August 21, 1959: Hawaii becomes 50th U.S. state
Hawaii is a popular vacation destination for many individuals. It’s viewed as America’s most luxurious state, and 60 years ago, on August 21, 1959, Hawaii became the nation’s 50th state. But why was it necessary for the United States to claim Hawaii as its own? As you can probably imagine, Hawaii’s story began long before 1959.
The earliest inhabitants
Hawaii’s islands were once populated by Polynesian voyagers, who settled in the islands more than 1,000 years ago. In the early 18th century, American traders traveled to Hawaii to search for the islands’ sandalwood. By the mid-19th century, Hawaii was thriving as a sugar industry. American missionaries used the islands to influence political, cultural, economic, and religious life into the western Pacific region. It didn’t take long for the United States to realize Hawaii was its next territory to claim.
Establishing the Republic of Hawaii
In 1893, American expatriates and sugar planters supported a division of U.S. Marines to depose Queen Liliuokalani, the last reigning monarch of Hawaii. This was the start of the Republic of Hawaii, a U.S. protectorate with Hawaii-born Sanford B. Dole as president. Even though many members of U.S. Congress opposed the idea, in 1898, the U.S. built a naval base at Pearl Harbor during the Spanish-American War, realizing Hawaii’s strategic importance. Two years later, in 1900, Hawaii became a formal U.S. territory.
Becoming a state
Even as a U.S. territory, Hawaii became an important entity in U.S. history. Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, U.S. citizens recognized Hawaii and its residents as fellow U.S. citizens. Following the Pearl Harbor bombings and World War II, it was decided that Hawaii should become the 50th U.S. state.
In March 1959, the U.S. government, under President Dwight D. Eisenhower, approved statehood for Hawaii. In June, the Hawaiian people voted for a wide majority to accept admittance into the U.S. Two months later, Hawaii became the official 50th state. President Eisenhower signed a proclamation admitting the state into the Union, also issuing an order for the American flag to feature 50 stars. To this day, Hawaii is a luxurious, relaxing state intended for vacations, even though the majority of the country’s citizens have never even visited the state. It’ll forever be on their bucket list.