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July 22, 2017

The Beauty, Wealth, Amiable People: 22 Fascinating Color Photographs of Hawaii in 1959

The image and legend of Hawaii as a tropical paradise endures for countless reasons. Few places on earth can boast more dramatic or romantic landscapes; the weather is generally gorgeous; the variety of climates one can encounter within the space of a few miles—from arid to tropical to near-alpine to sun-splashed beach—is mind-boggling; the waters surrounding the islands partake of those impossible shades of green and blue that painters have sought for centuries to capture on canvas. The pace of life is utterly, soothingly humane.

But paradise, as we all know, exists only in fairy tales—or, if a paradise did once exist in the Pacific, it long ago gave way to the complex, ambiguous and often politically fraught realities of the modern world. The Hawaii of the travel brochures—as marvelous as it might be in theory, and even at times in fact—is a beautiful construct, but one that often ignores the island chain’s bumpier, and endlessly fascinating, history.

In a March 1959 article, “Hawaii—Beauty, Wealth, Amiable People,” for which these pictures were shot, LIFE painted a largely rosy picture of the place:

Cattle graze under volcanic cliffs on Oahu, 1959.

Foodland supermarket, Hawaii, 1959.

Black-sand beach, made by waves battering volcanic rock, on the Big Island, Hawaii, 1959.

Hawaiian scene, 1959.

Scene at Dole's 15,000-acre Wahiawa plantation near Honolulu, 1959.

Young Catholics at St. Catherine's Church on Kauai, 1959.

Washing hung out to dry, Hawaii, 1959.

Fans at a football game, Hawaii, 1959.

Drum majorette leads band at Honolulu football game, 1959.

Football game, Honolulu, 1959.

Mamala paddle dance which was performed in honor of Lono, god of peace and agriculture, is taught to fourth-grade students at the Kamehameha Schools by teacher of pure Hawaiian blood, Mrs. Esther Waihee McClellan.

Hawaiian women pose, 1959.

Dunking pool at a Hawaii fair, 1959.

Roman Catholic church, Hawaii, 1959.

Hawaiian police, 1959.

Scene on a Hawaiian plantation, 1959.

Tourists in Hawaii, 1959.

Surfing, 1959.

A young Hawaiian mother, 1959.

Hawaii, 1959.

Pearl Harbor, 1959.

Swimming in a freshwater pool, Hawaii, 1959.

(Photos: Ralph Crane—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)



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