The bank for a changing world

A banker, and much more besides : Charles Bishop (1822-1915)

  • 27.01.2015

Born in 1822 in Glenn Falls, NY, Charles Reed Bishop stopped in Hawaii in 1846, during a journey supposed to lead him to Oregon, around Cape Horn. He settles down in Honolulu and becomes Hawaiian citizen in 1849. Investing in a plantation of sugar cane, he is also General Collector of Customs, and marries in 1850 Bernice Pauahi Paki, descendant of the royal family of Kamehameha.The union was accepted with difficulty.

After launching a shipping company he sells in 1858, Bishop opens a bank bearing the name ”Bishop and Co”, the first bank established in Hawaii, and one of the companies at the origin of BNP Paribas Group.

Bishop sells the bank in 1895. Elected deputy in 1853, he holds various charges for the Hawaiian monarchy. He is even in charge of the Foreign Minister in 1873-1874. He has also runned the Chamber of Commerce of Honolulu for twenty years, between 1883 and 1894.

When his wife Bernice died, in 1884, Charles Bishop devoted himself to the Kamehameha schools she had founded and generously endowed.

In tribute to his wife, he also funds The Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum, which still owns nowadays a very rich collection of art objects from popular Polynesian and Hawaiian traditions.

After the fall of the Hawaiian monarchy in 1893, Bishop moved to San Francisco where he became vice president of the Bank of California. He died in 1915 at the age of 93 years. His ashes were transported to the Royal Mausoleum of Hawaii.

The bank he founded grows, changing direction several times throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, becoming in 1969 the First Hawaiian Bank. Its merger with Bank of the West in 1998 when the BNP joins the future BNP Paribas Group.