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Whalers riot in Honolulu

More than 150 whalers sat in Honolulu harbor November 8, 1852, releasing their crews of over 4,000 sailors into the port. At the time, the resident population of O'ahu was approximately 26,000. That night a contentious drunk sailor from the Emerald, Henry Burns, tore up his jail cell and was killed by the rough handling of his jailer. News of Burns' death sent sailors into a destructive frenzy and the ensuing riot lasted all night and into the next day. Sailors set fire to the police station and other buildings and only a lucky shift in the wind kept flames from engulfing the docked fleet carrying tons of flammable whale oil. The sailors terrorized the town for hours, though they were unorganized and inconsistent in wreaking havoc. One resourceful resident calmed the rioters who burst into his home by playing the piano for them in his parlor. Eventually a group of outraged citizens organized themselves and brought the rioting sailors under control.

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