Shortly after the turn of the century, Samuel Kaialiilii Kamaka
began crafting koa ukuleles from the basement of his Kaimuki,
Hawaii home. In 1916, he formed his one-man shop, "Kamaka
Ukulele and Guitar Works," and soon established a solid
reputation for making only the highest quality ukuleles.
Kamaka Ukulele established a shop at 1814 South King Street.
In the mid-20s, Sam Kamaka laid out a pattern for a new oval-shaped
ukulele body. His friends remarked that it looked like a pineapple,
so one of Sam's artist friends painted the front to duplicate
the tropical fruit. A few years later in 1928, Sam Kamaka
patented the design. Thus began the original Pineapple Ukulele,
which produced a resonant, mellow sound distinct from the
traditional figure-eight. The Pineapple Ukulele became an
instant success worldwide, and continues to be Kamaka's signature
ukulele to this day.
the 30s, Sam Sr. introduced his two sons, Samuel Jr. and Frederick,
to the craft of ukulele-making, even though the boys were
only in elementary school. In 1945, the business was reorganized
as "Kamaka and Sons Enterprises." Sam Jr. and Fred
Sr. were then drafted into the Army, and after serving in
WWII, both brothers attended college on the GI bill. After
graduating from Washington State University, Fred Sr. began
a career in the Army, while Sam Jr. earned a masters degree
and went on to pursue a doctorate in entomology at Oregon
due to illness, Sam Sr. went into semi-retirement and hauled
his equipment to his Lualualei Homestead farm in Waianae.
When he became seriously ill the following year, Sam Jr. abandoned
his studies and moved back to Hawaii to care for his father.
Sam Sr. died in December 1953, after hand-crafting koa ukuleles
for over 40 years.
following Sam Sr.'s death, Sam Jr. put aside his personal
career aspirations to continue the family business. Building
on the knowledge he had picked up from his father, Sam Jr.
restored the factory at the previous 1814 S. King Street location.
Five years later in 1959, the company expanded to its current
location at 550 South Street.
and Sons incorporated in 1968 and became "Kamaka Hawaii,
Inc." After retiring from the Army in 1972, Fred Sr.
joined the business as its general manager. Along the way,
Sam Jr.'s sons, Chris and Casey, also got involved with the
company as did Fred Sr.'s son, Fred Jr. The sons now play
major roles at Kamaka Hawaii, Inc.: Chris is the production
manager, Casey crafts the custom orders, and Fred Jr. is the
business manager. Other young family members are also helping
with the business, carrying the Kamaka tradition into the
Kamaka legacy moves forward, it is important to reflect on
what has made the company endure. The guiding philosophy at
Kamaka Hawaii has always been the candid, but sensible advice
handed down from Sam Sr. to sons:
"If you make instruments and use the family name, don't