I can’t believe I just heard about this! (from fellow researcher Les Cook)
It’s called Chronicling America (Historic American Newspapers), a joint project between the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress. I’ve no idea yet how extensive this is, or will be (it’s been building since 2007), but typing in the phrase “harp guitar” yielded 256 entries – the very first one a 1913 ad for The Troubadors, with “E. A. Lambourne: Musical Director and Symphony Harp Guitar” (Knutsen or Dyer?). Of course, like all searches, “harp, guitar” (separated by a comma, so not applicable) may be the most common result (although the image with a Gibson in the 5th listing returned is encouraging).
Les found these 2 new images from his “Hawaiian Music” search, kindly forwarding to me for inclusion on the site:
Royal Hawaiian Quintet with a Knutsen player. Looks like Michael Hedges’ late-Seattle style of Knutsen.
Moana Vierra’s Royal Hawaiians, with 5- and 6-sub Dyer players. This find is cool as we’ve got several “Vierra’s Royal Hawaiians” images with different members, but I don’t think we realized there was a Vierra “woman,” Moanna (who is in all but one of the groups?).
I can see that lots of endless hours of searching await!
Given the number of bands with “Royal” in their name and the number of dancers claiming to be descended from Hawaiian royalty , I think we can safely say that in most cases there was zero connection . Also most of these bands came on the scene in the 1910s and 1920s, and the royal family in Hawaii had been deposed for quite some time …since 1893…so there couldn’t have been any official seal of approval after that date…at least that’s my assumption. So I’m pretty certain it was pure invention.
I think that Irene West gave her troupe the ” Royal Hawaiian” moniker because she performed at a Spanish Exposition in London in 1914 where she claimed the King of Spain was present ( why a Hawaiian band was performing at a Spanish event is another question! ) . Then in 1926 , with Sam Ku fronting her troupe in Singapore, they performed while Prince George of England was in the audience. So that was probably her justification but as for official approval from the Spanish or English royal family …not in a million years !!
I would guess wife given her looks, but you never know.
Les, do you know if there is a specific quality to bands known as “Royal Hawaiian”? Did they have to play for Hawaiian Royalty to claim the title, or could anyone claim it?
There were three brothers, Albert, George and Frank Vierra who all seem to have led touring troupes called ” Vierra’s Hawaiians” or some similar name …and all seem to have been doing the circuit in the 1910s and 1920s. I’m not sure if anyone has previously attempted to untangle their activities …sounds like a daunting but worthwhile task. Maybe Moana was a sister …or married to one of the brothers perhaps.