By: Sally Garoutte
Although Hawaiian royalty had encountered woven silk, woolen and cotton textiles previously, not until the arrival and establishment of American missionaries did all Hawaiians have access to a regular supply of American and European fabrics. Indigenous Hawaiian textiles – both woven as in mats and felted as in bark cloth tapa – had been quite satisfactory to a Hawaiian way of life. The introduction of textiles from the United States and Europe had a profound effect on the lifestyle of the Hawaiian people. Missionaries encouraged them to become clothed in a somewhat American style, and gave them the means to do so by teaching sewing and providing cloth. When Hawaiians came to value these textiles over their own for their practicality, American and English merchants found the Hawaiian Islands to be a lucrative outlet for textile trade. Textiles thus became a significant factor in the change in Hawaii from a Pacific island way of like to a “Western” way of life.