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Charles Reed Bishop, philanthropist who donated far more money to found Kamehameha School than the value of the land donated by his wife (Bernice Pauahi Bishop)

** The following article by George Avlonitis was originally published on August 30, 2005 on Hawaii Reporter (on-line newspaper) at:

Legacy of One of Hawaii's Richest Men: Charles Reed Bishop

By George Avlonitis

Five years ago, the name of the Bernice Pauahi Bishop Estate (commonly known as, "Kamehameha Schools/Bishop Estate"), was changed just to "Kamehameha Schools."

To remove the name of a philanthropist from her endowment is the ultimate act of ingratitude.

It is, too, the ultimate act of hypocrisy to keep calling Pauahi Bishop, "our beloved and generous Princess" -- but ... "we do not want her haole name on our endowment."

It is, too, the ultimate irony because, without the name "Bishop," there would not have been Kamehameha Schools.

You see, the B. Pauahi Bishop Estate is really ... the Charles Reed Bishop Estate. He was the richest man in Hawaii.

Of the $6 billion to $10 billion assets of the estate today, 84 percent or $5.0 billion to $8.5 billion is the money and lands of her husband’s, contributed after her death in 1884. That was $2.5 million or 40 percent of his fortune of over $6.0 million in 1884.

Most of the rest he spent for the Hawaiians too. (See book by former president of Kamehameha Schools for 17 years, Harold W. Kent, Charles Reed Bishop – Man of Hawaii and the state Bureau of Conveyances.)

After his death, in 1915, he was buried in the Royal Mausoleum by the former Queen Liliuokalani and Prince Kuhio.

Just the cash contributions of Charles R. Bishop to build and equip the schools, in the 1880s, equaled the $474,000 value of the 375,000 acres of Pauahi’s lands as appraised for probate. (353,000 acres of Pauahi’s lands were willed to her by Princess Keelikolani a year before Pauahi Bishop's death in 1884).

Even so, for operation and capital outlay he would have to sell most of the valuable acres of Pauahi’s lands. That's when he started pouring assets into the Estate. His total contribution was $2.5. million.

The rest of this commentary makes it clear too why Pauahi Bishop would not exclude non-Hawaiians from the Kamehameha Schools.

You see, the reason haole names crop up when philanthropy is mentioned, is due to the fact that the 250 chiefs, the ones who got up to 400,000 acres each, (more than the land of the island of Oahu), or a total of 1.5 million acres, in the Mahele, never gave to the common people any land, built a hospital a school or a library …

The exception was B. Pauahi Bishop but, without Charles R. Bishop, the schools would have lasted just a few years.

For $250,000, an estimated $38.0 million to $75.0 million today, Charles R. Bishop, built the world renowned Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum with 2 million items.

Traveling the world over, he spent over $100,000 ($15.0 million to $30.0 million today), buying scientific collections for the museum and buying back Hawaiian antiquities given as gifts or sold by Hawaiians in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

For $1.3 million, ($200 million to $400 million today), he established the Charles R. Bishop Trust for the support of the museum and for philanthropy, mostly for Hawaiians, after his death.

He gave $1.3 million, ($200 million to $400 million today), for philanthropy: $853,000, ($130.0 million to $260.0 million today), for schools with emphasis for schools for Hawaiians, virtually all established by missionaries.

He gave $67,000,($10 million to $20 million today), for room and board to Hilo Boys’ Boarding School for Hawaiians, established by missionary David Lyman.

He gave $100.000, ($15 million to $30 million today). to Queen’s Hospital, established in 1859 for poor Hawaiians mostly with contributions from haole businesses. The government gave the land and $5,000 for the first building.

Only after her death, in 1885, 26 years after the hospital was established, Queen Emma willed 13,000 acres to the hospital worth $16.000 to $25,000. (Valued today at $600.0 million to $800.0 million, with the income benefiting poor Hawaiians at Queen’s Hospital.)

He gave: $236,000, ($35 million to $70 million today), for indigent Hawaiians, for the "Kaiulani Home" for Hawaiian girls, for the Kalaupapa Hawaiian lepers and build a five building compound, the "Bishop Home," in Kalaupapa, to protect Hawaiian leper girls from sexual assaults. (The "cherished dream" of future saint, Father Damien.) Mother superior Marianne at the compound, also a future saint, wrote about Bishop: "… I am sure, if he knew how many girls he has saved from immorality he would feel more than happy for having founded this Home. God Bless him."

Bishop initiated the "lease-do not sell" Estate lands, now widely used in Hawaii.

Four months before his death on June 16, 1915, he asked for assistance from the Charles R. Bishop Trust and promised to pay it back from his few remaining securities.

He had run out of money.

George Avlonitis, a resident of Honolulu, can be reached via email at


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