Bishop, Charles Reed

At a Glance:

Businessman, Politician, Philanthropist



Bird names: 1

Regions studied:


Charles Reed Bishop [link]

Content note: this profile contains discussion of COLONIALISM

The Birds:

Bishop’s O’o (Moho bishopi) – EXTINCT

Bishop’s O’o specimen at the Bishop Museum, Honolulu [link]

The Name:

Charles Reed Bishop (1822-1915) had a undoubtedly unique trajectory in life – the son of a shipping toll collector, worked for a time on his grandfather’s farm before beginning travels intended for Oregon, but ended up finishing in the then independent Kingdom of Hawai’i. Already at that time Hawai’i was beginning to host increasing numbers of Americans, but it is doubtful that any at the time would have guessed at Bishop becoming a pivotal figure to the future of the archipelago.

In 1950 he would marry Princess Bernice Pauahi Pākī, in an event that was initially objected to by her parents, but would later bring him greater connections into Hawai’i’s royalty. At around the same time he was consolidating considerable power in the Kingdom; he was appointed Minister of the Interior, United States Consul and Collector Generalship of Customs, as well as being co-founder of a Sugar Plantation.

Left: Bernice Pauahi Bishop [link]

His power and influence would only grow from here. In 1958 he would found Bishop & Co. – the first chartered bank in the Kingdom, which would later become the First Hawaiin Bank which remains active to this day. A year later in 1859 he really cemented himself into Hawai’ian politics and would continue on to serve on the Privy Councils of five separate monarchs over the next 32 years.

Yet despite both his wife and his many roles in Hawai’ian politics he retained loyalty to the United States and sympathy to it’s colonial projects. In 1973, while acting as minister of foreign affairs Bishop proposed an agreement whereby Hawai’i would cede Pearl Harbour to the US in exchange for access to the US sugar market – a move that would give the US a powerful position in the Pacific. This was widely popular with non-indigenous citizens, but amongst native Hawai’ians resulted in protests and rallies which would result in the King interceding to withdraw the proposal, as well as strains in his marriage.

Twenty years later, US Imperialism in Hawai’i would reach it’s ultimate end when US private citizens and other foreign residents of the islands would instigate a coup that would remove Queen Lili’oukalani from power and end Hawai’i’s existence as an independent nation. While Bishop was not apparently involved in the “Committee of Safety” behind it, his Pearl Harbour deal can be viewed as a precursor.

It should however be noted that despite this he didn’t benefit from it – as someone who had worked with the Hawai’ian government for many years, the shift to US hands made him something of a pariah. His wife had died in 1884, and he would leave the islands for California where he would stay until his death. He did however also establish the Kamehameha Schools in accordance with his wifes wishes, forming an institution that still exists that focuses on the education of native Hawai’ians.

It should also be noted that there seems to be little direct connection between Bishop and Bishop’s O’o – the species was first discovered to Western Science in 1892 by Henry C. Palmer, a collector for Lord Rothschild. While Bishop was in correspondence with some of these collectors, it would be Rothschild who would name the species for Bishop. The ‘honour’ such as it was would however be short lived. It was last seen barely more than a decade later in 1904.

Alex Holt


  • Charles Reed Bishop – Kamehameha Schools [link]
  • A Luscious Fruit: America’s Annexation of Hawaii by Becky L Bruce [link]
  • Bernice Pauhi Pākī and Charles Reed Bishop: A Marriage of Imperialism and Intimacy in Nineteenth-Century Hawai’i [link]
  • Environment Hawai’i: Review of Barefoot on Lava [link]
  • William G. Pomeroy Foundation: Childhood Home of Charles R. Bishop [link]