually had and still has.”—
  • “Wonderful…your one-stop book on Tiki Culture…a comprehensive guide…a must-read”—Exotica Moderne
  • “At last, someone takes Hawai’i seriously, combining a scholar’s eye and a fanatic’s devotion to showing how small islands in the middle of nowhere changed our world, making it a richer and better place.”—Jerry Hopkins, author, The Hula, Romancing the East and No One Here Gets Out Alive
  • “Interesting…Worthwhile for people interested in an accessible, wide-ranging, and anecdote-filled overview of the facets of what so many who have never visited Hawaii think of as ‘Pacific Island’ culture.”—H-Net Reviews