A Chinese Export Brass-Bound Camphorwood Traveling Case, circa 1820, Of rectangular outline, the hinged lid opening to reveal an interior fitted with divided compartments and lift-out trays above a storage well; small losses.
Height 10 7/8 in., 277 mm; Width 21 1/4 in., 540 mm; Depth 13 3/8, 339 mm.
John Young, a common seaman from Liverpool, became one of the most important European figures in Hawaiian history when he was detained on the island of Hawaii after his ship, the Eleanora, was involved in a fatal skirmish with the islanders of Maui in 1790. Although he was initially held against his will, Young became a trusted and invaluable advisor to Kamehameha I in the realms of military forces and foreign relations. Young's service was instrumental in Kamehameha's being able to unite the Islands, and he was rewarded with lands, titles, and wives.
Young held estates on five islands and governed the island of Hawaii when the King was away. Young supervised the building of a fort at Honolulu and after the death of Kamehameha I, he continued to serve as a councillor to the new king, Kamehameha II.
After his death in 1835, Young was buried in the royal tomb. One of Young's granddaughters married Kamehameha IV and ruled as Queen Emma. "In his long lifetime, Young was an honest and intelligent adviser to the Hawaiian kings and chiefs and to foreigners. He advocated tolerance and fair play in all involvements between the two sides and helped to create an atmosphere of mutual trust in which commerce between Hawaiians and foreigners could thrive" (Rhoda Hackler, in American National Biography).
This important artifact from Young's life, with further royal provenance, had been in the collection of V. S. K. Houston, the representative to the United States Congress from the Territory of Hawaii. In October 1956, Houston presented this travelling case to Robert E. Van Dyke of Pasadena. A copy of Houston's letter of transmittal accompanies the case:
"When Bruce Cartwright and I were the executors of the estates of Uncle Edgar and Aunt Kalani Henriques, as you know, I purchased many historical items connected with Queen Emma. I wish now to turn over to you [one] of these pieces … The small writing box chest which was given by Queen Emma to Aunt Lucy Peabody, and then by her to Kalani. Queen Emma had told Lucy that the chest was given to John Young by Rev. William Ellis, for kindness shown him in 1822 and '23." William Ellis was among the members of the London Missionary Society who established the first mission station in Hawaii.
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