In the beginning of the 18th century, Hawaii was technically a kingdom. The king who ruled over the islands at this time flew a British flag because the area was a protectorate of Great Britain. During the war of 1812, an American flag was flown, but was removed when the British objected. Some believe that the king then had a hybrid flag created, so as not to offend either nation. Others believe that Hawaii's state flag had more of a British influence.
For years, explorers tried to find a passage connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. This is also known as the Northwest Passage. While on this quest in 1778, British explorer and navigator James Cook discovered a string of islands that would later become known as Hawaii.
Before 1795, these islands were ruled by a number of chiefs. Around this time, one such chief began to conquer the other tribes and islands. With the help of British guns and ammunition, Kamehameha managed to united all of the Hawaiian islands into one kingdom under his rule.
King Kamehameha had a number of British advisers. His islands were also protected by the British government, although they were considered a separate nation. As a sign of friendship and alliance, King Kamehameha often flew a British flag.
By the War of 1812, the United States had discovered the Hawaiian islands as well. It was around this time that King Kamehameha flew the American flag outside his home. His British advisers, however, were offended, and they strongly urged him to remove it.
In 1816, King Kamehameha decided to have his own flag created. The resulting Hawaiian flag strongly resembles a mixture of the two nations' flags. A union flag is in the upper left hand corner, next to the flag mast. Eight red, white, and blue alternating horizontal stripes on it make up the rest of Hawaii's state flag. Each of these stripes on Hawaii's state flag represents one of the eight islands of Hawaii.
A couple theories exist as to why the flag was made this way. Some believe that King Kamehameha had the flag designed like this so he did not offend either of the larger nations. On the other hand, this flag also strongly resembles the British East India Company flag, which has a small union flag in the corner and alternating red and white stripes. Since King Kamehameha had a number of British advisers, some believe that Hawaii's state flag was modeled after this flag instead.