Friday, December 20, 2013

A Lasting Legacy by a Brief Stop by Austrians in Hawaiʻi

Austria, politically weakened both domestically and abroad, was forced to relinquish its leading role in Germany after its defeat by Prussia in 1866. Conservative forces sought to retain the old Habsburg glory, but the progressive industrialization had its consequences.  (all-history)

The imperial and royal monarchy of Austria-Hungary did not succeed in integrating the many ethnic groups under its rule. This phenomenon, paradoxically, led to a certain stability, given that no significant union was possible between so many competing nationalities. Meanwhile the civil servants remained loyal to their Habsburg paymasters.  (all-history)

Germans and Hungarians were favored in the political process. Later, into the 1870s, tensions grew.  (Internal conflict led in 1914 to the assassination of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, the Archduke Francis Ferdinand – World War I began.)  (all-history)

It was in this timeframe – 1860-1870s – that Austrians had a chance stay in Honolulu.

At that time Austria-Hungary, also known as the Danube Monarchy, was a major European power comprising some 60-million people who spoke 14-different languages and dialects. The country was ruled by the Habsburg dynasty.

The frigate SMS Donau (with a crew of 360-men,) together with the Corvette Erzherzog Friedrich of the Imperial Austrian Navy, left their base at Pola, Croatia on the Adriatic in late-1868 on a mission to strengthen Austria-Hungary’s trade and consular establishments in the Far East and along the coast of South America.

Donau translates to Danube (the Danube River runs through the core of Austria-Hungary; it’s about 1,000-miles long, from the Black Forest to the Black Sea.)

Off the coast of Japan, the two ships ran into two horrific typhoons. It was decided for the Erzherzog Friedrich to return to Europe and the damaged Donau to continue to Honolulu for repairs.

“Arrival of the Austrian Frigate Donau, HIR Austrian Majesty's steam frigate Donau, Admiral Baron von Petz, commanding, arrived at this port on Monday the 20th, 37 days from Yokohama, Japan. She encountered two heavy cyclones during the passage, in the last of which she suffered serious damage.”  (Hawaiian Gazette, December 22, 1869)

“The Donau carries 16 guns, and her engines are 200 horse power. At 10 o’clock AM, on Tuesday, she saluted the Hawaiian flag, which was returned from the Battery on Punch Bowl. She has on board the members of the Imperial Legation, consisting of Contre Admiral Baron von Petz, Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary ; Baron von Trautteaberg, Secretary of Legation; Pfisterer, Officer Board of Trade; Schonberger, Czerey, Commercial Reporters.”  (Hawaiian Gazette, December 22, 1869)

“In connection with the Donau, we would say that from private letters received from the officers of that ship, here, we are informed that all look back upon their visit in Honolulu with the utmost pleasure. The Hawaiian flag, hoisted over the Consulate at Valparaiso on the first Sunday of their visit there, was hailed with cheers by officers and crew.”  (Hawaiian Gazette, October 5, 1870)

“The Austrian Frigate Donau ... experienced heavy storms on the passage, damaging her spars, machinery and hull.”  (Hawaiian Gazette, December 22, 1869)

“We hear that Messrs. Foster & Co. will undertake to repair the Austrian Frigate Donau. The job is a heavy one, and will require great skill and ingenuity on the part of the shipwrights, with the appliances at hand, but we understand that it can be done.  The work will be commenced immediately.”  (Hawaiian Gazette, December 22, 1869)

It took some 5 months to repair the ship.

While the Donau was being repaired, the ship’s marching band held daily dockside evening concerts to the great delight of the Honolulu populace.

“A Band in Honolulu, as a convenience on private occasions, and as a means of enjoyment to the public at large, can be easily appreciated, the more so, by the remembrance of the out-door concerts that have of late been given by the Bands attached to war-ships that have visited this port.”  (Hawaiian Gazette, November 9, 1870)

“The Band of Kamehameha III, whose performances at the levees at the Palace, and on other occasions, have now nearly passed out of public remembrance, has entirely disappeared, not more than two members we believe being at present alive; the leader Mr. Mersberg, is living on Hawaii, where he is now engaged in instructing a volunteer Band of twelve instruments, with very great credit to himself as band-master.”  (Hawaiian Gazette, November 9, 1870)

Based on the performances of the Austrian Band, folks petitioned King Kamehameha V to re-institute the Royal Hawaiian Band, originally established in 1836 as the “King’s Band.”

In debate in a legislative session to fund a band, legislator Harris noted:
“As for the item for a band, we needed one. We could dispense with very many things which we now have clothing; for instance, of some kinds. A band also exercised a very beneficial Influence on the people in general.”

“We had recently been favored with the band of the Austrian man-of-war Donau; everyone had been allowed to listen to their music, and its good Influence was shown by the fact of the decrease of crime in the city at that time.    As regarded the band, it was the intension to get genuine musicians to instruct our young men in the art of music.  All of that expense would be abundantly paid for.”  (Hawaiian Gazette, July 13, 1870)

The legacy of the Royal Hawaiian Band lives on.

When the Donau arrived, it had six dead sailors aboard, 2-officers and 4-crew, who had perished in the storms.  They were buried in the Catholic cemetery on King Street (across from Straub.)

In 2012, the Austrian Association of Hawaiʻi had a rededication ceremony in the cemetery for the deceased sailors; the Royal Hawaiian Band performed at the rededication ceremony.

Lots of info here is from a speech by H. Pepi Pesentheiner (Bürgermeister (President) of the Austrian Association of Hawai‘i,) at the rededication of the SMS Donau graves.

The image shows the Donau.  In addition, I have included other images in a folder of like name in the Photos section on my Facebook and Google+ pages.

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