An important and rare refuse bowl, ipu 'aina, Hawaiian Islands
diameter 9in; height 5in
of classic form with turned-in rim and well worn original, non-shellacked finish; suspension lug with hole on outer surface and old age crack on rim; two hand-written affixed labels, one reading: "Spit dish of a Sandwich Islands Chief. Presented by Mr. Ruggles"; the other: "East Windsor Hill Seminary."
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According to Buck (1957:53), "Scrap bowls and spittoons ipu 'aina were made for chiefs, who deposited fishbones and scraps of food during meals in the former, and spittle, hair and nail parings in the latter. This careful segregation of food and bodily remains was instituted because of the prevailing fear of sorcery, for food and bodily remains which had been touched formed an excellent medium maunu by which a sorceror kahuna 'ana'ana could cast his spells and cause the death of the person who had handled the food or from whom the spittle came. Thus chiefs, who evidently went in fear of assassination by sorcery, safeguarded themselves by appointing an attendant who was the keeper of the scrap bowl, or spittoon, and disposed of the contents after the meal in a manner that prevented their being obtained by any person intending to harm his master. It is important to note, that the keeper of the spittoon was awarded the highest status of all the various ali'i attendants.
Samuel Ruggles (1795-1871), one of the earliest Hawaiian Protestant missionaries, was a member of the First Company sent by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM) to Hawaii, arriving in 1819. He helped found missions in Waimea, Kauai and in Hilo on the island of Hawaii. He is also credited with bringing the first coffee slips to the village of Captain Cook on the Kona coast in 1828, thereby founding an important agricultural industry that flourishes to this day. Ruggles returned to New England for health reasons in 1834. The Seminary at East Windsor Hill (Connecticut) was founded in 1833, and this rare and important bowl was apparently presented by Ruggles shortly thereafter. It was part of the Theological Institute of Connecticut and was absorbed into Hartford Theological Seminary in 1865.
Documented artifacts associated with early 19th century Hawaii, especially those related to the ABCFM, are extremely rare, and this may be the only such labeled bowl associated with the early 19th century, as well as with a member of the First Company.
Jenkins (p.54) for a similar example from the Queen Emma collection.
Buck (p. 53-54, Figure 33 (a))