For two years Arthur Brickwood, Hawaii's venerable Postmaster General, resisted joining
the Universal Postal Union. In January, 1881, King Kalakaua left on a ten month tour
of the world and left his sister Princess Lydia Liliuokalani in charge of the kingdom.
By the time Kalakaua returned, Brickwood was replaced as Postmaster General by Jonathan
Kapena and Hawaii was set to become a member of the UPU. Hawaii's membership was
effective January 1, 1882. Hawaii remained a member of the UPU for eighteen years,
continuing its independent membership even after becoming a possession of the United
States on August 12, 1898, and finally ending its membership on June 14, 1900, when
Hawaii became a United States Territory.
Membership in the UPU meant mail to UPU member countries could be prepaid in full with
Hawaiian stamps. Further, the UPU fixed rates for postal cards and mandated each
member to issue them for foreign mail, so Hawaii ordered postal cards for both domestic
and foreign mail. UPU rates also were set for registration of mail, newspapers, books,
circulars and other printed matter. Rate changes by the UPU during these eighteen
years applied automatically to Hawaiian mail. Some countries, notably the Australasian
Colonies, joined the UPU after Hawaii so non-UPU rates applied to those countries until
they joined. See Mail Rates.
Also see UPU First Class Rates Illustrated On Covers.
A registration fee applied to Registered Letters,
addressed as part of a special study on the full scope of that subject. Also, after
Hawaii was annexed to the United States on August 12, 1898, a special 2¢ rate applied
to Soldiers Mail, covered in a separate study.
Hawaiian stamps used on foreign mail in the UPU Period are discussed at
American Bank Note Company stamps,
Provisional Government Issue,
Pictorial Issue and
When the UPU Period started, mail transportation basically was restricted to two
routes: 1) the mail steamers and non-contract fleet of sailing ships between Honolulu
and San Francisco; and 2) the mail steamers from Sydney or Auckland to San Francisco
via Honolulu. By the time this Period ended, mail steamers were also going to Japan
and China and to Vancouver. In the later years of this Period, mail was still carried
to San Francisco by sailing ship, but most went by one of the frequent steamers.