Photographs and ephemera collected by the McIntire Family of Hawaiian musicians documenting their careers throughout the United States, and those of other performers.
Scope and Contents:
This collection consists of photographs and ephemera relating to and collected by the McIntire family of Hawaiian musicians as well as materials from fellow performers. Photographs of Lani McIntire and members of his orchestra as well as those of his brothers, and niece Lani Ellen McIntire are numerous. There are programs, newspaper articles, postcards, advertisements, sheet music, and one album cover. The collection dates from the early 20th century to the late 20th century and is a comprehensive collection documenting the extensive career of the McIntire family and those that worked with them, and performers they worked with in motion pictures, night clubs, and hotels.
The collection also, "documents Lani E. McIntire's craft and career as one of the most prolific professional practitioners of Pacific Islander dances in the mid-20th century. She traveled the United States and parts of the world with Native Hawaiian and Samoan troupes, and carefully documented their travel and work." The collection critically documents, "the Hollywood Pacific Islander community that established the "Polynesian Club" scene in Hollywood [California], as well as of the Pacific Islander communities that did the same work in New York City [New York}, New Orleans [Louisiana], and other metropolitan areas in the United States."
This collection includes "candid "on the road" photographs, photographs of members of these communities socializing together during their off-time, as well as publicity photographs that together document the work as well as the cultural expressions of Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander musical entertainers. The portion of the collection that originated with Jean Alice Mayo documents the early years of filmmaking in Silent Era Hollywood. These photographs consist of "on set" candids, publicity photographs, "head-shots" of various celebrities, glamour photographs, and documentation of early stuntwomen.
National Museum of American History, Acquisition Information Sheet, July 17, 2021, Archives Center Control File NMAH.AC.1511.
This collection is arranged into two series.
Series 1: Photographs, 1920-1960, undated
Series 2: Scrapbook Pages, Personal Papers, and Ephemera, 1929-2011, undated
Biographical / Historical:
The McIntire family has a long history in performance of Hawaiian music, especially Hawaiian guitar, and dance. Lani McIntire (1904-1951) composer, vocalist, and guitarist, was born in Honolulu, Hawaii in 1904. Initially he entered his father's laundry business but then landed a position as ship's musician that led to a life-long career as a professional musician. Lani served in the United States Navy on the U.S.S. Birmingham as a bugler and musician in the Navy Band. After the war, Lani formed his own orchestra. In addition to leading his own orchestra, he wrote and recorded his own music the most popular song being, "The One Rose." As of 1941, he had recorded over 150 compositions and with Sam Koki recorded a version of "Sweet Leilani" that sold over two million copies. His orchestra played nationally, and it was reported that his favorite venue was the Lexington Hotel in New York City, New York.
The McIntire's, "played a critical role in creating a global Hawaiian music craze that by the 1930s had swept Japan, the Philippines, New Zealand, Austrailia, and the continental United States." Al McIntire (1906-1960) bass player and vocalist and his brothers Richard "Dick" McIntire (1902-1951) Hawaiian steel guitar player, and the aforementioned Lani McIntire became some of the best-known Hawaiian musicians in the world. They left Oahu in the 1920s and played in Polynesian-themed nightclubs while recording and working on feature films along with the extensive Pacific Islander community based in Hollywood, California. The McIntire brothers younger sister, Kahala McIntire (1925-2003) "stowed away on a ship at the age of 15 to work on the continent as a professional hula dancer." The McIntire's were well known performing in Hollywood, California, Chicago, Illinois, and at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, New York. The McIntire's recorded "hundreds of songs with fellow Hawaiian musicians and with populuar non-Hawaiian artists cush as Jimmie Rodgers and Bing Crosby."
The liner notes from Lani McIntire's "Aloha Hawaii" album read, "You'll hear Lani McIntire broadcasting twice a week, over a 190-station Mutual Broadcasting System network. You'll see him at the Hotel Lexington in New York City-or at another of American's famous night spots. (He's played at the Biltmore Bowl and the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles, the Book Cadillac Hotel, Detroit, the Congress Hotel, Chicago, and many others).
As you listen, you'll soon know why Lani is called, "King of Hawaiian Music". In a few minutes, the exotic, native rhythm . . . the soothing, haunting melodies . . . will create for you a vision of lush, tropical islands, of star-studded skies and warm, romantic nights.
Lani would have to be a native Hawaiian, born with that rhythm in his blood, to play the way he does-his mother was Hawaiian, his father Scotch, and he was born in Honolulu. But he didn't start his musical career until he joined the Navy, where he began playing the saxaphone. He soon switched to the guitar-which he now plays as he leads his orchestra.
'When I got my discharge from the Navy," McIntire explains, "I went to Hollywood and for eight years worked in movies. Mostly, my contributions could be heard but not seen-although finally I did appear with Bing Crosby in several pictures."
Composer, arranger, guitarist, singer-Lani McIntire has many unusual talents that stamp him as one of the most versatile of all orchestra leaders." ("Aloha Hawaii" album cover, undated)
Lani Ellen McIntire (1934-), daughter of Al McIntire and Jean Alice Mayo (1897-?) a white woman who acted in silent films and was an equestrian rider, dancer, and vocalist, continued the family performing tradition. Lani Ellen was raised in the Hawaiian community and performed hula during her family's entertainments from a young age. Lani Ellen performed dance professionally into the 1970s. She appeared on television and in Hollywood films such as, "Around the World in 80 Days" (1956). Lani Ellen was married to (1) "Freddie" Letuli Olo Misilagi (1919-2003) an American Samoan entertainer, who began dancing at the age of 15 and was described in his obituary as the "father" of the fire knife dance. Letuli later was elected village senator in 1977 and "was re-selected to the Samoan Senate in 1993."
National Museum of American History, Acquisition Information Sheet, July 17, 2021, Archives Center Control File #1511.
"Chief Letul Olo, 84, of Samoa; Father of the Fire Knife Dance", obituary, The New York Times, July 31, 2003, Section B, page 9.
Donated to the Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution by Lani Ellen McIntire, August 2021.
The collection is open for research use. Researchers must handle unprotected photographs with gloves.
Collection items available for reproduction, but the Archives Center makes no guarantees concerning copyright restrictions. Other intellectual property rights may apply. Archives Center cost-recovery and use fees may apply when requesting reproductions.