1888 Letters

December 1, 1888 letter to Ethan Keith from Charles J. Lee

December 1, 1888                 

To: Ethan Keith, Galesburg, Michigan

From: Charles J. Lee, On the High Sea

Describes the passage from San Francisco to Australia and the Feast he attended given by the King and Queen of Hawaii in honor or the Chicago Base Ball Club. Wants Ethan to send his Power of Attorney so he can proceed with the patents.

The leading Business and Family Hotel of California
TERMS $1.50 $2.00 AND $2.50 PER DAY

S. S. Alameda
On the High Sea
Dec 1st 1888

My Dear Cousin Ethan

We are now nearing the Samoan Islands and I thought I would pen you a few lines as I have a chance to mail my letters there on arrival.

We left San Francisco Sunday afternoon at 2 Oclock Nov 18th and have had a most glorious passage so far. We arrived at Honolulu Sandwitch Islands[1] last Sunday morning at 8 Oclock and sailed again at 10-30 P.M. We had a very pleasant time while there. In the morning I went to the native church and heard several elders preach but in their own tongue. They are evidently good speakers and sincere Christians. In the evening the King[2] gave a great banquet in honor of the Chicago Base Ball Club[3] who are with us on board. This affair was a most marvelous feast dished up in native style. I hope to send you a printed copy of the report wrote by a more able pen than I can command. The feast was given in the Queens[4] private grounds near the Royal Palace. It was decorated with flowers plants and flags under a canvas canopy. The food was placed on the ground in two long tiers about 300 feet long and each one had to sit on the ground gailor fasion and eat. At intervals of about 10 feet stood a dusky maiden with a large palm leafe swining it back and forth to cool the hot brows of the nobility present. I am thankful to say I had the honour to be one of the invited guests. I did not fancy the looks of the food or the style it was served so did not eat much. Plates were used but no knives and forks. Nothing but natures fingers. The King and Queen were present and the King made a very creditable speech in good English. This feast lasted about 2 hours speeches and all. So our Gailor seats were rather tired when we were permited to stand up on our feet once again. Cigars Wines and Spirits were free to all. After the feast we were treated to a native dance native music and sining which was simply immense. The King seems a great man among his subjects and much beloved by all classes. I have enjoyed anything in my life more except my visit to Perry.[5] I do not know what Grandma[6] would have said had she had such a crowd to dinner as this King did. When I tell you there were 5 beefs 12 sheep 12 hogs and 50 turkeys killed and cooked for the feast besides native fruits and vegetables in great variety and quantities you can guess of the magnitude of the programe. After the pale faces and dark nobility had done thousands of natives came and had a great feast. One thing I admired very much in the King he remained and looked after the poorer of his subjects and saw they had been properly fed and attended to before he retired from the canopy.

You must excuse this scrawl as I am in the billows and the motion of the steamer is not good for writing. We are all in excellent health and spirits and I hope this will find you all in good health.

You will require to send me your Power of Attorney so I can proceed at once in our patents[7] for Australia.

With best wishes to you all, I remain,

Yours Faithfully

C. J. Lee
27 Premier (?) Building
Collins St.
Melbourne, Australia
Via San Francisco

Good Bye write soon

Give my very kind love to Aunt Catherine[9] and all enquiring friends. Tell Friend Henry[10] I will write him from Melbourne. I saw nothing of your brother Henry[11] at San Francisco.


[1] Hawaii

[2] King Kalakaua

[3] The National League Chicago White Stockings (now the Chicago Cubs) along with a team comprised of other professional stars (and lesser players) dubbed the All-Americas. To read more about this tour, you can go to: https://ourgame.mlblogs.com/baseball-around-the-world-26f04d5f11b1

[4] Queen Lili-uokalani

[5] Luke Keith wrote in his 1888 diary of his trip to visit family in Perry, New York, from September 17 to October 16. He does not mention who traveled with him, but it would appear that C. J. accompanied him

[6] Believe he is referring to Rhoda (Keith) Lee

[7] Ethan was an inventor and applied for many patents

[8] Charles Jedediah Lee. He and Ethan were second cousins, both being descended from Luke Keith and Martha Littlefield

[9] Catherine (Keith) Bradley Lee

[10] Ethan’s brother-in-law, Henry Brown

[11] Ethan’s half-brother, Henry Keith

2 thoughts on “December 1, 1888 letter to Ethan Keith from Charles J. Lee

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s