About 1879

On August 23, 1879, the clipper ship Ravenscrag arrived in Honolulu after 123 gruelling days at sea. Aboard were 427 men, women and children from Madeira in search of work and opportunity.

Rejoicing in their safe arrival, a passenger named João Fernandes burst into song, strumming a small, guitar-like machete (“mah-shette”). It was the first time such a sound was heard in Hawai‘i and it inspired the birth of the ‘ukulele which, by the late 1880s, was considered the national instrument of Hawai‘i.

1879 Apparel celebrates this historic moment and honours those who contributed to the development of the ‘ukulele. Little did the passengers of the Ravenscrag know that, for generations in their wake, the “jumping flea” would bring joy to countless people around the world.

1879 Apparel was founded by ‘ukulele performer and teacher James Hill. Learn more about James.

"On a warm August Saturday in 1879, a British bark out of Liverpool slipped into Honolulu Harbor..."
The ʻUkulele, A History by Jim Tranquada and John King


The clipper ship Ravenscrag. Artwork by Zsolt Schäfer.