"Our Fellow Savages of the Sandwich Islands"

Poster for 1873 Performance
Clifton Waller Barrett Collection

This was MT's favorite lecture. He gave it almost 100 times, first in San Francisco on 2 October 1866, his debut as a professional platform entertainer, and last on 8 December 1873, to a delighted audience in London, England. The poster displayed here was used by MT in 1873 to advertise one of his last American performances of the lecture.

MT spent almost five months in the Sandwich Islands, or Hawaii, in 1866 as a traveling correspondent for the Sacramento Union. The 25 letters he sent to the paper were widely reprinted in the West, and helped establish his early reputation as a humorist. His accounts of how he came to enact that identity before a live audience vary, but it is clear that he decided to try lecturing because he needed money -- and because he loved attention.

Occasionally titled "Sandwich Islands! A Serio-Humorous Lecture Concerning Kanakadom" or "Our Fellow Citizens of the Sandwich Islands," the lecture was MT's "surest thing" in his early years. He fell back on it for his second eastern lecture tour three years after first giving it, and resurrected it again four years later when he decided to try winning over British audiences. Like his other platform lectures from the 1860s and 70s, it mixes "instruction" with "amusement." Like his first books, it relies on the appeal of travel. It should also be noted that, despite the liberality of the title he gave it, it also relies heavily on racial stereotyping and condescention for its humor.

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